A 116-year-old legal dispute between Sunnis and Shias in Varanasi is likely to be finally resolved.
The matter reached a deadlock after Sunnis repeatedly refused to obey court orders relating to it, including those passed by the Supreme Court.
The Varanasi district administration, too, declined to implement the orders, claiming any attempt to do so would lead to disturbances.
At the heart of the dispute, which began in 1893, are two Sunni graves lying on land in the Doshipura locality of Varanasi, which both Shias and Sunnis claim.
In 1981 the Supreme Court upheld the Shias claim on the land, and two years later ordered that the Sunni graves be shifted elsewhere. But the Sunnis refused to do so. With Sunnis greatly outnumbering Shias in Varanasi, the entire plot remained under Sunni control. The Shias have now proposed building a wall that would partition off the Sunni graves, so they could use the rest of the land for their own purposes.
In 1984, learning its earlier orders had been ignored, the apex court passed another ‘experimental order’ which proposed that Sunnis allow Shias to use the rest of the land, barring the spot where the Sunni graves lay.
It also suggested that the Sunni graves be cordoned off with barbed wire, and the heirs of the two deceased stay away to prevent any clashes. But the Sunnis continued to retain control of the area.
The Sunnis expressed the fear that if the Shias took control of the land, they would block Sunni access to the mazaar (memorial) of a revered local Sunni saint.