There is finally a solution to the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi issue with the Supreme Court paving way for the construction of a Ram temple at the disputed site. Hopefully, peace will prevail and the country's lawmakers can now get to tackling serious issues like economic growth.
In a historic and much-awaited judgment a Supreme Court bench headed by the Chief Justice of India, Ranjan Gogoi, directed the centre to set up a trust within three months to construct a Ram temple on the site where the Babri Masjid once stood. It handed the disputed land for the temple and directed that a five-acre piece of suitable land in Ayodhya be allotted to the Sunni Waqf Board, one of the litigants, to build a mosque.
The entire piece of disputed land has been given for the temple by the court going by the pieces of evidence presented in the court as well as findings of the Archaeological Survey of India.
The ruling came from a bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and Justices S.A. Bobde, Ashok Bhushan, D.Y. Chandrachud and S. Abdul Nazeer.
The disputed site has been allotted to Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas which is expected to soon start construction on the 2.27 acre disputed land in Ayodhya. It was here that the erstwhile 16th Century Babri Masjid stood before it was demolished by Hindutva activists on December 6, 1992, using hammers, crowbars, and axes. It led to countrywide riots where nearly 2,000 were killed. The Masjid was built in 1528.
For almost one and a half-century, the dispute enraged both Hindus and Muslims of India. Hindus claimed that the Babri Masjid built by Babur was built over a temple site honouring the birthplace of Lord Ram. In 1949, matters escalated when a Ram idol was placed under the central dome of the mosque leading to Muslims protesting. Since then, the problem festered as both Hindus and Muslims prayed there.
The All India Muslim Personal Law Board reacted to the judgement saying that it was not satisfied as the land of the mosque “was given to the other side.”
The option before them is to file for a review but it is the prerogative of the court to either admit or reject it as the chief justice said that the judgment was unanimous. In that sense, it may not consider admitting the review plea.
There are niggling fears that the dispute will linger on as Zafaryab Jilani, the lawyer for the Sunni Waqf Board said that the judgment may be challenged by a review petition as it had contradictions and “five acres had no value.” But Sunni Waqf Board chairman Sugar Farooqui said that it would not go in for any review or curative petition.
Dargah Deewan Zainul Abedin Ali Khan of the Ajmer Dargah said that everyone should respect the decision of the apex court and it was the time to resent a united face before the world that is looking at India.
The Supreme Court said that while Hindus had established their case of being in possession of the outer courtyard of the disputed land, the Uttar Pradesh Central Waqf Board had failed to establish its case. Among the Muslim parties to the case, the Shias and Sunnis took contrasting positions.
In its judgment, the court made the following observations:
· In revenue records, the disputed land was classified as government land.
· It is only legal evidence that can decide the title of the land.
· Archaeological evidence exists of an underlying structure of Hindu origin. Archaeological evidence cannot be brushed aside as conjecture.
· Idols of the deity were placed at the structure in 1949.
· Places of Worship Act reaffirms the commitment of India to protect the interests of all religious communities.
· Babri Masjid was built by Mir Bhai, a Muslim.
· Accounts by travellers and historians say that Hindus believed that Ayodhya with the birthplace of Ram while Muslims worshipped at the mosque.
· While Muslims offered prayers inside the inner courtyard, the same was done by Hindus in the outer courtyard.
· Muslims did not abandon the mosque as they continued to offer namaz.
· An alternative piece of land should be allotted to Muslims to build a mosque while decreeing the disputed site to the deity.
· The Centre will hand over the disputed site to the Board of trustees and a suitable alternative plot of land measuring five acres at Ayodhya will be given to the Sunni Waqf Board.
· Babri Masjid was not constructed on vacant land, but on a Hindu structure. As the Archaeological Survey of India credentials is beyond doubt, the findings cannot be neglected.
· Documents indicate that before 1857, Hindus were not barred from worshipping in the inner courtyard. It was in 1857 that ratings segregating the outer and inner courtyard was made.
· Hindus believe that Lord Ram was born in the inner courtyard.
· Act of placing idols inside the central dome on December 22-23, 1949, was challenged by the Sunni Waqf Board ad it was maintainable.
· For 325 years, from the construction of the mosque till 1857, Muslims have given no evidence of offering prayers at the disputed structure in the exclusion of Hindus.
· Muslims have presented no evidence of exclusive possession before 1987. They offered namaz there till they were outside in 1949 through desecration.
· Destruction of the mosque was a break of the Supreme Court order.
· Desecration of the mosque by placing idols in 1949 and demolition was contrary to law.
· The Allahabad High Court was earlier wrong in dividing the disputed site into three parts.
It was in 1885 that Mahabir Raghubir Das filed a plea in the Faizabad district court seeking permission to build a canopy outside the Babri Masjid but the court rejected it. In 1949, the idols of Ram and Sita were placed under a central dome outside the disputed structure. In 1959, the Nirmohi Akhara filed a suit demanding that the site be handed over to it. In 1981, the Sunni Central Waqf Board filed a suit asking for possession of the site. In 1986, a district court ordered the removal of locks and opening of the site for Hindu worshippers. In 1989, the Allahabad High Court ordered maintenance of status quo in respect of the disputed structure. On December 6, Babri Masjid was demolished. In 1993, the centre takes over 67 acres of land around the area and seeks the Supreme Court's opinion on whether there was a Hindu structure before a Masjid was built. In 2003, the Supreme Court says that no religious activity would be allowed at the site. In 2016, BJP leader Subramanian Swamy files a plea in the apex court seeking construction of the Ram Temple on the site. In 2017, Chief Justice Khehar suggests out of the court settlement among the warring parties. He asked the litigants why they could not solve the dispute by resolving it themselves.
The ruling will certainly be a vitalising shot for the Narendra Modi government and his party which has been promising a Ram Mandir for two decades now. With this ruling now, the Modi government would have fulfilled all its major promises of getting rid of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir, dealing with triple talaq and now the building of the Ram Mandir.
The disputed site will soon see a lot of activity in the months to come as those who will be involved with the construction of the temple will get busy. Tonnes of carved marble and stone images and pillars along with bricks are already stacked in Ayodhya as work on them has been going on for many years. The marble is from Bharatpur in Rajasthan and the sculptors are mainly from Ahmedabad, Mirzapur, and Udaipur. They work tirelessly on pink sandstone chiselling floral designs and figurines of Lord Ram. The plan to construct a magnificent temple that is over 260 feet high and 140 feet wide.
One hopes the judgment is accepted by all as the dispute has hurt the fabric of India for decades and has triggered off numerous clashes and whipped up communal hatred. It should also not embolden communal elements to now demand that more mosques be replaced by temples.
It is certainly time for the country to move on from the vexed Babri Masjid issue now that a solution has been given by the court. Indian lawmakers should now concentrate on building the economy and addressing burning issues that are worrying everyone.
(Published on 11th November 2019, Volume XXXI, Issue 46)