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Published in the 1-15 Jan 2005 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Slow pace of Babri trial

By Rizvi Syed Haider Abbas

Lucknow: The delay in getting all the witnesses to appear before the court in the Ramjanambhumi/Babri Masjid case could well have been a calculated move, which would have succeeded had the day-to-day hearing of the case not been ordered. This order was passed by the Lucknow bench of Allahabad High Court consisting of Justice Sudhir Narain, Justice Syed Rafat Alam and Justice Bhanwar Singh on Mar 21, 2002.

Yet, it took around eight more months for recording the statement of witness Ram Asrey Yadav, the ninth witness of Nirmohi Akhara. Ram Asrey Yadav, aged around 72 years and resident of Ayodhya had appeared on March 22,2004 but due to illness his appearance was put on hold. He was sought to be produced at Faizabad on grounds of his ill health and he could be duly produced on Nov 22, at Faizabad before Additional District Judge/Officer on Special Duty of Ayodhya bench headed by Hari Shankar Dubey. 

In his affidavit of examination in chief he had stated that he has been visiting Janambhumi for darshan from the age of 12-13 years and that his house was situated at a distance of about 300 yards from Shri Ramjanam Bhumi (Babri Masjid). He then further said that the three domed structure was attached in Dec. 1949 and prior to that also he used to go for darshan in the said three domed structure. He called the Babri Masjid a three domed structure.

He claimed that no idols were placed in the night of Dec.22/23 1949 but rather some local Muslims had got frivolous proceedings started in 1949 by pressuring the government and that Namaz was never offered in the said building.

During his cross examination by Vereshwar Diwedi, on behalf of Umesh Chandra Pandey he stated that he was not aware of his date of birth and that he had not been able to read the affidavit filed in his name and he does not know what was written in the affidavit. He further said that he did not know as to whether the disputed building has ever been attached.

Thereafter, he was cross-examined by Madan Mohan Pandey, advocate for Suresh Das and plaintiff of Suit No. 5. Suresh Das is the successor of Ramchandra Paramhans. During his cross-examination by these persons he stated that Hindus had a belief that the disputed place was the birth-place of lord Rama. When questioned about his place of birth he stated that he did not remember in which room of his house his own birth had taken place and that he has not even enquired about his actual place of birth in his house but he asserted that Lord Rama was born below the middle-dome of the three-domed structure as per belief of the Hindus.

Thereafter, he was cross-examined by Abdul Mannan, Advocate counsel for Mohammad Farooq and during the course of his cross-examination he stated that he was not aware of the population of Ayodhya as well as the population of Muslims in Ayodhya.

He also said that he did not remember the date of filing of the affidavit of examination in chief and further stated that he did not know how many mosques were there in Ayodhya and that he could not tell whether the number of mosques (in Ayodhya) was twenty or twenty-five. He also said that he could not tell as to whether the three domed structure was constructed in 1528 or not. Then he was cross-examined by Zafaryab Jilani, counsel for Sunni Central Waqf Board (SCWB)

Zafaryab Jilani, showed him an album of the photographs filed in court to which he said that he was not able to see the said photographs as every thing appeared to be black to him. He could not tell as to when his own marriage had taken place and when his eldest daughter was born and when his other daughters were born too. He was not aware whether his age was less than 15 years or more than 15 years when his marriage had taken place. He was not aware even about the place where his affidavit of examination in chief had been typed. Whether it was typed in Faizabad or at Lucknow? He said that he could not remember facts consciously and that his mind has also not been working properly for the past eight to ten months.

He said that he could not state as to whether the disputed building was demolished by Hindus or Muslims and he did not hear any noise from the place where the disputed building was demolished on Dec 6, 1992 and that he came to know about the same at about 4 or 5 p.m. the same day. He did not even remember as to whether curfew was clamped in Ayodhya after demolition of the said building and also expressed ignorance of the demolition and targeting of the houses of Muslims in the arson that followed in Ayodhya on Dec. 6,1992.

He did admit that the building, which was demolished on Dec. 6, 1992, was called the Babri Masjid by Muslims but he did not know whether Haji Pheku, father of Haji Mehboob was in anyway associated with management of the said Babri Masjid. Haji Pheku is one of the main plaintiffs of the title suit since 1949 and after his death his son has taken his place. 

He admitted that Mohammad Hashim Ansari and Hafiz Akhlaq were residing at Ayodhya but expressed his ignorance about the torching of their houses. He stated that he did not remember as to whether any incident had taken place on Dec. 22/23 1949 and that he did not remember the name of the persons who had allegedly pressurised the government for getting the case started in 1949.

The last to cross-examine him was MA Siddiqui, counsel of Hashim Ansari and he admitted before the court, yet again, that his mind was not working properly and that he could not state as to which pillars inside the three-domed structure had the idols been inscribed on. While deposing about his own visit inside the three-domed structure he said that he had gone there after the courts order but he could not tell as to when such orders were passed.

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