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View from Delhi...
Babri issue raked up once again
By Syed Ubaidur Rahman

Babri Masjid issue has again taken the center-stage with the PM’s announcement that the issue will be resolved till March next year and admission of an appeal to summon Prime Minister by Liberhan Commission.

Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee had announced on 26 August in Lucknow that a solution to Ayodhya issue would be found by March next year. He added that negotiations were being held by different people at different level, the issue was very much under the attention of his government and hopefully something positive will emerge by March. The Prime Minister had also indicated that he was in process of talking with several Muslim outfits on resolving Ayodhya issue.

The PM’s statement has been criticized by all Muslim organizations with everyone claiming that no organization has been involved in talks either with the Prime Minister or any other Organization involved in Ayodhya tangle. Syed Shahabuddin reacting sharply immediately after the Prime Minister’s announcement denied the claim and said that ‘We are not aware of any negotiations. The only competent body which can represent the Muslim community on the Babri Masjid question is the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB). It has not received any overtures from the government.’

Muslim Personal Law Board has clearly said that neither its committee for Babri Masjid has been contacted on the issue nor Babri Masjid Action Committee or Babri Masjid Coordination Committee is involved in any such talks with the government. It also said that the announcement is aimed to fool the common people on the eve of crucial assembly election in UP.

Mushtaq Ahmad, a Supreme Court lawyer who has been fighting for the Babri Masjid cause, told this correspondent that ‘all the prominent Muslim organizations have entrusted the AIMPBL to take decision in this issue.’ He said that ‘neither the conglomerate nor any other organization has individually held talks with either the Prime Minister or any other organization.’ Samajwadi Party leader and Rajya Sabha MP Azam Khan when contacted told this correspondent that he is amazed to hear that the PM claims to have held talks with Muslim organizations. He said that no Muslim organization has so far held talks on the issue either with the PM or any other organization.

Muslim leaders fear that the government has come to an understanding with the VHP and is planning to hand over the area around the Babri Masjid site to the VHP and clear the way for the construction of the Ram temple at the Babri Masjid site. There is 47-acre land around the disputed area that was acquired by the centre following demolition of the Babri Masjid.

When this correspondent asked Mushtaq Ahmad Advocate on the issue he said that the centre cannot hand over the land either to the VHP or anyone else. He said that ‘the land was acquired following Acquisition of Area Ayodhya Act 1993. He added that the Act was challenged in the apex court but the court said in a verdict that the acquisition is legally right because if Muslims win the case then they will be given land from this area to be used as passage to the mosque.’ He said that ‘if the government decides to hand over the land to the VHP then it will have to challenge Supreme Court’s verdict.’ He felt that the issue has been raked up to strengthen the BJP in the state before the assembly elections in UP. Syed Shahabuddin also said that ‘Any plan to hand over to any trust the 47 acres of land in Ayodhya acquired by the centre through an ordinance in March 1993 is simply not legally feasible.’ He added that ‘the land in question was under a mandatory restraint of Supreme Court and the government has no authority to transfer even one square inch of the area to anyone.’

Most of the people feel that the issue has been raised by Vajpayee on his Lucknow tour to strengthen the sliding graph of the BJP in UP after its poor performance in the state. People feel that the BJP is fast losing its electoral base of upper castes in UP and so the issue has been employed to garner support for its dwindling stakes in as important a state as Uttar Pradesh.

In the meantime as a countermove, Mushtaq Ahmad Advocate has moved the Liberhan Commission, which is probing the events leading to the demolition of Babri Masjid to summon Vajpayee in the wake of disclosures of former BJP MP who was the SSP of Faizabad at the time of demolition. Ray has claimed that Vajpayee was privy to the conspiracy of demolition.

The claim is very significant as it is the first time that any leading Hindutva leader has claimed the involvement of Mr. Vajpayee in the whole Ayodhya tangle. Vajpayee was seldom dragged in Ayodhya controversy by any leading Hindutva leader or organization.
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