Babri case litigant for lifetime but never oppugnant of Hindu-Muslim syncretism

Three days ahead of the 22nd anniversary of Babri Masjid demolition, the prime litigant in the case, Hashim Ansari declared he was fed up of politicization of the Babri case and does not want to fight the case any further. Going beyond the legal body of work, tries to profile Hashim Ansari, the oldest litigant as a person.

By Neeta Khan for,

New Delhi/Ayodhya: It was a September afternoon in 2010. The Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court was to deliver the most awaited judgment related to the Babri Masjid case and the entire country was literally on the boil.

One man, the litigant number one since 1949, did not even bother to be at Lucknow. He chose to be practical and remained at his home in Ayodhya. “Whatever the decision, it has to be accepted,” he had then told a reporter.

Mohammed Hashim Ansari (TCN file photo)

He topped it up with another earthen advice: “I appeal to Muslims to react with joy or grief behind closed doors.” He was confident, whatever the verdict may be the aggrieved party will definitely go to the Supreme Court.

In December 1949, when some Hindus forcibly kept the Ram Lalla idol inside the mosque, prompting the district magistrate to attach the property and appoint a receiver; Ansari became one of the litigants to the original case in the Ram Janmabhoomi – Babri Masjid case along with three others, who argued that their right to offer namaz was being hindered.

That is nonagenarian Hashim Ansari for you – simple, practical and despite the limelight, especially after the advent of satellite news channels, humble. One needs no effort to reach his two-room home near Ayodhya railway station.

At the ripe old age of 96, Ansari is still the same person for people from Ayodhya. “All his life, he fought a case that became the most important for Hindus as well as Muslims. But never ever one can blame him for any kind of hatred towards Hindus. Neither his words nor his actions betray any animosity,” says Jugal Kishore Shastri, a close friend of Ansari, noted social activist and editor of Hindi magazine ‘Ayodhya Ki Aawaaz’.

Ansari has a son Iqbal, 50, and a daughter Akhtarun Nissa, 65. He lost his wife 10 years ago. Hashim Ansari studies up to class 2 in a local madrassa and used to do tailoring work till 1992, the year that saw demolition of Babri Masjid and widespread riots and arson after that. Iqbal drives a taxi of his own to run the household. Ansari, Iqbal and the latter’s family – wife, four sons and a daughter – stays in his two-room simple home with a courtyard.

Mostly found in his simple trademark attire, a kurta and a lungi with a skull cap, Ansari now mostly spends his time lying on the his cot, with regular cups of tea and countless cigarettes. The security personnel stay out just outside – government has provided round the clock security for him and visitors are allowed after security men’s clearance – in their tent. But there is no restriction, so literally anybody and everybody can visit him.

Despite the age, he was a five times Namazi till a heart problem slowed him down. “Otherwise, he did not have any health issues … no sugar, no BP etc. Since last one year, he has had this heart problem. Now, four months ago, doctors put in a pacemaker,” Iqbal told TCN.

The family does not mind the countless visitors, most of them journalists from across India and abroad too. For his age, he is unable to hear properly but all other faculties – especially the elephantine memory – are intact. People often come to him and he regales them with stories from the early days of his case, the incidents in 1949 that lead to the case etc.

Anecdotes about Ansari’s deep friendship with Ramchandra Paramhansa, representative of one of the opposing Hindu parties, do rounds from Ayodhya to Lucknow to even Delhi. Both had literally grown up together in the lanes of Ayodhya.

Later, when they became parties to the Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid case, they used to travel together in tonga to the court at Faizabad. Sometimes, Ansari also travelled with representatives of Nirmohee Akhada, another opposing party in the case. “But he never fought the case with enmity against either his friends or Hindu community in general,” Shashtri says.

The reason he travelled with Ramchandra Paramhansa or Nirmohee Akhada representatives had also to do with his not-so-well economic condition. A tailor since his young days, Ansari is – as Shashtri puts it – “an honest man to the core”. As such, despite several offerings of various kinds – money, petrol pumps etc – by vested interests, he never touched a single paisa. Even when several organizations and politicians raised huge funds in the name of the Babri case, he never raised even a local chanda for it.

“In fact, he often used to ask money to Paramhansji. They were close friends since boyhood. Once Hashimji went to Paramhansji and in pretended anger told him: ‘Tum Hindu samaj ke daaku ho’. Paramhansji threw some 400 rupees at Hashimji and retorted: ‘Katua, leo …. isiliey na chillay rahe ho!” (Katua, a slag for both as endearment and an expletive for Muslims referring to circumcision),” recalls Shashtri.

The bonhomie between Hindu and Muslims of his neighbourhood was evident from the fact that he got all the mithai, the laddos etc from Hanuman Garhee always.

A witness to almost a century of events, Ansari’s relations with people of Ayodhya has steadfastly remained the same. His cases; his name and fame his legal or political status, nothing has changed it. “Since he was young and till the time he was moving around on his own, he met everyone – be it a Hindu or a Muslim – with equal ease. He would ask anyone for a cigarette.

Afterwards, since the time his movement was restricted due to old age, people who come to visit him offer him packs of cigarettes,” Iqbal says.

Today, when Ansari has given up hope on the Babri case and actually declared that he plans to withdraw as the litigant, he comes across as just another nonagenarian daddu in the neighbourhood.

Just one thing worries Iqbal about his old father. “Even today he drinks 20-25 cups of tea and three packets of cigarettes!!”


Oldest litigant says he will not pursue Babri case further