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Ayodhya dispute: Why BJP is angling for an out-of-court settlement

Sharat Pradhan
Sharat PradhanNov 16, 2017 | 12:49

Ayodhya dispute: Why BJP is angling for an out-of-court settlement

Ever since the apex court suggested that the parties involved in the age-old Ayodhya dispute should explore possibilities of a negotiated settlement, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its saffron allies seem to have gone into overdrive.

Their undue interest in the dispute - which far exceeds that of the parties involved - naturally arouses suspicion. What came as the strangest development was the emergence of Shia Waqf Board as a new claimant to the 16th century Babri Masjid that was demolished by violent Hindu karsewaks on December 6, 1992, in their quest to build the much-debated Ram temple at the site claimed as Ram Janmabhoomi (Ram's birthplace).

In all these decades that the dispute over the title of the land was pending before different courts, the Shia Waqf Board never showed up. Today it is not only staking claim over the mosque, built by Sunni Mughal emperor Babur's army commander Miq Baqi, but also aggressively making its own efforts for an out-of-court settlement. Their contention that Mir Baqi was a Shia, hence the mosque ought to be a Shia one looks weak, considering that the emperor in whose name it was built was a devout Sunni.

babriin_111617122615.jpg

Interestingly, the Shia Waqf Board is also getting full support from all BJP quarters. BJP spokespersons participating in debates on various TV channels are openly batting for the waqf board.

To top it all, Art of Living founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has also taken a plunge into the cesspool of a proposed out-of-court settlement. Like the UP Shia Waqf Board chief, Waseem Rizvi, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar too has been a rank outsider in the long-drawn legal battle for the Ram Janmabhoomi. However, his initiatives towards a negotiated settlement are drawing as much applause from the BJP circles as the excitement in the saffron ranks over the efforts of the Shia Waqf Board.

The Shia Waqf Board's right to the mosque was being argued on a premise that since the Sunni Waqf Board's claim had been turned down by a lower court way back in the forties, the property automatically got vested in Shia Waqf Board. The fact of the matter is that the Shia Waqf Board has no locus standi in the case today.

Rizvi's track record is also not clean. Prior to his self appointment as some kind of an interlocutor in the case, he was closely connected to Samajwadi Party leader Azam Khan, a key member of the Mulayam Singh Yadav and Akhilesh Yadav cabinets. Leading Shia cleric Maulana Kalbe Jawaad not only accused him of committing large-scale financial irregularities in the waqf board, but also eventually got the state government to order a CBI probe into his alleged misdeeds. Rizvi promptly switched loyalties to the BJP, while the probe was still pending.

On the other end, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's self-proclaimed representation of the Hindu side remains equally fragile and frivolous. Neither the Nirmohi Akhara, which is a key party to the dispute, nor the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) are impressed with the popular spiritual leader's move.

srisriravishankar-wa_111617122756.jpgArt of Living founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar (left) with UP Shia Waqf Board chief Waseem Rizvi. Photo credit: ANI

Earlier, BJP leader Subramanian Swamy, who has been going out of his way to bring about a negotiated settlement to the long-pending legal battle, had moved the Supreme Court to expedite the proceedings in the Ayodhya case.

It was unlikely that the proximity between the Art of Living founder and the BJP and the visible affinity between BJP and the Shia Waqf Board are just coincidences. There is reason to suspect that there is something much more than what meets the eye in this proximity.

The common suspicion among political analysts was that bringing Ayodhya back on the centre stage could help BJP make some gains in poll-bound states, including Gujarat, where the party's desperation is becoming increasingly visible. It could also be with an eye on the vote for the local body elections in Uttar Pradesh later this month. After all, the politics of polarisation continues to remain high on the BJP agenda.

Speculation was also rife about BJP's other objectives behind the overdrive to reach an out-of-court settlement. While Muslims have been very categorical in stating that they would relinquish their claim to the disputed site if the apex court verdict went against them, the hardcore Hindu groups have been openly asserting that verdict or no verdict, the Ram temple would be built where the makeshift temple stands - on the debris of the Babri Masjid. As such, in the event of a court order, Muslims would have reason to abdicate their claim. On the other hand, any negotiated settlement could open the Pandora's box for a similar settlement on two other vexed shrines - the Kashi Vishwanath temple in Varanasi and the Krishna Janmabhoomi in Mathura.

Both these temples have been on the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) agenda for long. While BJP leaders were discreet in not talking about these shrines, their other saffron allies do not hesitate in issuing subtle reminders about their claims from time to time.

In the light of these facts, there was ample reason to suspect BJP's craving for an early out-of-court settlement on Ayodhya.

Last updated: November 17, 2017 | 16:01
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