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Ayodhya Babri Masjid case: It’s now or never for temple soldiers

A section of Muslims, primarily Shias, are inclined to initiate a dialogue for an amicable out of court settlement in the Ayodhya Babri Masjid case but the Sunni Waqf Board has stuck to its stand of backing a court decision.

india Updated: Dec 05, 2017 15:03 IST
HT Correspondents
HT Correspondents
New Delhi/Lucknow
Babri Masjid,Ayodhya,Live updates
The scene at Ayodhya on the occasion of the 23rd anniversary of the Babri Masjid demolition on December 6, 2015. (Ashok Dutta/HT FILE PHOTO)

The newly elected mayor of Ayodhya, the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, and the Prime Minister are all from the BJP, which enjoys comfortable majorities in the state assembly and the lower House of Parliament . And it is all coming together on the 25th anniversary of the demolition of the Babri mosque, an event that left a deep, indelible impression on India’s sociopolitical landscape. “After so many years’ efforts, after so many sacrifices, today it feels like it is near,” Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat said on November 24, giving voice to swelling hopes in the Sangh Parivar, a family of Hindu nationalist organisations helmed by the RSS, the ideological fount of the BJP.

“If not now, then when? The BJP is in power both at the Centre and in the state, and the commitment of both PM Narendra Modi and CM Yogi Adityanath to the cause is indisputable. They will facilitate construction of the temple,” said Ram Vilas Vedanti, member of Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas, a party in the case before the Supreme Court. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), an RSS affiliate, has declared that the construction will start from October 18, 2018 — a date that will fall in the middle of the assembly poll campaigns in BJPruled Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, and about six months ahead of scheduled parliamentary elections. Muchhyped mediation efforts by individuals such as Sri Sri Ravi Shankar have also contributed to heightened anticipation.

Sanjay Kumar, director of Delhi-based think tank Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, agrees the “momentum” to build the temple has picked up. “But my sense is the BJP is trying to be neutral. When you are in power, you have to play a responsible role,” says Kumar, adding that it’s the UP CM who looks more aggressive.

The 67 acres of land at the disputed site have been with the Centre since 1993. A year after the acquisition, a five-member bench of the Supreme Court upheld the Centre’s acquisition and directed status quo be maintained. Therefore, until the title dispute is settled, the government can’t hand over the land to anyone or allow any construction activity.

And, there are only three ways to untie the knot: court verdict, out-of-court settlement or a new law.

First, the legal route. In 2010, the Allahabad HC trifurcated the disputed 2.77 acres among three stakeholders — the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla, a mythical figure of the Hindu god who was made a litigant by the high court, and who is currently represented by senior VHP man Triloki Nath Pandey .The decision was stayed by the top court, which is hearing appeals against the judgment.

“We are sure the SC will rule in our favour to allow the construction of the temple. But the issue can’t be settled legally. Whoever wins or loses in the court, the fallout will be outside,” said a senior BJP leader on condition of anonymity.

Then, there is the idea of a negotiated settlement that is gathering steam. In April, the Supreme Court suggested an amicable settlement, with then chief justice JS Khehar offering to act as a mediator. Ravi Shankar volunteered soon after, and met Adityanath in Lucknow and Bhagwat in Nagpur. But the Sangh Parivar has publicly dissociated itself from the exercise.

A section of Muslims, primarily Shias, are inclined to initiate a dialogue for an amicable out of court settlement, but the Sunni Waqf Board has stuck to its stand of backing a court decision. Finally, there’s the prospect of a resolution through legislation, but this is easier said than done. Legal experts believe the government cannot bring in a one-sided legislation to resolve an ownership issue.

First Published: Dec 05, 2017 15:03 IST