The historically and archeologically very important mosque, the Babri Masjid was constructed on a vacant land some 493 years back in 1528-29 by Muslims which has been continued to exist as a place of worship for Indian Muslims. The Indian Hindu extremist organizations conspired to construct temple replacing the Babri Mosque and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), an Indian right-wing Hindu nationalist, took this unholy task to demolish it. The Indian Supreme Court under the fear of RSS gave highly controversial verdict after admitting the act of demolishing Babri Masjid which was illegal and yet the verdict was announced in favor of those who demolished it. Here are four salient features of the Supreme Court of India’s foul verdict as under: Given all the evidence presented, it had determined that the disputed land should be given to Hindus for a temple to Lord Ram. Muslims would be given land elsewhere to construct a mosque. Federal government has to set up a trust to manage and oversee the construction of the temple, obviously under PM Modi and Muslim stand deprived of Babri Masjid.
A 134 year old religious dispute was settled disputably in little more than 30 minutes by the Supreme Court of India. Leading a bench of five judges, Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi read the unanimous Ayodhya verdict, settling a complex dispute that was first heard by a court in British India in 1885. The bench, which included Justices S.A. Bobde, D.Y. Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S. Abdul Nazeer, ruled that the entire disputed land of 2.77 acres in Ayodhya must be handed over to the Hindus for the construction of Ram temple. The court also ruled that an alternative plot of five acres be allotted to the Sunni Waqf Board for building a mosque at a prominent site in Ayodhya. Justice Gogoi has retired on November 17 and Justice Bobde has designated as the next chief justice.
Significantly, the Supreme Court said that the demolition of the Babri mosque in 1992 was a violation of the law and that the act of placing idols beneath the central dome of the mosque in 1949 was an act of ‘desecration’. The bench directed the central government in New Delhi to come up with a plan for the construction of a temple within three months by setting up a board of trustees. But the Supreme court did not mentioned least time to built up Mosque, even to hand over land. Rumors rose that the five acres of land to be allocated for building a mosque under the Supreme Court verdict not be provided to the Sunni Waqf Board in near of the Ram janmabhoomi-Babri masjid complex.
Official sources in the holy city indicated that such a huge parcel of vacant land might be difficult to find in the densely populated town. The land may not be allotted within the municipal area or on the same side of Saryu. The town is densely populated and it might be difficult to find the proposed piece of land within the erstwhile municipal area of the city. The court has said mentioned a prominent place in Ayodhya be given but has not specified the exact place. The possibility is that the land will be allotted on Ayodhya-Faizabad Road beyond the panchkoshi (15-km) periphery of the panchkoshi circle, said Times of India. There have been suggestions that the mosque be built at Shahjanwa village, where the mausoleum of Mir Baqi, Babur’s commander who allegedly razed the temple and constructed the mosque, is located. But the village is within the 15-km circle. Muslim community has already demanded this land near in Ayodhya. The plot should be within the 67 acres of acquired land in Ayodhya, Iqbal Ansari, a main litigant in the case, and several other local Muslim leaders have demanded. In that condition, they will not file a review plea, said Ansari.
No Evidence of Temple under Babri Masjid:
The Archaeological Survey of India’s (ASI’s) 2003 claim that there is evidence of a temple under the Babri Masjid doesn’t enjoy consensus, even among members of the group that conducted the dig. The ASI submitted its 574 page report on the matter to the Allahabad high court in August 2003, saying proof had been found of a massive structure just below the demolished Babri Masjid. The Sunni Waqf Board had said then that the ASI’s report was “vague and self-contradictory”.
Two archaeologists, Supriya Varma and Jaya Menon, had observed the ASI’s excavations on behalf of the Sunni Waqf Board. In 2010, the wrote a paper in the Economic and Political Weekly detailing why they had objected to the ASI’s results, and the subsequent Allahabad high court judgment in September 2010. According to the article, the duo had objected to various practices the ASI was following during its dig, which made “it clear that there was already a preconceived idea in the minds of ASI archaeologists”.
Varma, a professor of archaeology at Jawaharlal Nehru University, argues that, “even today, there is no archeological evidence that there was a temple under the Babri Masjid.” According to her, “Underneath the Babri Masjid, there are actually older mosques.” She also told that the ASI used three pieces of evidence – all questionable – to say that a temple had existed at the site.
A western wall: The western wall is a feature of a mosque. It is a wall in front of which you say namaz. It is not the feature of a temple. Temple has a very different plan.
Fifty pillar bases: These are completely fabricated and we filed many complaints to the court about it. Our argument is that if you look at what they are claiming to be pillar bases, these are pieces of broken bricks and they have mud inside them.
Architectural fragments: Of these 12, none of these were found during the excavation. These were recovered from the debris lying above the lime floor of the masjid.
Victory for Modi:
The BJP has campaigned for years for a temple to be built at Ayodhya, and the verdict is a major victory for the party, just months into Modi’s second term. But it will also send tremble fear through many in the 200 million Muslim minorities. The BJP owes its origins to Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a militaristic group that has long espoused “Hindutva”, or Hindu hegemony, and making India an exclusively Hindu state.
Under Modi, several cities with names rooted in India’s Mughal past have been re-named, while some school textbooks have been changed to downplay Muslims’ contributions to India. A string of lynchings of Muslims by Hindu mobs over so-called cow protection — a sacred animal for many Hindus — and other hate crimes has sown fear and despair in the community. On 5 August, New Delhi stripped Jammu and Kashmir, India’s only Muslim-majority state, of its autonomy.
Timeline – Babar emperor to Modi era:
The 1992 demolition of Babri Masjid, named after the Mughal emperor Babur, by Hindu hardliners in the Indian holy city of Ayodhya led to riots that left more than 2,000 dead. Hindus say the small patch of land where it stood is the birthplace of their revered god Ram. This site has become a symbol of India’s Hindu-Muslim divide. Here are the key dates in the centuries of bitterness:
5114 BC: According to devout Hindus, this was when the important warrior deity Lord Ram or Rama, the seventh avatar of Vishnu, is born in Ayodhya in northern India.
1528 AD: After more than a year’s work, a mosque to honour Babur, who came from what is now Uzbekistan to conquer northern India, is completed. Nearly five centuries later, the derelict site now covered in weeds and the rubble is considered the epicenter of modern Hindu nationalism.
1853: The first recorded sectarian clashes over the mosque erupt after Hindu devotees launch protests saying the mosque was built on the birthplace of Rama. Muslims stage their own march on Ayodhya and about 70 die in clashes. Two years later, another Muslim march on the city is fought back by British and Hindu troops in clashes that leave up to 700 dead.
1934-1949: The mosque is damaged in a communal riot in 1934 after the killing of a cow, an Hindus God. On December 22, 1949, dozens of people break into the mosque and set up idols of the gods Ram and Sita. The next day, thousands of Hindus gather outside believing it was a miracle. Federal courts order the idols to be removed, but local courts refuse to enforce the action.
1950-61: Four civil suits filed in the court ranging from the rights to perform Hindu rituals at the site to a Muslim group seeking declaration and possession of the site.
1984: A committee is formed by Hindu groups, including the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), to spearhead the construction of a Hindu temple.
1986: Hindu agitation over Ayodhya grows in the 1980s. In 1986, one radical group launches a campaign to gather bricks for a new temple that draws contributions from across India as well as from supporters in the United States, Canada and Europe.
1990: L.K. Advani, then leader of the conservative Bharatiya Janata Party, leads a procession of Hindus demanding the building of a temple on the mosque site. The Indian army blocks the procession and Advani is arrested. Some 30 Hindus are killed in clashes.
1992: On December 6, some 200,000 Hindu activists gather in Ayodhya and destroyed a 460-year-old mosque. The demolition sparks nationwide riots in which 2,000 people die. There are also disturbances in Pakistan and Bangladesh. Ten days after the demolition, then central P. V. Narasimha Rao government forms the Liberhan Commission headed by Manmohan Singh Liberhan, a retired Chief Justice of the Andhra Pradesh High Court, to probe the incident.
2003: Archaeologists begin a court-directed survey to determine whether a Hindu temple existed at the site. The survey says there is evidence of a temple beneath the mosque, but many archaeologists and Muslims dispute the findings.
2009: The Liberhan Commission submits its report in June, with senior BJP leaders, including LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Uma Bharti facing trial for the demolition of the mosque.
2010: Three judges of the Allahabad High Court rule that the disputed site should be shared by Hindus and Muslims. The court said two-thirds of the 2.77-acre (1.12-hectares) site belongs to Hindu groups (Nirmohi Akhara and Ramlalla Virajman) and the rest to the Muslim group (Sunni Central Wakf Board).
2017: On March 21, the chief justice of India suggests out-of-court settlement between Hindus and the Muslims. On 19 April, the Supreme Court revives conspiracy charges against top ruling party leaders Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and 13 others in the mosque demolition case. On 5 December, the top court hears 13 appeals in the dispute.
2018: Supreme Court declines to refer the case to a five-judge Constitution bench on 27 September and Case to be heard by a newly constituted three-judge bench on October 29.
2019: On 25 January, Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi sets up a five-judge bench to hear the case overruling an earlier order by then-CJI Dipak Misra to set up a three-judge bench. The new bench comprised Chief Justice Gogoi and Justices SA Bobde, DY Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and SA Nazeer. On 8 March, the top court sets up a mediation panel headed by former Supreme Court judge FM Ibrahim Kalifulla to reach an out-of-court settlement.
November 9, 2019: The Supreme Court rules that the land must be handed over to a trust to oversee the construction of a Hindu temple. A separate piece of land in Ayodhya would be given over to Muslim groups.
History is replete with instances where disputes over property have led to wars and which have resulted in much bloodshed. One such instance in modern India was that of Ayodhya where the Hindus and Muslims have been involved in bloody dispute. In 27 years, the vandalism of Babri Mosque by Hindu mobs can never be justified. The Special CBI court in May 2017 charged BJP leaders L.K Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Union Minister Uma Bharti and others under this case. The Supreme Court had last year directed the special court to wrap up the trial and deliver a verdict by April 2020.
The demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992 led to a trail of blood and communal hate that India’s Muslim community is still shuddering from. Bizarrely, the land has been awarded to Ram Lalla, and the Muslims bore the brunt of the rioting in 1992. Over 700 Muslims died. No judgment will set right the fact that the Babri Masjid demolition changed how Muslims lived and felt in India. Muslims believe that the demolition and now the verdict in the Ayodhya case have once and for all settled their status as second-class citizens in India. And that the ‘belief’ of Hindus matters is important more than the sentiment and security of the Muslim community in modern India.
The Author is an analyst on National, Regional International Affairs and Politics.