By Dinesh Sharma
Are Hindus and Muslims in India finally about to put behind the most divisive issue of the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi?
There are some very positive signs as the country’s Supreme Court begins hearing the case on February 8.
There is hope this time that this issue can be buried forever.
Wassem Rizvi, chairman of the Uttar Pradesh Shia Waqf Board which is one the parties to the dispute, said on Friday that building a Ram temple at the site will be in the best interest of the country.
Rizvi, who visited Ayodhya on February 3 and prayed at the makeshift Ram temple, said, “A masjid should not be built there, only a temple for Ramchandraji. It is a matter of aastha (faith) for crores of Hindus that must be respected. It should not be an issue of dispute at all. Masjids are transferable. An alternative mosque could be built in Lucknow. During his lifetime, our Prophet himself ordered the razing and relocation of masjids that were working against Islam.’’
He said he visited the Ayodhya temple on Friday (Feb 3) to pray to Lord Rama so that no blood is shed on the issue.
“I have been to Ayodhya many times before but I never visited the temple. So I decided to visit it before the hearing begins. I wanted to offer my prayers to Lord Ram. I hope Ramji wahin virajman rahen (Ramji will remain seated there). I also prayed for peace in the country. Over 2,000 people have been killed due to this issue. No more blood should be shed on this matter.
The Shia Muslim leader said, “The priest even offered me holy water, prasad and flowers. He also smeared chandan on my forehead.’’
He said, “We are one of the parties challenging the Allahabad High Court’s verdict. From 1528 when Mughal General Mir Bakshi built it, till about 1944 it was a Shia mosque. Its registration by the Sunni Wakf Board was subsequently declared void.’’
Rizvi said those Muslims opposing the Ram temple at Ayodhya should go to Pakistan.
The Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi dispute issue has been on the boil since the 1980s when then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1986 ordered removal of locks on the disputed site to allow Hindus to perform puja at the presumed birthplace of Lord Rama.
Only months earlier, Rajiv Gandhi had rejected the Supreme Court verdict in the famous Shah Bano case. The Supreme Court had ordered that Shah Bano was entitled to alimony from her ex-husband. But Muslim leaders pressured Rajiv Gandhi that the court order was against Sharia. So Rajiv Gandhi enacted a new law to abolish alimony for Muslim women. This angered Hindus. So to appease the Hindu sentiments, Rajiv Gandhi removed the locks at the Babri- Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi site to allow Hindus to perform puja there. Earlier, only one priest was allowed to perform puja of the idols once a year.
The idols of Lord Rama (Ram Lalla), his wife Sita and brother Laxman were secretly installed in Babri Masjid on the night of December 22, 1949, by priest Abhiram Das of the nearby Ramgarh temple and Vrindavan Das, a Ramanandi vairagi of the Nirvani Akhara.
Hindu and Muslim plaintiffs took the issue to court to claim the 2.77-acre area. Hindus argued this place was the birthplace of Lord Rama and a temple stood there which was demolished by Mughal emperor Babur in the 1520s to build the Babri Masjid. Muslim plaintiffs claimed that there was no temple at the site.
In the late 1980s, the Sangh Parivar made it their main issue. It resulted in the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992 by mobs. The subsequent riots led to over 2,000 deaths.
In retaliation, gangster Dawood Ibrahim organized the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts which killed 257 people. The 2001 attack on the Indian parliament and the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks were also seen as part of retaliation against the Babri Masjid demolition.
In 2010, the Allahabad High Court ordered allocating two-thirds of the area for a Ram temple, and one-third for a masjid at the site.
But the order was challenged in the Supreme Court which begins hearings in the case on February 8.