The lawyers of the two warring sides in the Ram temple dispute welcomed the Supreme Court’s advice on Tuesday for an amicable settlement but any progress appeared unlikely with both camps sticking to their known positions.
The reactions came after the top court said fresh attempts must be made to find a solution to the temple dispute which is a “sensitive” and “sentimental matter”. A bench headed by chief justice JS Khehar even offered to mediate.
Zafaryab Jilani, counsel and convenor of the All-India Babri Masjid Action Committee, said no outsider should be made a party to the negotiations, but did not give details.
“We have full faith in the Supreme Court. If the Chief Justice of India has offered to mediate in the dispute, we are ready for it,” he said.
Madan Mohan Pandey, representing Ram Lalla Virajman in the Supreme Court, appreciated the chief justice’s offer, but said they will not negotiate over the land where they believe Lord Ram was born. “If they come up with a proposal which is convenient for us, we can surely solve the dispute,” he said.
Ministers of the NDA government too welcomed the top court’s decision, calling it the best way to resolve a long-pending dispute.
“This is a very good step. Even the BJP has been encouraging solving the issue through negotiations,” said PP Chaudhary, minister of state for law and justice and a senior BJP leader.
Union culture minister Mahesh Sharma hoped it would pave the way for the construction of the Ram temple. “It’s superb advice. There can’t be a better advice to solve the problem,” he told reporters outside Parliament.
On December 6, 1992, a mob of kar sewaks demolished the centuries-old Babri masjid which they believe was built on the birthplace of Ram, a claim contested by the Muslim community.
In 2010, a three-judge bench of the Allahabad high court said Ram was born under the central dome of the makeshift temple and Hindus have the right to worship there. The court also ruled by a majority verdict that the disputed 120 feet by 90 feet plot land be divided into three equal parts among the three petitioners — Sunni Wakf Board, Nirmohi Akhara and the party representing Ram Lalla.
The Supreme Court stayed the implementation of the high court’s decision after admitting appeals from Hindu and Muslim groups. The case has been pending since then.
Talking to HT from Ayodhya, Iqbal Ansari, son of late Hashim Ansari, the oldest litigant in the dispute, said it was a move in the right direction.
“The court case has been dragging on for very long now. Negotiations can help resolve the dispute. Even in the past, panchayats used to solve disputes. It can be done even now,” he said.
But maulana Khalid Rasheed, a member of the Muslim Personal Law Board from Lucknow, remained non-committal.
“It is a sensitive issue. Talks for out-of-court settlements have failed. We should not do anything in a hurry,” he said, adding he would discuss the matter with the Board members and only then take a call based on the feedback of the community.
Both Jilani and Pandey too reminded that previous attempts at negotiations – by the Allahabad high court and former prime ministers Chandra Shekhar and Narasimha Rao – had failed.
Mahant Nritya Gopal Das, the president of the Ram Janmbhoomi Nyas, said he was confident that a solution would be found as “there is Modi government at the Centre and Yogi government in the state”.
On Sunday, Yogi Adityanath – a vocal proponent of the temple movement – was sworn in as the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, raising hopes among supporters that the process for building a shrine would be put on fast track.
The BJP, which won a brute majority in the state in the recently-held assembly polls, had listed the temple among its promises in its election manifesto.