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Published in the 16-29 Feb 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Ayodhya imbroglio
Talks of solution or just a mirage
By Rizvi Syed Haider Abbas

Lucknow: The six-year rule of NDA led by BJP is coming to an end. The NDA agenda based on a common minimum programme left out the controversial issues like ‘ building of Ram Temple at Ayodhya, Implementation of ‘Common Civil Code’ and ‘Abrogation of Article 370’ from the Constitution, in context to Kashmir.

As any political observer would analyse that in spite of the dropping of ‘Ram Temple’ from the agenda, the BJP did not let the issue drop from the media headlines, despite the instance of a total lack of public support to the VHP’s Oct 17th 2003 flop-show in Ayodhya. 

zafaryab jilani

zafaryab jilani

Memories come flooding in of the statement of PM AB Vajpayee on Dec 6, 2000 that " Ram Temple would be built on the disputed site in Ayodhya while Masjid could be built on alternative site," of VHP demanding 47 acre of land around the disputed site of Babri Masjid/Ramjanambhumi before the ominous March 12th 2002 ‘temple construction deadline’ when the nation was made to sit on edge, of the subsequent affidavit by BJP Law Minister Arun Jaitely to vacate the stay order given by the Supreme Court (March 13th 2002) that no land around the disputed site could be transferred to anyone. The oath taken by AB Vajpayee on the funeral pyre of Ramchander Paramhans, in Ayodhya, to take his unfinished task of building the Ram temple ahead and make it a reality and that all hurdles in the same would be cleared, on 3 August 2003  have been the tactics of BJP to somehow keep the Ayodhya pot boiling.

Last year, July 6, came from the Kanshi Shankaracharya, the highest authority of Hinduism, a proposal to solve the Babri Masjid/Ramjanambhumi dispute, but was turned down, by All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB)-the apex Muslim body in the nation. The reason why it was turned down was that it contained veiled threats to Muslims to forego their claim to Kashi and Mathura sites as well.

No wonder, since this fiasco of the proposal of Shankaracharya, there is a spate of proposals coming up to solve the Ayodhya dispute. The latest being the proposal forwarded by a newly formed Ayodhya Jama Masjid Trust (AJMT). Its chairman Allama Asghar Abbas Rizvi wants ‘Resolution of Ayodhya tangle by execution of the Ayodhya Act 1993.’

The AJMT was established to shoulder the responsibilities for the construction of the Mosque complex that could be built on a non-disputed land, out of Janaumbhumi kot Ram Chander area. The voluntary withdrawal from the site is based upon a sense of our Mission of Peace, an honour to Lord Shri Ram Chanderji and respect to his devotees, our Hindu brethren,’ says the proposal.

It further adds: The 47 acres of land, previously acquired by the then UP-Government, headed by Kalyan Singh, may be restored to the temple trust to build the desired Ram Temple complex upon it and a non-disputed land in a Muslim locality be provided to AJMT for the construction of Ayodhya Jama Masjid.

"The AIMPLB, the All India Babri Masjid Action Committee (AIBMAC), the Sunni Central Waqf Board (SCWB) and Muslim Plaintiffs are fighting for the Nuzul Plot No. 583, where presently idols of Lord Shri Ram Chander is ‘Virajman’, at the sanctum sanctorum and before the demolition on Dec 6th 1992, where the disputed structure existed. Therefore, they may kindly come forward with their no objection so that the Ayodhya Act may be executed smoothly, in the best interest of our beloved motherland," said Asghar Abbas, while addressing media persons in Press Club, Lucknow.

"What leaves me shocked is the way this proposal is getting four-column media coverage in Delhi, when there is not an iota of solidity in it," said Syed Shahabuddin, Ex. MP on his visit to Lucknow. "AIMPLB is the only genuine and the representative body which can speak on behalf of Muslims," quipped Qasim Ilyas Rasul, spokesman for AIMPLB.

It is curious that simultaneously a Sri Ramjanambhumi Nirman Samiti has also come to the fore. It seems to exude total confidence that construction of Ram Temple would start soon on the disputed site of Ayodhya as Muslims would withdraw their claims in the court! The Samiti President Narayan Misra disclosed from Ayodhya that efforts to buy suitable land in Ayodhya were on for the construction of mosque by AJMT. He declared that his organisation would hold a seminar of Hindu and Muslim intellectuals in Ayodhya to chalk out future course of action and almost similar have been the plans of Asghar Abbas, "We intend to create a national consensus on our formula and that is why we are organising an All India Muslim Intellectual conference in New Delhi," he said. 

VHP, International President Ashok Singhal on the other hand announced that VHP would take all efforts to make possible the construction of Ram Temple in a very near future. The organisation would meet the chief ministers of all states and press them to adopt the Hindu agenda. " AJMT has submitted the proposal to us but Asghar Abbas has conveyed that the proposal may be from Shia community to which he belongs. Unless he is supported by main Muslim organisations, it will not be accepted by VHP," he said from Ayodhya on Jan 1, 2004.

"This man, as I don’t want to even repeat his name, is just shooting in the dark and that too with both eyes closed," said Dr. S. Kalbe Sadiq, the Vice President of AIMPLB, before adding that he would abide by the directives of Maulana Rabey Hasani Nadwi, the Chairman of AIMPLB.

"We have put our blood and soul into the Babri Masjid campaign and my son would be a part of the mission to restore Babri Masjid on its original site. We have our utmost belief in the law that the demolition accused would be punished and Babri Masjid would be again restored at the place where it existed," retorted Mohd Azam Khan, now heading UP Urban Development Ministry. He has been upholding the cause of Babri Masjid since the opening of locks in 1986. 

"We do not pay attention to idiosyncrasies of these mushrooming defunct makeshift organisations and concentrate on how we are to cross the rough waters weaved around us by anti-Islamic, anti-Muslim and fascists groups like Rashtriya Swamsevak Sangh (RSS) and VHP and BJP," said Mustafa Kamal Sherwani, the President of All India Muslim forum.

The first half of January witnessed yet another effort to resolve the Ayodhya issue, as this time, the exiled Tibetan leader Dalai Lama came forward with a new Ayodhya package. The resolution by Dalai Lama is an outcome of several parleys between RSS and Muslims leaders. Deputy Prime Minister LK Advani said that the government would facilitate the talks. What the Dalai Lama’s proposal constitutes is not known, but it is believed that Muslims would be persuaded to withdraw their claim from Babri Masjid and in return they would get educational and other benefits. 

It may be mentioned that RSS and Jamiat-Ulema-e-Hind (JUH) have held talks on Ayodhya issue on Dec 28, 2003 in Delhi, according to a news item published in Times of India.

"The proposal has already arrived as LK Advani has applauded Dalai Lama’s efforts that Muslims should give up claims to the Babri Masjid site. We advise Dalai Lama to tell Advani that he has nothing to do with the proposal and save his reputation from falling apart," said Zafaryab Jilani, the national convenor of AIBMAC.

But, has there been some talks of Muslim leaders with RSS? " JUH President Asad Madni, in a statement from Kanpur, has said that his organisation was not holding talks with RSS regarding Babri Masjid," answered Jilani.

Does the proposal of AJMT hold any legal validity? " It is against the basic spirit of law as Supreme Court has ordered on March 31, 2003 that no transfer and no religious activity can be allowed on the entire 67 acres of land acquired by the government, until the title suit is decided. As regards the AJMT proposal, the poor man is being remote controlled by Swami Chinmayanand, the VHP man in the ministry of AB Vajpayee," Jilani further said.

"Actually, after the ASI excavation of Babri Masjid site the VHP has received a serious jolt because contrary to expectations, instead of finding a temple beneath the mosque, Muslim graves facing Kaaba, sheep and goat bones and a mosque of the Sultanate period were unearthed. Now VHP has lost face in front of all those people who have been fooled by them, for the past twenty years. Therefore, it has made its cronies to go and further mislead the Hindu constituency which is slipping fast," said Azam Khan. 

"Can Muslims get the makeshift temple removed even if they win the case," questioned Asghar Abbas and Ashok Singhal duly complimented, "Muslims have started reading the ground reality."

"I am contemplating of issuing a legal notice to Asghar Abbas for calling himself ‘Allama’. The word in Arabic is a synonym for the highest authority in Islamic vocabulary. I could read his proposal, in which someone has shamelessly signed ‘Maulana’ written in his own name. Maulana is plural in Arabic language and cannot be written in one’s individual capacity," said Chaudhry Sibtey Mohammad Naqvi. He has written the latest editorial in Tauheed Mail on the same issue, a vernacular fortnightly he edits. Chaudhry Sahib, as he is popularly known is a veteran socialist and has been a close associate of Acharya Narendra Deo. He has also appeared on behalf of the Babri Masjid, to put forward the expert Shiite theological point of view as a witness in the ongoing title suit.

Unmoved, Asghar Abbas issued a fresh appeal on Jan 30 asking PM to provide land for construction of masjid. He said that land could be acquired under the Ayodhya Act 1993 and claimed that most of the Muslims and Hindus have approved his proposal!

What have Muslims of Ayodhya to say? Hashim Ansari, the plaintiff of the Babri Masjid suit has refused to talk to him and Haji Mehboob Ahmad has also done the same. Meanwhile, Ashok Singhal has warned that no mosque would be constructed within the ‘Shastriya limit’ of Ayodhya. The ‘Shastriya limit’ would be decided by Hindu Dharamcharyas as it cannot be described on the basis of modern time demarcations of roads, lanes and other geographical parameters.

The proposals make arresting media headlines and this is all that the BJP could at the most want as it expects to mobilize fence sitters through them to vote for BJP. I have the feeling that in the next government, it would make the temple by making the false claim that Muslims have been roped in for talks.

"The proposal of AJMT gives an impression that Muslims may be persuaded to surrender the mosque and for this purpose BJP may be given another chance. But, the AIMPLB stands by all the proposals passed since 1990 till July 2003," elaborated Jilani.

AJMT proposal has fallen flat, but the desired mosque, as propounded by the trust, in Ayodhya, also seems to be an impossibility, as Ashok Singhal has not as yet convened a meeting of Dharamcharyas, to demarcate the boundaries of ‘Shastriya limits’ of Ayodhya. Construction of any mosque in Ayodhya may trigger a spurt of communal riots in the nation, as Ayodhya sits on a time-ticking volcano.
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