New Delhi: Nearly two weeks after the Supreme Court announced the Ayodhya verdict paving the way for a Ram temple, divisions within Muslim groups have come to the fore.
On Sunday, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB), which wasn’t a party to the case, announced its decision to file a review petition against the top court judgment.
The board’s move came even as the Uttar Pradesh Sunni Waqf Board and Iqbal Ansari, the two main litigants from the Muslim side in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title suit, have said no to a review petition.
While there was a split in the AIMPLB, which oversees Muslim personal laws in the country, as many members felt the review would be futile, the body has now gone ahead to announce its call.
Speaking to ThePrint, AIMPLB senior member Kamal Farooqui said there were divergent views within the board but that disagreements are part of any democratic set up.
“There was unanimity in rejecting the alternate five-acre-land. But there were divergent views on whether or not a review petition should be filed. All views were heard and discussed, and ultimately it was decided that we should go ahead with the review petition,” Farooqui said.
He was referring to the 9 November judgment in which the Supreme Court directed the Union government to allot a five-acre land to Muslims in Ayodhya to rebuild the Babri Masjid that was demolished in 1992.
The AIMPLB has found support for its call from the Jamiat-Ulema-e-Hind, but not from other Muslim groups, prominently the Sunni Waqf Board and the Shia Waqf Board.
Sunni and Shia Waqf board’s decisions
Soon after the Supreme Court announced its judgment, Sunni Waqf Board chairman Zufar Faruqui said he “humbly accepted the court verdict”.
His decision didn’t take anyone by surprise. On the final day of the court hearings last month, the board had offered to give up its claim on the disputed site, for which it had led a fight of several years.
Even the Shia Waqf Board chairman, Wasim Rizvi, welcomed the verdict last week and announced that he would be donating Rs 51,000 for the construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya.
The Sunni board’s acceptance of the verdict, however, has been criticised with commentators saying the board is “acting under pressure”.
Last month, days before the Supreme Court finished the hearings in the Ayodhya case, the Yogi Adityanath-led Uttar Pradesh government recommended a CBI inquiry against Faruqui for alleged involvement in illegal sale and purchase of land for the board. The FIRs against him had even led the Jamiat-Ulema-e-Hind’s Uttar Pradesh faction to call his actions in the case “suspicious”.
Anees Ahmad, Lucknow-based social activist and political commentator, said, “The cases against Faruqui, combined with the fact that he is a government employee at the end of the day are all factors that need to be considered.”
The Sunni and Shia Waqf Boards are statutory bodies under the Union Ministry of Minority Affairs.
Ahmad added that local pressure and vested interests determine a lot of these decisions. “It is evident that the Sunni Waqf Board is acting under some sort of pressure. What a lot of people wonder is how the same people continue to hold prominent positions even as state governments change — be it Sunni Waqf Board’s Zufar Faruqui or Shia Waqf Board’s Waseem Rizvi.”
While Faruqui has been the chairman of the Sunni Waqf Board since April 2010, Rizvi has led the Shia Waqf Board since 2006. Rizvi had courted controversy last year after he said that “Lord Rama came in my dream and was crying”.
“These people don’t have any ideology. They adopt the ideology of the party in power,” added Ahmad.
‘Sticking to position’
Faruqui, on his part, called it unfair to link the Sunni Waqf Board’s position on the Ayodhya verdict to the inquiry against him.
“We took a public stand, long back, that we will accept the verdict. Even back then we knew that there will always be the legal option of filing a review. But if we said we will accept that verdict as is, then we should stick to that position,” Faruqui told ThePrint.
“If I was under any sort of pressure, or if there was a government influence, then wouldn’t we have just rescued ourselves from the case midway? The fact that we fought this fight until the very end is proof that the Sunni Waqf board isn’t under any pressure,” he added.
In February 2018, much before the recommendation of a CBI inquiry, Faruqui, along with some others, had flown to Bengaluru to meet spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravishankar — a key member of the Supreme Court-appointed mediation panel in the case. Ravishankar had termed the meeting a show of “support for out-of-court settlement”.
Haider Abbas, former Uttar Pradesh State Information Commissioner and social commentator, said that was the turning point that determined the future course of Sunni Waqf Board’s politics.
“Of all the people who went to that meeting, Faruqui held the most important position. Perhaps he got influenced by Salman Nadwi, who was also present in the meeting,” Abbas told ThePrint.
Nadwi, then a member of the AIMPLB, was expelled from the board after he suggested shifting the Babri Masjid site.
AIMPLB’s Farooqui, however, said he wouldn’t like to believe that the Sunni Waqf Board chairman is acting under pressure as that would amount to character assassination. “I have full sympathy with Zufar Faruqui. He is holding an important position and I wouldn’t like to cast any aspersions on his decisions.”
‘Review may not bring desired results’
But it isn’t just the Sunni Waqf Board that’s unwilling to take the case forward. Iqbal Ansari, the main litigant in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute, too said he isn’t interested in filing a review.
“My views are different from that of the (AIMPLB) Board and (I) want an end to the mandir-masjid issue at this very point,” he told PTI.
Ansari’s advocate-on-record M.R. Shamshad, who has also been involved in the AIMPLB’s review decision meetings, said his client’s decision should be respected.
“Iqbal Ansari and his late father both have contested this litigation since 1961. At this stage he did not want to file a review. That decision is to be respected,” Shamshad told ThePrint. He added that this doesn’t imply that Ansari is acting under pressure.
“A large number of people are in favour of filing review, but there are few others within the community who have expressed their opinion that a review may not bring expected results. So his decision doesn’t necessarily mean that he is acting under pressure,” added Shamshad.
Before making its decision to go ahead with a review petition, the AIMPLB too consulted Shamshad.