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Friday, September 24, 2021

Ayodhya mediation: Four proposals saw some light till talks failed

With the mediation committee telling the Supreme Court it had failed, Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi said day-to-day hearings would start on the matter from August 6.

Written by Seema Chishti | New Delhi |
Updated: August 5, 2019 7:28:20 am
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Attempts to find a settlement in the Ayodhya dispute by the Supreme Court-appointed mediation committee continued till the last minute of the deadline, with intense talks towards the end of July holding out a tantalising hope that a “breakthrough” could be achieved. After a firm proposal submitted by those asking for the mosque did not elicit any response from those asking for the temple, the committee tried to get a consensus on what it called “the four elements” for arriving at a deal. But, with some of the contesting parties not agreeing to these proposals, the committee had to report to the Supreme Court that the proceedings had “failed”.

Based on detailed conversations with the sides involved in the mediation, The Indian Express has learnt that the side asking for a mosque submitted a proposal in a sealed envelope, during the committee’s second meeting in Faizabad, for a mosque and a temple adjacent to each other within the disputed area. It also gave a detailed layout for the same. But the proposal was a non-starter as it elicited no response from the side asking for the temple.

Explained | Where idea of ‘negotiation’ originated, how ‘mediation’ has always failed

Thereafter, the mediation committee tried to break the logjam by formulating four essential elements for a possible deal, which were underpinned on the premise that the mosque would be completely relocated outside the contentious area. Though some sides did warm up to the four elements, an agreement could not be reached on the same.

The almost four

* Freeze status of all places of worship as per 1991 Act, or as on August 15, 1947 * Ask ASI to streamline process of declaring mosques as ‘monuments’ * In lieu of Babri Masjid, give alternative land and funds for a mosque elsewhere * Repair, refurbish, restore “about 20 mosques” in Ayodhya

The three-member mediation committee was led by a retired Supreme Court judge, Justice F M I Kalifulla, and had Art of Living founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and senior advocate Sriram Panchu as members.

Read | Ayodhya mediation unsuccessful, proceedings formally closed, panel submits report to SC

The first of the four elements suggested for a breakthrough was that all parties agree to freezing the status of all places of worship, and to make a formal request to the Supreme Court to push for a freeze on all such matters on which there may be some litigation in courts. This proposal meant ensuring that the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991 — which prohibits “conversion of any place of worship and to provide for the maintenance of the religious character of any place of worship as it existed on the 15th day of August, 1947, and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto” — applied to Ayodhya. It also meant explicitly accepting that the Act would apply to the Kashi Vishwanath temple-Gyanvapi mosque complex in Varanasi, and the Shahi Idgah and adjacent Krishna Janmabhoomi temple at Mathura. Therefore, accepting the present status of these two disputed sites as settled.

The second “element” was requesting the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to streamline the process by which mosques are declared ‘monuments’, and by which they are not to be allowed for regular worship.

The third “element” was providing alternative land to Muslims in lieu of the contentious 1,350 sq m of land where the Babri Masjid stood, and funds to the Sunni Waqf Board to build a mosque “anywhere” in the country.

The last involved repair, refurbishment and restoration of “about 20 mosques” in Ayodhya which are in a state of disuse and disrepair.

All of these elements were discussed, and formed the core of the efforts by the committee for at least a “partial settlement”, so as to convey to the Supreme Court some contours of an agreement. But by July 31 afternoon, it was clear this would not happen.

For the ‘Hindu’ side, if a blanket assurance under the Places of Worship Act was not acceptable, those sticking to their negotiating position on the ‘Muslim’ side said the land on which a mosque once stood could not be given away for any other purpose.

With the mediation committee telling the Supreme Court it had failed, Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi said day-to-day hearings would start on the matter from August 6. On September 30, 2010, the Allahabad High Court had ruled that the disputed land be partitioned into three, between the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla Virajman. At least 14 appeals have been made against the order in the Supreme Court.

Sources, however, said this did not mean an end to finding a solution outside the court mechanism. A petition asking for live-streaming of the court hearings is to be heard on Monday morning.

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