Ram temple bhoomi pujan | I don’t have any grievance, says litigant Iqbal Ansari

While it is jubilation for some, it is reconciliation with reality for others in the temple town.

Updated - August 06, 2020 11:34 am IST

Published - August 05, 2020 11:23 pm IST - AYODHYA

Religious fervour:  Devotees gather to attend the foundation laying ceremony for the Ram Temple in Ayodhya on Wednesday.

Religious fervour: Devotees gather to attend the foundation laying ceremony for the Ram Temple in Ayodhya on Wednesday.

“Whatever [anguish] was there ended on November 9 [2019] . Now, I don’t have any shikwa or shikayat [grievance or complaint],” said Iqbal Ansari, a little after 3 p.m. on Wednesday.

Having just arrived from the bhoomi pujan for the Ram Mandir — he was the only prominent Muslim present — Mr. Ansari quietly entered his house in the Kaziana locality of Ayodhya. The entry to the locality is guarded by jawans of the Rapid Action Force, so is the main road leading to the Ram Ki Paidi, the ghats often used to depict Ayodhya in pictures.

Ram temple bhoomi pujan | A golden chapter for country, says Narendra Modi

Mr. Ansari is the son of Hashim Ansari, one of the most well-known litigants in the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi dispute , who died in 2016 . Since then, Mr. Iqbal Ansari carried the mantle till the Supreme Court verdict last November. Many Muslims say that the long-drawn issue, though leaving behind many scars, was settled with the court verdict.

“In these nine months, I have not submitted a single application. Now I don’t have any legal case,” he said. “Whatever they do or is happening is meaningless to me. It is fine they are building a temple.”

Mr. Iqbal Ansari hoped the construction would mark the end of any dispute. “I believe in the Constitution and the Indian law. Muslims all over accepted the verdict. There is no more dispute,” he said.

Also read | Hashim Ansari — The friendly face of Babri

While he says he felt honoured by being invited to attend the bhoomi pujan event, Mr. Iqbal Ansari is reluctant to offer a glorified picture of Ayodhya once the temple is built.

When asked if the temple would accelerate the development of Ayodhya, he fidgeted and said: “Ayodhya has 10,000 temples, Saryu river and Hanuman Ji’s mandir. Now another big temple will come up. It’s a good thing. What objection will Muslims have.”

In contrast to the main road which was decorated with yellow paint on building facades, triangular saffron flags of Lord Ram and floral designs, amid a commentary on the bhoomi pujan event played out through loudspeakers, Mr. Iqbal Ansari’s locality in Ayodhya was quiet. Mumtaz Ali, who runs a furniture shop, was among those ambling out of a by-lane. He had little to comment on the event. But when pushed more, he said “the final outcome was not just.” While he has reconciled with the decision, he says the issue triggers anything but calm. So what would he have wanted at the site? The reconstruction of a mosque? No, he answered. “Both mosque and temple should have been built given the circumstances,” he said.

A spectrum of emotions

If Muslims offered lukewarm responses and outwardly indifference, shrouding their inherent dismay as well as fear of reprisal, Hindus in the town rejoiced over the event. Some distributed sweets to bystanders, while others shouted slogans to hail Lord Ram.

Many watched the event, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pujas and speech , on their television screens, cramped up inside homes or small shops. Many youngsters like Ram Avtar and Shiv Karan, both carpenters in their twenties, followed it on their smartphones.

“The temple should be built swiftly. It is our prabhu Ram’s birthplace. So it is apt a temple is being built there,” said Mr. Avtar.

The two men were not born when the Babri Masjid was demolished . They say they know nothing about it and see the temple construction as “restoration” of an earlier temple.

Also read | When the last dome fell: a first-person account of the Babri Masjid demolition

Ram Shankar Gupta, who sells puja items near the Hanumangarhi Temple, echoes similar views about rejecting the mosque’s existence but adds that he had lost hope that a temple would be built in his lifetime. Mr. Gupta was born in 1951, two years after the idol of an infant Lord Ram was slipped inside the mosque surreptitiously, changing the course in the dispute.

“If Lord keeps me alive, I will see it [Ram Temple] with these eyes,” said Mr. Gupta, with tears.

Ajay Kumar Tiwari, who is posted in the armed forces, arrived in Ayodhya on Tuesday during his leave for darshan of the temple. Before leaving for his home district Gonda, Mr. Tiwari was buying a saffron flag of Lord Ram to fix onto his motorcycle. “It is a festival,” he says. “We never imagined there would be a Bhagwan Ram’s temple built,” he said.

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