New Delhi/Lucknow: Supreme Court lawyer K. Parasaran, 92, who represented the Hindu parties in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute, has been made the chairman of the trust that will now oversee the construction of a temple at Ayodhya, ThePrint has learnt.
Named Sri Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra, the trust was notified by the central government Wednesday morning. It will have its registered office at Parasaran’s residence at R Block in Greater Kailash-I, South Delhi.
During hearings in the Supreme Court on ownership of the disputed land, Parasaran went up against senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, who represented the Muslim side.
The Supreme Court verdict in the matter came on 9 November, with the disputed site going to the Hindus. For the Muslim parties, who hold the site sacred because it hosted the Babri Masjid until its demolition by Hindu fundamentalists in 1992, the court ordered the allocation of a five-acre plot within Ayodhya.
Soon after the verdict, the two top leaders of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh — Mohan Bhagwat and Suresh Bhaiyyaji Joshi — had also visited Parasaran at his residence to “thank him” for his efforts.
No official confirmation on composition
PM Narendra Modi announced the formation of the trust in Parliament Wednesday morning. In tweets posted shortly afterwards, Home Minister Amit Shah said the trust would have 15 members, including a Dalit.
An official confirmation about its composition is likely Wednesday evening.
According to a source in the Ministry of Home Affairs, the trust will include at least two senior government officials — one joint secretary-level officer and the district collector of Ayodhya.
A source in the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP), which has been involved in the campaign for a temple at the site for decades, said other members may include prominent seers such as Swami Vasudevanand Saraswati, Shankaracharya from Jyotish Peeth, Jagatguru Madhavacharya Swami Vishwa Prasannatheerth Ji Maharaj from Peejawar Mutt in Mangaluru, Swami Govind Dev Giri Maharaj from Ved Vidya Pratishthan in Pune, Yugpurush Swami Parmanand from Haridwar, and Swami Dinendra Nath, chief of the Nirmohi Akhara.
The Nirmohi Akhara, a body of seers that was one of the main parties from the Hindu side, claims to have worshipped Lord Ram for over seven centuries. The Supreme Court had said in its November verdict that the trust should include representation from the Akhara.
A second senior VHP leader said the people selected to be a part of the trust are the ones who have been “actively involved with the Ayodhya movement”.
“The members of the trust are all those who have devoted their lives for the construction of the temple. They are the ones who have been actively involved in this movement from the beginning,” the leader added.
Only ‘devout Hindus’ part of trust
Speaking to ThePrint, one of the two VHP sources said that even the government officials included in the trust are “devout Hindus”.
“To be a devout Hindu is a prerequisite to be a part of this trust,” the source added.
According to the source, 13 members of the trust have been finalised and they will choose the remaining two.
Before Parasaran was finalised as the trust chief, there was a call from seer organisations in Uttar Pradesh to give the post to Mahant Nritya Gopal Das.
Das heads the VHP-backed Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas, which has been working towards the construction of the temple for over three decades. Das was said to have had the support of the VHP to take over as chief of the trust.
Mahant Kamal Nayan Das of Maniramdas Chhavni said PM Modi deserved all the praise for announcing the trust. “Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas president Mahant Nritya Gopal Das should be made its president. As far as my knowledge is concerned, VHP central vice-president Champat Rai may also be included as a member,” he added.
Approached for comment about his possible inclusion in the trust, Rai said “it was too early” to say anything.
“I am quite hopeful that the VHP will have an important role in the trust because its role in the entire movement was important too,” he added.
Mahant Narendra Giri, president of the Akhil Bharatiya Akhara Parishad, said they would accept whatever is decided by the government. “All seers wish to be included in the trust as members, but we are OK with whoever is included by the government,” he added.
Meanwhile, Iqbal Ansari, a Muslim plaintiff in the Ayodhya case, also said he welcomed Modi’s announcements.
“Ayodhya is a city of communal harmony. We will continue to live here in a united way,” he added.
The plot for a mosque has been finalised too, with the Uttar Pradesh cabinet identifying a five-acre plot in Dhannipur village in Ayodhya’s Raunahi.
Both decisions come days before the Supreme Court-fixed three-month deadline expires on 9 February.
(With inputs from Prashant Shrivastava and Rahul Sampal)
An earlier version of the copy incorrectly mentioned Jagatguru Madhavacharya Swami Vishwa Prasannatheerth Ji Maharaj as Vishwa Tirtha. It also incorrectly identified the district collector as district magistrate. The errors are regretted.