The Supreme Court judgment on Babri Mosque-Ram Janmbhumi dispute gave the verdict that the whole land where the mosque stood from 1528 to 6th December 1992 be given to the ‘Hindu Side’, Ram Janmbhoomi Nyas, set up by VHP. Just to recall it was demolished in broad day light by the RSS combine led by Lal Krishna Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Uma Bharati on that day. As per verdict Government should make a trust which should supervise the temple construction and Muslims, Sunni Waqf Board, should be given five acres of land in a prominent site in Ayodhya. The SC conceded that the Namaz was being conducted at the site right till 1949 when the Ram Lalla idols were installed in the mosque in the middle of the night in a criminal way. The logic of SC is that from 1856 the place was associated with birth of Lord Ram. The evidence for this is not cited, the only basis here is that Hindus regarded it as the birth place of Lord Ram! The Court has held that the claim of Muslims on land of inner court yard is not amenable to adverse possession in favor of mosque. And that Muslims have not been able to present the evidence that they were in exclusive possession of inner Court yard, prior to 1857. As per the Court “Hindus have established a clear case of possessory title to the outside Courtyard, by virtue of long continuous and unimpeded worship at Ramchabutara and other aspects of religious significance.” And so the judgment!
Prelude to Judgment
There was a great mobilization of armed forces, police in anticipation of violence, either celebratory or due to protests against the judgment. Fortunately there has been no violence. One recalls that after Babri demolition in 1992, the violence was triggered in Mumbai by the celebratory procession led by Shiv Sena. While from ‘Hindu Side’ the likes of Lal Krishna advani, are feeling vindicated, the most Muslims have to reconcile to the Court verdict for more reasons than one. As far as the nature of judgment, the one former judge put it in a bet possible way. Retired Justice Ganguly put it “As a student of Constitution, it is difficult from me to accept it.” Legal luminary Faizan Mustafa, Vice Chancellor of NALSAR Law University, states that “Ayodhya Judgment is a setback to evidence law.”
Seen in the long well documented history of the Babri Mosque it becomes clear that the judgment does not match to the known history of the Mosque and the happenings around it. While one concedes that this judgment will bring to a closure one long and painful chapter of contemporary Indian history. The hope is that other such mosques which have been on the demolition list of RSS combine will not be taken up for such a treatment.
A brief recap of the dispute is in order to understand the mechanism of how the Babri Mosque issue was made controversial, how a huge mobilization was made to demolish it and what had been the political fallout of this well planned demolition, undertaken as a part of Hindu nationalist agenda. This criminal act of demolition was a move which has been built around the faith that it was a birth place of Lord Ram.
As such Babri mosque was built in 1528 by Babar’s General Mir Baqi. There was no dispute around it till 1855, when the clash took place between Bairagis and Muslims on the issue of Chabutara (raised platform) outside the Mosque. The British made a barricade between the inner Courtyard with three domed mosque and the outside area where many Hindu deities were located. The matter never came up during freedom struggle when whole nation was coming together to fight against the colonial forces.
The issue in current times begins on the night of 22-23 December 1949, when some elements forcibly broke the locks of the mosque and installed Ram Lalla idols in the mosque. Till around this time Namaz was being offered there. After installation of the idols in an illegal manner, fearing future trouble, the then Prime Minster Jawaharlal Nehru wrote to the UP Chief Minister G B Pant to get the idols vacated. The local District collector K K Nayyar did not comply and Pant did not take suitable action on this. Same Nayyar later went on to join the BJP’s previous avatar, Bharatiya Jansangh.
Decade of 1980s: Issue comes to fore
In 1980s the RSS Combine became more active and Ram Temple issue was brought to forefront. Reversal of SC judgment on Shah Bano gave it a boost. The locks of the mosque, which were put when the idols were installed in surreptitious manner in 1949, were opened under different political pressures. This was one of the biggest fallacies of current time which paved the way for further moves by RSS combine. VHP took up the campaign of construction of grand Ram Temple at the site, claiming that Lord Ram was precisely born at that spot. Through Ram Shila Pujan and other campaigns a faith was constructed all over. It was propagated that Lord Ram was born at that spot, there was a Ram Temple there, which was demolished by Babar to build the mosque. We can see right in current times as to how faith can be constructed for political for goals. This faith was constructed through political and social maneuvers.
Whether Ayodhya, where Lord is supposed to have been born is the same Ayodhya, where mosque is located is a matter of doubt. Topping it all even in current Ayodhya there are many a temples which put forward similar claims which have been built at the birth place of Lord Ram.
It was popularized that the Babri mosque is a symbol of the ‘foreign rule’ and of atrocities against Hindus by the Muslim rulers. This is further derivation of communal historiography which looks at the rule of Kings through the prism of religion. This historiography was introduced by British to pursue the policy of ‘Divide and Rule’. The Will of Babar to Humayun clearly spells out Babar’s policy towards Hindu temples. He advises to his son Humanyun not to break Hindu temples as majority of the subjects are Hindus.
As pointed out, that there was a temple at the spot, as such was part of the British introduced communal historiography. Mrs. A F Beevridge a British officer, while translating Babar’s memoirs had put a foot note that there may have been at least a part of temple on which the mosque was built. (From S. Gopal, Anatomy of Confrontation, Penguin) This is the core seed which later on was blown for making the full fledged claim of temple, temple of Lord Ram, Temple of birth place of Lord Ram was there. In a way demolition of this mosque in 1992 was the culmination of British policy where by Muslim Kings were selectively presented as temple destroyers. Incidentally many Muslims Kings also gave lots of donations to Hindu temples which have been undermined and unstated in the prevalent notions of History.
BJP Takes over Temple movement: Lal Krishna Advani
Duly, BJP took over the campaign from VHP and Advani started a Rath Yatra from Somnath to Ayodhya. The Rath Yatra was followed by communal violence en route. The polarization in the society started deepening the hatred against Muslims increased. One can say the polarization among the Hindus and Muslims was taken to higher level by the Ram Temple issue and the consequent Rath yatras and other programs undertaken by RSS and its affiliates. During Rath Yatra; Advani was arrested in Bihar by Lalu Prasad Yadav. Still many volunteers reached the Mosque and to prevent the damage to mosque; Mulayam Singh Yadav, the then Chief minister had to get the firing done, leading to tragic death of many. Mulayam Singh Yadav was presented as Mulla Mulayam, after this episode which was triggered as a culmination of Rath yatra.
Huge propaganda followed against the atrocities of Muslim kings. In the aftermath of Mandal commission implementation by VP Singh in 1990, the response to Ram Temple campaign started going up. Advani himself stated that the temple campaign is a political one. The faith of birth place of Lord Ram at Ayodhya where Babri Mosque stood is of recent origin, only few decades old. The plan was made to do Kar Seva (i.e. demolition of Babri Mosque) on 6th December 1992, under the guise of Kar Seva. Interestingly 6th December, the anniversary of Bhimrao Ambedkar, was chosen for the demolition.
Demolition and Violence
The UP Chief Minister Kalyan Singh of BJP; had given the written undertaking to protect the mosque. Nearly three lakh Kar Sevaks assembled in Ayodhya to do Kar seva, at the same time nearly twenty thousand Kar Sevikas were also mobilized for cooking and cleaning. As Kar Seva began the police and other forces withdrew from the site and in a planned way the mosque was demolished in broad day light in five and a half hours. Congress has its own share of blame in this demolition as the then Prime Minster Narsimha Rao locked himself in Puja room as Mosque was being demolished. In a show of sorrow, shedding crocodile tears same Narsimha Rao, after the demolition woke up and stated that Mosque will be restored at the same place.
During demolition the cheering crowd led by Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Uma Bharati gave the slogans, Ye to Keval Jhanki hai Kashi Mathura Baki hai (This is just the beginning, Kashi, Mathura will follow) A makeshift Ram Temple was built there illegally.
The crime of Babri demolition was investigated by Liberhan Commission, which opined that it was a planned act led by Advani and company. The guilty of Babri demolition have not been punished so far.
This demolition was followed by massive violence particularly in Mumbai and also in other cities like Surat and Bhopal. Over thousand innocent lives were lost, majority victims being Muslims. The BJP started becoming electorally stronger after this. It had two MPs in 1984 elections. As Yatras around the issue began, Babri demolished and violence started going up, BJP’s electoral power started zooming up, leading it to the seat of power in 1995 and in due course it become the largest political party in the country. That Ram was born at that spot became such a part of people’s faith that even the Allahabad High Court in its judgment in 2010, kept this in mind while dividing the land into three parts.
Since 1992 demolition in every subsequent election, Ram Temple has been the part of BJP’s electoral agenda. With BJP assuming power, its parent organization RSS also started expanding at double the speed. Ram Temple campaign changed the national priorities. The priorities of health, education, employment, dignity have been replaced by identity issues like Cow-Beef, Ghar Wapasi and love jihad.
Portents for Future
Where do we go from here? Will Muslims accept the five acres of land as compensation? There are some voices in the community to reject this offer, while some others are arguing that the land should be accepted and a College or Hospital should be built at that site. While one of the leaders of demolition squad Dr. Murli Manohar Joshi is saying that Kashi and Mathura should not be taken up, there are others in the RSS combine like Vinay Katiyar, who are invoking that now Kashi and Mathura issues should be brought to the fore. Can one pray and hope that such issues should not be raked up, as such history is mired in different confusions and there also incidents where Buddhist Viharas were demolished by Brahmnical reaction against Buddhism. Country can’t afford such agenda as the children dying in hospitals for lack of oxygen, youth not getting suitable employment and farmers worsening plight urges us to focus on the issues of present and not to create issues which retard the social progress and divide the society. The Constitutional guarantees of equality and status quo in matters of places of worship need to be followed. The whole episode of idol installations to Babri demolition to the accompanying communal violence and polarization should never be repeated is the optimistic hope. The country will adopt the path of communal harmony as represented by likes of Mahatma Gandhi and Maulana Abul Kalam and focus on issues of average people will be taken up in the right earnest.
Ram Puniyani was a professor in biomedical engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, and took voluntary retirement in December 2004 to work full time for communal harmony in India. He is involved with human rights activities from last two decades.He is associated with various secular and democratic initiatives like All India Secular Forum, Center for Study of Society and Secularism and ANHAD. Response only to firstname.lastname@example.org