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'Babri Masjid is not an ego issue for Muslims'

March 22, 2017 08:46 IST

'If you prove that a mandir was demolished and a mosque was constructed there, we will leave the place.'

IMAGE: A Babri Masjid Re-Building Committee demonstration in Ayodhya. Photograph: B Mathur/Reuters

On Tuesday, March 21, the Supreme Court said the Ram temple in Ayodhya is a 'sensitive, sentimental issue' and should be sorted outside the court through discussion.

S Q R Ilyas, joint convener, Babri Masjid Action Committee and a member of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, tells Rediff.com's Syed Firdaus Ashraf why he welcomes the decision.

Your reaction to the Supreme Court's suggestion for an out of court settlement on the Ram Mandir-Babri Masjid issue?

We do not reject the offer.

We are ready to talk if the Chief Justice of India desires so.

We believe that in these talks there should be no preconceived notions and both parties should be considered equal partners.

We have been saying this from the very beginning, that this problem can be settled by negotiations or by a court of law.

But earlier, from the time of prime ministers V P Singh to P V Narasimha Rao, the other party's attitude has been very adamant.

They used to say only one thing -- that we must leave this place.

We have always said that if you prove that a mandir was demolished and a mosque was constructed on the site, then we will leave the place.

In Islamic Sharia law, it is said that a mosque cannot be built on illegal land or by capturing land.

But the other party did not prove their allegations.

We told them to give us some documentary proof of land record or some historical proof.

They only told us that this is a matter of faith and we must abandon this place.

Negotiations between the two parties has been going on for 25 years and yet no solution has been reached. So what is new today? What has changed on the ground?

There is no change.

The apex court of India is ready to mediate, so we welcome it.

Nothing has changed, but if the Supreme Court says we should sit and find a solution, then how can we oppose it?

The Allahabad high court gave a panchayat-like ruling and now the matter is before the Supreme Court.

If they want to open the issue of negotiations, we are not opposed to it.

What were your objections to the high court judgment?

We were not happy with the Allahabad high court judgment.

They did not hear our side of the argument.

They rejected our claim and gave the order that each of the three parties must get one-third of the land.

This is not a judgment, but a panchayat system.

What have been the developments in the case since the high court judgment?

There is no development.

The case is in the Supreme Court for the last six years and they have not had a single hearing in this case.

We are very worried.

The Allahabad high court order is about 8,000 pages and it took three years to transfer those papers to the Supreme Court.

There are eight parties representing the Muslims in this case and there are six parties representing Hindus in the case.

There are thus a total of 14 parties involved in this dispute.

We are ready for talks. If someone is ready to negotiate, we are ready to negotiate.

Why it is so important for Muslims that the Babri Masjid be reconstructed at the same spot where it was demolished on December 6, 1992?

You tell me why it is important to build the Ram mandir at the same spot?

There was a mosque at that place from 1528 to 1949 and there was no dispute over that place.

Till 1949, there was no dispute.

There was a chabootra (platform) outside the Babri Masjid where Ram Lalla idols used to be placed and Hindus used to worship Ram Lalla there.

In 1949, this Ram Lalla idol was suddenly placed inside the mosque.

After that, the Babri Masjid was locked up.

In 1992, they demolished the Babri Masjid and therefore this entire issue is going against the Muslims.

For 400 years, Muslims were worshipping in this mosque, then you demolish it and you ask us why this mosque is important to us.

But this is a matter of aastha (faith), as many Hindus say.

Matter of faith yes, but from when?

Till 1949, there was no aastha for the Ram Mandir at the site of the Babri Masjid.

There was a chabootra outside the Babri Masjid and Hindus worshipped there. And that chabootra too was built only in 1886.

So if you say this is a matter of aastha, then there has to be history.

Lord Ram was born thousands of years ago, so this aastha should be that old, but then why did this aastha suddenly develop from 1949 only?

There are seven Ram Mandirs in Ayodhya and every mandir claims that Ram was born there.

During Emperor Akbar's time, Tulsidas wrote Ramcharitra Manas in Ayodhya. He sat in Ayodhya and wrote the Ramcharitra Manas.

He too never mentions the Babri Masjid being constructed over a Ram Mandir.

Tulsidas never wrote that Muslims destroyed the Ram temple.

Till 1949, there was no dispute over this place.

IMAGE: Artisans working on sandstone pillars for the Ram temple at Ayodhya. Photograph: Sondeep Shankar/Getty Images

You say that a mosque cannot be constructed on a Hindu temple. But what about the fact that many temples were brought down by Muslim invaders?

This is not true. These are false allegations. I am saying, please prove it.

This is the propaganda of the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) and I, therefore, say that it should be proved historically.

When we filed the case in the Allahabad high court, six prominent historians said in court that there was no mandir at the site of the Babri Masjid.

Historically, there is no proof.

All these historians who deposed before the court were non-Muslims.

The Gyan Vyapi mosque in Varanasi was constructed over a temple. Aurangzeb destroyed that temple. Did he not?

Vishwambar Nath Pandey was the governor of Orissa and he wrote a book in which he said that Aurangzeb gave permission to build 100 temples.

It is a wrong allegation that Aurangzeb demolished temples.

Do you believe you can now sit across the table and sort out the problem?

We are ready for talks.

If someone is ready to negotiate, we are ready to negotiate.

You see, aastha is not proof.

You have to give historical records, revenue records, land records.

If you capture my house and then say that there was a Ram Mandir there, will I not ask for proof?

There are so many places in Ayodhya where Muslims can reconstruct the Babri Masjid. Why insist on that same site that Hindus hold sacred?

You can ask the Hindus the same question too. They can build the Ram temple anywhere else.

Historically, you will never be able to prove that there ever was a Ram Mandir at the site of the Babri Masjid.

The day they establish this proof, we will lose the case and we will leave the place.

IMAGE: Stone columns that the Vishwa Hindu Parishad says will be used to build a Ram temple at the disputed site in Ayodhya. Photograph: Rupam Jain/Reuters

With Yogi Adityanath as Uttar Pradesh chief minister and Narendra Modi as prime minister, the BJP can introduce a bill in Parliament and the state assembly can pass it to construct the Ram temple at the disputed site.
So, what is the point in fighting this issue in court?

If they want to do dadagiri (use of force), dhandli (fraud), they can do so and we do not have any problems.

We are only talking of law and justice.

If they want to bring a bill on the Ram Mandir, then let them bring it.

But can a secular government bring such a bill on the mandir and masjid?

Legally, they should not bring the bill because we do not live in a Hindu rashtra, but a secular nation.

Historically, you will never be able to prove that there ever was a Ram Mandir at the site of the Babri Masjid.
The day they establish this proof we will lose the case and will leave the place.

When then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi brought in a bill to overturn the Supreme Court verdict granting alimony to Shah Bano in the 1980s, was that a sign of a secular nation?

You are confusing the two issues. The Sharia Application Act has been passed by Parliament, which is the Muslim personal law enacted by Parliament.

The Hindu Code Bill has also been enacted by Parliament. This is the law.

If a Muslim woman is divorced and if you have a problem over her maintenance, then the best solution is given to her. She has the rights under Sharia law.

Now, let them prove that there was a mandir there. Till date they have not given any proof of the Ram Mandir's existence at the site.

They always say it is a matter of faith for them. They say you give us this site as deeksha (offering).

So why not give deeksha, treating it as what a younger brother gives an elder brother?

But elder brothers must give deeksha.

The Babri Masjid is not an ego issue for Muslims.

Our problem is -- once a masjid is constructed at a place, then it is not our place, but the place of Allah.

If it was my house I would have given the place to the Hindus for the Ram Mandir, but this place is the place of Allah.

We are custodians of this place for Allah. And once a mosque is built it has to be a mosque till doomsday.

But in several Muslim countries they have demolished mosques to build roads, dams and highways. Why cannot we do that in India as well?

Those countries are not constructing a mandir at that place, but building roads and highways.

My only argument is, prove that a mandir was demolished and a mosque was built on the site and Muslims will give up their claim.

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Syed Firdaus Ashraf / Rediff.com