NEW DELHI: The court-appointed mediation panel on Wednesday informed the Supreme Court about achieving a groundbreaking settlement to the vexed dispute over the 2.77-acre Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land in Ayodhya under which the Muslim parties have agreed to give up their claim on the land for the construction of the Ram temple.
Parties who signed the settlement were the Sunni waqf board, the Nirvani Akhara, a representative of Nirmohi Ani (parent body of all eight Nirmohi Akharas), the Hindu Mahasabha and the Ram Janmasthan Punarudhar Samiti, sources told TOI.
The settlement, while seeking to facilitate a Ram temple, also seeks strict implementation of the 1991 law that lays down status quo for all places of worship that existed on August 15, 1947, repair of all other mosques in Ayodhya and, importantly, construction of a mosque at an alternative site by the waqf board.
Hindu Mahasabha’s lawyer Vikas Singh was showing a map claiming to locate where Lord Ram is believed to have been born. But, he ran into stiff resistance from Muslim parties’ lawyer Rajeev Dhavan who doubted its veracity. The CJI told Dhavan, “Since the Hindu party is not relying on the map, and if you find it irrelevant…you can tear it off.” And Dhawan did.
However, two main stakeholders – VHP-backed Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas and Ram Lalla deity through next friend (suit filed by the deity includes Nyas as one of the plaintiffs), and a faction of Jamiat Ulema – did not participate in the negotiations.
The sources said since the Muslim parties have agreed to give up their claim on the disputed land and agreed to allow the construction of Ram temple, the Nyas would find it difficult not to accept this settlement as this is the best they could get from the Supreme Court if it decides to rule in their favour.
Just two days back, the SC had ordered the UP government to provide adequate security to Sunni waqf board chairman Zufar Ahmed Farooqi on being informed by one of the SC-appointed mediators, Sriram Panchu, that Farooqi has received a threat to his life. The points of settlement are:
- Implementation in letter and spirit of Places of Worship (Special Provision) Act, 1991, which prohibits conversion of any place of worship and to provide for maintenance of the religious character of any place of worship as it existed on August 15, 1947, and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto. This act does not apply to the Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute.
- Muslims to give up claim on the disputed 2.77-acre land in Ayodhya. The government to take up repair and restoration work of all mosques situated in Ayodhya. UP Sunni waqf board to construct a mosque at an alternative site.
- Select a few mosques under the Archaeological Survey of India management to be opened up for worship to Muslims after a court-appointed committee hears the parties and chooses the mosques to be opened for worship purposes.
Some of those who participated in the negotiation process, which was restarted on September 18 by the SC-appointed panel of Justice FMI Kalifulla, ace mediator and senior advocate Panchu and spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravishankar, told TOI that even the Jamiat faction would find it difficult to oppose the settlement.
Their argument was that even if the SC decides in favour of the Muslim parties, it will be the Sunni waqf board which would be entitled to the disputed land. Under Section 51 of the Waqf Act, the waqf board being the sole statutory body can consent to acquisition of the land under its control. “So, the waqf board, even if the Muslim parties emerge victorious, would be able to give up claim on the disputed land,” they said.