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The Rediff Interview/Muslim Personal Law Board member Yusuf H Muchhala
August 04, 2003
Part I: 'Why is the RSS so nervous?'
In the second part of his interview with rediff.com All India Muslim Personal Law Board member Yusuf H Muchhala tells Senior Associate Editor Archana Masih that if it was proved that a Ram temple was indeed demolished to build the Babri Masjid, the Muslims have no right to be there even for a moment.
Why do you believe the RSS is nervous?
Because the excavation hasn't yielded any results. The excavation were done at the instance of the court. We never supported it. There is no evidence to show that there was a Ram temple that was destroyed and a masjid constructed.
On the contrary our experts have opined that there is enough evidence to show that there was a Mulsim basti over there. It's the BJP's great embarrassment because they have misled the whole nation by saying that the Ram temple was destroyed and a masjid built. They have provoked people into this kind of frenzy.
First Hindu hardliners were blamed for the stalemate on the Ayodhya issue. Now the same is being said for the Muslim Law Board, that Muslim hardliners scuttled a solution this time.
Kindly read the correspondence [between Muslim Personal Law Board President Maulana Nadwi and the Shankaracharya of Kanchi]. As a matter of fact, we have not rejected it. After we asked for clarifications, we received a letter from Shakaracharyaji in which he said I am withdrawing my proposal contained in my letter dated June 16.
Where is the question of our coming in the way? We are seeking clarifications. Either you give us clarifications or you say let us wait, don't ask for clarifications, let us talk it over and during the course of negotiation we will clarify -- something like that. So that the process of negotiation could have gone on.
Instead of that he says now we don't want a no objection [certificate].
So what happens now?
Please don't look at this problem as a Hindu Muslim problem.
But the truth is that it is seen as a Hindu Muslim problem.
No, the difficulty is that people are not willing to see it in its correct perspective.
What is the correct perspective?
The correct perspective is -- do you or do you not want to have rule of law in this country? When there are two parties who are disputing, should the party that is stronger try to suppress the weaker party and not allow the process of law to take effect? The issue is of rule of law, of constitutional rights.
The structure was demolished in spite of so many undertaking given to the Supreme Court, the National Integration Council. Should a person be allowed to enjoy the fruits of his ill-gotten gains simply because that person has might in his hands? Should might prevail over right?
Let them prove it. If they are right we have said we will give it up. How can you say that the court is totally irrelevant? What is the rule of law?
Today you are applying this particular dictum in this case, what is the guarantee that it would not be extended to other cases? The problem is this -- with due respect to the media -- that in their anxiety to sensationalise the whole issue -- they are sidelining these issue which are the basic values of the Constitution.
Are you, meaning the Babri Masjid Action Committee, the Babri Masjid Coordination Committee and the Muslim Personal Law Board, united in accepting the court verdict if it went against you?
100 per cent. Repeatedly we have said we will abide by the court. If the court says you are not entitled -- here is your land. We don't want anything in return.
I, in my individual capacity go a step forward, if it is shown that there was a Ram temple that was destroyed and a masjid was built then according to the Shariat law, you can't construct a masjid on somebody else's land.
If it is proved that a Ram temple was demolished and on the same place a masjid was constructed I think we have got no right to be there for a moment.
Did you convene a meeting on June 22 in New Delhi to discuss the proposal in the Shankaracharya's letter to Maulana Nadwi? (Some commentators have blamed this meeting for taking a hard line on the Kanchi Shankaracharya's proposals.)
We had a Babri Masjid sub-committee meeting on June 21. That meeting was convened well in advance. The notices were issued nearly 10 days in advance. We wanted to discuss the Liberhans Commission, the excavation reports and in the mean time -- from June 6-7, this [Shankaracharya's mediation] was developing.
When we convened the meeting, the Shankaracharya's proposal had not yet come. The actual letter was received on June 20-21. So our president received the letter. He requested us that we would not discuss it now as he was going to keep the contents a secret and going to call an executive committee meeting on July 6 when the matter would be discussed.
So we did not discuss this. Except that we discussed it in general terms, but it was not on the agenda.
But it is said there was criticism of restarting the dialogue with the Shankaracharya, that some people were unhappy about this so they went to Lucknow and persuaded Maulana Nadwi to seek an explanation from the Shankaracharya.
It is all media speculation. There was absolutely no discussion on that.
People said somebody should go and tell him that he should open the letter and whatever correspondence he feels should be carried on, he should carry it on.
Otherwise, what happens is that on July 6 you open the letter in the meeting and then people say you seek further clarifications and you again start correspondence and adjourn the meeting of 40 persons who have come from all over the country.
We said he must open the letter, he should not disclose it. He could disclose it to whosoever he likes. He should first see the proposals and whatever correspondence he wants to enter into with the Shankaracharya, he should do it. People were unanimous on this point.
Keeping the whole thing in a sealed envelope, then opening it and asking further, then again meeting in 15 days, this would keep the whole nation in suspense. Keeping the nation in suspense like this was very dangerous. Everything was rife with rumours and anything could happen.
When the July 6 letter was read out no one said why did you ask for these clarifications? This is media speculation without even contacting the people whose names are involved. Is this responsible journalism?
You have been called a hawk.
I am for meaningful negotiation. If there are no meaningful negotiation then the court verdict is the only solution. Is this hardline? There shouldn't be one sided negotiations where a person says submit, and I say okay sir -- on what conditions should I submit, when do I submit, what time do I submit, what day do I submit?
Are you calling these negotiations? This is no negotiation.
It seemed you were getting close to a negotiation at that time.
We were not getting close. They have closed it. We are still open to a meaningful, open dialogue.
If a dialogue were to resume and the Shankaracharya was again in charge, would you be willing...
These are hypothetical questions. We hold the Shankaracharya in high esteem and we know that whatever he has done, he has done out of goodwill and a sincere desire. But in the process he should be more objective than what he is.
In hindsight do you think the Muslim Personal Law Board was hasty in rejecting the proposal?
There was no scope for further dialogue. They gave a five-point proposal, which we are still willing to discuss. Instead they are saying we don't want your no objection. The only alternative is to donate [the land]. Not only donate this but be prepared to donate Kashi and Mathura. What is left for discussion?
But Kashi and Mathura cropped up after the Board asked for clarifications.
Did we even refer to Kashi and Mathura in our letter? Not a word. See the letter, please read it. [We asked] What happens to the disputed area will you abide by the court verdict. What is wrong with that? They have closed the door. When they received the letter, the Shankaracharya said there was no proposal about it.
As a lawyer, I don't agree with the reasons for withdrawing the proposal. The reasons are not valid.
The Shankaracharya is a man of religion, but the people behind him misled him.
Are there hardliners in the Muslim Personal Law Board?
Nobody holds the view that there should be no negotiations at all. Yes, our resolution says clearly that no negotiations with the people responsible for breaking the masjid. But we can have negotiations with the government. We don't consider the Shankaracharya to be a part of the Sangh Parivar. We were dismayed with his letter.
All this while it was being said the Shankaracharya was holding up to the VHP/RSS but after the clarifications were sought, he threw in the towel.
Supposing he could have said you are asking for this clarification, don't ask for it, now let's talk. Let us go step by step. Something could have been said, but he withdraws! And you say the hardliners among the Muslims and the MPLB are doing this.
Secularism does not mean you keep yourself equidistant from A and B and say that I am secular. And in that process you do not know what is justice and what is the truth. You can't be equidistant from the truth and say you are secular. You have to be partial to the truth. That is the meaning of secular.
The Shankaracharya's letter of June 16 did mention that talks would be held about the disputed site and whatever settlement was reached would be put before the court and a verdict awaited. So would not the disputed site include the issue of building a masjid or mandir according to whatever was the court verdict, then why did you seek a clarification on it?
We have not said we will not discuss the disputed site. Only clarification we sought was 'Okay we will discuss everything but in case we do not come to terms then will you abide by the court's verdict?'
We have released all the letters. The Shankaracharya was upset that 'Why did you make it public.' We did not make a promise that it will not be made public. After all, we owe it to the public, to the nation to tell them what has happened. We can't keep the nation in suspense forever.
When you are withdrawing your proposal what is there to negotiate? Nothing.
You are a lawyer. How long do you think will it take for the Ayodhya verdict?
The verdict has to be given by the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad high court. Muslims have already closed their case. They have examined about 23, 24 witnesses. We have placed the archaeological, historical, factual evidence, whatever was there we have already placed before the court. Now it is for the Hindu parties -- maths and all that to lead the evidence.
Now they have started leading evidence. In the mean time the issue of excavation cropped up. That was asked by the court itself. Neither the Hindus nor the Muslims asked for it.
I was asked for an opinion on whether the court's order should be challenged in the Supreme Court or not. I said no.
Secondly, I said on high moral ground -- you are fighting this issue which is of interest to the whole country, it is not between two communities, so you must allow all facts to come out totally. We should not come in the way by using some legal technicalities.
Somebody did challenge the court's order and it was rejected, but the Board did not [challenge it]. The case has gone much beyond legal technicalities. Let us face it, if a Ram temple [existed and demolished to build the masjid ]all right we'll give it up. If we lose, we'll lose, have a fair fight.
How long is this litigation likely to last?
The Muslims have concluded their case. It is for the Hindus to conclude their case, their arguments. The ball is in their court. I don't understand one thing. If they say they don't want to abide by the court verdict then what are they fighting for?
Do you think the ordinary Muslim is really concerned whether there is a mosque or a temple?
The Babri Masjid was demolished in 1992. Have the Muslims come out and said allow us to construct a masjid?
They have said we will abide by the court. See the attitude of the Muslims since 1949, idols were placed inside the masjid. What happened was that the masjid was sealed. They have not asked the court to allow us to go and pray inside, they have waited for the court's verdict.
In 1986, Rajiv Gandhi's government opens the doors, 1992 it is demolished, there are riots. Is there a demand from the Muslim community to allow us to construct here and now? We are waiting for the court's verdict. Who is in a hurry?