The decision of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board to take the Ayodhya battle to the Supreme Court has prompted one of the key Hindu parties, Nirmohi Akhara, to follow suit, almost ruling out any chance of an out-of-court settlement.
"We have no choice but to move the Supreme Court now, since the Sunni Central Waqf Board's resolve to file an appeal agaist the (Sep 30) Allahabad High Court verdict has been formally endorsed by the Muslim Personal Law Board," Akhara spokesman Mahant Ram Das said over telephone from Ayodhya.
Speaking on behalf of 89-year-old Akhara head Mahant Bhaskar Das, who avoids talking over the phone on account of his hearing impairment, Ram Das said: "We were somehow apprehensive that a particular lobby among Muslims was not interested in closing the Ayodhya chapter and that is exactly what has happened. Under the circumstances, we are compelled to take the same course and file an appeal before the Supreme Court."
Asked what would happen to the initiatives taken by 90-year-old Hashim Ansari, the first Muslim plaintiff in the case, to put an end to the court battle and settle the dispute through dialogue, Ram Das said: "Well, we all appreciate Ansari's efforts to which Mahant Bhaskar Das had also responded very positively, but what to do now?"
Signalling a hardened position, he said: "We have reason to believe that we must not only have full right over the entire disputed land, but also be given complete right to perform puja and have full control over the proposed temple."
A three-judge special bench of the Allahabad High Court had ordered division of the disputed 90 ft x 120 ft plot of land where the Babri masjid once stood into three parts - one to Ram Lalla, one to the Nirmohi Akhara and one to the Sunni Waqf Board.
After a meeting of its executive here Saturday, the AIMPLB said it had decided to appeal in the Supreme Court against the Ayodhya verdict, but clarified it was not opposed to an out-of-court compromise, though with certain conditions.
Asked to comment on the change in Nirmohi Akhara's stand, All India Akhara Parishad chief Mahant Gyan Das blamed it on Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) vice president Vinay Katiyar.
"It is all because of Vinay Katiyar that the Nirmohi Akhara has altered its stand. It appears that Katiyar has poisoned the mind of Mahant Bhaskar Das," he said.
Gyan Das, who strongly championed keeping politicians out of the amicable settlement process, alleged Katiyar had vested interests.
"Having been a MP from the area in the past, Katiyar knows that he could continue to get political mileage out of the issue only as long as it was allowed to simmer," he said, referring to Katiyar's stint as Faizabad MP.
Earlier this week, Katiyar told mediapersons in Ayodhya that no out-of-court settlement on the issue was possible until Muslims abdicated their claim even to the one-third portion of the disputed site.