Skip to main content

Would those charged for illegally demolishing Babri now manage a new Ram temple?

By Fr Cedric Prakash SJ*
The long-awaited verdict on the contentious issue of the disputed land in Ayodhya was finally delivered by the Supreme Court on November 9, 2019. The judgement has come after a 70-year-old conflict filled with acrimony, divisiveness, hate and violence between sections of the Hindus and Muslims of the country. At the core of the issue was the Ram Mandir – Babri Masjid dispute: was there a temple on the place where the Masjid was built? To whom should the land be given to?
For the five-member Constitution bench headed by the Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and comprising Justices SA Bobde, DY Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S Abdul Nazeer delivering the verdict was not an easy task -- given the fact that the dispute has been one of the longest in the country’s history, and secondly, it has always been a very emotional issue between the country’s majority community: the Hindus, and the largest minority community: the Muslims.
The verdict was a unanimous one, relying on the findings of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). Some of the key points of the 1054-pages landmark judgement include that:
  • the entire disputed land of 2.77 acres in Ayodhya must be handed over for the construction of a Ram Mandir
  • the Central Government has been directed to formulate a scheme in this regard within three months. A Board of Trustees must be set up for construction of temple
  • the findings of ASI report cannot be brushed aside as conjecture
  • ASI reports indicate that the Babri Masjid was not built on a vacant land. The underlying structure was not of Islamic origin. The faith of Hindus that the place is birth place of Lord Ram is undisputed.
  • an alternate suitable plot land of 5 acres in the town must be allotted to the Sunni Waqf Board for construction of a mosque 
  • the destruction of Babri Masjid in 1992 was a blatant violation of law 
  • the rights of Ram Lalla to the disputed property is subject to maintenance of law and order and communal harmony
  • the suit by Nirmohi Akhara was time barred
  • the Ram Janmabhoomi has no juristic personality. But Ram Lalla, the deity has juristic personality
  • the Suit by Sunni Waqf Board is maintainable and not barred by limitation
  • the Sunni Waqf Board has not been able to prove adverse possession. There is evidence to show that the Hindus had been visiting the premises prior to 1857
  • there is evidence to show that Hindus worshiped in the outer courtyard of the disputed site. As regards the inner court yard, there is no evidence in the suit by Sunni Board to show exclusive possession prior to 1857
In order to understand this judgement, which is bound to have far- reaching implications, one needs to briefly go through the way the dispute has evolved over the years. The Babri Masjid was apparently built in Ayodhya in 1528. Some Hindu groups claim it was built after a temple was demolished; though the ASI has found some remains of and from a previously built structure, there is no conclusive evidence that it was in fact a temple.
The first recorded communal clashes over the site took place in 1853.Some years later in 1859, the British administration put a fence around the site marking separate areas of worship for Hindus and Muslims; this lasted for almost ninety years. In 1949, for the very first time, the dispute on the property went to court, after idols of Lord Ram were found placed inside the mosque.
Some Hindu groups formed a committee, in 1984, to begin the construction of a Ram temple. Three years later, a district court ordered the gates of the mosque to be opened after almost five decades and allowed Hindus to worship inside the "disputed structure." A Babri Mosque Action Committee was formed by Muslim groups. In 1989, the foundations of a temple were laid on land adjacent to the "disputed structure".
A watershed year was 1990, when the then BJP president LK Advani took out a cross-country rath yatra to garner support to build a Ram temple at the site. This yatra polarised a good section of the Hindu community. An immediate result was that some volunteers of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) stormed the disputed area and partially damaged the Babri masjid.
December 6, 1992 will certainly go down in the history of the country as one of its blackest days! On that infamous day members of right-wing Hindu groups, took law and order in their own hands and demolished the mosque! Communal violence followed all over the country, in which hundreds of people lost their lives and widespread destruction.
The then Congress government at the Centre immediately set up the Liberhan Commission was set to probe the demolition of the mosque. Strangely, only seventeen years later in June 2009, the Commission submitted the report of its inquiry, naming LK Advani, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and other BJP leaders as those responsible for the demolition.
Earlier, in September 2003, a court ruled that seven Hindu leaders, including some prominent BJP leaders, should stand trial for inciting the destruction of the Babri Mosque. But no charges were brought against Mr Advani who was then the Deputy Prime Minister of the country under Vajpayee.
A year later, an Uttar Pradesh court ruled that the order which exonerated him should be reviewed. The case against the BJP leaders, including Murli Manohar Joshi and Uma Bharti as well is being heard by a trial court in Lucknow. In July this year, the Supreme Court extended the tenure of the judge hearing the case and set a nine-month deadline for the verdict.
Writing in ‘The Wire’ (November 9, 2019), well-known writer and political analyst Siddharth Varadarajan says:
“The court acknowledged the manner in which Ram idols were planted in the mosque was illegal and that the mosque’s demolition in 1992 was 'an egregious violation of the rule of law'. Yet, the forces responsible for the demolition now find themselves in legal possession of the land. The site will be managed by a trust that the government will now set up. And the government and ruling party have in their ranks individuals who have actually been charge sheeted for conspiring to demolish the mosque”.
Whether the cause of justice, on this matter, will ultimately be served, is at this moment, anybody’s guess!
In April 2002, a three-judge Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court began hearings on determining who owned the site. In September 2010, the Allahabad High Court pronounced the verdict. The verdict said the site of the Babri Masjid is to be divided into three parts, each going to Nirmohi Akhara, Ram Lalla and the Sunni Central Waqf Board of Uttar Pradesh; in no time, both Hindu groups and Muslim groups moved the Supreme Court challenging the High Court verdict.
We do have a verdict on a vexatious issue… but one wonders if people are confident that there is a closure too
The Supreme Court, in 2010, stayed the Allahabad High Court order; earlier, the top court had said the Allahabad High Court verdict was “strange and surprising”. The Supreme Court in an attempt to resolve the issue appointed a three-member commission to work towards a mediation; however, this group too failed to arrive at an amicable solution, despite being given extensions to do so.
Finally, a five-judge Constitution bench began daily hearings from various stake-holders on 6 August this year; the hearings went on for forty days till October 16. After mediation proceedings by a Supreme Court-appointed three-member team failed to find an amicable solution to the dispute earlier this year, a five-judge constitution bench began day-to-day hearings on August 6.
The daily hearings at the Supreme Court came to an end after 40 days on October 16. The verdict was reserved and set to be declared before November 17 (the day on which Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, who is due to retire). Finally, the verdict was delivered today 9 November 2019.
The verdict has obviously drawn mixed reactions: A good percentage of the country will breathe a sigh of ‘relief’ that after years there is some kind of ‘end’ to an age-old problem. There were enough indications since the last few days, that many if not some, seemed to had an inkling or guessed what the ‘final order’ would be like.
The posturing and utterances of several key leaders from the BJP/VHP/RSS combine, that “there should be no celebrations”, is indicative enough of this. True, there have been no big ‘celebrations’; but in keeping with their DNA some right-wing leaders have been making unnecessary statements and were even distributing sweets.
At the time of writing this, there are no reported cases of violence. However, in some areas of Ahmedabad, where a sizeable section of Muslims lives, like Naroda Patiya – these areas had a deserted look; people had locked their houses and gone away. They are afraid that they witness a repeat of the Gujarat Carnage of 2002!
Most Muslim groups, on the other hand, are not happy with the verdict; some of them have gone on record to say that they may consider a review petition. Finally, we do have a verdict on a vexatious issue… but, one wonders if we, the people of India, are confident that there is a closure too!
---
*Human rights and peace activist/writer. Contact: cedricprakash@gmail.com

Comments

TRENDING

Buddhist shrines massively destroyed by Brahmanical rulers in "pre-Islamic" era: Historian DN Jha's survey

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

India sees 62 journo deaths, 4th highest, amidst pandemic: Swiss media rights body

By Our Representative The Switzerland-based media rights body Press Emblem Campaign (PEC) has noted that India is the fourth most affected country as far as mediapersons’ death on account of Covid-19 is concerned. According to Blaise Lempen, secretary-general of PEC, the global tally of casualties among media persons in the Covid-19 pandemic has reached 1,036 journalists in 73 countries till date.

Liberating Bengal Hindus? Worst flames of communal division, lessons from the past

By Shamsul Islam*  The whole thrust of the RSS-BJP election campaign for 2021 state assembly elections in West Bengal has been to save Bengal from the rule of Mamata Bannerjee who is allegedly not a ‘Hindu’. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a self-proclaimed Hindu nationalist, as usual set the polarizing agenda. While addressing the first election rally, he called upon the electorate to overthrow the ‘nirmam’ (cruel) rule of Mamata by showing a ‘Ram Card’. He did not name Hindus directly but there was no confusion about the religious identity of the electorate Indian PM was addressing to.

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Modi's Hindutva 'ensuring' empowerment of rich, disenfranchisement of poor

Bhabani Shankar Nayak*  The Hindutva socio-psychopaths are neither nationalists nor patriotic people. These medieval reactionary forces don’t understand the idea of citizenship, justice, liberty, equality and humanism. Indian democracy is merely an electoral transaction for the Hindutva forces. Hindutva forces neither follow science nor understand the sufferings of fellow human beings. These core qualities are common among the Hindutva forces in India.

Rs 5 crore 'demand' for India Today anchor: What about 52 lesser souls who died in April?

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat*  A well known Hindutva protagonist masquerading as journalist passed away recently resulting in messages of condolences and tribute right from the Prime Minister and the Home Minister to progressive liberals expressing grief of his untimely death. It is said that he passed away due to cardiac arrest, though the fact is, he was also Covid infected. The Prime Minister and the Home Minister termed him a ‘brave’ journalist, insisting, his passing away has left a big ‘vacuum’.

Pradeep Bhattacharya, who spent his life for the cause of working masses, rational thinking

By YS Gill*  At 11:30 pm on May 3, 2021, I lost my best friend and comrade Pradeep Bhattacharya. He spent his life dedicated to the cause of the working masses and rational thinking. A person of thorough scientific outlook and a well-read student of Marxian thought, he was a walking encyclopedia and could speak on a wide variety of topics from art and culture to science, philosophy, history and politics.

Communal rhetoric? Hindutva preached by RSS-BJP is 'monolithic', not Hinduism

By Prem Verma*  I am a devout Hindu but not a believer of RSS Hindutva form of Hinduism which brings about hatred of other religions. My Hindu religion has not taught me to look down on other religions and neither has it instilled in me to go about converting others to my religion because my religion is superior.

India's Covid-19 'nightmare': A product of majoritarian Hindutva ideological praxis?

By Bhabani Shankar Nayak*  Indians struggle to find place and time to bury their dead due to the devastating effects of the second wave of Covid-19 in India. The crematoriums in the capital cities are overflowing with dead bodies. People are dying without oxygen and basic medical support. The cities like Delhi and Mumbai are struggling to cope with the rising number of infections and COVID-19 led deaths. The deaths and destitutions are products of a defunct BJP government led by Narendra Modi.

Indian media persons collapsing to Covid disease as fast as 3 per day, third highest

Yogesh Sharma, Shailesh Rawal  By Our Representative  The Switzerland based media rights and safety body, Press Emblem Campaign ( PEC ) has said that it is “alarming for Indian journalists”, who have lost at least 107 colleagues to Covid-19”, noting, Indian “journo-colleagues” have been collapsing to the Covid-19 complications now as fast as three scribes per day. In a statement, PEC said, “India with 107 media corona-casualties has already placed itself on the third position just below Brazil (181 dead) and Peru (140) in the list of Covid-19 victims among journalist.”