Many ordinary Muslims are against waging another prolonged legal battle in the Supreme Court over the Hindu-Muslim Ayodhya dispute although their religious leaders feel otherwise.
Though initially most Muslims did not appear to be favourably disposed towards the Sep 30 verdict of the Allahabad High Court on the much-debated Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid issue, now many are hailing the judgment.
Even those who have reservations do not hesitate to appreciate the spirit behind the verdict.
In a path-breaking ruling, judges S.U. Khan, Sudhir Agrawal and Dharam Veer Sharma divided the 90×120 feet plot of land in Ayodhya into three — two parts going to two of the Hindu litigants and one to Muslims.
Alleging injustice, the influential Sunni Waqf Board has pledged to take the battle to the Supreme Court. And so have some Hindu groups, who do not want Muslims to have any share of the land.
Praising 90-year-old Hashim Ansari for trying to reach an out-of-court settlement to avoid a renewed court battle, many ordinary Muslims say such efforts could help bury the country’s communal politics too.
“I am aware that the first reaction of most Muslims in the country was quite averse to the judgment, because everyone felt that the existence of Babri Masjid could not be denied since it was a reality until Dec 6, 1992 when it was razed by violent mobs,” said Mansoor Hasan, who once headed the cardiology department at the King George’s Medical College here.
“But there is no denying that the verdict is well balanced. Above all, we need to move ahead in the larger interest of the nation,” he said.
“But that does not mean that we condone the act of those vandals who were responsible for the demolition of the Babri Masjid,” he added, referring to the incident that triggered widespread Hindu-Muslim violence in India.
Retired army officer Col. Fasih Uddin Ahmed asked: “Could the judgment have been more balanced?”
Praising Hashim Ansari, a Muslim litigant who lives in Ayodhya, he said: “Isn’t it time we learn this lesson of peace from an illiterate tailor from Ayodhya who was the first to talk about bringing the dispute to an end?”
He said: “It is highly commendable that the old man, the first Muslim to assert the right of Muslims for restoration of the 16th century mosque, is busy initiating a dialogue with Hindu parties to come to the negotiating table to thrash out a compromise formula.”
Former Allahabad High Court judge S.H.A. Raza, who holds the distinction of doing the longest stint of five years on the special Ayodhya bench (that saw 18 judges over 21 years), also feels that not much purpose will be served if the battle is taken to the apex court.
Said Raza: “Many Muslims may have their own reason to be disappointed with the verdict. But that disillusionment arose largely because they began to have too many undue expectations from Justice Khan, without realizing that a judge is a judge first, then anything else.”
Not only the Muslim intelligentsia, even the man on the street is seemingly happy with the verdict.
“I am glad the court has given some bit to both sides. At least that has saved us from rioting, that would have made our lives miserable,” remarked 51-year-old Salim, a furniture polisher.
Rickshaw-puller Badre Alam, 39, said: “I hope there won’t be any more trouble and no more curfews. Thank god, the court order has created room for both mandir and masjid. Now why don’t they sit and settle the issue without further delay.”
But Mohammad Aqeel, a 30-year-old teacher in a primary school, is not happy.
“How can Muslims accept a judgment which is totally one-sided and based entirely on ‘aastha’ and not on concrete facts and the principles of law?”
Mohammad Shakil, 47, who runs a ‘dhaba’ in Lucknow’s Lalbagh, confesses: “I am not happy with the verdict. But how can we blame anybody other than the lawyers who failed to establish their title over the land?”
“But there can be no denying that it is this verdict that prevented communal clashes in the state and the country, therefore it would not be a bad idea to accept it and conclude this unending tug of war.”
Khalid, 43, a foreman in Lucknow’s walled city, also terms the judgment as one “based on belief rather than law”.
“There is no doubt the judges have given a brilliant solution based on the doctrine of peaceful co-existence. So why not follow the court order in letter and spirit and have a mosque and temple together?”