Monday, December 06, 2010

Hashim Ansari: King Lear of Ayodhya

Ayodhya: He is ninety and he rages, even incoherently, like King Lear. That sums up Hashim Ansari, the man associated with the Babri-Masjid Ram Janambhoomi case from 1950 onwards, through the tortuous turns and twists that the case took. He has remained the constant and loyal litigant from the Muslim side.

He is unahppy with the verdict of the three-judge Lucknow bench of the Allahabad high court of September 30. And he does not mince words. He describes the judges as being of 'firqa parast zehniyat (communal mentality)'. Though he is seen as favouring an out-of-court settlement, he says that he will go with the decision of the Sunni Wakf Board. But the clerics in Lucknow are not too sure of him. They think that he is just an opportunist. Ansari is not worried about ratings among his co-religionists.

He rants and raves to whoever is willing to listen. Sitting in his modest tenement at the edge of the Ayodhya town with a small posse of policemen posted outside his door, he says, “I kept the political parties at bay. They could not think of ever winning me over . I have retained my integrity.” They have been placed there in the run up to the September 30 court verdict.

He is proud of his humble station in life and his unimpeachable credentials. He is a resident of Ayodhya, nothing more. So, he finds himself free to castigate the Congress party and all the Muslim leaders. “The Congress is the most communal party. It was Narasingha Rao (former prime minister P.V.Narasimha Rao) who had a hand in the masjid demolition,” he vehemently asserts. He says that Muslim leaders, especially from the Congress, never cared for the community and that they never would even talk to Muslims. He strikes the plaintive note: “Muslims in India are paying the price of Partition and the creation of Pakistan,” a familiar theme in private conversations of many middle class Muslims in the country.

Then he meanders into the situation at Ayodhya after the demolition in 1992. He says that there was violence for 15 days, 270 Muslim houses, 18 mosques were attacked, 14 Muslims died and 150 Muslim graves were desecrated. These are the fevered memories of an old man. The figures may be off the mark but the scars are deep.

He signs off on a sentimental note: “I would never have prayed at that mosque had Babar built it over a temple.” Not for him arguments and legal sophistry. He feels in his bones that Muslims have been wronged. He is sad and angry.

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