Indian court in last-ditch bid to resolve Muslim-Hindu row over religious site

The Hindu hard-liners have pressured Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government to move quickly on the issue. (AP)
Updated 08 March 2019

Indian court in last-ditch bid to resolve Muslim-Hindu row over religious site

  • Special mediation panel given eight weeks to bring decades-old Ayodhya land dispute to end
  • ‘It won’t be easy to find common ground’: expert

NEW DELHI: India’s top court has made a last-ditch bid to resolve a decades-old dispute between Muslims and Hindus over religious land in one of the country’s holiest cities.
In a significant ruling on Friday, the Indian Supreme Court set up a special mediation panel and has given it eight weeks to help bring an end to the stalemate over the site in Ayodhya.
The move has met with mixed reactions from the various parties embroiled in the long-running row, with one expert saying it will be difficult to find “common ground.”
In 1992, a Hindu mob destroyed Ayodhya’s Babri Masjid mosque in the eastern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, claiming that it was the birthplace of Hinduism’s supreme deity Ram and that in the 16th century Mughal emperor Babur built the mosque by demolishing the temple there. 
A legal battle ensued and in 2010, Allahabad High Court ordered the disputed city site to be divided into three parts — one for the Hindu deity Ram, another for the Hindu sect Nirmohi Akhara, and the third for Muslims led by the Sunni Waqf Board.
However, the Muslim community challenged the verdict and asked for a Supreme Court hearing with a larger bench of seven judges, as the case was related to land belonging to a mosque and had implications for the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of religion.
In October last year, the Supreme Court decided to set up an “appropriate bench” to hear the case and on Jan. 8 a five-member Constitutional body was agreed.
On Friday, the Constitutional bench decided to set-up a three-member mediation team to find a solution to the vexed issues by talking to all stakeholders.
“Mediation will take place. We don’t see any legal obstruction to it,” Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said. The order on the politically-sensitive issue comes as India prepares for elections.
The team will be led by retired Supreme Court judge, FM Ibrahim Kalifulla, and also includes Hindu spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, and prominent mediation lawyer Sriram Panchu.
The panel has been asked to begin its deliberations on March 15 in the Faizabad district under which Ayodhya falls. 
The court has ruled that all the discussions should be held in camera and has given the panel eight weeks to wrap up the process.
“We will make every effort to resolve the issue amicably,” Kalifulla said during a press briefing.
Meanwhile, Shankar tweeted: “This move towards mediation by the Supreme Court is in the best interests of the country and all parties concerned. We should not leave any stone unturned in resolving this burning issue amicably.”
Haji Mahboob, an Ayodhya-based Muslim petitioner who for the first time in 1949 filed a claim over the land where the mosque existed, said he welcomed the court’s decision “to adopt a mediation route.”
He told Arab News: “My original stand had been that the matter should be settled only through discussion, and I hope that whatever the final decision is it will be acceptable to all parties.”
Kartik Chopra of the Nirmohi Akhara also favored dialogue to resolve the dispute.
However, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which in the late 1980s and early 1990s led a campaign to build the Ram temple at the Ayodhya site and which culminated in the demolition of the Babri Masjid mosque in 1992, takes an equivocal stand on the court’s ruling.
“We are committed to the construction of Ram temple at the site of his birthplace in Ayodhya,” said Sudesh Verma, the BJP’s national spokesperson.
“We wanted the court to expedite the matter through daily hearing. However, the court in its wisdom has decided to try for a resolution through a mediation route. Earlier attempts at mediation have failed to yield results,” Verma told Arab News. 
Santosh Dube, an Ayodhya-based leader of the Hindu fringe group Shiv Sena, opposed the mediation route.
“The question of the Ram temple is non-negotiable and it’s really sad that all the three members in the mediation panel are outsiders and cannot understand the sentiments of the people of Ayodhya,” he said.
Dube, who faced jail for taking part in the Babri Masjid mosque protest, attacked the BJP “for not doing enough to build the temple despite being in power in Delhi and Uttar Pradesh. The BJP has exploited the temple movement for electoral benefits,” he added.
Political analyst Badri Narayan, director of the Govind Ballabh Pant Social Science Institute, in Prayagraj, said he was “not certain whether the mediation route will succeed.”
“All parties have a very adamant stand on this issue. It will not be easy to find a common ground. Besides, for the BJP and other Hindu leaders, it would be politically damaging to compromise on the temple," Narayan told Arab News.
 


France teacher’s killer had ‘contact’ with militant in Syria

Updated 23 October 2020

France teacher’s killer had ‘contact’ with militant in Syria

  • Anzorov’s suspected contact had been located through an IP address traced back to Idlib

PARIS: The investigation into the murder in France of a teacher for showing caricature of the Prophet Muhammad in class turned to Syria on Thursday, where the killer had a militant contact, a source close to the case said.
Seven people have been charged with being complicit in a “terrorist murder” after 18-year-old Chechen Abdullakh Anzorov killed Samuel Paty on Friday, including two teenagers who helped him identify the teacher.
France paid homage to Paty on Wednesday, with President Emmanuel Macron saying that the history and geography teacher had been slain by “cowards” for representing the secular, democratic values of the French Republic.
In their search for accomplices, anti-terror investigators have now established that Anzorov had contact with a Russian-speaking militant in Syria whose identity is not yet known, the source told AFP.
Le Parisien newspaper reported on Thursday that Anzorov’s suspected contact had been located through an IP address traced back to Idlib, a militant holdout in northwestern Syria.
In an audio message in Russian immediately after the killing, translated by AFP, Anzorov said that he had “avenged the Prophet” whom the teacher had shown “in an insulting way.”
The message was published on social media in a video, accompanied by two tweets, one showing the victim’s severed head and another in which Anzorov confessed to the murder.
Moments later he was shot dead by police. Anzorov decapitated Paty with a long knife.
Many of Paty’s students saw the images online before they could be taken down.
The teenagers who pointed out Paty to his killer in return for money were late Wednesday charged over the killing.

HIGHLIGHT

Le Parisien newspaper reported on Thursday that Anzorov’s suspected contact had been located through an IP address traced back to Idlib, a militant holdout in northwestern Syria.

The parent of one of Paty’s pupils, who started the social media campaign against the teacher even though his daughter was not in class when the cartoons were shown, was also charged.
Also charged was a known extremist radical who helped the father stir up outrage against Paty.
The other three facing prosecution are friends of Anzorov, one of whom allegedly drove him to the scene of the crime while another accompanied him to purchase a weapon.
Two of them also face c harges of being complicit in terrorist murder while the third was charged with a lesser offense, the anti-terrorist prosecutor’s office said.
Paty, 47, became the target of an online hate campaign over his choice of lesson material — the same images which unleashed a bloody assault by gunmen on the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in January 2015.
Police have carried out dozens of raids since the crime, while the government has ordered the six-month closure of a mosque outside Paris and dissolved the Sheikh Yassin Collective, a group they said supported Hamas.
The French government has earmarked for dissolution more than 50 other organizations it accuses of having links with extremists.
Paty’s beheading was the second knife attack since a trial of alleged accomplices in the Charlie Hebdo attack started last month.
The killing has prompted an outpouring of emotion in France, with tens of thousands taking part in rallies countrywide in defense of free speech and the right to mock religion.
“We will not give up cartoons,” Macron vowed at a ceremony Wednesday in Paty’s honor at the Sorbonne university in Paris.