March 13, 2002


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The Rediff Interview/Mohammad Aslam Bhure

'Supreme Court is India's greatest bulwark of secularism'

Clad in a cream pyjama and shirt and a Muslim prayer cap, Mohammad Aslam Bhure tried to stifle a smile but grinned like the proverbial Cheshire cat when congratulated by a whole lot of well-wishers inside the premises of the Supreme Court on Wednesday, March 13.

The 46-year-old cycle-rickshaw shop-owner had reason to celebrate. The court had taken cognizance of his writ petition, which sought to restrain Vishwa Hindu Parishad karsevaks from performing a puja on the acquired land adjacent to the disputed site in Ayodhya on March 15, ordering that no religious activity be allowed.

For Bhure, a school dropout who claims to have sold a portion of his house for his long legal battle, this was his third public interest litigation on the Ayodhya dispute. His first in November 1991 had resulted in a status quo order on the 2.77 acres of the Ram Janambhoomi land allocated for tourism. The second was filed after the demolition of the Babri Masjid.

Thrilled with his victory and surrounded by a pack of reporters, Bhure spoke briefly to Tara Shankar Sahay and Onkar Singh. Excerpts:

How do you feel about the verdict of the apex court after it ordered that no puja of any sort could be performed for ten weeks till the previous cases pertaining to Ayodhya are adjudicated?

I feel simply great. I believe in secularism and I think that the Supreme Court is India's greatest bulwark of secularism. I think the verdict of the court has prevented riots and unnecessary bloodshed because Muslims were greatly agitated when the VHP and others let their intention be known about performing a symbolic puja at the acquired land.

When I filed the petition, some people mocked me, but I was undeterred. I am happy that in a small way I have been instrumental in preserving the secular fabric of our country.

Did somebody tell you to file the petition or did you do it on your own?

Please don't insult me. When the Babri Masjid was demolished by fanatics, the country bled and every Indian Muslim began questioning whether his rights, as guaranteed by the Constitution, were intact. I felt cold fury because my conscience did not allow me to take things lying down. Ever since December 6, 1992 [when the mosque was demolished], I made up my mind that I would fight for the rights of the Muslims in Ayodhya. When the VHP and members of the Sangh Parivar threatened to perform the symbolic puja, I was convinced that I had a solid case against it. It was out of my conviction that I filed the petition.

What do you think of the role of the Vajpayee government in this issue?

If I had even a semblance of faith in it, do you think I would have approached the court? The honourable judges have upheld the secular values of our country and I hope it will teach this government and other like-minded elements not to take the rights of the minorities, including the freedom of worship, for granted.

When the Supreme Court had ruled eight years back that the status quo in Ayodhya has to be enforced, why do you think the VHP and others rekindled the issue?

Even schoolboys know that the Bharatiya Janata Party's game plan to exploit religious feelings among the Hindus for the assembly elections backfired on both the government of Atal Bihari Vajpayee and the government of [former Uttar Pradesh chief minister] Rajnath Singh. Both Vajpayee and Singh now know that you cannot harness the people's vote when your government has not performed and if at all it has, it is with a blatantly communal bias. I think the people have sent a message to self-seeking politicians that they are not going to be taken for a ride.

What is your plan of action now?

I am still consulting my lawyers, but at least there is no immediate tension of Hindu fanatics making a mockery of constitutional guarantees. I think they have also been taught a lesson by the court that they cannot take the law in their hands. My writ petition has been referred to a larger bench, so I will wait for the outcome.

Will you help the All-India Muslim Personal Law Board in ensuring that the Muslims get justice in Ayodhya?

Of course! I will help any cause that seeks to rebuild our mosque at the disputed site where it originally stood. Our faith in the judicial process has been reinforced by our belief that we will get justice in Ayodhya.

Could you elaborate how the Supreme Court has come to the rescue for maintaining peace and communal harmony by its verdict today?

You will remember that before the Babri Masjid was demolished, the BJP, in league with members of the Sangh Parivar, said they were merely going to demonstrate, but they went ahead and demolished it. What happened?

The Muslims became alienated while some embarked on the path of revenge like Dawood Ibrahim. Would somebody like him have taken centre stage if the Babri Masjid had not been demolished? I say so because Muslims will live in peace and harmony as long as their rights are not taken away. I am glad that despite the communal Sangh Parivar, there is a large body of secular parties, which are interested in the preservation of our secular culture and traditions. I think the Sangh Parivar must be told that communal amity cannot be a unilateral approach.

What do you think of the contention of the AIMPLB that it has not yet closed its doors on further dialogue with the government on the Ayodhya dispute?

Firstly, this is such a sensitive issue with the Muslim community that there can be no hurried solution. And when it finally comes about, it has to be honourable to the Muslims. Otherwise, it will be unacceptable. But again, I have full faith in the court verdict.

The Ayodhya Dispute: The complete coverage

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