Hashim Ansari, the oldest litigant in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute who was associated with the case since 1949, died at his home here Wednesday morning at the age of 96. Ansari had been suffering with heart-related ailments, according to his son Iqbal.
“He woke up early in the morning had tea and biscuits. At around 5.30 am, we found he was motionless,” Iqbal said.
Born in Ayodhya, Ansari, a tailor by profession, was the first to file a case in the dispute over the Babri Masjid in a lower court in Faizabad in 1949. Later, in 1961, he along with six others, became the main plaintiff in the ‘Ayodhya title suit’ filed by the Sunni Central Waqf Board in the same lower court. Ansari also pursued the case in the Allahabad High Court. The case is currently pending before the Supreme Court where both sides have filed appeals against a 2010 majority verdict of the HC allotting one-third of the disputed site in Ayodhya to Nirmohi Akhara. The other two-third portion has been given to be shared equally by the Waqf Board and the side representing Ram Lalla (the idol of Lord Ram at the makeshift temple).
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For the past several years, Ansari had been trying to work out an out-of-court settlement and held several meetings with Mahant Gyandas of Hanuman Garhi and Mahant Ramdas of Nirmohi Akhara for the purpose. He also wanted to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking his intervention to hammer out an amicable solution to the dispute. “This is neither one man’s job nor a one man show. If we want to find a peaceful solution to this problem that has claimed many innocent lives, it is necessary that responsible people of Muslim community and religious leaders must come out to discuss it,” he had said last year.
Gyan Das said they were about to reach an understanding an out-of-court solution on the issue. “Ansari wanted a peaceful solution. His heart was pure. We wanted both a temple and a mosque in Ayodhya,” Gyan Das said. Ansari’s son Iqbal, who is likely to succeed him as the litigant in the title suit, said he will continue to support the campaign for an out-of-court settlement.
“He was in favour of peaceful solution on the issue with common understanding. I will continue to support it,” he said.