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Faith as law? Crucial 1949 episode on Ram Lalla 'missing' in Supreme Court order

Gobind Ballabh Pant with Nehru
By Kamal Mitra Chenoy*
The Supreme Court seems to have recognised faith as a key issue in the Babri Masjid affair. But it is sloppy. There is no mention of the British Judge asked by the Hindus in 1885 to have access to the Ram Chabootra (Ram platform inside the Babri Masjid). The Judge regretted that this claim was brought to him late, and should have been resolved much earlier.
Later in 1934, there was an attack by villagers on the Babri Masjid. They were fined by the British. Further, they had to rebuild the central dome of the Babri Masjid with cement which was damaged. Contrary to popular belief the Masjid was quite sturdy.
The Supreme Court noted that “the incident on the night between December 22-23, 1949, when a group of 50 to 60 persons installed idols on the pulpit of the mosque below the central dome. This led to the desecration of the mosque and the ouster of the Muslims...”
However, as the correspondence between Jawaharlal Nehru and Uttar Pradesh chief minister Gobind Ballabh Pant shows of the events of December 22-23, 1949, as noted in Nehru’s Select Correspondence at the time, GB Pant instigated the insertion of the Ram Lalla idol at that time. As Nehru’s correspondence shows he was extremely worried and urged GB Pant to remove the idol which he refused to do.
This episode is missing in the Supreme Court discussion. The correspondence on the Ram Lalla idol was an extremely important and critical piece of information, as it was smuggled into the Babri Masjid.
Rajiv Gandhi in 1986 put pressure on the Uttar Pradesh police officer and the District Magistrate to open the locks in the Babri Masjid, despite the fact that the Faizabad Court was shut on Saturday. However, the Babri Masjid locks were opened to worshippers. But the Muslims were not informed.
Rajiv Gandhi was also under severe pressure in the Shah Bano case on financial support for Muslim divorcees which the Muslim ulema was strongly opposed to. When women leaders met Rajiv Gandhi and stressed the rights of women, Rajiv Gandhi argued that equality for women was a Western concept.
In the next session of the Lok Sabha Saifuddin Choudhary of the CPI(M) critiqued Rajiv Gandhi, pointing out that Rajiv Gandhi had a Western wife! The Muslims found out later that arbitrary action in Faizabad was taken without notice.
Under the circumstances it was clearly an effort to insert the “baby Rama” into the Babri Masjid thereby trying to displace the prayers and claims of the Muslim plaintiffs. The judge later became a BJP MP. This matter should be reconsidered by the Apex Court, as it is a clear violation of the claims of the Muslim side.
As Nehru’s correspondence shows he was extremely worried and urged GB Pant to remove the idol which he refused to do
Many issues, including the illegal insertion of the Ram Lalla by GB Pant in December 22-23, 1949 despite Nehru’s strong objections, have not been monitored. Since then the Ram Lalla has been in Babri Masjid, including also in 1986. So, has the Apex Court adequately dealt with the evidence in earlier years including the Ram Lalla?
The Court has made the acreage of the land occupied by the Hindu side and the Muslims a key issue. But going back in history as late as 1885, the British judge noted the Hindu demand to the Ram Chabutra, but regretted the delay in resolving the issue. But the Ram Lalla was inserted in the Babri Masjid in December 22-23, 1949 and continued for many years. How does this become Hindu?
It was in the Babri Masjid in 1986 that the locks were opened for the Ram Lalla darshan. Again, it was in the possession of the Babri Masjid. So the basis on which the very large portion of land was awarded to the Hindus by the Supreme Court is on questionable grounds in contrast to the five acres for the Muslims.
Is the Apex Court deciding justice on the basis of land, despite the statement that the Muslims have a diminished right to have their own prominent buildings -- only for a tithe of what is awarded to
the Muslim side?
The Hindus have far more land, though the Ram Lalla was installed in the Babri Masjid for many decades. Dr Rajeev Dhawan has raised several issues systematically and forcefully but more remain. Sadly, the Apex Court worked on the belief that the Hindu side was proven by the much greater amount of land, and faith has again trumped the law.
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*Former professor at the School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

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