The cloud of uncertainty that hung over the Ayodhya verdict, to be delivered by the Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court, has lifted. On the face of it, almost all parties to the dispute, the wary litigants battling it out in courts over six decades, are looking forward to the early delivery of the verdict, even if they are unsure of the outcome.

Zafaryab Jilani, counsel for the Sunni Wakf Board, and S. Shahbuddin, member of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board's Committee on Babri Masjid, would not hazard a guess which way the verdict would swing. But they were one in categorically stating here on Tuesday that they would honour the verdict, whichever way it went, while reserving their constitutional right to appeal to the Supreme Court in the event of an adverse order.

They welcomed the end of uncertainty and the end of any further delay of a verdict that has been in the making for the last 61 years. Mr. Shahbuddin lamented: “All these years successive governments have failed to assert that irrespective of the outcome of the judicial process — after the final verdict comes from the Supreme Court — they would ensure its implementation. That has created all manner of doubts, although we have stated many times we will not flinch from facing the consequences of an adverse judgment.”

Mr. Jilani said he was awaiting the verdict with “neither hope nor despair but with a view to accepting what is delivered.” They will not celebrate the verdict if it is in their favour, nor would they greet it with sadness, if it is adverse, and above all, they express the hope that peace will prevail.

In stark contrast, there was an air of pessimism in the offices of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, where top leaders of the organisation were on Tuesday openly expressing fears about an adverse judicial verdict from the High Court. Giriraj Kishore and Pravin Togadia have made it clear that they cannot accept a verdict other than one that would favour and facilitate the building of a “grand Ram temple” on the disputed site. Mr. Togadia did add that the VHP — through the other ‘Hindu' litigants — would “indirectly participate in the constitutional and legal process” of appealing to the Supreme Court in the event of an adverse verdict, but “will not wait” to start a “movement on the ground in favour of building a Ram temple even if the High Court verdict was adverse.”

“From today you will not see us in Delhi. We will be going to different areas,” Mr. Togadia said, indicating that “without waiting for the final verdict from the Supreme Court,” the VHP led by the committee of ‘sants' (mentored by it), would start to mobilise people in favour of constructing a Ram temple. “We cannot countenance any other finality on this issue,” he said.

Six-decade legal battle

The verdict to be delivered on Thursday will mark the second important landmark in the legal battle that has spread over six decades — the first round went to the litigants claiming to represent the Hindu community when, by a judicial verdict, the locks of the Babri Masjid were opened in 1986 to allow regular ‘pooja' of the Ram Lalla deity installed there in the dead of night of December 22/23, 1949. Muslims were simultaneously forbidden to come anywhere near the disputed structure, some of the parties to the dispute pointed out. Then in 1992, despite a status quo order of the Supreme Court, the Masjid was demolished by thousands of ‘kar sevaks' led by the VHP, the BJP and their affiliates.

The Hindu Mahasabha, a party to the dispute, has announced a ‘havan' and a ‘yagnya' at 11 a.m. on September 30 — prayers for a verdict favouring the building of a temple.