“We can’t allow a masjid to be built near the Ram mandir. If Muslims are giving up their claim to the disputed land, they are welcome for talks,” says VHP litigant.Ayodhya: In the wake of the Supreme Court’s suggestion that mediation might be a better way to resolve the Babri Masjid-Ramjanmabhumi dispute, the Muslim parties to the case say they are ready to seek a settlement but do not know which Hindu party is to represent the other side in the negotiation.
Speaking to The Wire, Khaliq Ahmad Khan, a party in the case from the Muslim side, said, “We can initiate talks but the Supreme Court must clearly say whom the Sunni Central Board of Waqfs should talk to as all the five Hindu parties are involved in a dispute with each other over the ownership of the Babri plot.
Iqbal Ansari, son of the late Hashim Ansari, the oldest litigant in the Babri masjid case until his death in July 2016, said, “My father, who was the main litigant in the high court and Supreme Court, always favoured a peaceful settlement to solve this dispute but insisted that in the talks there must be provision for the construction of both a masjid and a mandir.”
There are at present five Hindu parties fighting cases against each other in the Supreme Court for the title of the Babri masjid land:
- Akhil Bharat Hindu Hamasabha Vs Bhagwan Sri Ram Lala Virajman (SLP(C)3600/2011),
- Nirmohi Akhara vs Rajendra Singh (SLP(C)7815-7818/2011),
- Swami Chakrapani of Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha vs Bhagwan Sri Ram Lala Virajman (CA No. 2636/2011),
- Bhagwan Sri Ram Lala Virajman Vs Rajendra Singh (CA No. 47-4771 of 2011 @ Civil appeal D.No. D38217/2010), and
- Convenor of Sri Ram Janam Bhumi Punaruddhar Samiti Vs Rajendra Singh (CA No. 6065/2011)
Although there are six Muslim parties fighting the case in the Supreme Court, the position all of them have taken is that the title of the Babri masjid land should be awarded only to Sunni Central Board of Waqfs:
- Sunni Central Board of Waqfs
- Jamiat Ulema Hind
- Hashim Ansari deceased now his son Iqbal Ansari
- Farooq Ahmad deceased now his son Mohammad Umar
- Maulana Mahfuzurahman represented by Khaliq Ahmad Khan
On Tuesday, mahant Ram Das, chief priest of the Nirmohi Akhara, a key litigant for the Babri land, reacted to the Supreme Court’s suggestion for a negotiated settlement in masjid-mandir dispute, said, “We are ready for talks and the Muslims must give up their claim over the Babri Masjid and allow the construction of a Ram temple at that site… Mughal emperor Babar never came to Ayodhya, the Babri Masjid was built by his general, Mir Baqi, and the graveyard of Mir Baqi is situated five kilometres away from the disputed site in Shahenwa village of Faizabad.” “In my opinion, the Muslims must build their Babri mosque near the grave yard of Mir Baqi”, he added.Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Triloki Nath Pandey, recipient of one-third of the Babri Masjid land through the 2010 verdict of the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad high court as a party in the case with the name of “fast friend of Ram Lalla”, said “we are ready to talk on this issue, but the talks must be done in the light of the judgment of [the] high court.” But he added: “We cannot allow any masjid to be built near the Ram mandir. If Muslims are giving up their claim over the disputed land, they are welcome for talks.”
Litigation goes back to 1950s
The dispute over the 16th century Babri Masjid in Ayodhya started in British colonial times – and with the blessings of the colonial authorities, some historians say
Mahant Raghubar Dass, claiming himself to be the mahant of the Ram Janamasthan filed a suit on January 19, 1885 in the court of the Faizabad sub-judge. In his suit, he said that the ‘chabutra’ of the Ram Janamasthan, which was a platform 21 feet towards east and west and 17 feet towards north and south, had no roof over it and that the mahant and other priests suffered in bad weather. He therefore wanted permission to construct a temple over the chabutra, which had been prohibited by the deputy commissioner of Faizabad. The suit was dismissed on December 24, 1885 by Pandit Hari Kishan, the Faizabad sub-judge.
After this date, the issue remained dormant till independence. On December 23, 1949 an FIR was lodged in Ayodhya kotwali by the then kotwal, Ram Dev Dubey, on the report of constable Mata Prasad regarding the placement of the idols of Ram Lalla in the Babri Masjid. Soon after that incident, Faizabad city magistrate Guru Dutt Singh attached the mosque property and locked it.
On January 16, 1950 Gopal Singh Visharad filed a civil suit in the Faizabad court demanding the unlocking of the Babri Masjid premises and the handing over the place for the worship of Lord Rama. On December 5, 1950 Paramhans Ram Chandra Das, the mahant of the Digambar Akhara approached the court with the same demand.
On December 17, 1959, the Nirmohi Akhara moved the Faizabad civil court claiming the right of worship and ownership of the Babri Masjid structure. Its move was separate from the cases filed by Visharad and Das.
Finally on February 1, 1961 the Sunni Central Waqf Board of Uttar Pradesh filed suit in the Faizabad civil court against the pending cases of Vishard, Das and the Nirmohi Akhara, declaring the mosque as the property of the Sunni Central Waqf Board.
In 1989, when all the suits related to the Babri Masjid/Ram Janmabhumi were transferred to high court, Triloki Nath Pandey also became a party in the case by claiming himself as the ‘next friend’ of Lord Rama – a legal artifice whereby a god/idol is represented in court by an individual claiming to act on his behalf.
On February 1, 1986, Faizabad district judge Hari Shankar Pandey ordered the unlocking of the Babri Masjid in favour of Hindu parties and allowed them to worship Ram Lalla.
Doordarshan TV cameras were on hand to capture the scene and the move was widely seen as a political move by Rajiv Gandhi, who was the prime minister at the time, to build support among Hindus after having sided with reactionary Muslim clerics in the Shah Bano matter.
The BJP then launched a massive campaign to take over the site and replace the mosque with a temple to Rama. On December 6, 1992, when the party held power in Uttar Pradesh, the Babri Masjid was demolished.
On September 30, 2010, the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad high court – which was seized of all title suits – divided the plot where the Babri Masjid once stood into three parts. One part was declared to belong to the Muslim side (i.e. the Sunni Central Waqf Board) and two parts to Hindu parties – the Nirmohi Akhara and Triloki Nath Pandey, next friend of Lord Rama.
The criminal case against several prominent BJP and VHP leaders for their role in the demolition of the Babri Masjid is still pending.