Hashim Ansari, the oldest litigant in the Ramjanmbhoomi-Babri Masjid case that over the years has become a flashpoint for Hindu-Muslim tensions, died at his home here early Wednesday. He was 96.
Born in 1921 in Panjitola Mohalla of Ayodhya, Ansari had been battling heart ailments for six years, his son Iqbal said. Earlier this month, he was admitted to the ICU of King George Medical University in Lucknow after complaining of chest pain and congestion.
A litigant in a highly divisive case that has dragged on for more than 50 years, Ansari was friends with his main opponents -- all of them senior Hindu community leaders. He often travelled to the court with them.
“Hindus and Muslims are one and would stay like that. No dispute is big enough to drive a wedge between the two,” he had said once.
Mahant Gyan Das, who along with Ansari had tried an out-of-court settlement, was among the many Hindu religious leaders and locals to visit Ansari’s residence to offer condolences. Das said Ansari’s passing was a personal loss.
Ansari, who had little formal education and continued to tailor well into his 80s, was the only surviving representative of the writ petition 12/1961. Filed by the Sunni waqf board on December 18, 1961, the petition sought possession of the disputed structure and the land around it in Ayodhya.
Some Hindus believe the Babri mosque, demolished by a mob of kar sewaks on December 6, 1992, was built on the birthplace of Lord Ram, a claim contested by the Muslim community.
The promise of building a Ram temple in Ayodhya has been central to the BJP’s rise in national politics. Hindu groups have often used the contentious issue to whip up communal sentiments in the country.
On several occasions, Ansari told HT he wished to see the temple tangle resolved. He had opposed the bringing down of the disputed structure. His house was gutted in the riots that followed the demolition.
Ansari often criticised Muslim community leaders for not making an honest effort to resolve the issue.
Through a majority verdict, the Allahabad high court in 2010 allotted one-third of the disputed site in Ayodhya to Nirmohi Akahara. The remaining two-thirds were to be equally shared between the waqf board and the side representing Ram Lalla, the young Lord Ram.
Soon after the verdict, Ansari had called for ending the dispute and making “a fresh start”. He and Das had tried for an out-of-court settlement, but the effort ran into stiff opposition. Das regretted that Ansari’s wish to see the Ayodhya dispute resolved remained unfulfilled.