Former UP additional advocate general Zafaryab Jilani has been fighting the Babri Masjid case from 1986. He is convener of the Sunni Control Waqf Board and is representing this body and other plaintiffs in this longstanding dispute. In a chat with Rashme Sehgal, he puts forward his views on the case

What do you feel about the latest initiative of the Supreme Court Chief Justice Khehar for an out-of-court settlement to this long pending dispute?

I am not in favour of an out-of-court settlement. From 1986, we have seen several attempts at arriving at negotiated settlements. Many of these initiatives have come from the highest levels but these have failed to resolve the matter.

What is the other side insisting upon? They want the Muslims to surrender their claim. They do not want an out-of-court settlement with us. Rather they want an out-of-court surrender from us. This has been going on for the last 27 years. They want us to give up claim on the title to the Babri Masjid mosque and build the mosque elsewhere across the Saryu river. This is what the BJP spokespersons have been reiterating again and again.

Is relocation such a major problem for the Muslim community?

Our acceptance of this proposal will imply that Muslims have no right to retain their mosques in any part of the country. Today they are demanding this place; tomorrow they will demand another place. Where is the justification for us to agree to move? Are we second class citizens in our own country?

Up to 1941, all court cases accepted the Babri Masjid mosque. In 1941, the Nirmohi Akhara was the only body in existence.

But the BJP claims they are expressing the sentiment, the astha, of crores of Hindus?

The astha is not created in one or two years. This is something which grows over hundreds and thousands of years. Earlier worship started in 1885 in the chabutra located outside the mosque. Then on December 22 1945, the idols were kept under the middle dome of the mosque.

But what led the Babri Masjid Action Committee to reject the verdict of the Allahabad High Court which had asked for a three-way division of the 2.77 acre site? The Allahabad High Court had opined that the land be equally divided between the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and  Ram Lalla represented by the Hindu Mahasabha ?

The judgement was against the law of the land. The verdict accepted two arguments. The verdict proceeded on the premise that Hindus have faith in Rama and that the middle dome is the birthplace of Rama. The other side was not able to muster any other evidence. My question is, is the country ruled by the rule of law or is it ruled by faith?

The Muslim community is not willing to give up their title keeping the sensibilities of the Hindus in mind?

There is no existence of faith in a property dispute. The right to property is equal for all. Faith, on the other hand, is a personal matter. Issues of property are decided by the law of the land. This point of view has been upheld by the Supreme Court also as far back as 1994.

I ask this question only because this case has dragged for years and years?

We are ready to argue our case before the law courts. The lapses have been on the part of the government. By now the government should have moved an application to set up a special court which could hear this basis on a day-to-day basis. The other side has refused to accept a legal notice for the last six years. We finally had to get it published in a newspaper which cost us thousands of rupees. It is for the Supreme Court to act.

But why is it so important for the Muslims to reconstruct the Babri Masjid at the same place where the earlier mosque had been located?

Why don’t you ask the other side the same question?  Why are you repeating the same question to me? Till 1949, there was no issue of a Ram Mandir at the site of the Babri Masjid. There was a chabutra outside the Babri Masjid and the Hindus had worshipped there but this chabutra was built only in 1886.

But with Adityanath Yogi as chief minister of UP and Narendra Modi as prime minister, the BJP can introduce a bill in Parliament and state assembly to construct the Ram temple on the site.

I am reemphasising this—let the law of the land prevail. Even if such a law is passed, it can be nullified by a Supreme Court judgement. If any such law is passed, it is liable to be struck down.

What about the pending cases against BJP leaders including LK Advani and Uma Bharti ?

The cases have been pending for some time now. The judgement should be decisive and given at the earliest.