A newly inducted BJP member, a chairman who had taken on Uttar Pradesh’s Samajwadi Party government, and six members that the newly elected BJP government had attempted to remove on charges of corruption are among those who constitute the UP Shia Central Waqf Board.
In staking claim to Babri Masjid and telling the court that a mosque should be built not at the disputed site but in a Muslim area away from it, the board has altered the very contours of the 70-year dispute.
Challenging an order of a Faizabad lower court recognising the claim of the Sunni Waqf Board, dating back almost to the time of the inception of the Ram Janmabhoomi/Babri Masjid dispute, a Shia Board affidavit to the Supreme Court has called for an amicable settlement that includes a formula — construction of a new mosque some distance from the disputed site. The intervention has taken most people by surprise. It comes at a time when there are serious charges such as land grabbing and CBI inquiries against several members.
“That the mosque was constructed by Mir Baqi, a governor of Babar, is borne out by the fact that the stones of the demolished structure had his credentials inscribed,” says Bukkal Nawab, member of the Shia Waqf Board. “Babar was not even here for five days. Sunnis staked and won claim because of political clout and numerical superiority. It is a Shia structure and Islam does not give us permission to hurt anyone — why hurt our Hindu brothers who believe it is where Ram was born. We should not object. What is the point of a mosque anyway if nobody offers namaz and it is a showpiece. The mosque should be at a Muslim-dominated area.”
Nawab, who used to be a member of the Uttar Pradesh Legislative Council from the Samajwadi Party, resigned his seat and joined the BJP last month in the presence of party president Amit Shah.
“Minorities Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi is a Shia; he should ideally be part of the board,” Nawab says.
The board is chaired by Syed Waseem Rizvi who began his political career as a councillor and has been with both the BSP and the SP. He was expelled from the SP for anti-party activities six years ago; his supporters say it was a result of his running feud with powerful Shia cleric Kalbe Jawwad. Waseem Rizvi says he has not been associated with any political party since his expulsion.
“The Sunni Waqf Board is not even a claimant,” Waseem Rizvi told The Indian Express. “It is a historical fact that the mosque belonged to the Shias for 415 years before they arrived in the scene. The Sunni Waqf Borad has stuck to its position just to cause strife. In Islam namaz offered from a disputed site is not acceptable, so a mosque at that site has no sanctity. That is why the one-third-each solution offered by the court is not possible. Where is the mosque? It was demolished in 1992 and a mandir has been established there.”
In June, the UP government had sacked six members of the 10-member board on charges of corruption, acting on the recommendation of the Central Waqf Council. The members removed were former Rajya Sabha member Akhtar Hasan Rizvi, Sayyed Wali Haider of Moradabad, Afshan Zaidi of Muzaffarnagar, Sayyed Azim Hussain Zaidi of Bareilly and Nazmul Hasan Rizwi and Alima Zaidi of Lucknow.
The government order was, however, quashed by Allahabad High Court within days and all members reinstated on the ground that they had not been given a chance to present their case before being removed from their posts. It was this board that the UP government had attempted to dissolve and which has taken a position favourable to what BJP has held for years.
Says a senior functionary in the Union government: “The court has simply said that the sacking can only happen after due process of issuing notice etc. That process is on. The board’s intervention has taken us by surprise. Technically they cannot intervene after so many years. Maybe it is an attempt to dilute the cases against them. The most serious charges are against the chairman and the matter was given to the CBI. He was sacked too. The charges against the others too have now been handed over to CBI.”