The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Babri cauldron simmers: Muslims line up truth tape

Lucknow, Dec. 8: The All India Muslim Personal Law Board has decided to make a comprehensive documentary on the Babri Masjid dispute so that “vital information and records” are not lost or tampered with.

The dispute’s full historical background, images of the mosque before and after demolition, documentary records, data and interviews will all be put on film.

The board executive, currently meeting in Lucknow, will seek the help of leading media organisations to “piece together” the footage for the documentary.

Its office-bearers said the film would serve as a reference point for future generations and could also be used in courts where related cases are in progress.

Many on the board believe the title dispute could drag on for years. They are also sceptical about the Centre’s and Uttar Pradesh’s “sincerity” in pursuing the cases rigorously.

Yesterday, in Lucknow, several speakers at a board-organised seminar expressed disappointment with chief minister Mulayam Singh Yadav, the guest of honour on the occasion. They were referring to his government’s “failure” to facilitate a revised chargesheet against top Sangh parivar leaders, including L.K. Advani, in the demolition case.

Mulayam Singh finally got so upset that he asked the gathering: “Kya Musalmaan hamari niyat par shak kar rahe hain (Are Muslims doubting the government’s sincerity)'”

Board members Qasim Rasool Illyas and Maulana Nizamuddin said a lot of footage and books on the Babri dispute already exist. Some board members from Kerala have even made a documentary in Malayalam. “But it needs to be updated and made available in English, Hindi and other Indian languages,” Illyas said. “Some of the vital details are not known to many informed persons, too. The documentary film would help us reach a wider viewership-audience.”

The board also plans to record the accounts of individuals such as Akshay Brahmachari, an ageing socialist from Faizabad who is in the know of events dating back to 1947-50 and after.

Brahmachari was one of the few who had gone on a fast over the dispute when Sardar Patel was the country’s home minister and Govind Ballabh Pant the state chief minister. Board members emphasised that the communication between Patel and Pant on the dispute has a crucial bearing on the case.

The board, however, ran into criticism from within over the documentary plan, sources said. Some ultra-conservatives reportedly argued that Islam discouraged filming and photography.

But board chief Maulana Rabey Nadvi clarified that though Islam prohibited idol worship and disliked films, it was not opposed to the medium as such. In other words, vulgarity and salacious depiction of women are discouraged but not TV, films or documentaries for academic or literary purposes, Nadvi said.

Muted criticism also came up against the board’s “failure” to present its views before the Liberhan Commission that is investigating the Babri demolition.

Some members wondered why the board’s legal cell was defunct though several of its members such as Zafaryab Jilani, Hatim Muchala and Ibrahim Qureshi were leading lawyers. “Why should it be Bhure Mian or Hashim Ansari, having nothing to do with the AIMPLB, who should be moving the Supreme Court and other forums'” asked an angry member.

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