Sunni waqf board chief surfaces with settlement tale
Uttar Pradesh Sunni Central Wakf Board chairman Zufar Ahmad Farooqui surfaced briefly in Lucknow on Friday to confirm that he had handed an out-of-court settlement proposal to the mediation panel on the Ayodhya land dispute but insisted that he never submitted any letter to withdraw the case in the Supreme Court.
“It was true that I had handed to the mediation panel a proposal for an out-of-court settlement,” Farooqui said but refused to share the details of the proposal.
Farooqui, considered closed to the ruling dispensation and who has been playing hide-and-seek with his colleagues for two days, added that he did not submit any letter to the Supreme Court-appointed negotiators to withdraw the case.
On the concluding day of the hearing in the top court on October 16, reports circulated that Farooqui had written to Sriram Panchu, a member of the mediation panel, that the board was withdrawing its claim to the 2.77 acres in Ayodhya “in the interest of Hindu-Muslim unity”.
Although Farooqui denied on Friday that he had submitted any letter, his revelation of the proposal for settlement marks a shift in the legal battle the Sunni panel has been fighting for the past 58 years.
Some lawyers had said on October 16 that an out-of-court settlement would gain traction only if all parties to the case agreed to it. So far, the Sunni board is the sole Muslim group that is known to have supported a settlement out of the court.
Sources in Farooqui’s office in Lucknow said the proposal included giving up the claim to the disputed land in Ayodhya on the condition that the government would give land elsewhere for a mosque.
Other conditions include a guarantee that no other mosque built on any other religious site would be dragged into a dispute and permission for Muslims to offer prayers in the mosques that had been locked in the past because of some dispute.
Farooqui did not explain the reason behind his colleagues’ inability to contact him for the past two days. Even Syed Mohammad Shoeb, the chief executive officer of the board, and Zafaryab Jilani, its counsel in the case, had said they could not contact the chairman on October 16 when rumours were flying thick and fast. Both Shoeb and Jilani had said on Wednesday evening that Farooqui was not responding to their calls.
“I don’t know whether he is in Lucknow or Delhi. But we have not given any letter to anybody to withdraw our claim over Ayodhya land,” Jilani had said.
“I have come to know that he is in Delhi,” Shoeb had said and clarified that Farooqui was not authorised to take any decision without consulting him and other members.
“Farooqui was only aged eight when the Sunni Central Wakf Board filed a suit in the Faizabad civil court on February 1, 1961, seeking possession to offer namaz at Babri Masjid. He had recently developed proximity with the state government…. But the chairman cannot take any decision without calling a meeting of the board members,” said a member of the board on condition of anonymity.
“It is not clear whether Farooqui wants the Babri Masjid, which was razed by fanatics in 1992, rebuilt elsewhere or just any mosque. It is also not possible to stop sections of sadhus, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the BJP from creating controversy over other mosques. Narendra Giri, the head of the Akhara Parishad, and many VHP leaders have been saying almost every day that they would remove mosques from near Kashi Vishwanath temple in Varanasi and Krishna Janmabhoomi in Mathura after winning Ayodhya,” the board member added.