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Hashim Ansari: the man who wanted to see the end of the Ayodhya dispute

Atul Chaurasia | Updated on: 10 February 2017, 1:49 IST
The man behind it all
  • Hashim Ansari waited for 60 years for the Babri Masjid verdict
  • Unfortunately, death came before the verdict did
More in the story:
  • Who was Hashim Ansari?
  • What was his role in the Babri Masjid case?

On 24 September 2010, a large number of journalists had gathered in Ayodhya. It was the day when the Allahabad High Court's verdict on 60-year-old Babri Masjid- Ram Janmabhoomi case was expected.

This author was present in a small house built along a narrow alley, situated on the right of the road that went from Faizabad to Ayodhya.

Sitting in front was a 90-year-old man, puffing beedis one after another, and rebuking somebody in Awadhi, repeatedly muttering 'Tirpathia, Tirpathia'.

He was Hashim Ansari, the oldest litigant in the Ayodhya title suit.

Ansari was miffed because a former bureaucrat Ramesh Chandra Tripathi had moved the Supreme Court just before the verdict, demanding the judgement be postponed.

Also Read: Hashim Ansari, oldest litigant in Ram Janmabhoomi - Babri Masjid case, passes away

The current Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi was representing Tripathi in the court. The apex court had admitted the petition preventing the high court from delivering its verdict.

We came to know about this deferment while we sat in front of Ansari in that house.

The search for Tripathi

Tripathi's plea was bereft of facts and politically motivated. It had expressed the fear of nationwide riots in the event of the deliverance of the judgement.

This delay was unbearable for Ansari, the man who had represented the Muslim cause in the case for 60 years.

The search for Ramesh Chandra Tripathi began soon after the judgement was delayed. Not much information was available about him in the public domain.

He was the plaintiff number 17 in this case and it emerged that he was a resident of the neighbouring Ambedkar Nagar district.

Meanwhile, speculations were galore as dusk fell upon Ayodhya. There were rumours about Tripathi's strong links to the Congress. It was said he was acting at the behest of the party and Congress leaders like Akhilesh Das and Digvijay Singh were behind him.

The breakthrough

This author's luck took an unexpected turn at about 10pm when a senior police officer deployed in Ayodhya handed over a chit with Tripathi's contact number inscribed on it. It was nothing short of a jackpot.

The entire national media were running after this man and here we were talking to him over the phone.

Although, Tripathi did not reveal much, he admitted to having met Digvijay Singh in Lucknow, a few days ago.

Digvijay Singh was among the most powerful party secretaries at that time and held the charge of party affairs in UP.

Ansari was mindful of the far reaching effect of the delay in the judgement and this was the cause of his consternation.

A three-judge high court bench was hearing the case. One of the judges, DV Sharma, was scheduled to retire within a week's time. His retirement before the pronouncement of the judgement meant the constitution of a new bench and a fresh hearing right from the beginning, leading to a longer, more painful wait for the parties concerned.

This was precisely the apparent motive of Tripathi's petition. The alleged involvement of the Congress leaders in this affair had further complicated the matter.

Nevertheless, the Supreme Court retracted from its earlier order and dismissed Tripathi's petition while directing the high court to deliver the verdict on 30 September.

Hope floats

Sitting in his two-room house, Ansari claimed this would be the final verdict and acceptable to all. He unequivocally stated his desire to not pursue the matter in the apex court. It is a different matter the politics of religion got the better of him in the end.

All the four claimants - Sunni Waqf Board, Nirmohi Akhara, Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas and the late Gopal Singh Visharad - declared to challenge the high court decision in the Supreme Court.

Hashim Ansari's claims contradicted Sunni Waqf Board's contestations at one point of time.

The statements given by Hashim Ansari in Ayodhya did not match with what Babri Masjid Action Committee member Zafaryab Jilani had to say in Lucknow.

The saffron brigade, on the other hand, had already vowed to reclaim 'every inch' of the disputed land in the Supreme Court.

The oldest litigant in the case was sidelined as politics took precedence over the legal aspects of the verdict.

Ansari's has asserted, "Enough of the fight over this matter. The high court's decision would be the final verdict. There will be no further dispute as the peace and harmony in the country are paramount."

But, his sentiments were drowned in the din of the political statements. The battle for Ayodhya now continues in the Supreme Court.

The wait ends, but not as Ansari wanted

According to reports, Ansari was laid to rest in Ayodhya on Wednesday evening. The same Ansari, who would have liked the Ayodhya dispute to end in 2010.

It was perhaps not his destiny to live to see the issue resolved.

Hashim Ansari fought a legal battle for Babri Masjid for the past 60 years. Born in 1921, Ansari filed the civil suit in 1949 after idols were placed inside the mosque.

His only claim to fame was his association with country's most complicated religious dispute. Otherwise, a man of Ansari's background would never have any chance of getting such popularity.

His family has been staying in Ayodhya for many generations now. Ansari's father died when he was just 11-year-old. A tailor by profession, Ansari attended school only till Class II. He was married to a simple family in Faizabad and left behind one son and a daughter.

Stories to tell

Ansari was never short of anecdotes related to the Ayodhya dispute. He narrated the first-hand experience of the 1934 riots with alacrity.

A group of Hindu sanyasis had attacked the mosque that year. Ansari recalled that the British government had imposed a collective fine to repair the mosque and pay compensation to the families of the victims.

The communal harmony in Ayodhya was again vitiated in 1949 when idols were placed inside the mosque.

Also Read: Was Hashim Ansari the last sane voice of the Ram Janmabhoomi- Babri Masjid dispute?

Ansari was among the people arrested by the administration as a preventive measure to maintain law-and-order at that time.

There is an interesting story behind Ansari becoming a litigant in this case. There were only a few Muslims in Ayodhya, unlike Faizabad.

Hashim would often reminisce how amity still prevailed among the various communities in that period.

When idols appeared overnight inside the mosque and a consensus was built among the community to oppose this development, people asked Ansari to file a case.

His family was among the few Muslims who lived near the disputed structure. Ansari recalled that he would occasionally go inside the mosque to offer prayers.

In 1961, Sunni Waqf Board took charge of the matter. But, it maintained Ansari as the main litigant in the case. Ansari was again arrested during the emergency and spent eight months in the Bareilly jail.

Ansari's house was burnt during the riots incited after the demolition of the mosque structure on 6 December, 1992. It was the Hindu neighbours that came to rescue Ansari and his family.

He managed to rebuild his small house from the compensation money he received from the government.

Hashim often stated he was awaiting the final verdict in the case as his death. It was his desire to see the resolution of the dispute while still alive. But, it was not to be.

(With inputs from patrika.com)

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First published: 21 July 2016, 2:42 IST