Kolkata: Two days after the Supreme Court concluded the hearing and reserved its judgment in the Ayodhya land dispute case, decades after it began, members of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) expressed regret that the former Bengal chief minister and renowned lawyer Siddhartha Shankar Ray could not appear at Allahabad High Court in 2010 as he had died in the same year.
The AIMPLB members also express their gratitude to Siddhartha Ray, who is the eldest grandson of ‘Deshbandhu’ Chittaranjan Das (founder of the Swaraj Party during British rule in India), for not charging the AIMPLB a single rupee for representing them in the land dispute case.
Popularly known as ‘Manu da’ among his friends and well-wishers, Ray died at his Beltala residence in south Kolkata on November 6, 2010, from a cardiac arrest. Having started his career as a barrister in Calcutta High Court, Roy had helmed the last Congress government in West Bengal between 1972 and 1977.
“Today, I miss ‘Manu da’ (Siddhartha Shankar Ray). He was a guiding force behind us is this case and he appeared for us from 1990 to 2008 and never charged a single rupee from us,” Zafaryab Jilani, who is now representing AIMPLB in the case, told News18.
Jilani had earlier worked in the case under Ray’s guidance. He recalled, “Manu da was the governor of Punjab in the 80s. One day, I don’t remember when he was staying at Punjab Bhawan in Delhi. He asked his clerk to inquire about the Babri Masjid case. The clerk called up my colleague and senior advocate Shakeel Ahmed Syed. Shakeel briefed the clerk with the latest updates after which Manu da asked all of us to meet him at 5 pm at Punjab Bhawan. Since then he was associated with our case. At the time he had told me, Jilani ji Wahe Guru has taken to me to Punjab and now Allah Mian has taken me to Delhi.”
Jilani further recalled that when the Babri Masjid was demolished, Manu da was in Washington. “He called me at 10 pm and expressed his concern over the incident. He was disturbed by the incident. He was an excellent human being and never asked us money for money. He even tried to pay for his hotel bills at ‘Clarks Avadh’ and airfare during his trip to Lucknow but we requested him not to do so,” he said referring to Ray as his guardian.
“Our regret is that he could not appear for any of the crucial hearings in the Allahabad High Court in 2010. He died before that. He just called me up and briefed me lines of argument.”
Jilani also remembered an incident that took place which increased his regard for Ray. “His presence was required during a hearing in Lucknow. He called up and said that he will not be staying at Clarks Avadh hotel and asked us to look for a cheap hotel to avoid extra expenses. He said he will pay for the hotel bill and booked flight tickets. We then booked his stay at Hotel ‘Mera Mann’ at Hussainganj. We were extremely impressed with his behaviour. We were a bit embarrassed, however, that a person like Manu da is staying at a cheap hotel and paying the bills because he wanted to help us. He was very fond of Kebab and during his stay in Lucknow that was the only fee he would charge. It is very difficult to find such a person nowadays.”
The founder of ‘Siddhartha Shankar Ray Foundation’ in Kolkata and Mayor-in-Council of Bidhannagar Municipal Corporation, Rajesh Chirimar, also recalled some fond memories of Manu Da.
“I was in Congress and some party leaders first introduced me to Mr. Siddhartha Shankar Ray. I felt that he was a special and good administrator. I learned a great many things from him and with his wife’s permission I formed the ‘Siddhartha Shankar Ray Foundation’. It is very difficult to describe him in words. He selflessly works for the people and has always stood by the people in need. Apart from AIMPLB, he provided free legal service to many. On his death anniversary we are going to install a life-size statue of Manu da in Salt Lake,” Chirimar said.
The co-convenor of Babri Masjid Committee, Qasim Ilyas Rasool had also met Ray several times to discuss the case. He said, “Allah sent him to us to be our guardian in the case. It’s simply unthinkable that a person like Ray appeared for us, that too without charging us any fee. In 2010, we suffered a massive setback when dada (Ray) left us. He was a true gentleman and a man of words.”