The September 30, 2010 Allahabad High Court verdict on the Ayodhya title suit looks innocently apolitical. After a wait of 61 long years the learned judges presented a paradigm of belief, history and jurisprudence in the Babri Masjid case.
The holy city of Ayodhya is one of the most ancient cities of India. Going by the history of Indian epics and as the history supports, the city of Ayodhya was built by King Ayudh of the Kosala dynasty. He was the founder of this city and hence came the name Ayodhya. Ayodhya is described as the birth place of Hindu god Sri Rama, and the capital of the ancient Kosala Kingdom. Not only for the birth place of Hindu God Rama, the city is also important in the history and heritage of Buddhism in India, as several Buddhist temples, monuments and centers of learning were established here during the age of the Mauryas and the Guptas. The Jain communities also regard the city of Ayodhya as scared as the city of Ayodhya is the birth place of five Tirthankars, including the first Tirthankar of Jainism, ShriRishabhDev, who is known as the father of the Jain religion. The founder of the Mughal rule in India, Babur built a Mosque here and named the mosque as Babri Masjid in the year 1527. The city of Ayodhya really holds something significance in terms of faith. It is of great religious importance to almost all the major religious followers of this holy land called, India. This is the reason that the scriptures and people call Ayodhya as “the land of spiritual bliss and liberation from the karma-bandhan”
Land of Faith or the Land to Fight for: - The Ayodhya Dispute
Since the building of a masjid in Ayodhya in the year 1527-28 by one of the generals of Babur, Mir Baki Khan, who built the “Janmasthan” i.e. “Birthplace” Mosque (later he renamed the mosque as Babri Masjid), the site of Ayodhya has been a center of a political, historical and socio-religious debate. The main issues revolve around access to a site traditionally regarded as the birthplace of the Hindu God Rama, the history and location of the Babri Mosque at that particular site, and whether a previous Hindu temple was demolished or modified to create the mosque by the Mughal emperor Babur. By the middle of the 20th century, the Hindu community began to claim that the mosque had not been used by the Muslims since 1936 and in the year 1949 the idol of Ram Lalla and Sitamata appeared ‘miraculously’ inside the Babri Mosque.
Since then the Hindu community claims that lord Ram had appeared in his birth land, hence land belongs to Hindus. By the mid 1980’s the religious fanatics of both the community had launched several movements to reclaim the disputed site. The events took a shocking turn when on the 6th of December, 1992 the structure was demolished by Hindu religious fanatics, despite a commitment by the government to the Supreme Court that the mosque would not be harmed. More than 2000 people were killed in the post-demolition riots following the demolition. The whole country was shocked and had to witness all around wave of communal riots. The demotion of the Babri Masjid was followed by the setting up an enquiry commission by the government. On 16 December 1992; the Liberhan Commission was set up by the Government of India to probe the circumstances that led to the demolition of the Babri Mosque. The Liberhan Commission is one of the longest running commissions in India’s history with several extensions granted by various governments. The report of the Commission held many of the top leaders of the country culpable for the demolition of the structure. This included many leaders of the BJP, VHP and the Shiv Sena.
The dispute of the Ayodhya is not new. The site had been a regular visitor to the court rooms since the British days. The dispute at Ayodhya is for a piece of land which is around 2.7 acres in area.
- The Mahant Ram case: In 1885, MahantRaghubar Ram moved the courts for permission to erect a temple just outside the Babri Mosque premises. Despite validating the claim of the petitioner, the Faizabad District Judge dismissed the case. In his judgment the judge said that “It is most unfortunate that a Masjid should have been built on land specially held sacred by the Hindus, but as that event occurred 356 years ago, it is too late now to agree with the grievances”.
- The Title Cases: -In total there are five title suits filed before the courts claiming ownership of the land. Out of these, two title suits were later clubbed. Thus now there are four title suits pending before the courts.
- In 1950, Gopal Singh Visharad filed a title suit with the Allahabad High Court seeking injunction to offer ‘puja’ (worship) at the disputed site. A similar suit was filed shortly by Paramhans Das of Ayodhya but later withdrawn by him.
- In 1959, the NirmohiAkhara, a Hindu religious institution, filed a third title suit seeking direction to hand over the charge of the disputed site, claiming to be its custodian.
- A fourth suit was filed by the Muslim Central Wakf Board for declaration and possession of the site.
All the four title suits on the Ayodhya land require the court to decide on the following questions: -
- Ownership of the land. (ii) Whether there was a temple at the site before 1538.
- Did the idols of Lord Ram, Sita and Lakshman exist inside the mosque, or were the idols placed inside on 22 December, 1949?
The decision of 30.09.2010: A Complete Survey:Sixty years after it first went to court, the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court on 30th September, 2010 pronounced a judgment in the Ayodhya title suit, saying that the Hindus and the Muslims are joint title holders. The three-judge bench - comprising Justice S U Khan, Justice SudhirAgarwal and Justice D V Sharma - ruled in a majority judgment 2:1, that there be a three-way division of the disputed land - one-third for the Sunni Waqf Board, one-third for the NirmohiAkhara and one-third to the party for ‘Ram Lalla’. Justice Khan pointed to the unprecedented nature of Hindus and Muslims worshipping together for centuries. And Justice Aggarwal observed that the inner courtyard of the building belonged to both Hindus and Muslims.
The judgment of the High Court was written in almost 8,000 pages. In its orders the High Court had said that the portion below the central dome under which the idols of Lord Ram and other Gods are placed in a makeshift temple, belongs to Hindus. All three judges agreed that the portion under the central dome should be allotted to Hindus. The NirmohiAkhara had been given the Ram Chabutra and SitaRasoi as per the courts judgment. Crucially, the court has said there shall be status quo at the site for three months. There were two other majority findings, where one judge dissented and two agreed: that the disputed structure was a mosque and that a temple was demolished to build a mosque. Justice SU Khan held that no temple was demolished for constructing the mosque at the disputed structure. He said the mosque was constructed under orders of Babar over the ruins of temples lying in that state for a very long time. The dispute before the court was whether the 2.7 acres of disputed land on which the Babri Masjid stood before it was demolished on December 6, 1992, belongs to the Sunni Central Waqf Board or to the Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha. The Ayodhya dispute had been a protracted legal battle and on the eve of the judgment the whole nation spoke in one voice on the need to maintain peace and harmony.
The implications of 30.09.2010 verdict on Ayodhya:No doubt our nation witnessed peace and tranquility after the judgment on the Babri masjid-Ram janambhoomi dispute by the Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court on 30.09.2010. No untoward incident has taken place in the country. The credit for this peace and harmony goes to the people of this nation, no matter of what diverse caste or creed we all belong to. Much has been talked and discussed about the Ayodhya verdict, especially on the legal technicalities and historical loopholes. The verdict of the Lucknow Bench has been appreciated by all the stakeholders for reconciling a long lasting and sensitive controversy in a democratic manner. The judgment aims to construct a ‘a wall of harmony’ among the Muslims and the Hindus – a wall that would not separate but harmonize a Hindu temple and the Muslim mosque in close proximity.
The citizens of India showed maturity in accepting the judgment of 30.09.2010 and reflected faith in the institutions of democratic India especially in the judiciary. Absence of riots after the judgment corroborated this interpretation. But as the later developments showed, the judgment has not reconciled the issue and all the three litigants have expressed their plans to challenge the judgment in the apex court. An analysis of the judgment of the Lucknow bench reveals that, all the three judges have invoked values of peace and reconciliation rather than constitutional values of democratic India. Law is and must be indifferent to the faith of litigants and even of judges and the judgment, in a democratic country like India which has maintained its independence of judiciary and constitutional values. The judgment based on ‘faith and belief’ can be taken as going against the principle of secularism whether defined in terms of distancing State from religion or giving equal space to all religions. The statement gains significance if we recapitulate that as far as the case of Babri Masjid is concerned, the then prime minister JawaharLal Nehru ordered removal of the statues in 1950, but the contemporary district magistrate of Ayodhya declined to follow the instruction pleading law-and-order situation in the city. Again, when a lawsuit against the mosque was filed in the district court in 1950, the secular state government of Uttar Pradesh assured Muslims that the lawsuit would be dismissed and categorically submitted in the court that the building had never been a temple and was always a Muslim place of worship. The judgment of the Lucknow bench was taken to satisfy the ‘collective conscience of the society’. Thus, the verdict has legitimized a new thesis whereby faith or belief becomes a fact without evidence.
The verdict of the Allahabad High Court decided only a title suit and was not concerned about the demolition of the Babri Masjid case in the year 1992. Yet, the fact remains that those responsible for the demolition are nowhere near punishment even after the court wrangling for the last eight years. The CBI has been going slow as if there are orders from above. Had the government pursued the demolition case vigorously, the cynicism among those who believe that the present judgment is “a balancing act” would have looked out of place.
Most of Muslims in India regard the demolition of Babri Masjid as a turning point in their political, social and psychological history. The history had, since 1992 witnessed many communal riots between the two communities, especially the events like Godhra tragedy have done more than good to increase the fear factor among the Muslim community and has compelled them to live the life of isolation and they are forced to think like minority community. The 30.09.2010 Ayodhya verdict gives a chance to bring the Muslim community in the mainstream of the developmental process. This date should be made a next turning point in India’s history. There is a constant need to make efforts for bringing reconciliation and the initiative should come from the Hindutva forces. The huge amount of money invested on the fun fare for so called Ayodhya verdict could have been utilized for ameliorating the social and educational status of downtrodden of both the communities. This again raises the question on the flip side of our system and how we are promoting it. The demand of the time is to move ahead and take our country to greater heights which it deserves. This is going to set a new trend where both communities will sacrifice their interests to have communal harmony. To me the verdict of Ayodhya was special because of one more reason. The reason which I find touching to my heart was that the members of both the communities i.e. the Hindu and Muslims showed considerable restrain before and after the announcement of the verdict . No communal frenzy was witnessed anywhere in the country which sets a perfect tone for the Hindu-Muslim unity which the nation may witness in coming years. The people of the nation have realized that politics based on case ideology is not gone to play with the voters now. The people want good governance and a system which is full of efficiency and effectiveness. The Ayodhya issue thus reflects the growth of India as a mature democracy, the maturity reflected on the Ayodhya verdict clearly highlighted the fact that India is growing up and also changing. Ayodhya was an important phase in this transformation of a nation.
The Road Ahead for Both the Communities - Let the Astha of Democracy and Secularism prevails: The judgment on Ayodhya gives a hiatus to the ever-raging differences between the Hindus and the Muslims. The Ayodhya verdict was not about Hindus or Muslims; it reflected the secular nature of this great nation of ours and the respect for rule of law in this land. It gives time to both the communities to introspect. Do they take the same road, which they have traversed since independence? How do they face the future? Both the communities cannot afford to remain prisoners of the past, its biases and prejudice, just because they follow different religious practices. The time has again given us the opportunity to strengthen our secular ethos and face the questions squarely. While delivering the judgment the honourable Allahabad High Court converted itself into some kind of arbitration panel and provided a new twist in the modern Indian history. They have opened a new Pandora’s Box causing a never ending debate on Astha – belief versus secular democratic constitutional ethics. And it is all done in the name of justice and peace. The spirit of tolerance and assimilation are the hallmarks of Indian civilization. Never has the question of communal harmony and social integration raised such a wide range of emotions as today. The judgment of 30.09.2010 really puts ‘a wall of harmony’ among the Muslims and the Hindus – the maintenance of which is now on the shoulders of the masses of this secular land called INDIA.
“Consider the flowers in a garden: Though differing in kind, colour, form and shape, yet……….. this diversity increased their charm, and added to their beauty.”