LUCKNOW, Uttar Pradesh — Zafaryab Jilani, a lawyer from Lucknow, said he was hoping for a peaceful resolution, as the country holds its breath for the Supreme Court of India to settle a property dispute which has plagued Hindus and Muslims for 70 years.
The senior advocate has represented the “Muslim side” in the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi title suit for the past 33 years. Five judges of the Supreme Court are expected to deliver a verdict before Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi retires on 17 November.
The Hindu side claims the land on which the Babri Masjid once stood is actually the site where Hindu god Ram was born in the temple town of Ayodhya in present-day Uttar Pradesh. The Muslim side says that a general named Mir Baqi constructed the mosque during the reign of Mughal emperor Babur in 1528 and it has been with the Sunni Muslims ever since then. The Hindu side says that Mir Baqi demolished a temple devoted to Ram in order to build the Babri Masjid. The Muslim side says there is no evidence to show a Ram Temple existed at the same spot or that it was demolished.
Hindus litigating against the 16th century mosque was never just a property dispute even when it made its way into India’s court system in 1949, but it was in the 1980s that the Congress Party and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) communalized the issue. The demand to construct a Ram Temple on the spot where the Babri Masjid stood became the launch pad and mainstay of BJP’s rightwing politics. It eventually led to Hindu mobs demolishing the mosque with iron rods and sticks on 6 December, 1992. More than 2,000 people were killed in the bloodshed which came after the demolition.
Jilani was the lead counsel for the Sunni Waqf Board in the Allahabad High Court and has argued the case in the Supreme Court. Senior advocate Rajiv Dhavan’s side is the lead counsel for the “Muslim parties” in the Supreme Court.
The religious site has become a fixture in the imagination of millions of...