Twenty-five litigants in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land case Wednesday appeared before a Supreme Court-appointed panel as it began an attempt to resolve the dispute through mediation, officials said. The litigants and their counsels – altogether over 50 people – met the three-member mediation panel on the Avadh University premises here.
The Supreme Court has given the panel, led by former apex court judge F M I Kalifulla, eight weeks to explore the possibility of an amicable settlement over the disputed site in Ayodhya. The panel members, who also include spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and senior advocate Sriram Panchu arrived in Faizabad Tuesday and are expected to spend three days here.
Uttar Pradesh Advocate General Raghvendra Singh and Additional Advocate General Madan Mohan Pandey also attended the meeting. Swami Avimukteshwaranand of the Ram Janmabhoomi Punruddhar Samiti, said the meeting began at 10 am with over 50 participants.
The discussions were being held in a "harmonious" manner, he told PTI. Nirmohi Akhara's Mahant Dinendra Das, Triloki Nath Pandey who is representing Ram Lalla Virajman, Mahant Dharam Das appearing for Ram Abhiram Das and Mahant Suresh Das of the Digambar Akhara were among the participants.
Swami Chakrapani and Kamlesh Tiwari appeared at the meeting for the Hindu Mahasabha. Litigants Iqbal Ansari, Mohammad Umar and Haji Mahboob attended the meeting, where Maulana Ashhad Rashidi represented Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind.
Waseem Rizvi, who heads the UP Shia Waqf Board, and representatives from the Sunni Waqf Board also participated. The Faizabad administration had issued notices to the 25 litigants on behalf of the panel.
Authorities said only the participants were being allowed to enter the area where the meeting was taking place. Strict security arrangements have been made on the university premises, Faizabad District Magistrate Anuj Kumar Jha said.
The panel in a letter had directed the Faizabad administration to ensure foolproof security in and around the venue, and also necessary personal security for the litigants and their lawyers, the authorities said. The Supreme Court is hearing 14 appeals against the 2010 Allahabad High Court judgment, delivered in four civil suits, that the 2.77-acre site in Ayodhya be partitioned equally among the three parties -- the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla.
In 1992, a right-wing mob demolished the Babri Masjid, which many Hindus believe was built on the spot which marks the birthplace of Lord Rama. While appointing the mediation panel last week, a five-member Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said "utmost confidentiality" should be maintained in the mediation proceedings to ensure their success.
The apex court said the progress report on the mediation should be filed before it within four weeks and the proceedings should it be completed within eight weeks. Earlier, the apex court observed that the issue is not about 1,500 square feet of land, but about religious sentiments.
The bench said it was conscious of the gravity and the impact of the issue on "public sentiment" and also on the "body politic of the country". "It is not only about property. It is about mind, heart and healing, if possible," the bench had said
The bench also said it was not appropriate to pre-judge that the mediation would fail and people would not agree with the decision. "We are not concerned what Babur did in the past or who was the king and who invaded. We cannot undo what has happened but we can go into what exists in the present moment," the bench said when a lawyer contended that injustices were meted out to Hindus by invaders in the past.
(With inputs from agencies.)