Ayodhya verdict: Muslim parties debate the way forward

By: and |
Published: November 10, 2019 3:05:59 AM

As the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) contemplates a review of the Supreme Court verdict on Ayodhya and whether to accept the five acres offered for a mosque in lieu of the disputed plot, there were differing voices within the community on the way forward.

Ayodhya verdict, Muslim parties, AIMPLB, Supreme Court verdict on Ayodhya, AIMIM MP Asaduddin Owaisi,Babri Masjid “If they so decide, we will file a petition,” said Jilani, who is the AIMPLB secretary and who, as part of the board’s legal team, fought the case in the Allahabad High Court and the apex court.

By Abantika Ghosh, Asad Rehman & Shaju Philip

As the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) contemplates a review of the Supreme Court verdict on Ayodhya and whether to accept the five acres offered for a mosque in lieu of the disputed plot, there were differing voices within the community on the way forward.

Uttar Pradesh Sunni Central Waqf Board chairman Zufar Faruqui said the board, one of the main litigants in the case, would not file a review petition. “The board will not go in for any review of the apex court’s order or file any curative petition,” he said.

He added that “hence any statement in this regard by any individual, lawyer or organisation… is not our line,” Faruqui said at a press conference in Lucknow, adding that “it wouldn’t look good” if any of the Muslim litigants do not accept the verdict. The Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), which had split in 1992 over a “moderate” stand on the issue, also said it respected the judgment.

The AIMPLB, however, expressed “grave dissatisfaction” with the verdict, calling it “neither equity nor justice”. On alternative plot for a masjid in Ayodhya, its counsel Zafaryab Jilani said, “You cannot exchange land for a mosque.” Another AIMPLB member, AIMIM MP Asaduddin Owaisi, said the offer of five acres should be rejected, while regretting the victory of “faith over facts”.

The AIMPLB working committee will take a call on whether to file for a review of the judgment, which must be done within 30 days. “If they so decide, we will file a petition,” said Jilani, who is the AIMPLB secretary and who, as part of the board’s legal team, fought the case in the Allahabad High Court and the apex court. The working committee will also take a call on whether to accept the five acres in Ayodhya as mandated by the judgment.

There was palpable disappointment among AIMPLB office-bearers, lawyers and leaders of various Muslim organisations. That the court had accepted that placing of idols at the site in 1949 was an act of “desecration”, that the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992 was against the rule of law, and that titles cannot be decided on the basis of faith, yet ruled for the Hindu side, has also given rise to uncertainty about the next course of legal action and about land given in lieu of the 2.77-acre disputed site.

“It seems that the court has exercised extraordinary powers to confer the title (to the Hindu side), which we object to. This is a questionable judgment. We went to the court with full conviction, it was essential to fight this till the end to tell the world that we did not like how the mosque was treated. There are some parts of the judgment with serious implications for the secular fabric of the country. We hope no mosque will be touched in future. This is our expectation in a democratic country in a constitutional set-up,” said Advocate M R Shamsad, speaking on behalf of the AIMPLB, while adding, “We have always said that we will abide by the judgment of the court. We regret that the other side never said that.”

Replying to a question on the offer of 5 acres, Jilani said, “You cannot exchange land for mosque, it was not about land but about a mosque. They have accepted keeping idols in 1949 was desecration but the decision has been in favour of the other party… We are dissatisfied that the inner courtyard where prayers were offered has been given to the other side. This is neither equity nor justice.”

Appealing to all to “maintain peace”, he added, “This is not somebody’s defeat or victory, we will adopt whatever legal course is possible.” AIMPLB member Kamal Farooqui said, “It was never about land. They can take 100 acres from us if they want.”

Owaisi said: “In my personal opinion we should reject the five-acre land because this is a legal fight. As former CJI Justice Verma said, the SC is supreme, not infallible. This country is becoming a Hindu Rashtra, they have started with Ayodhya, and will follow up with the NRC, the citizenship Bill etc to that end.” He also articulated his “apprehension” that this “victory of faith over facts” would ignite dispute over other mosques too.

The Sunni Central Waqf Board was non-committal on the alternative land. “It was not our demand that we want five acres. Since it has been granted, we respect the decision of the court. On this matter, we have not had a board meeting. We will soon have a board meeting and will tell you what we decide,” Faruqui said, adding that Owaisi’s stand was his personal view. “He is not a part of the board.”

Asked about Jilani’s statement on filing a review petition, Faruqui said he didn’t agree with the same. “It has been the clear stand of all that whatever the decision of the top court, it will be accepted,” he said, calling for peace and harmony.

Given the verdict, the board is also undecided over a review. A visibly disheartened member of the AIMPLB legal team called the verdict “arbitrary” and said, “Is there really any point asking for review of a unanimous judgment?”
Jilani said, “Article 142 does not allow you (SC) to do this. The court said that there is evidence of a 12th-century temple but nothing to show what happened to that land between then and 1528. The Hindu side on the other hand claims that the temple is from Vikaramaditya’s era who was a contemporary of Jesus Christ but did not give any evidence for that. We have a right to disagree with the judgment but will never say there was any pressure on the court. Anybody may make a mistake. The SC has reviewed its judgment in many cases, if working commitee decides, we will file a review.”

In a statement issued in Malappuram saying it respected the verdict, IUML president Panakkad Sayed Hyderali Shihab Thangal said, “There should not be any tension or provocation. Everyone should exercise restraint. Peace and harmony should be maintained.”

The party, which is an ally of the Congress at the Centre as well as in Kerala, will hold a meeting in Monday to discuss the verdict. IUML MP P K Kunhalikutty said the League had always said it would respect the apex court verdict, whatever it might be, and would now study it in detail.

In 1992, IUML veteran Ebrahim Sulaiman Sait had called for the party to quit the Congress-led UDF in Kerala in protest against the failure of the Congress government at the Centre to prevent the demolition of the disputed structure. With a majority in the party opposed, Sait had walked out of the IUML and founded the Indian National League, which is now an ally of the ruling CPM in Kerala.

Prominent Muslim leader and general secretary of the All-India Sunni Jamiyyathul Ulama (a body of Muslim scholars) Kanthapuram A P Aboobacker Musliyar too said he respects the Supreme Court verdict. “Unity and integrity of the nation are most important. That should not be allowed to be destroyed. Unity and integrity of the country are above success and defeat.”

Prominent Sunni cleric and AIMPLB member Maulana Khalid Rasheed Firangi Mahali too said he accepts the verdict, while clarifying that he was not speaking as a member of the AIMPLB. “Whatever has come to light, one positive thing is that no temple was demolished to build the mosque. And whatever the court’s final verdict… it has been our stand from the beginning that we will respect it.”

Accepting the verdict, the Shahi Imam of the Jama Masjid in Delhi, Syed Ahmed Bukhari, said the matter should not be stretched further. “Muslims of India want peace. Before the court’s order, all Muslims had said they would accept the court’s order, whatever it be,” the Imam said.

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