The Centre may begin the process of setting up a trust in Uttar Pradesh’s Ayodhya town only after inter-ministerial deliberations, said a senior official on Sunday, as Hindu groups vied with each other to be part of the body and a key Muslim outfit called a meeting on whether to accept an alternative plot as directed in the Supreme Court a day before.
In Ayodhya, a phalanx of security personnel continued to patrol the largely-deserted streets as the administration turned its focus on managing the sea of devotees expected to descend for the Hindu religious event of Kartik Purnima on Tuesday.
At least one million people are expected to reach Ayodhya for what is the first Hindu festival after the apex court ruled in favour of a Ram temple in Ayodhya in a landmark decision on Saturday that capped decades of communal tensions and riots after the 1992 demolition of the Babri Masjid.
“All security arrangements are in place. There are enough personnel in the district. Security arrangements made for the Supreme Court verdict day are still in place,” said Anuj Kumar Jha, district magistrate.
The court had directed the government to set up a trust within three months to manage the 2.77-acre site in Ayodhya . On Sunday, a senior official said the formation of the trust could be discussed at a meeting called by Prime Minister Narendra Modi sometime this week.
“A decision on the trust will be taken only after inter-ministerial deliberations and after the government’s advisers go through the 1,045-page judgment,” a second official added.
The trust may have some features common with the Somnath Temple trust in Gujarat, which comprises eight members. The Somnath trust has already submitted a note on its composition and constitution to the central government. “It is definitely a clear point of reference for us,” said a senior BJP leader.
Leaders from both communities have appealed for peace after a verdict that was largely welcomed. But some Muslim leaders indicated they may reject any alternative site for the mosque.
The Sunni Central Waqf Board called a meeting on November 26 but its president, Zufar Ahmad Faruqi, indicated that the date may be moved up to this week. “Yes, people have got in touch with me and urged to not take the land. I have convened a meeting of the board to take the members’ view,” he added.
The Waqf board has already ruled out filing a review petition in the apex court but a key lawyer for the Muslim litigants, Zafaryab Jilani, said, “The Waqf board is just one out of the eight Muslim litigants and some of them may agree to go for a review.” Jilani is secretary of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, which is holding a meeting next Sunday in Lucknow to decide whether to file a review petition. “It would be against the ‘Shariat’ (Islamic laws) to accept anything in lieu of a mosque,” said AIMPLB member Kamal Farooqui.
The district administration said it will start searching for the alternative plot only after receiving a directive from the state government.
In Ayodhya, many streets were deserted and around 5,000 devotees visited the makeshift Ram temple. Entry into the town remained restricted.
Many Hindu groups in Ayodhya demanded a seat on the trust. A prominent claimant was Mahant Nritya Gopal Das, head of the Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas, which led the temple movement since the 1990s. “We want the Nyas to be member of the trust. On behalf of the Nyas its head Mahant Nritya Gopal Das must be nominated,” said Mahant Kamal Nayan Das, heir to the Nyas chief. Triloki Nath Pandey, the so-called “next friend” to the child deity Ram Lalla, who was awarded possession of the 2.77 acre land, was another claimant. “We will accept the trust that the government forms for construction of the temple,” said Pandey.
A third name in the fray was Vishwa Hindu Parishad vice-president Champat Rai while local Hindu outfits also put forth their demand to be included in the body. Mahant Suresh Das, head of the Digambar Akhara, expressed his willingness to be a part of any step by the Centre for the construction of Ram temple.
The mood among Muslim groups was more sombre and many said they cancelled processions traditionally taken out on Prophet Muhammad’s birth anniversary on Sunday. “This year, we have taken out no procession. There are two reasons behind this. The first one is to maintain peace. Secondly, to express our sorrow after the SC judgment,” said Mufti Shamsul Qamar Qadri, imam of Ayodhya’s main mosque.