'Earlier, Sri Sri told me we (Muslims) must give up our claim to the Babri Masjid site and be large-hearted.'
'Sri Sri has always taken sides on this issue, and isn't neutral at all.'
The Supreme Court on Friday, March 8, referred the Ram Janambhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute case for mediation by a panel headed by retired Supreme Court Justice F M I Kalifulla to explore the possibility of an amicable settlement.
The other two members of the panel are Art of Living founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and senior advocate and mediation expert Sriram Panchu.
S Q R Ilyas, co-convener of the Babri Masjid Action Committee and All India Muslim Personal Law Board, who is also one of the parties to the long-pending dispute, says he is ready to meet the Supreme Court panel within the time frame of eight weeks given by the apex court and is hopeful of finding a solution to the issue.
Speaking to Syed Firdaus Ashraf/Rediff.com, Ilyas asks, "How can you say that this is a matter of aastha (faith)? There has to be proof in history."
What is your reaction to the Supreme Court decision to opt for mediation to resolve the Ayodhya dispute?
This proposal on mediation is not new. We had told the court earlier too that we are not opposed to mediation, but mediation must be on some buniyad (basis). Now let us see who will this mediation panel sit and talk to and where.
But it is obvious that the mediation has to be with the concerned party (the Babri Masjid Action Committee).
Are you happy with the option of mediation?
Mediation is one option. Earlier too, we tried mediation. The Allahabad high court had tried to mediate before delivering its judgment in 2010, but nothing came out of it.
Won't it be different this time because it is a Supreme Court monitored mediation?
It all depends on the mediators. If they want to solve this issue amicably, then it is possible. And we hope something will come out.
What's your opinion on Sri Sri Ravi Shankar being part of the mediation panel?
I feel the court should have opted for a more neutral team.
Sri Sri's views on the issue are very clear; so he should not have been a part of the panel, as he is not neutral.
Earlier, Sri Sri had spoken to me and told me that we (Muslims) must give up our claim to the Babri Masjid site and be large-hearted. It was then that I had told him that they (Hindus) must give up their claim as our elder brothers.
Sri Sri has always taken sides on this issue, and isn't neutral at all.
Will you meet him this time?
Yes, surely. The Supreme Court has said, so we will go.
So what was the problem during the mediation with him earlier?
He took the stance that Muslims must give up their claim to the Babri Masjid.
If you take such a stance, how can you be considered to be a neutral person, as you are clearly favouring one party, isn't it?
So how can he mediate if he is not a neutral party?
What did you tell Sri Sri Ravi Shankar when he was in favour of the Ram Mandir built in place of the Babri Masjid?
He said the Ram Mandir was an issue of aastha (faith) for Hindus.
I told him he was wrong as how could he bring aastha?
Till 1949, there was no aastha to that place. It is recorded in the Faizabad district magistrate and collector's office that a mosque existed in that spot for the last 450 years.
Muslims have been praying over there.
An idol (of Lord Ram) was placed overnight on December 22, 1949, at that very place by some miscreants to create trouble. And after that they shut down the Babri Masjid site.
So how can you say that this is a matter of aastha?
There has to be proof in history.
In the past, Sri Sri reportedly said if the Ram Mandir was not constructed at that spot, then India could turn into a Syria.
He made a wrong statement. It is like saying he has the majority and he can do anything.
Is there no rule of law? Is there no justice in India?
It was a threat from his side (to Muslims) so he cannot be a neutral person.
But millions of Indians do believe Lord Ram was indeed born there.
What do you mean by belief? You are forcefully making people believe this birth theory of Lord Ram at the Babri Masjid site.
Before 1949, no one used to believe Lord Ram was born there.
In fact, there are three other places in Ayodhya where people believe Lord Ram was born.
It is wrong to say that crores of Hindus believe Lord Ram was born at that spot.
There is historical proof that a riot took place in Ayodhya over the same issue in 1860.
At that time there was a chabutra (platform) where Lord Ram's idol was placed.
One pujari, Hari Shankar, gave an application in court that he wanted to put a shed on the chabutra, but the court rejected the application. And the reason given was that a mosque was next to the Ram Chabutra.
This was the dispute in 1860, and not about aastha as you are saying.
Don't you think this issue has been dragging on for decades?
Now the court has given eight weeks. And if the issue is not resolved in eight weeks, then this will go on for long.
But why are you holding onto Babri Masjid land when the popular sentiment is for the mandir?
I want to counter you with another question. Why are they holding onto their claim? It is historical proof that the Babri Masjid exited at the spot.
There is historical proof that it was demolished on December 6, 1992.
It is historical proof that Lord Ram's statue was placed there in 1949.
It is historical proof that the locks of the Babri Masjid were opened to perform puja.
Historical proof is contrary to what they are saying.
It is historical proof that you captured one mosque, placed an idol and broke down that mosque. So there has to be justice.
And now you tell us that this place is the Ram Janambhoomi by saying millions of Hindus have faith, so we must respect that faith. What is wrong is wrong!
How many times have you tried to solve this dispute through mediation? Is there any middle path which could be acceptable to all?
Never. Both sides have stuck to their stance.
We, on our side, have said many times that if they have proof that the Ram Mandir was demolished and the Babri Masjid was built, they must give us some proof.
Our stance is simple: According to Islamic Shariat, a masjid cannot be built on any land which has been occupied illegally.
So, we just demand one thing -- prove to us that the Ram mandir was destroyed in 1528 by Babur after which the Babri Masjid was built.
They are not providing us with any proof, but saying that it is a matter of faith.
K K Muhammed, an archaeologist from Kerala, has shown there was a Ram Mandir in the place of the Babri Masjid. He also said secular historians distorted history by saying the Ram Mandir never existed at that place.
It does not matter if one man says so. The Archaeological Survey of India report is in front of the Supreme Court of India.
Four times that place was dug and prominent names from the world of archaeology have inspected the site. They have all said that there was no Ram Mandir. I was present when all these things happened.
There is also the fear that if the court verdict goes in favour of the masjid, it may lead to violence. We have seen it happen before.
Why? I say if the verdict goes in favour of the Ram Mandir too, nothing will happen in this country.
We have said the judicial verdict is acceptable to us. You must talk of justice.
The country can run on faith, but there has to be history and proof of that.
When you say it is Ram Janambhoomi, give us proof or some history book.