In public glare and under heavy police presence, the two old men, rivals for decades, embraced each other.
Signalling their determination to put an end to the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute, Mohammad Hashim Ansari (90) of the Sunni Waqf Board draped a saffron dupatta with ‘Ram’ printed all over it on Mahant Bhaskar Das (82), head of the Nirmohi Akhara.
Das in turn put a green drape on Ansari.
“We want the matter to be resolved once and for all before we pass away,” the two oldest litigants in the title suit said in a joint statement after meeting at the Naka Hanuman Garhi Temple in Faizabad, adjoining Ayodhya, on Saturday. “We don’t want the dispute to be inherited by the next generation.”
The statement comes more than a week after the Allahabad HC ruled the disputed area in Ayodhya should be divided into three equal parts among the three petitioners — the Sunni Central Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and the party representing the deity Ram Lalla.
Ansari said he was not acting individually and every move of his had the consent of both the Waqf board and the All India Muslim Personal Law Board.
Both he and Das stressed there was no readymade recipe to resolve the dispute, and the search was on to find a solution acceptable to both sides.
Bhaskar Das said he, Ansari and Gyan Das, the man mediating between the two sides and who made the Saturday meeting possible, were working on a possible formula to sort out the dispute. “Muslims would help in making the temple and Hindus would pitch in to make a mosque,” Das said.
Ansari said politicians would be kept out. “If Hindus and Muslims together got India independence, then why can’t they be together now? Because, politicians do not let them be.”