Two prominent Muslim bodies declared on Sunday that they will seek a review of the Supreme Court’s verdict in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title suit and rejected the court’s offer of alternative land for the demolished mosque, indicating that the decades-old communal dispute was far from resolved.
The All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) and the Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind (JUH) said they opposed the unanimous SC decision last week favouring the construction of a Ram temple at the 2.77-acre site in Uttar Pradesh’s Ayodhya town.
“The land of the mosque belongs to Allah and under the Sharia [Islamic laws], it cannot be given to anybody,” AIMPLB secretary Zafaryab Jilani told reporters after a meeting of the board in Lucknow.
The two bodies also decided not to accept five acres of land for the construction of a mosque and said it was against Islamic laws to take anything in lieu of a religious place. “It was a fight for the title and not for an ordinary piece of land. It’s our constitutional right to save our religious place,” Jilani added.
The AIMPLB was not a party to the case but said it will rope in three litigants — Mohammad Umar Khalid, a resident of Ayodhya town; Misbahuddin, a resident of Ayodhya district and Mehfusur Rehman, a resident of Tanda town in Ambedkar Nagar district — to file the review petition. “We would abide by whatever decision the board takes. There are some inconsistencies in the verdict and I feel there is a scope for correction,” said Khalid.
The decision was immediately criticised by the Hindu groups, who said the review process was only a tactic to delay the construction of a Ram temple. “We have made all preparations for construction of Ram temple. The decision to file a petition is a ploy to further delay construction of the temple,” said Nritya Gopal Das, head of the Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas, which spearheaded the Ram temple movement. Triloki Nath Pandey, the so-called “next friend” of the child deity Ram Lalla Virajman, said the AIMPLB’s decision will have no impact. “The Supreme Court’s decision in favour of Ram temple was unanimous. The review petition will not hold legal ground,” he said. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad, an affiliate of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, said the AIMPLB’s decision was an “insult” to all Muslims who accepted the apex court’s decision.
Some Muslim litigants also struck a discordant note. The UP Sunni Central Waqf Board said it will stick to its original decision of not filing a review petition. “The board’s stand remains the same. The Sunni Waqf Board will not go for the review petition,” said Zufar Farooqi, chairman of the body. The board has called a meeting on November 26 to decide on its response to the alternative plot for a mosque.
Iqbal Ansari, another litigant in the case, said he disagreed with the AIMPLB’s decision and boycotted the meeting. “I have always maintained that I will accept the court’s decision whether it is in favour of a temple or a mosque. I am personally against any decision to go for a review,” he said.
The 136-year-old Ayodhya dispute ratcheted up communal tensions on December 6, 1992 when a mob scaled the Babri Masjid and demolished it, triggering a cycle of violence that killed at least 2,000 people across India. Many Hindus believe the site was the birthplace of warrior god Ram, and the 16th-century mosque was built after pulling down a temple dedicated to Ram.
In 2010, the Allahabad high court ordered the land be distributed equally to the Nirmohi Akhara, Ram Lalla and the Sunni Central Waqf Board. But a five-judge SC bench, led by former Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, unanimously set aside the HC ruling and awarded title of the land to Ram Lalla. It also ordered the government to set up a trust to oversee management of the site and the construction of a temple, and awarded five acres of land at an alternative site for a mosque.
Jilani said senior lawyer Rajiv Dhawan would continue to argue for the board in the case. “We feel the restitution by granting five acres of land, where fundamental values have been damaged to the extent of causing national shame, will not heal the wounds caused. Hence we decline to accept the said five acres of land,” he said.
Litigants can seek a review of a top court decision within 30 days if there is a legal error in the order. Arshad Madani, president of the JUH who attended the AIMPLB meeting, announced that his body would file a separate review petition. “As per the Sharia, a mosque cannot be shifted. Hence there is no point to accept an alternate piece of land,” he said. “The court’s verdict is beyond understanding,” Madani added.
The JUH’s former Uttar Pradesh general secretary M Siddiq was one of the original petitioners in the case. The Jamiat’s present UP general secretary Ashhad Rashidi later became the petitioner in the case, said the body’s secretary, Fazlur Rehman.
The decision to file review petitions drew a sharp response from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is in power both in Uttar Pradesh and at the Centre.
Uttar Pradesh minister Mohsin Raza lashed out at the AIMPLB for holding the meeting and said that it was aimed to disturb the peaceful atmosphere. “People like Owaisi are playing with the sentiments of the people and trying to spoil the atmosphere,” Raza said, referring to the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul-Muslimeen chief Asaduddin Owaisi, who was present in Sunday’s meeting. A UP Congress Committee leader said the party respected the apex court’s order and the decision by the Muslim bodies to seek a review. “They are taking a follow up recourse. It’s appropriate on their part. What’s wrong if they are going for a review if they are not happy with the verdict?”