ram temple ayodhya 1

Ayodhya is an ancient city of India situated near Faizabad in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. According to the religious scriptures, Ayodhya used to be the capital of the ancient Kosala Kingdom and the birthplace of Hindu god Rama. Ayodhya (Awadh) has been regarded as one of the seven most important pilgrimage sites for Hindus (Times of India, n.d.). The Ayodhya dispute arose as it is believed that a temple was built on the birth spot of Rama, which was demolished by the orders of the Mughal emperor Babur in 1528. A mosque was created in its place. The Ayodhya dispute was a centuries-long dispute between Hindus and Muslims causing communal tensions at multiple junctures of history.

Both Hindus and Muslims have claimed the place belonging to them, making it communally sensitive in nature. Due to which the disputed site was closed in 1949. Several petitions and suits were filed by religious organizations to reclaim the site for worshipping. In 1986, the gates of the site were opened to allow Hindus to worship there following a court order. The Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) leader LK Advani organized a “rath yatra” (a nation-wide tour) in 1990 to unite the followers of Rama to build a temple in Ayodhya. This tour was stopped in different places by the regional governments. However, on December 06, 1992, people united under the banner of collective Hindu organizations demolished the structure of the Babri Mosque (Outlook, 2018). A series of violence took place in different parts of India. In 2010, the Allahabad High Court ruled, splitting the site and giving one-third each to the Muslims, Hindus and the Nirmohi Akhara (a Hindu religious denomination). The site of the mosque is given to the Hindus. The matter reaches the Supreme Court (SC). On November 9, 2019, a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court in its historical judgement ordered the construction of a Hindu temple at the disputed site where the Babri Masjid structure stood in Ayodhya (Supreme Court of India, 2019). The Supreme Court told the central government to provide a ‘prominent and suitable’ five-acre plot for Muslims to build a mosque in Ayodhya.

Given this brief background, the article analyses how Indian mainstream English newspapers have covered the Supreme Court verdict? The article uses published news and views in The Hindu, The Times of India, The Pioneer and The Indian Express to present the analysis.

Newspapers covered detailed analyses of the Supreme Court judgement as well as the full text of the decision (The Times of India 2020, The Hindu 2019a, The Hindu 2019b, The Hindu 2019c, The Indian Express 2019a, Sheriff M. 2019a, The Indian Express 2019b, Sheriff M. 2019b, The Indian Express 2019c, The Indian Express 2019d, Seth 2019). Newspapers also covered the opinions of leaders of different religious groups to show the mass sentiments on the issue.

In a story, Mahapatra (2019a) explained how the preparation was done before the judgement. The Indian Express (2019e) published an analysis showing how international media covered the Ayodhya verdict.

Though the judgement of the Supreme Court provided spaces to both Hindus and Muslims for building places for religious worship, not all parties were satisfied with it. Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind, a Muslim representative organization, filed a review petition saying that “there can be no peace without justice”. Mahapatra (2019b) adds that this petition did not seek review of the SC decision of several points, but questioned the award of five acres of land at a prominent place in Ayodhya to the Sunni Waqf Board, which was “neither pleaded (during the arguments) nor prayed for (prayed for (in the appeals challenging Allahabad HC verdict)”. The reports also covered that the judgement was seen as “condoning the illegalities of Hindu parties over decades”. Statement of AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi in which he insisted that “Muslims should reject the five acres given in the verdict to build a mosque” was covered by all major news outlets (The Indian Express 2019f, The Times of India 2019a). The newspapers reported the decision of the UP Sunni Central Waqf Board (UPSCWB) to not file a review petition (The Times of India 2019b, The Indian Express 2019g, Ghosh et al. 2019, The Pioneer 2019a).

Anwar Alam (2019) in a report published in The Pioneer reflects upon the way the Ayodhya verdict was accepted by the sections of the population of the country. While praising the magnanimity shown by the section of majority community and the administrative capacity of the Indian state’s administrative machinery in maintaining peace and harmony, the article asks three critical questions- 1) whether the judgement qualifies the test of test of legal jurisprudence? 2) Whether the judgement interferes and compromised the principle of secular governance? And 3) whether it has succeeded in securing “social peace” for both Hindus and Muslims?

In another news item carried by The Pioneer (2019b), the Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s (VHP- A Hindu Right wing organisation) advice to the Muslims to accept the court verdict also finds mention.

Given the communal nature of the dispute, the government of Uttar Pradesh was high alert to avoid any such incident. The statements of both Hindu and Muslim organizations accepting the judgement did not lead to any mass protest or act of violence. The state government’s appeals and applause to the public were covered by the media (The Times of India, 2019c).  The Pioneer (2019c) reports the praises by National Security advisor Ajit Doval  in a letter to Uttar Pradesh government for maintaining peace and harmony in the state post-Ayodhya verdict. A report in the Pioneer (2019d) was also on the PM’s praises and appreciations for show of maturity and patience by the people after the Ayodhya case verdict.

Mishra (2019) writes that after the verdict the regional parties of Uttar Pradesh (such as Samajwadi Party- SP and Bahujan Samaj Party- BSP) need to rethink their political strategies, as the BJP will have an advantage. SP was ruling Uttar Pradesh at the time when the Ram Mandir movement was at its peak, and has been seen as an anti-Hindu party by many since it took strong measures to stop the “rath yatra”. Mishra (2019) believes that the right-wing groups will try to encash this issue during the assembly elections to be held in 2022. A BJP MP called the verdict as a victory for Hindus, adding that it could only happen since BJP is in power in the centre.as reported in The Pioneer (2019e).

The Uttar Pradesh Police’s actions to control the spread of objectionable contents and rumours on social media platforms were also covered by the newspapers (Siddiqui 2019, The Times of India 2019d, The Pioneer 2019f). Former Chief Information Commissioner and former National Commission for Minorities chief Wajahat Habibullah (The Times of India, 2019e) called the verdict “deeply flawed” adding that the SC judgement has legal implications, hence it would be “a good idea for the Supreme Court to have a second look”. Contrariwise, Iqbal Ansari, one of the litigants expressed satisfaction with the verdict (Ibid).

In an another news item published by The Poineer (2019g) reports the  decision of various Hindu outfits not to celebrate the “Shaourya Diwas”(Victory Day) in view of the Ayodhya verdict. The same news report the also talks about the Muslim outfits remembering  the incident (Demolition of Babri Mosque on 6 December 1992) as the “yaum-e-gham” (day of mourning).

Newspapers (The Times of India, 2019f) covered the cancellation of the Eid procession in Ahmedabad. It is relevant to mention that around the country areas which have witnessed communal tensions in the past were under high alert, and government as well as civil society organizations were actively engaged with citizens to maintain peace.

The Pioneer (2019h) reported that Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath called the verdict historic saying that has paved the way for the construction of a grand Ram temple at the site which will symbolise peace.

The Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi called for maintaining peace, citing the Supreme Court judgement as a symbol of India’s “tolerant nature” (The Indian Express 2019h). The Indian Express (2019i, 2019j) reported the sense of fulfilment as expressed by LK Advani, MM Joshi and Uma Bharti (BJP leaders who led) the “rath yatra”. Politicians across party lines in Delhi and Mumbai called the verdict as “unprecedented and historic” (The Indian Express 2019k, The Indian Express 2019l). Sharma (2019) writes that the soon aftr the verdict the Madhya Pradesh government decided to fasten the development of ‘Ram Path’ project as it is believed that during his time in exile Rama, his brother Lakshman and his wife Sita spent time in Chitrakoot of Madhya Pradesh.

In its editorial titled “Peace and Justice: On Ayodhya Verdict”, The Hindu (2019c) writes that though there will be discomfort over the decision, the Supreme Court has prioritised communal harmony over everything else. Critically examining the judgement, the article adds that “the case has been decided on the balance of probabilities that Hindus have proved a better title than Muslims”; and though the Supreme Court held up the faith of millions of Hindus, “it cannot allow the judgment to be perceived as an endorsement of any challenge to the rule of law in the name of faith.”

Critically analyzing the verdict from legal point of view, Mustafa and Mohammed (2019) write that though the disputed part has been given to Hindus “minorities and defenders of the rule of law and secularism need not feel disappointed with the Ayodhya verdict”, and since, the Muslim plaintiffs “did not claim title in this case, hence they should not mind the final outcome”. The Supreme Court verdict reads that “existence of the ruins of an underlying structure is not a reason in itself to infer that it was demolished for the construction of a new structure which rests on its foundations,” which is similar to the judgement of Allahabad High Court, observes Rajagopal (2019).

Mehta (2019) argues that the greatness of Ram is not in celebrating victory over those who disagree with us, and that we need to create a new ritual which is inclusive of all religions to move towards a new dawn. Ram Madhav (2019), BJP’s national general secretary, arrives at a similar conclusion hoping for long-lasting harmony and peace for all. Former Union Minister and Congress leader, Salman Khurshid (2019) said that the verdict offers an opportunity for reaffirmation of India as a secular society.  Varshney (2019), while critically examining the verdict, writes that the current electoral consolidation of Hindus needs to be checked to maintain the secular character of India. Anand (2019) questions the outcry among Muslims saying that in the Shah Bano case Shariah took precedence over the secular law of the land, but it was not opposed by the majority of Muslims. A double standard cannot lead to formation of a just society. Baxi (2019) writes that we need to carefully study this judgement. The award of five acres of land in Ayodhya is an exercise of power and duty to do complete justice under Article 142 of the Constitution. Adding further Baxi (2019) writes, “Equality of all faiths”, “tolerance and mutual co-existence” are constitutional requirements which will nourish the secular commitment of our nation and its people.

The media review has highlighted various themes that appeared in four English dailies of India on the landmark decision of the Supreme Court. It also shows that though there have been disagreements on the Ayodhya verdict, both Hindu and Muslim parties want to maintain peace, and therefore many seem ready to accept this historical decision.

 

References

Alam, Anwar. (2019, December 08). Ayodhya verdict: A way forward. The Pioneer. Retrieved from https://www.dailypioneer.com/2019/sunday-edition/ayodhya-verdict–a-way-forward.html

Anand, Javed. (2019, November 14). Listen, Mister Muslim. You are rightly upset with the Ayodhya verdict as it puts faith above law. The Indian Express. Retrieved from https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/listen-mister-muslim-supreme-court-ayodhya-verdict-muslim-community-india-secularism-6118362/?fbclid=IwAR2A9-w4K45a4YxIpdwEdPlAIT_wLiJU7HdpQGJkZnNCQQOCNpZkVnvBQfI

Asaduddin Owaisi on Ayodhya verdict: ‘Supreme but not infallible’. (2019f, November 09). The Indian Express. Retrieved from https://indianexpress.com/article/india/supreme-but-not-infallible-owaisi-on-scs-ayodhya-verdict/

Ayodhya (n.d.). The Times of India. Retrieved from https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/topic/ayodhya

Ayodhya land dispute case: What the verdict means to the litigants. (2019d, November 09). The Indian Express. Retrieved from https://indianexpress.com/article/india/ayodhya-verdict-nirmohi-akhara-sunni-waqf-board-ramjanmabhoomi-nyas-litigants-6111292/

Ayodhya verdict: as it happened | Temple at disputed site, alternative land for mosque, says Supreme Court. (2019c, November 09). The Hindu. Retrieved from https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/ayodhya-verdict-live-updates/article29929219.ece

Ayodhya Verdict: Eid procession in Ahmedabad called off, (2019f, November 10). The Times of India. Retrieved from https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/ahmedabad/ayodhya-verdict-eid-procession-in-city-called-off/articleshow/71988983.cms

Ayodhya Verdict: Full Text. (2019c, November 09). The Indian Express. Retrieved from https://indianexpress.com/article/india/ayodhya-verdict-full-text-supreme-court-6111349/

 

Ayodhya verdict: How international media covered the most anticipated judgment. (2019e, November 09). The Indian Express. Retrieved from https://indianexpress.com/article/india/ayodhya-verdict-how-international-media-covered-the-most-anticipated-judgment-6111687/

 

Ayodhya verdict in our favour as BJP in power: Guj MP. (2019e, November 16). The Pioneer. Retrieved from https://www.dailypioneer.com/2019/india/ayodhya-verdict-in-our-favour-as-bjp-in-power–guj-mp.html

 

Ayodhya verdict: Maharashtra parties welcome SC’s decision, appeal for peace. (2019k, November 10). The Indian Express. Retrieved from https://indianexpress.com/article/india/ayodhya-verdict-maharashtra-parties-welcome-scs-decision-appeal-for-peace-6112253/

Baxi, Upendra (2019, November 12). Award of five acres for masjid in Ayodhya is an effort to do complete justice. The Indian Express. Retrieved from https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/ayodhya-verdict-babri-masjid-ram-janmabhoomi-supreme-court-6115052/

Civil Appeal Nos 10866-10867 of 2010. (2019, November 09). Supreme Court of India. Retrieved from  https://www.sci.gov.in/pdf/JUD_2.pdf

Explained: Why Supreme Court rejected the Allahabad HC judgment on Ayodhya dispute. (2019b, November 09). The Indian Express. Retrieved from https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/explained-why-supreme-court-rejected-the-allahabad-hc-judgment-6111441/

Ex-NCM chief Wajahat Habibullah says Ayodhya verdict ‘deeply flawed’, favours review. (2019e, November 11). The Times of India. Retrieved from https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/ex-ncm-chief-wajahat-habibullah-says-ayodhya-verdict-deeply-flawed-favours-review/articleshow/72007225.cms

 

Full text of Ayodhya verdict. (2019b, November 09). The Hindu. Retrieved from  https://www.thehindu.com/news/resources/full-text-of-ayodhya-verdict/article29929786.ece

 

GhoshAbantikaAsad Rehman and Shaju Philip. (2019, November 10). Ayodhya verdict: Sunni board says won’t go for review; Muslim parties cold to five-acre offer. The Indian Express. Retrieved from

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/ayodhya-verdict-judgment-supreme-court-sunni-waqf-board-ram-mandir-babri-masjid-6112311/

 

Highlights of the Ayodhya verdict. (2019a, November 09). The Hindu. Retrieved from https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/highlights-of-the-ayodhya-verdict/article29929685.ece#:~:text=The%20court%20upheld%20the%20belief,kept%20worshipping%20at%20the%20site

 

Humbly accept Ayodhya verdict, won’t file any review petition: UP Sunni Central Waqf Board. (2019b, November 09). The Times of India. Retrieved from https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/humbly-accept-ayodhya-verdict-wont-file-any-review-petition-up-sunni-central-waqf-board/articleshow/71984497.cms

India, a temple, and a mosque. (2019a, November 10). The Indian Express. Retrieved https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/editorials/ayodhya-verdict-supreme-court-ram-temple-babari-demolition-6112185/

 

‘I stand vindicated, moment of fulfilment for me’: LK Advani on Ayodhya verdict. (2019i, November 09). The Indian Express. Retrieved from https://indianexpress.com/article/india/ayodhya-verdict-lk-advani-supreme-court-ram-temple-6111953/
 

Kejriwal welcomes Ayodhya verdict, says keep calm. (2019l, November 10). The Indian Express. Retrieved from https://indianexpress.com/article/india/arvind-kejriwal-welcomes-ayodhya-verdict-says-keep-calm-6112272/

 

Khurshid, Salman (2019, November 11). Ayodhya verdict nudges us to look back at how much we have lost over years of conflict. The Indian Express. Retrieved from https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/ayodhya-verdict-ram-temple-salman-khurshid-6113623/

Madhav, Ram. (2019, November 10). The Ram temple struggle is over, let’s hope for harmony for all now. The Indian Express. Retrieved from https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/ayodhya-verdict-ram-mandir-supreme-court-bjp-babri-masjid-demolition-6112165/

Mahapatra, Dhananjay. (2019a, November 09). Ayodhya verdict: An unprecedented move by judges. The Times of India. Retrieved from https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/ayodhya-verdict-an-unprecedented-move-by-judges/articleshow/71977162.cms

 

Mahapatra, Dhananjay. (2019b, December 03). Jamiat seeks review of SC’s Ayodhya verdict. The Times of India. Retrieved from https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/jamiat-seeks-review-of-scs-ayodhya-verdict/articleshow/72340507.cms?utm_source=contentofinterest&utm_medium=text&utm_campaign=cppst

Mehta, Pratap Bhanu. (2019, November 10). The reconfiguration of Hinduism is now complete. The Indian Express. Retrieved from https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/ayodhya-verdict-supreme-court-ramjanam-bhoomi-babri-masjid-case-6112164/

Mishra, Subhash. (2019, November 10). Ayodhya verdict: BJP on temple run, UP satraps to rethink plan. The Times of India. Retrieved from https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/lucknow/ayodhya-verdict-bjp-on-temple-run-up-satraps-to-rethink-plan/articleshow/71990089.cms

MM Joshi calls Ayodhya verdict ‘historic’, Uma Bharti hails Advani’s devotion to temple cause. (2019j, November 09). The Indian Express. Retrieved from https://indianexpress.com/article/india/ayodhya-ram-temple-verdict-supreme-court-murli-manohar-joshi-uma-bharti-advani-6111659/

Muslims should accept Ayodhya verdict: VHP. (2019b, November 18). The Pioneer. Retrieved from https://www.dailypioneer.com/2019/india/muslims-should-accept-ayodhya-verdict–vhp.html

Mustafa, Faizan and Aymen Mohammed (2019, November 12). Ayodhya verdict | Several positives for the Muslim plaintiffs. The Hindu. Retrieved from https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/several-positives-for-the-muslim-plaintiffs/article29947180.ece

NSA Doval lauds UP  govt for maintaining  peace, post-Ayodhya verdict. (2019c, December 12). The Pioneer. Retrieved https://www.dailypioneer.com/2019/state-editions/nsa-doval-lauds-up—govt-for-maintaining—peace–post-ayodhya-verdict.html

Peace and Justice: On Ayodhya Verdict. (2019c, November 11). The Hindu. Retrieved from https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/peace-and-justice/article29938535.ece

PM Modi: Acceptance of Ayodhya verdict reflects our tolerant nature. (2019h, November 09). The Indian Express. Retrieved from https://indianexpress.com/article/india/pm-modi-ayodhya-verdict-live-updates-6111781/

 

Post-Ayodhya verdict, Hindu outfits not to observe ‘Shaurya Diwas’. (2019g, December 01). The Pioneer. Retrieved from https://www.dailypioneer.com/2019/india/post-ayodhya-verdict–hindu-outfits-not-to-observe—-shaurya-diwas-.html

 

Post Ayodhya verdict, security of several leaders enhanced. (2019f, November 13). The Pioneer. Retrieved from https://www.dailypioneer.com/2019/state-editions/post-ayodhya-verdict—security-of-several–leaders-enhanced.html

Rajagopal, Krishnadas. (2019, November 10). Ayodhya verdict | Ruins don’t always indicate demolition, observes Supreme Court. The Hindu. Retrieved from https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/ayodhya-verdict-ruins-dont-always-indicate-demolition-observes-sc/article29938243.ece

SC verdict on Ayodhya: Full text. (2020, January 24). The Times of India. Retrieved from https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/sc-verdict-on-ayodhya-full-text/articleshow/71981117.cms#:~:text=NEW%20DELHI%3A%20In%20a%20historic,temple%20at%20the%20disputed%20site

SC’s Ayodhya verdict historic: Yogi. (2019h, November 13). The Pioneer. Retrieved from https://www.dailypioneer.com/2019/top-stories/sc-s-ayodhya-verdict-historic–yogi.html

 

Seth, Maulshree. (2019, November 10). Ayodhya verdict | At Ground Zero, sigh of relief: bawal khatam hua. The Indian Express. Retrieved from https://indianexpress.com/article/india/ayodhya-verdict-judgment-supreme-court-ram-mandir-babri-masjid-6112321/

 

Sharma, Rajendra. (2019, November 13). Madhya Pradesh government speeds up ‘Ram Path’ project after Ayodhya verdict. The TImes of India. Retrieved from https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/bhopal/mp-govt-speeds-up-ram-path-project-after-mandir-verdict/articleshow/72029923.cms

Sheriff M. K. (2019a, November 09). Explained: What is Article 142, invoked by SC to give land for a mosque? The Indian Express. Retrieved from https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/ayodhya-ram-temple-babri-masjid-article-142-supreme-court-6111920/

 

Sheriff M. K. (2019b, November 12). Ayodhya Verdict: What is adverse possession, the Muslim claim SC rejected? The Indian Express. Retrieved from https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/ayodhya-verdict-explained-what-is-adverse-possession-the-muslim-claim-sc-rejected-6111395/

Siddiqui, Pervez. (2019, November 14). Digital cop regiment’s crackdown on social media staved off flare-up after verdict: DGP. The Times of India. Retrieved from https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/lucknow/digital-cop-regiments-crackdown-on-social-media-staved-off-flare-up-after-verdict-dgp/articleshow/72053143.cms

Sunni Board won’t seek Ayodhya verdict review. (2019a, November 27). The Pioneer. Retrieved from https://www.dailypioneer.com/2019/pioneer-exclusive/sunni-board-won—t-seek-ayodhya-verdict-review.html

Sunni Central Waqf Board chairman welcomes SC verdict on Ayodhya. (2019g, November 09). The Indian Express. Retrieved from https://indianexpress.com/article/india/sunni-central-waqf-board-chairman-welcomes-sc-verdict-on-ayodhya-6111742/

 

Tracing The History Of Babri Masjid: From 1528 To Today. (2018, December 06). Outlook. Retrieved from https://www.outlookindia.com/website/story/tracing-the-history-of-babri-masjid-from-1528-to-today/321293

Thank people for maturity, patience displayed after Ayodhya verdict: Modi. (2019d, November 24). The Pioneer. Retrieved from https://www.dailypioneer.com/2019/top-stories/thank-people-for-maturity–patience-displayed-after-ayodhya-verdict–modi.html

 

UP govt thanks people for maintaining communal harmony after Ayodhya verdict. (2019c, November 11). The Times of India. Retrieved from https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/lucknow/up-govt-thanks-people-for-maintaining-communal-harmony-after-ayodhya-verdict/articleshow/72009073.cms

Uttar Pradesh: 37 held for inflammatory posts & triggering panic after verdict. (2019d, November 10). The Times of India. Retrieved from https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/lucknow/37-held-for-inflammatory-posts-triggering-panic-after-verdict/articleshow/71989334.cms

Varshney, Ashutosh (2019, November 14). A temple on contested site of mosque’s destruction departs from judicial counter-majoritarianism. The Indian Express. Retrieved from https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/ayodhya-verdict-ram-mandir-babri-masjid-supreme-court-bjp-rss-6116691/

‘Victory of faith over facts’: Owaisi on Ayodhya verdict. (2019a, November 09). The Times of India. Retrieved from https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/victory-of-faith-over-facts-owaisi-on-ayodhya-verdict/articleshow/71984667.cms

Web Sources

The Hindu- https://www.thehindu.com/

The Indian Express- https://indianexpress.com/

The Pioneer- http://dailypioneer.com/

The Times of India- https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/

Ashish Singh is a sociologist and political scientist.


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