Faiyaz Ahmad Fyzie
Hashim Ansari was born in 1921 in Ayodhya to Karim Baksh Ansari and Sakuran Bano. His father worked as a Diwan in the Kanak Bhawan State. the Ansaris were a respected family. Unfortunately, Karim Baksh died at a young age leaving behind his family that fell into extreme poverty and destitution. Sakuran worked hard to support her children. The family's struggle continued till the eldest of the siblings Qasim opened a cycle repair shop. As a child, Hashim also learned cycle repair from Qasim. Later, he worked as an apprentice at a tailor's shop and after learning sewing worked there. In due course, his son Iqbal Ansari started driving an auto rickshaw at the beginning of 1990.
It was in 1949 that an idol of Ramlala appeared in a controversial structure called the Babri Masjid in 1949. An FIR was lodged at the Ayodhya police station and Hashim was an eye witness.
In 1952, the then Faizabad court sentenced Hasjim Ansari to two years imprisonment for saying Azaan from the disputed premises.
In 1961, nine Muslims filed another case in the Faizabad Civil Court for ownership rights of the disputed structure; Hashim Ansari and, Haji Feku Miyan were among them. At this stage, the Sunni Waqf Board also got involved in the case.
He continued to be a defendant in the case till his death in 2016 after which his son Iqbal Ansari became a litigant.
Although Hashim Ansari was an apolitical person, during the Emergency, he voiced his opposition to the Congress policies. He was arrested and lodged in the Bareilly Central Jail.
Hashim Ansari speaking to the media
Iqbal Ansari lived by the adage of simple living and high thinking. Prosperity had not changed his personality.The imprint of Indian civilization and culture was reflected in his personality and life. He was always ready to help others and considered humanity as the biggest religion.
It was because of these qualities that locals often called him the Gandhi of Ayodhya. Pasmanda organization Ansar Sabha conferred on him the title of "Angel of Peace". As he was respected by all, people appointed him to fight on the Muslim side in the Janambhoomi dispute.
Hashim Ansari was never interested in politics; he never asked for donations to fight the legal case. Despite financial constraints, he continued to fight in the court till the end.
It’s understood that after the Babri Masjid demolition, two strangers met him – the general perception is they were emissaries of the then Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao - and offered him petrol pump and a huge sum of money in return for hushing up the case. Grapevine is that he got up and asked both the men to leave.
Even in the most difficult circumstances, he kept social harmony, love, and mutual understanding paramount. In 1992, rioters burnt his house. He later said the rioters were outsiders and that the Hindus of Ayodhya saved him and his family. He says it was because of his neighbours - mostly Hindus – that he received compensation from the government for his house. He rebuilt his house with the money and also bought a used car for his son Iqbal Ansari to drive. Iqbal Ansari ran a taxi service for Hindu pilgrims visiting the temple in Ayodhya.
Hashim Ansari was not much educated but his understanding of the country, world, religion, and society was very mature.
During his Haj pilgrimage, he was invited by several organisations to speak. He would always say that Indian Muslims enjoy freedom and live more comfortably than most others. He would say that Indian Muslims have achieved success in every sphere of life. During Hajj, Muslims from all over the world gathered in Mecca and Ansari's speech mattered.
Hashim Ansari had many friends including the then Mahant Ramchandra Paramhans Das of Digambar Akhara, who represented the Hindu side in the legal battle for claiming the Ram janambhoomi. (He later became the President of Shri Ram Janmabhoomi). In the eyes of the law, they were opponents, but they were best friends
It is common knowledge that both of them often boarded the same rickshaw to go to the court for the hearing. On the way, they enjoyed a session of chai. That scene was a living proof of India's 5000-year culture thriving in the modern materialistic age.
Mahant Ramchandra Paramhans Das with Iqbal Ansari
Mahant of Hanuman Garhi and former national president of Akhil Bharatiya Akhara Parishad Gyandas ji, Ramkewal Das ji of Nirmohi Akhara, Mahant Bhaskar Das ji, Bhagwan Singh Visharad ji were among Hashim Ansari’s other friends.
Hashim Ansari wanted a resolution of the dispute so that peace could prevail. He often said that if Muslims win the case, they should not start the construction of the mosque without the consent of Hindus. In response to a question, he once said that Hindus and Pasmandas are one and nothing can create a rift between them.
He often met Hindus and Muslims to try to find an amicable and out of the court settlement of the dispute. He kept trying for an out-of-the-court settlement of the religious dispute.
Even before the negotiations for settlement were about to conclude, some Ashrafs approached the Supreme Court and dealt a blow to Hashim's efforts. Yet he continued to work on his peace formula till his death. Ram Janmabhoomi Trust has appreciated Hashim Ansari's efforts for a peaceful settlement of the dispute.
While praising the judges hearing the case, Hashim Ansari said that they have kept politics out of it and their judgment was impartial.
Hashim Ansari was against Ashrafism and communalism. He often scolded members of this elite community in the meetings. He had said that Ashraf Ulema and the leaders never made honest efforts to resolve this issue.
He often said that the members of the Sunni Waqf Board and Babri Masjid Action Committee, who are fighting a legal battle by making him a litigant, didn't like his morals and lifestyle and that they pretending to be friendly to him but didn’t like his closeness to the Hindus. He accused them of using the case for political and personal benefits.
One day he was so upset with the attitude of the Ashraf and Muslim organizations that he almost decided to withdraw his name from it. In response, Zafaryab Jilani, an Ashraf lawyer, arrogantly said that his withdrawal would not make a difference. Jilani had no idea that Hashim’s name may be removed from the legal case but not from the pages of history. After all, he had given 60-65 years of his life for the cause.
The Hindu side never made any adverse comments about Hashim Ansari, whereas the Ashraf and Muslim organizations always tried to tarnish his image.
Hashim Ansari with a framed Picture of Babri Masjid
Due to the dominance of Ashraf and their communal thinking Hashim Ansari refused to attend any meeting condoling the razing of the mosque on December 6 at Ayodhya. He kept himself out of such meetings till his death.
Once he openly criticized Azam Khan a minister in the Mulayam Singh cabinet of Uttar Pradesh for misleading and provoking the Muslim community. He blamed Congress, Muslim organizations, and Ashraf for complicating the dispute and not allowing its settlement through peaceful means. One day he said if he ever met Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he would ask him to take the case of the Babri Masjid demolition to the track court so that the culprits are punished. he wanted to negotiate a peaceful settlement.
In his last days, he was undergoing treatment at PGI, Lucknow. The then Home Minister Rajnath Singh had called and inquired about his well-being. In his last moments, he told his friend Mahantji that he had given the responsibility of his son Iqbal to him. On July 20, 2016, he passed away.
His mission has been carried forward by his son Iqbal Ansari. He continued to defend the case and continue his association with Mahantji, saints, and Hindu society. After the Court's decision, Iqbal Ansari rejected the Sunni Waqf Board's efforts to file a review petition. he said he was satisfied with the decision and that it was no use dragging the matter. Perhaps had Hashim Ansari been alive, he would have said the same.
Hashim’s struggle has been forgotten by the Ashraf community, the Muslim Personal Law Board, and the Sunni Waqf Board. The land allotted by the Supreme Court for the construction of the mosque and the execution of the project makes no mention of the names of Hashim and Iqbal Ansari. They are pretending to look the other way and not recognise the struggle of Ansaris. It's painful to see this and amounts to perpetuation of the Ashraf's exploitation of the Pasmanda.
On the other hand, the Hindus have shown respect to the family of Hashim Ansari and his son Iqbal. The invitation for Bhoomi Pujan and the invitation for Pran Pratistha is a clear proof of this. And why not, the lifestyle, civilization, and culture of Pasmanda and Hindus are the same while the Ashraf have been against Pasanda and exploited them.
The author is a Pasmanda rights activits and a doctor by porofession