LUCKNOW: The UP Shia Waqf Board has given the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi issue an altogether new twist by proposing in its affidavit to the Supreme Court that a new mosque be built away from the disputed site in Ayodhya.
A central claim in the 30-page affidavit is that the disputed site was originally Shia Waqf land and therefore only the Shia Waqf Board could be a claimant to the title and only it could propose any solution to the long and bitter dispute.
The Shia claim to the property is not new. But this new affidavit and the proposal to build a new mosque away from the disputed site are significant. They come just three days ahead of the commencement of fast-track hearings by the Supreme Court on appeals against the 2010 verdict by the Allahabad High Court which awarded the title to three parties: the notional Ram Lalla, the Nirmohi Akhara, the Sunni Wakf Board.
The Shia Waqf Board has always had an issue with the last-named over ownership of the site where the Babri Masjid once stood until its demolition by a frenzied Hindu mob in 1992. Until 1946, the two waqf boards, Shia and Sunni, contested ownership in the courts. That year, the suit was awarded to the Sunni Waqf Board by a local court. It was by virtue of that victory that the Sunni Waqf Board became a disputant in the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi tangle, which has come to shape politics in India in the last 70 years.
Now, Shia Waqf Board chairman Waseem Rizvi says, the award to the Sunni Waqf Board will be challenged again after all those years.
The Shia Waqf Board’s claim is based on disputed history. It says the real name of the Babri Masjid was Waqf Masjid Mir Baqi, and it was a Shia mosque. Rizvi says it was by a ‘conspiracy’ that the Shia Waqf Board contrived to lose the 1946 case to the Sunnis.
“The mosque was built during the reign of Babar by Mir Baqi, who, according to history, was a Shia from Persia. It was always a Shia mosque, with mutawwalis from the pedigree of Baqi. Only the imam and muezzin of the mosque were Sunni. They were paid by the Shia mutawwali. Namaz was offered by both Shias and Sunnis,” says Rizvi.
Rizvi says the Sunni Waqf Board got the property registered in its name in 1944. This was challenged by the Shias in 1945 but they failed to put up a strong defence and lost the case. “Now the board has authorised me to challenge it again in the court of law,” says Razvi.
But what credence is there for the claim that the Babri Masjid was a Shia structure? Razvi refers to a stone inscription that stood at the mosque that purportedly attested Mir Baqi as the waqif, the one who gave the land to the waqf.
Rizvi’s claim is of course contested. Zafaryab Jilani, a prominent Muslim lawyer who represents the All India Muslim Personal Law Board in Babri Masjid cases in the Supreme Court, said that the mosque cannot be Shia or Sunni.
“It epitomises the faith of 20 crore Indian Muslims. Even if Shia Waqf Board represents 20,000 people, they don’t stand a claim,” said Jilani.
As to the Shia Waqf Board’s suggestion that a new mosque be built away from the disputed site, Jilani said it was a matter for the courts to decide. “Prominent Shia clerics have already recorded their statements on this matter in the court of law. They were contrary to what Rizvi is suggesting now,” Jilani added.
Maulana Yasoob Abbasi, a Shia cleric, refused to comment on the affidavit filed by the UP Shia Waqf Board. He expressed support to the stance of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board which wants the masjid rebuilt right where it stood before its demolition.
Rizvi says it’s time India found a solution to the Babri Masjid tangle. “By keeping it pending, nothing but hatred will be bred,” he told the New Indian Express. “It will keep the situation always tense. Building a mosque beside a temple is not a feasible solution to the problem. There will not be any peace. The atmosphere will always remain communally charged.”
Was the land owned by Shias?
It is believed that Hindus and Muslims used to perform puja and offer namaz at the disputed site until 1858 AD. In 1813 AD, the Shia clergy, apparently, faked an inscription that spoke of Babur’s general Mir Baqi as the ‘wakif’ and pushed the date of construction of the mosque back by more than a century. In 1944, the Sunni Waqf Board got the disputed land registered in its name. This was challenged by the Shias in 1945 but they lost the case to the Sunni Waqf Board in 1946.
Who was Mir Baqi?
Historical evidence is scant on the origins of the Babri Masjid as well as its reputed builder Mir Baqi. He is said to be the same man as Baqi Tashqandi, a Mughal commander from Tashkent whom Babur appointed as the governor of Awadh. In 1528, Mir Baqi is believed to have built a masjid in Ayodhya and named it after Babur.
However, a former IPS officer Kishore Kunal contradicts this account of Mir Baqi In his book Ayodhya Revisited, Kunal, a member of the Ayodhya cell during the governments of V P Singh, Chandrashekhar and P V Narasimha Rao, says Mir Baqi was a fictitious character who had nothing to do with Baqi Tashkindi. Even the Baburnama, Babur’s account of his time in India has no mention of anyone called Mir Baqi.