At mosque site, a hope for amity

Hindustan Times (Gurugram) - - Htspotligh­t - Sune­tra Choud­hury let­ters@hin­dus­tan­times.com

DHANIPUR VIL­LAGE(ROUNAHI): Last week­end, days be­fore the cor­ner­stonelay­ing cer­e­mony for a Ram temple, the ad­min­is­tra­tion of Ay­o­d­hya ful­filled an­other as­pect of the Novem­ber 2019 Supreme Court ver­dict that cleared the way for the shrine to be built. About 30 kilo­me­tres away from what was once a dis­puted site, five acres of land was handed over to the Indo-Is­lamic Cul­tural Foun­da­tion on Satur­day for the con­struc­tion of a mosque.

While the Shri Ram Jan­mab­hoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust is pre­par­ing for the for­mal launch of the temple, mem­bers of the fledgeling foun­da­tion are yet to meet , leave alone draw up a plan for the kind of struc­ture they want to build “Please don’t com­pare us to them,’’ said Athar Hus­sain, a spokesper­son for the foun­da­tion. “They have had decades to plan for the temple and we were only in­formed that we would have to plan for an al­ter­na­tive site in Novem­ber last year. By the time they iden­ti­fied the Dhan­nipur land for us, Covid hit us and so we haven’t even had a phys­i­cal meet­ing just yet. ‘’

The Indo-Is­lamic Cul­tural Foun­da­tion, spear­headed by the Ut­tar Pradesh Sunni Waqf Board, may not have firmed up a plan for a mosque in lieu of the of the Babri Masjid that was de­mol­ished in 1992 but it does have some ideas . “The new mosque may be around the same size as the Babri masjid, but the land al­lot­ment is much larger and so we want to make sure that we play a much larger role in the com­mu­nity,”’ said Hus­sain. “We are plan­ning to have a hos­pi­tal to take care of the health needs and also, a mu­seum and a re­search cen­tre in the area.’’

For the 9,000 odd res­i­dents of Rounahi town­ship, the at­ten­tion it is at­tract­ing is all very new. Dis­trict of­fi­cials say they were bound by the court or­der to al­lot land that would be within the Ay­o­d­hya city lim­its and would sit har­mo­niously with its sur­round­ings. Rounahi fit the bill be­cause of its pre­dom­i­nantly Mus­lim pop­u­la­tion and its ac­ces­si­bil­ity, just off the Luc­know-Faiz­abad high­way. “Ear­lier we were fa­mous for this mazaar which hosts a three­day mela every year in April,’’ said res­i­dent Sohrah Khan. “10,000 peo­ple would head here for the qawwalis, the horse rac­ing and other fes­tiv­i­ties.’’

And now, Khan is hop­ing, Rounahi gets the same kind at­ten­tion and de­vel­op­ment that Ay­o­d­hya does. That’s the best that most of its agrar­ian res­i­dents can hope for. The al­lot­ted land is now a lush green area, cov­ered by rice paddy and come Wed­nes­day, many of the farmer res­i­dents are hop­ing that the foun­da­tion-stone lay­ing cer­e­mony for the Ram temple means an end to the bit­ter­ness that marked the dis­pute over the site.

Be­ing 30 kilo­me­tres away, there’s no one who has of­fered prayers at the orig­i­nal Babri masjid, but there are those who fol­lowed the le­gal dis­pute and came away dis­ap­pointed.

“We all know the re­al­ity of why this moque had to come here,’’ said farmer Naim Khan.

That’s a sen­ti­ment that many oth­ers echoed. Like Ab­dul Khaliq, a res­i­dent of Ay­o­d­hya who was also in­volved in the court case. Khaliq, un­like lit­i­gant Iqbal An­sari, re­fuses to ac­cept the land swap for the mosque.

“They took ad­van­tage of the fact that we in the Mus­lim side said we would ac­cept what­ever the Supreme Court said,’’ he said. “That’s fine. But I don’t have to ac­cept this five acres. I don’t care what hap­pens to that land.’’ An­other lit­i­gant, Haji Me­boob, too said that he wasn’t sup­port­ive of the de­ci­sion to ac­cept the land.

These sen­ti­ments re­flect the deep di­vide in the com­mu­nity over the res­o­lu­tion of the dis­pute. “A new mosque was never asked from the Supreme Court,’’ said lawyer MR Shamshad. “A con­sti­tu­tional is­sue was fi­nally de­cided by grant­ing resti­tu­tion. This is not jus­tice, and hence the com­mu­nity had taken the stand to dis­tance them­selves from the land.’’

HT PHOTO

The mosque site in Dhan­nipur vil­lage near Ay­o­d­hya town.

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