Ghost of
Shah Bano Case

Shah Bano Legislation and un-locking of gates at the disputed site

DECEMBER 5, 2017

This story has been repeated so many times that now it sounds like a cliche. On 15 January, 1986, the government had announced its decision to reverse the Supreme Court verdict in Shah Bano case through legislation and promised to table the bill in the forthcoming winter session of the Parliament. It provoked such a massive public furore that the government felt the need to do something to divert attention. The lock on the main gate of the disputed site was removed on 1 February, 1986, that is almost fifteen days after the decision to reverse the SC Judgment in Shah Bano case.

  When I met the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi on 6 February and expressed my concern, the PM assured that the Muslim leaders will not protest and that they were informed about the unlocking in advance. On hearing this I recalled a statement of the then Chairman of Personal Law Board Ali Mian, published in Urdu daily Qaumi Awaz of Lucknow who had said after removal of the locks that: Aur bhi bohat si Masjiden agyar ke qabze mein hai  (there are many Mosques under the occupation of others).

  If we read the autobiography of Maulana Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi, the then Chairman of the MPLB carefully then one is struck by the strong language he has used against the leaders of the Babri Masjid Action Committee and movement. In Volume 4 on Page 130, he squarely blamed these leaders for provoking ‘Hindu revivalism’ and described their movement as leading Muslims on the path of ‘collective suicide’.  

It is equally important that as long as Rajiv Ji was alive, the Personal Law Board did not raise any voice of protest except a mild press statement highlighting the need to wait for court verdict.  

In the light of these observations, one may safely conclude that Shah Bano and Ayodhya were part of a tacit deal. The Personal Law Board secured the reversal of Supreme Court Judgment in Shah Bano case but later failed to prevail on the Babri Masjid Action Committee not to start any agitation and that explains why Ali Mian was so harsh in his criticism of Muslim leaders who spearheaded the Babri movement.

The author is a former union minister. He quit the Rajiv Gandhi government in protest against passage of Muslim Personal Law Bill which upturned a secular court's verdict in the Shah Bano Case.