'It's high time Muslims, Hindus resolve Ayodhya issue'
Hashim Ansari, who was the first Muslim claimant to the 16th century Babri Masjid 61 years ago, took everybody by surprise on Sunday when he took the first step to draw the final curtain on the Ayodhya issue.
Ansari chose to walk down to the residence of Mahant Gyan Das, the head priest of Ayodhya's oldest Hanuman Garhi temple and the chief of Akhara Parishad, the controlling body of 14 Hindu denominations, including the Nirmohi Akhara.
The Nirmohi Akhara, one of the litigants in the Ayodhya title suit, has been granted one-third share of the disputed Ayodhya property.
Significantly, Ansari urged Das to join him to take the September 30 order of the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad high vourt ahead by working out a negotiated settlement.
Reportage: Sharat Pradhan
Image: Hashim Ansari
'Politicians have been using us all these years'
"We are quite optimistic that we would be able to find a pragmatic solution to this tangle through mediation and talks -- minus politicians, who have been using us all these years," the two stated after their meeting.
After 21 years of hearing in the high court, a three-judge special bench, comprising Justices S U Khan, Sudhir Agrawal and Dharam Veer Sharma on Thursday ruled through a majority verdict that the disputed land (measuring 90 ft x 120 ft) should be divided into three parts -- two shares for the proposed temple and one to the mosque.
The court also left enough scope for re-allocation and adjustment of land to the parties, out of the 67-acre adjoining land, acquired by the Union government.
Image: High security in Ayodhya
'It is a golden opportunity for both sides'
"I have full faith in Mahant Gyan Das," Ansari told this scribe over telephone from Ayodhya on Sunday evening. Das reciprocated his feelings by adding, "I am really touched by the fact that this 90-year- old gentleman came down to my place to express his desire to bring an end to this whole issue through talks, instead of spinning it into another endless legal battle before the apex court ."
"As long as outsiders do not poke their noses, I am confident that the people of Ayodhya like Hashim Ansari and myself could find a mutually acceptable solution in consultation with other prominent locals who have been closely associated with the issue from either side," asserted Das.
"Since the court has given three months time during which status quo will be maintained, it is a golden opportunity for both sides to find ways and means to see that the dispute does not linger on endlessly once again" said Ansari.
Image: A file photo of the Babri Masjid before its demolition
'I would abide by the order of the court'
"I had always maintained that I would abide by the order of the court. Now that the court has found a novel way to balance the whole issue, we must take the cue and close the chapter amicably, without re-entering into another legal war that would probably not conclude in my lifetime," said 90-year-old Ansari.
"I can see that the court has relied heavily upon the sentiments and feelings of the people, much to the chagrin of a large chunk of Muslims, who were looking up to the court to give its verdict strictly in accordance with the law book. But still I am of the view that it is high time that Muslims and Hindus sit across the table and resolve the age old issue through talks and reconciliation," he added.
Ansari too wants to keep politicians at a distance from any out-of-court settlement. "Both sides have seen the fate of our prolonged dependence on politicians, who have only used the issue to fulfill their own political ends in all these years," he emphasised.
Image: A peace rally in Mumbai