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Tuesday, Nov 19, 2019

Oldest litigants did not live to see the D-Day

lucknow Updated: Nov 09, 2019 18:52 IST

Mohammad Hashim Ansari of the All India Sunni Waqf Board and Mahant Bhaskar Das, head of the Nirmohi Akhara -- the two oldest litigants in the Ayodhya title suit -- were the closest of friends personally but arch-rivals over the suit.

Now, when the SC verdict has come, the two are no more. Ansari died on July 20, 2016 at the age of 96 and Das on September 16, 2017 at 89. Both died in Ayodhya of similar old-age heart issues.

On September 30, 2010, the Lucknow bench of Allahabad high court had ruled that the disputed site should be split, with the Muslims getting control of a third of the land, Hindus another third and the Nirmohi Akhara the remainder.

Control of the main disputed section, where the mosque was torn down, was given to the Hindus.

Before the HC verdict, the two sides had hoped that the dispute would be over. But, it didn’t. Days after that verdict, Ansari, 90 and Das, 82 -- on October 9, 2010 -- met in Ayodhya (where the two lived) and together said: “We want the matter to be resolved once and for all before we pass away. We do not want the dispute to be inherited by the next generation”.

The first thing that Ansari and Das did then was to embrace each other. Ansari had entered the Naka Hanuman Garhi meeting hall taking his footwear off. He draped a ‘Ram-naami duppatta’ (an ochre cloth with Ram printed all over) on Bhaskar Das, while the latter put a green cloth on Ansari. Green is considered the most significant colour by Muslims.

Ansari, born in 1921 in Panjitola mohalla of Ayodhya had a little formal education and was a 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.

Ansari had opposed bringing down of the disputed structure. His own house was gutted in the riots that followed the demolition.

Bhaskar Das, the chief litigant in the Ram Janmbhoomi-Babri Masjid case and the sarpanch mahant (chief priest) of the Nirmohi Akhada in Ayodhya, had filed a claim for the Ramjanmboomi land ownership in 1959. Apart from being the Nirmohi Akhada sarpanch, he was also the mahant of the Naka Hanuman Gadhi in the temple town.

According to Naka Hanuman Garhi, Bhaskar Das was born in Ranideh village in Gorakhpur in 1929. His father was Bhagwat Pathak. When he was around 16, Bhaskar Das joined the Naka Hanuman Gadhi temple and began performing service there along with his religious studies.

After the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad high court gave a verdict in the case on September 30, 2010, Bhaskar Das filed a petition in the Supreme Court for ownership of the entire Ramjanmbhoom premises.