Nirmohi Akhara ready for out-of-court settlement

Close on the heels of the initiative taken by 90-year-old Hashim Ansari for a negotiated settlement on the Ayodhya issue, the Nirmohi Akhara too has expressed its inclination to talk and resolve the dispute once and for all.

“I welcome the initiative taken by Mahant Gyan Das and Hashim Ansari and will be only too glad to be a party to the move for bringing the dispute to an amicable settlement and avoid another unending court battle,” Nirmohi Akhara chief Mahant Bhaskar Das said.

Significantly, while Ansari was the first Muslim to stake a legal claim to the Babri Masjid after it was usurped by Hindu mobs on the night of Dec 22-23, 1949, it was the Nirmohi Akhara which sought legal right to offer prayers at the disputed site way back in 1885.

It was Ansari who took the first step towards initiating a process of reconciliation instead of proceeding straight to the country’s apex court in appeal against the Sep 30 order of the Allahabad High Court.

The court split the disputed land into three parts – one going to the contending Muslim group and the other two to be shared by two Hindu groups involved in the legal battle.

Ansari’s talks with Mahant Gyan Das, president of All India Akhara Parishad and head of Ayodhya’s Hanuman Garhi temple, on Sunday helped in breaking the ice.

And what followed Monday was yet another positive move, with Nirmohi Akhara chief Mahant Bhaskar Das too expressing his desire to join the reconciliation bandwagon.

Bhaskar Das, 81, said he was confident that very soon many prominent holy men of Ayodhya would join the dialogue process with local Muslims and other contestants in the case.

While he declined to divulge the names of those with whom he claimed to have got in touch, sources close to him confirmed that he had mooted the idea to a few leading Ayodhya holy men.

They include Mahant Nrtiya Gopal Das, who heads the Ram Janmbhoomi Trust, the body entrusted with the task of building the proposed temple.

The move is likely to witness much opposition from the Sunni Central Waqf Board, whose counsel and Babri Masjid Action Committee (BMAC) convenor Zafaryab Jilani has taken serious affront to Hashim Ansari’s initiative.

“Ansari is just an individual litigant; he is no authority on behalf of the Waqf Board which is the key contestant,” he said.

Court calls for amicable settlement of Ayodhya dispute

The Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court Monday called upon the rival parties to explore the possibility of a last-minute amicable settlement of the Ram Janambhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute.

The order was passed on an application moved by senior advocate Prashant Chandra on the 125-year old litigation over claims by Hindus and Muslims to the disputed site in Ayodhya.

Even as a three-judge special bench of the high court is to pronounce the verdict in the case Sep 24, Justice Dharam Veer Sharma chose to hear the application and pass an order.

The high court registry had refused to accept the application on the ground that only one of the three judges was available as the other two Justice S.U. Khan and Justice Sudhir Agarwal were currently holding court in Allahabad.

While issuing the order, Justice Sharma emphasised a 1994 ruling by a five-judge Supreme Court bench on a petition moved by M. Ismail Farooqui against acquisition of all land by the union government in and around the disputed Ayodhya site after the demolition of the 16th century Babri Mosque in December 1992.

The apex court had then favoured an amicable settlement of the issue.

The case was cited by the petitioner Ramesh Chandra Tripathi, who aroused apprehensions that any verdict at this juncture could vitiate the communal environment across the country.

Prashant Chandra argued that the fallout of the judgement could adversely affect the forthcoming Commonwealth Games, hence it was advisable to postpone the verdict for now.

Emphasising that the Supreme Court ruling needed to be adhered to by all courts across the country, Justice Sharma ordered that the application be placed before the full three-judge bench Sep 16.

Earlier in the day, advocates Neeraj Kumar Srivastava and Jaspreet Singh had prepared separate applications urging the court to defer the verdict, expressing fears that the judgement could vitiate the communal environment across the country.

“In view of the prevailing situation across the country, we are seeking postponement of the verdict scheduled to be pronounced Sep 24,” Srivastava told reporters here.

Rival claims by Hindu and Muslim groups to the site led to the demolition of the 16th century Babri Masjid by Hindu mobs Dec 6, 1992, triggering widespread communal violence that left thousands dead across the country.