THE All-India Muslim Personal Law Board has acted wisely on the renewed controversy about the Babri Masjid-Ram Mandir dispute by stating categorically that while it was open and willing to have talks with the Central Government, there was no question of any discussion on the issue with the Vishwa Hindu Parishad or other “rabid communal” forces.
The Board, at its meeting in New Delhi on Jan.21, exercised a measured restraint and stayed away from being provoked by the belligerence of the VHP and Sadhu Samaj. It avoided speaking of any retaliatory action to meet the challenge. But at the same time, it called upon the Vajpayee Government to rein in the people who are out with a new hate campaign. The Muslim leadership took the stand that though the threats by the Hindutva forces to grab the site of the mosque for the temple after March 2002, were flagrant violation of the law, it reminded the government that such an attitude was a challenge to the Constitution and the rule of law.
The meeting of the executive committee of the Board had been necessitated by the threat to construct the temple at the site where Babri Masjid stood till December 6,1992. The committee felt gravely concerned about the decision of the Sadhu Samaj held at Allahabad Kumbh Mela that the government should handover the site to the VHP and remove all hurdles by March next year. The Samaj has threatened to ignore the order of the court, as and when it comes, on the dispute, and that it would go ahead with its plan to construct the temple even though its title on the land was yet undecided. The committee rightly felt that the stand of the VHP was a challenge to the judiciary also, and that it was for the government and all “patriotic Indians” to defeat this challenge and defend the Constitution. In doing this the Board has made it abundantly clear that the Babri Masjid issue was not one between Hindus and Muslims but was a question of respecting the majesty of law on which rests the foundation of the nation.
The meeting of the executive committee of the Personal Law Board, and the unanimous resolution adopted, has sent a healthy message that the Muslim leadership and the community were united in their stand on the Ayodhya issue. It is also a good sign that Muslim leadership has not responded in a mood of confrontation, though it has unequivocally re-asserted the stand that the land where the mosque stood belonged to the masjid, and shall always remain a mosque. Thus, so far as the Muslim community was concerned, there was no question of surrendering it to the VHP or the Sadhu Samaj. This also answers the idea thrown up by the BJP leaders also that for the sake of communal amity, the Muslims should agree to hand over that piece of land for the temple, and that the mosque could be built at an alternative site to be provided by the government. It is in this framework that any discussion could be held with the government.
The three-point resolution clearly impressed that this time, the Muslim community was united on one single platform, and that any attempt to hold talks with non-descript elements in the community would only be a farce and non-representational. This is necessary to frustrate the design of people like Bajrang Dal leader Vinay Katiyar of holding talks with un-heard of Muslims in Ayodhya to arrive at a settlement. There seems to be gameplan of certain Hindutva leaders to talk to such Muslims and then announce that the Muslim community has agreed to give up its claim on the site of the mosque. This also seems to be the intention of UP BJP leader Kalraj Mishra when he said the other day that Muslims were prepared to hand over the site for the temple. That campaign of deceit can no longer hold now. The meeting of the committee was attended by people like Zafaryab Jilani and Sayed Shahabuddin, who had earlier worked on two rival and divergent platforms for the protection of Babri Masjid.
Similarly laudable is the resolution which expressed the Muslims’ determination to work for communal harmony and for strengthening the institutions of democracy and secularism. The five-member committee appointed for the purpose is a concrete step in this direction. It also made it clear that it was prepared to work with other secular and patriotic forces to safeguard the values of rule of law, and spread the message of brotherhood, equality and civility in society. It is now hoped that the Central government would take some initiative to resolve the dispute, and that it would act with sincerity of purpose and avoid pursuing the agenda of communal outfits and that the difference would be maintained between the agenda of a political party and one in the government representing all, including Muslims.