One of the trustees of the existing largest Ram temple in Ayodhya has called for an amicable settlement between Hindus and Muslims in the Babri Masjid and Ram Janmabhoomi land dispute case, something that will favour both communities. Madhukar Shah, president of the “Sri Brish Bhan Param Setu Private Trust”, which runs the largest “Sri Kanak Bhavan” temple in Ayodhya’s Ramkot area, belongs to the family of Maharaja Sir Pratap Singh Judev of Orchha in Bundelkhand, Madhya Pradesh.
Shah, 76, is the eldest living member of the royal family and can read Hindi and Urdu with equal fluency. The foundation of Sri Kanak Bhavan was laid by Kumari Brish Bhan, Shah’s great grandmother, in 1885. Kumari Brish Bhan had left a “waqfnama” (binding document of mortmain property under Islamic law) written in Urdu, declaring that the eldest member of the family would be in charge of the trust.
Speaking to The Sunday Guardian, Shah shared his views about the land dispute in Ayodhya, its solution and why he supported the construction of a mosque in the vicinity of Ram Janmabhoomi. Excerpts:
Q: What do you think is the solution to the dispute in Ayodhya?
A: I support the construction of the Ram temple on the disputed land and the construction of a mosque in the vicinity. Muslims must be compensated for the loss of Babri Masjid. That would be the best solution.
Q: Why do you support the construction of a mosque?
A: There was a mosque standing there till 1992 when it was demolished. It would be much better if next to the railway tracks and the highway, a plot could be acquired and a mosque could be built. Hindus should make an investment of as little as Rs 20 crore and build a mosque that can house around 10,000 people. If we are taking away the mosque from them, then something should be given in return. Successive governments have ruled Uttar Pradesh since the demolition of Babri Masjid and yet nobody has tried to resolve the dispute. So, in order to solve the issue once and for all, compensate Muslims. A mosque is not a religious or a holy place for Muslims. The qibla (direction to the Mecca) in a mosque is sacred. So, a new mosque can be built and still have the same stature.
Q: Do you think that the Muslim community will be ready to accept a new mosque at an alternate site?
A: I have spent a lot of time among Muslims and tried to understand their faith. What I know is that an ideal mosque complex requires a qibla, a sehan (patio), a prayer hall, a hamam, a yateem-khana (orphanage) and enough number of shops in the surrounding areas that can help generate income for the mosque’s imam. We should build all of it in Ayodhya. We can give it any name. We can call it “Nayee (new) Babri Masjid”. We have an abundance of marble in the country. We can use them and make a beautiful mosque in Ayodhya.
Q: The supporters of Ram temple claim that Babri Masjid was built on a temple which is why there should not be any mosque there. Why would they agree to invest in a mosque?
A: This is the only way to settle this dispute. For the Muslims to let go of the disputed area, they should be given some other piece of land where a mosque can be built. This dispute has gone on too far and too long. Yes, the Babri Masjid and many other mosques were built after destroying Hindu temples under Mughal rule. However, I am of the opinion that the Mughal rulers did not understand Hindu religion completely. They were against idolatry, but could not see that Hinduism, too, preaches about one God; which is why across the Ganga valley, there was large-scale destruction of temples. Any Hindu structure in Uttar Pradesh, be it in Haridwar, Mathura, Vrindavan, Allahabad or be it the Dwarkadheesh temple, Bankebihari temple, Kashi Vishwanath temple, is not more than 200 years old. Eventually, when the Muslim leadership started waning and the Baba Bairagis started getting more militant in nature, they (monks) started fighting for the temples. That being said, we do not know whether Lord Rama was born here or not. But it is the belief. Baba Bairagis had tried to demolish the Babri Masjid in the past, too, but had not succeeded.
Q: Do you think that a judgement in the Ayodhya case will bridge the gap between the two communities?
A: The point is that victory for any one community cannot settle any such disputes ever. Mughals are part of India’s history, just like the British are. We might not like what the Mughals did in India, but we cannot erase that, especially when we have a sizeable peace-loving population of Muslims in India. The communication gap is huge between the people of the two communities and this has led to continuous tension on the ground among the people. This should not be the case. Coexistence is important for development.