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‘Time to Bury Hatchet’: Former Lt Gen Zameeruddin Shah Says Ayodhya Review Petition Will be Exercise in Futility

The Muslim community needs to coolly think through about the review petition and change track. Unfortunately, they have no think-tank of rationalists to guide them.

Retd. Lt Gen. Zameeruddin Shah |

Updated:November 19, 2019, 3:19 PM IST
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‘Time to Bury Hatchet’: Former Lt Gen Zameeruddin Shah Says Ayodhya Review Petition Will be Exercise in Futility
A man holds a brick reading "Jai Shree Ram" as bricks of the old Babri Masjid are piled up in Ayodhya. (AP photo)

The Supreme Court’s unanimous verdict on November 9, awarding 2.77 acres of disputed land to the deity Ram Lalla, came as no surprise. The courts will generally mirror the public ideological mood. A court that is not responsive to majority opinion would stand to lose its legitimacy and trigger a communal ‘tsunami’. An out of court settlement would have been ideal and more graceful. There would have been no winners or losers. The Muslim community lost a golden opportunity at reconciliation.

There is no need to go into the intricacies of the judgment but as a restitution (Sop, say most Muslims) to the community it has been ruled that five acres of land be allotted, at a prominent location in Ayodhya, to the Sunni Muslim Wakf Board for construction of a mosque, ‘with associated facilities’.

Prior to the judgment all Muslim organisations, including the AIMPLB, had repeatedly affirmed that they would abide by the judicial verdict. Now the latter, along with other organisations, intends to file multiple appeals on the ground that it is not a ‘Final Judgment’ and convey that they had battled, to the end, for their rights. The majority parties had never conceded that they would abide by a judicial verdict, since it was a matter of faith. Surprisingly, only a week before the verdict, they conceded. They seemed to have their ear to the ground to judge which direction the wind was likely to blow.

The AIMPLB, by itself, is not a party to the litigation but some of its members are. There are reports that most of the litigants, other than the Sunni Wakf Board, are in favour of filing a review petition.

The decision to continue with the legal battle will, in all probability, be an exercise in futility. It will only keep the communal cauldron on the boil with the Muslims being further singed.

I initially opposed the call of most Muslims to politely refuse the ‘barter’.

I perceived that this would be considered as a ‘big sulk’ on the part of a loser. However, after pondering further and discussing with rural folk, I think this would be the proper decision as there is a danger of it being cited as a precedent in resolving any future incidents of vandalism.

The Sunni Wakf Board is in a quandary. It is concerned with condition of the existing 25 mosques in Ayodhya which are in a decrepit state and permission for the repairs of which is being denied by the administration. The reason for this restriction can be fathomed. It runs against the inclusive ethos on which our country was founded.

A new mosque in Ayodhya, established by a judicial verdict, would help to assuage the insecurity of the city’s Muslims. There are, however, some ‘catches’.

The court did not specify a time frame for the transfer of five acres at a ‘suitable prominent place’ in the city. This could stretch to infinity, on some grounds or the other. There are also reports that the state government, last week, extended the municipal limits of the city to include some neighbouring villages. So one can guess the location where the land will be offered. That is not all. A new mosque will exasperate communal tensions. If the Sunni Wakf Board decides to accept the offer, it would be more prudent to establish an educational institution or hospital with an adjoining mosque, so as not to violate the spirit of the Supreme Court ruling.

The Muslim community is now faced with a dilemma; it needs to coolly think through this issue and change track. Unfortunately, they have no think-tank of rationalists to ponder over current issues and give guidance.

The conservatives carry the day by the din of the noise they make and by castigating persons who advocate a conciliatory path. I may not be as well-versed in theology as other learned men of the Muslim community, but I have seen terrible riots and bloodletting and do not want another drop of bloodshed. Making this an issue after the blood spilt, post Babri Masjid demolition, is anathema to me. It is time to bury the hatchet.

(The author is an Army veteran and former vice-chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University.)

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