Ayodhya conflict: “A large number of stakeholders is the main stumbling block to a negotiated settlement”

The Sunni Central Council of the Waqf of Uttar Pradesh is one of the main litigants on the Muslim side who have led the legal battle over the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute in Ayodhya. In a candid interview with the Hindustan Times, its chairman Zufar Ahmed Faruqui explains how the presence of a large number of stakeholders derailed negotiations with the three-member Ayodhya mediation committee appointed by the Supreme Court. But, he says, a window for a negotiated settlement still remains open.

Yes, the talks were initially going in a positive direction, but some of the parties were unable to overcome the last remaining hurdles in the last round of negotiations. I wouldn’t want to name them.

As long as there is a dispute, this window remains open.

The presence of a large number of litigants and interveners, who were not there originally but clung to the case subsequently.

It was indeed a major stumbling block. But let me tell you, more than “Sharia”, part of the Muslim clergy was more concerned and afraid of the public perception and the community reaction that would follow if they agreed to a compromise.

The Jamiat E Ulema Hind is the largest Muslim organization in the country and has been the main and original litigator, along with the Sunni Waqf Council, since 1961 when the complaint was filed. The AIMPLB is not a party to any of the appeals pending before the Supreme Court. It is the Jamiat E Ulema Hind, which must take up everything concerning this affair. I am not aware of any difference of opinion between Jamiat E Ulema Hind and AIMPLB. I cannot hold any person or group responsible for the breakdown of talks. It must be shared by all who participated in the negotiation.

We were flexible, but I regret to say the same thing was missing on the other side.

The panel told us not to reveal the details.

Mediation is always between the parties. The question was very important and sensitive, the Council decided that I had to participate personally.

I was not part of any previous attempt as it was the first such exercise after the High Court judgment in 2010. Yes, it was different in the sense that although the parties were unable to agree ‘hearing to end the dispute, the mediation process has been helpful. The parties gained a better understanding of their needs and interests and came to understand the needs and concerns of opposing parties. To a large extent, their case and the overall situation are more realistic. The extensive discussions on settlement options and possibilities have highlighted the areas around which any agreement is possible, and what needs to be abandoned and what can be won for the settlement to bear fruit.

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