An exercise to resolve the Babri Masjid-Ramjanmabhoomi dispute through a compromise between Ayodhya’s Hindus and Muslims has run into a major controversy, with a large number of locals claiming that the consent of those belonging to the minority community is either fake or has been obtained under pressure.
Led by former judge of Allahabad High Court Pulak Basu, the Ayodhya Vivad Samjhauta Nagrik Samiti – or Ayodhya Dispute Resolution Citizen Committee – spent months collecting more than 10,000 signatures of local Hindus and Muslims, giving their approval to a compromise formula based on Allahabad High Court’s 2010 ruling in Babri Masjid-Ramjanmabhoomi case.
Justice Basu’s compromise formula (though he insists it has been evolved by locals) asked Muslims to give up their claim over two-thirds of the disputed site and to refrain from constructing any structure on the one-third part awarded to them by the court. In return, a mosque would be constructed on another part of the acquired area, away from the site on which the Babri Masjid once stood.
The 16th-century Babri Masjid, which some Hindutva groups was built on the exact spot on which the god Ram was born, was demolished on December 6, 1992, by a mob mobilised by the Bharatiya Janata Party. But the party’s promise to build a Ram temple on the site has been mired in litigation.
Pulak Basu is attempting to find a solution. On November 13, Justice Basu and his team submitted 10,502 signatures – with around 3,000 Muslims names in the list – to Divisional Commissioner of Faizabad Surya Prakash Mishra, who is also the receiver of the disputed site.
But shortly afterwards, the Ayodhya-Faizabad Muslim Welfare Association, a local organisation, claimed that a many of the signatures purporting to belong to local Muslims were not real, while others had been obtained under duress.
“We know that most of the signatures of local Muslims these people have gathered are fake,” the association’s president Mohammad Iqbal told Scroll.in. “We also know that in many cases they used some kind of external pressure to gather signatures from Muslims.”
To prove its point, the association collected nearly 6,000 signatures of local Muslims in two days, all reposing faith in the Supreme Court and opposing any such “compromise drama”.
On November 15, a large delegation of Ayodhya’s Muslims led by Iqbal submitted these signatures to the Divisional Commissioner.
“We had to resort to our own signature campaign because Justice Basu did not respond to charges of fake signatures I had raised in their last meeting [on October 23] before they submitted their signatures to the Divisional Commissioner,” said Iqbal. “Within two days we collected nearly 6,000 signatures of Muslims, almost double the number of Muslims they pressurised to sign on their compromise formula in over two years.”
Charges are refuted
On his part, Justice Basu refuted the charge. “I don’t want to respond to these allegations except for the fact that they deserve worst of abuses for maligning such a noble cause,” he said.
In its judgment in September 2010, the Allahabad High Court, instead of deciding the title of the disputed site that was the original plea, had awarded two-thirds of the site where Babri Masijid stood to Hindu parties and one-third to Muslims – an anomaly that formed the basis for an appeal in the Supreme Court.
Though Justice Basu and his team had for the past three years been holding periodic meetings in Ayodhya to find a resolution to the dispute, they became more active around the time Narendra Modi became prime minister after the 2014 Lok Sabha election.
Basu said he would continue to work for an out-of-court settlement of the dispute. “If needed, we will move the Supreme Court on behalf of the locals of Ayodhya,” he said. “We are considering various legal steps required for this.”