Ayodhya dispute and its consequences

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India is a unique country with different religions. The Indian Constitution is a document that is inclusive in nature. The framers of the Constitution were mindful of the varied religious, cultural and spiritual denominations that comprised the country. They chose to not only protect the religious freedoms of citizens but also prevent any discrimination on the basis of their religion (Article 29 of the Constitution). It is a secular state, as mentioned in the Preamble[1] – “The Place of Pride” of the Indian constitution. From secular state it means that our country has no religion. However, Indian secularism is different from the concept of secularism as understood in western nations. The Indian State believes and upholds through its institutions the right of all citizens to practice and uphold their religion.  Each religion has its own beliefs which are respected by others. Here people have strong feelings and respect for their religion but the political parties take advantage of this feeling and respect for their own benefit. They use the idea of “Divide and Rule” by influencing people with the help of their religious feeling for the sake of vote.

The dispute arose in the case of M Siddiq (D) Thr Lrs vs. Mahant Suresh Das and Ors popularly known as “Ayodhya Dispute case” is also a political, historical and socio-religious issue in India. It is the India’s longest running dispute, it has prolonged for almost 71 years now. This dispute revolves around the title, possession and ownership of a 2.77 acre land in Ayodhya, in Faizabad district of Uttar Pradesh. The issue was that the Hindus believe that the disputed land was the birthplace of Lord Rama and there was a temple which was demolished by the Mughal ruler ‘Babur’ in order to build a mosque ‘Babri Masjid’ and but Muslims claims that it is the place of Babri Masjid. This case is witnessed by all the Prime Minister of India from Jawaharlal Lal Nehru to Narendra modi and finally was resolved on 9th November, 2019.

This case history is about 500 years old and is about the title, possession and ownership of the land. The story starts from 1528 when Babri Masjid was built by Mir Baqi, commander of Mughal on the order of 1st Mughal emperor Babur but it was believed by the local people that masjid was made by demolishing Ram Mandir. The rumour that the mosque was made by destructing the temple was spread by the Britishers  so that they can rule peacefully in India. Before this rumour there was no conflict between the two religions. The first religious violence took place in 1855 over a nearby mosque at Hanuman Garhi and to control the situation British government said that the disputed area is to be divided into two parts, the inner area should be used by Muslims for their worship and the outer area should be used by Hindus for their worship.

In 1858, first petition was filed by Mahant Raghbir Das in Faizabad court seeking permission to construct a temple in the vicinity of the Babri Masjid. The plea was declined. On 22nd December 1949, an offshoot of Hindu Mahasabha called Akhil Bharatiya Ramayana Mahasabha (ABRM) organised 9 days continuous recitation of Ramcharitmanas. On 22nd – 23rd Dec, 1949, Ram idol was placed inside the mosque by Hindu activists associated with Hindu Mahasabha which hindered the worship of Muslims. Jawaharlal Nehru ordered to remove idols but the same was refused by a local official, K.K.K. Nair (known for his Hindu nationalist connections), claiming it would lead to communal riots. This incident created a rage among Muslims and after this incident government locked the building to avoid further dispute.  A number of suits were filed by Hindus and Muslims regarding that land.

 In 1950, a legal battle was started when Gopal Visharad and Ramchandra Das moved Faizabad court for permission to worship the idols. A plea was filed by Nirmohi Akhara seeking possession of disputed land. After this the petition filed by the Muslims, Central Sunni waqf board, UP seeking declaration of title of disputed land and removal of the idols from the mosque. And in 1986, Faizabad court gave the permission to Hindus to worship the idols. In 1986 Allahabad High Court took over the title dispute. In September 1990, a Rath Yatra was started by BJP leader L.K Advani from Somnath to Ayodhya, leaving a trail of communal violence. They used a slogan which literally influenced the Hindus which is still very famous ‘MANDIR WAHIN BNAYENGE’. The purpose of this yatra was to support agitation, led by Vishwa Hindu Parishad, to erect a temple to Hindu diety Rama on the site of Babri Masjid. Ultimately, the aggressive karsewaks demolished the Babri Masjid on 6th December, 1992. In order to investigate the situation Liberhan Committee was appointed. However, sensing further trouble, the central government on January 7, 1993, promulgated an ordinance — the Acquisition of Central Area at Ayodhya — and acquired 67 acres of land, including the disputed site and the areas around it. Also the central government sent a reference to the Supreme Court to determine whether there was a temple prior to the construction of the Babri Masjid. Immediately after the acquisition by the government, Mohd Ismail Farooqi filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court challenging it. The SC constituted a five-judge bench to hear the reference. On October 24, 1994, the apex court held that the acquisition was valid.

At this time, there was the government of Narsimha Rao and they proposed that on the disputed land a Ram Mandir, a Masjid, Library, Museum should be made to fulfil the demand of both religions and to avoid dispute. This proposal was strongly opposed by the BJP government. There were several sustained attempts at talks, including at the highest level of two Prime Ministers Chandra Shekhar and P.V. Narasimha Rao. Religious leaders also came into the picture, but all efforts to bring about an out-of-court settlement failed. In 2002, large scale violence against Muslim took place and in retaliation at a station named, Godhra, few members of Muslim community set fire on the bogey of train filled with Karsewaks who were returning from Ayodhya this in turn led to more large scale violence.  In April 2002, after thirteen years, Allahabad High Court commences hearing the title suit by constituting a three-judge bench and asked Archaeological Survey of India to excavate the disputed land and submit its report. In 2009, Liberhan Committee submitted its report and the commission has identified the Kalyan Singh-led BJP government in Uttar Pradesh as the key to the execution of the conspiracy to demolish Babri Masjid but later on its report was criticised for being biased. The report also stated that the demolition was “neither spontaneous nor unplanned” On September 30, 2010, after all the arguments and on the basis of reports of ASI, a historical judgement was delivered by Allahabad High Court for three-way partition of the disputed land among the three parties – the area of Ram Murti was given to Ram Lalla Virajman, Sita rasoi, Bhandara, Ram Chabutra to Nirmohi Akhara and the remaning part to the Sunni Waqf Board. In May 2011, Supreme Court stays the High Court judgement on cross – appeals filed by the parties.

In February 2016, BJP senior member Subhramanian Swamy filed for considering the case as a Special Leave Petition under Article 136[2] for his right to worship. Chief Justice of Supreme Court JS Khehar in 2017 asked the parties to resolve the dispute outside the court by mutual understanding but nothing changed. Till December 2017, 32 appeals by different parties were filed in the Supreme Court against the decision of Allahabad High Court and Supreme Court said that the hearing will start in January 2019. In January 2019, a Constitution bench of three judges led by CJI Ranjan Gogoi started the hearing of title appeal but suggested mediation first. Mediation is an informal but structured settlement procedure. Mediation committee led by former Supreme Court Judge Justice F.M.I Kallifulla fails to draw a consensus and submitted its report in May 2019 after which 40 days hearing (6th Aug. to 14th Oct. ) started. Supreme Court reserved its judgement and asked parties to submit Moulding Of Relief[3], alternate relief.

Different contention by different parties were;-

Nirmohi Akhara (the shebaitmanager of Devsthan- of the lord historically) — The authorization to build a temple should be given to them and they should be authorised to manage the premises.

Ram Lalla Virajman (came into litigation in 1989) — The possession of the disputed land should be given to them as Ram temple existed since 1994 and the area is under their control. They gave weightage on the ASI report and findings which stated that the Hindu scriptures were found on the pillars and slabs of Babri Masjid. It was also stated that in 12th century there was a Hindu Temple and in 1528 there was Babri Masjid.

Sunni Waqf Board UP (representatives of Muslim parties) — It was contended that placing ram idol in the Masjid was an illegal act and they accepted that the Ram Chabutra is the birthplace of Lord Rama but they want the possession of inner courtyard and reconstruction of that.  

The Muslim side fears that if the claim is ceded in Ayodhya, it could trigger similar demands in places such as Varanasi and Mathura. The VHP, on the other hand, had regularly insisted that the entire land be handed over to the Hindus and that a division of the title, such as the one the Allahabad High Court ordered, was not desirable.

JUDGEMENT

This judgement is the most important and anticipated judgement in India’s history. Finally 0n 9th November 2019, the verdict of the longest running case is out and the legal battle over the possession of 2.77 acre land ended. People were excited and tensed as they are while watching cricket matches.  The apex court gave a historic, informed and balanced verdict over which religious tensions were simmering over 70 years. Accordingly, the Supreme Court based its verdict on the evidence provided and upheld the secular fundamentals of the Constitution.  The hon’ble  Supreme Court announced its verdict on considering all the facts, arguments and ASI reports and findings, historical events, he quashed all the previous ruling and and ruled that the land belonged to the government on the basis of tax records. He further ordered that the 2.77 acre land will be given to a trust for construction of Ram Mandir and also ordered government to donate 5 acre land to Sunni Waqf  Board, Up to build Mosque and both lands will be given on the same day. This was due to the injustice suffered by Muslim parties due to illegal demolition of the Mosque in 1992 which deprived them of their place of worship but for 325 years from construction of the mosque till 1857, Muslims have given no evidence of they offering prayers at the disputed structure inn exclusion of Hindus but documents show that prior to 1857 Hindus were not barred from worshipping in the inner courtyard. The railing segregating the inner and outer courtyard was made in 1857, but Hindus always believed that the birthplace of Ram was in the inner courtyard of mosque, said by the Supreme Court. Supreme Court granted entire land to Ram Lalla Virajman and rejected the plea of Nirmohi Akhara who claimed the possession of the entire land. It was also ordered to include the Nirmohi Akhara to the body which would be responsible for management of the future temple land. Our Constitution provides power to the Supreme Court under Article 142[4]. In this case the Supreme Court invoked its power under Article 142 in its said judgement in respect of Nirmohi Akhara’s claim. Supreme Court also ordered the central government to build a trust within three months for the construction of Ram Mandir on the disputed site. It was also declared that the demolition of Babri Masjid in 1992 was a violation of law and happened in breach of Supreme Court order. It was also said that the accounts of travellers and historians mention about faith of Hindus that the place is birthplace of Lord Ram is mentioned. The account of travellers has to be read with circumspection. Whether belief and faith is justified is beyond the ken of judicial scrutiny, said SC. Title of land can be decided only on legal evidence and there is adequate material for ASI to come to the conclusion that Babri Masjid was not built on vacant land. ASI is credential beyond doubt and their findings can’t be neglected. Places of Worship Act reaffirm the commitment of India to protect the interest of all religious community, said by SC.  Supreme Court also declared the Allahabad High Court judgement as unsustainable as there were no such relief asked by any party which was granted by the court. CJI Ranjan Gogoi said that the judgement is unanimous.

The judgment has decreed the suits by relying on the age old principles of natural justice, equity and good conscience. Supreme Court observed in its verdict that “the reliefs are moulded in the manner which preserves the constitutional values of justice, fraternity, human dignity and equality of the religious belief.” The manner in which the Supreme Court conducted the hearing of the case also plays a very vital role. After a political deadlock and rising tensions, the court referred the matter for mediation. The Supreme Court did not just decide the legal issue of title but chose to venture beyond, ensuring that equitable justice was granted by moulding reliefs which upheld the faith of all parties concerned. The verdict showed “judicial craftsmanship and statesmanship where the letter of the law was adhered to, but the relief was moulded, taking into account the ground realities,” The judges appear to have gone by the evidence laid before it. “They have applied a plaster. Let’s not reopen the wounds,”

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that the Supreme Court verdict on Ayodhya Case is not a victory or defeat for anyone and urged people to ensure that the judgement gives strength to India’s tradition of peace, unity and amity. Be it Ram Bhakti or Rahim Bhakti, it is imperative that we strengthen the spirit of Rashtra Bhakti. May peace and Harmony prevail. Outside the Court the situation had been largely calm. Hundreds of people were detained in Ayodhya because of fear of violence.

This case is important because it is the longest running dispute in the history and witnessed all the Prime Ministers of the country. It has been made such a large issue by political parties only for their own benefit. They used the feelings and devotion of people. The live example of political parties using religion for their own benefit is this dispute. This dispute was burning agenda in the elections of Lok Sabha. The Lok sabha seat of Bharatiya Janta Party has grown from 2 to 85 during 1991 only by making this dispute as the most important issue of that time. The people, both Hindus and Muslims living in Ayodhya were having no problem with the Babri Masjid. Hindus even didn’t want to demolish the Masjid, they just wanted peace and brotherhood. They were in the opinion that whole Ayodhya is considered as Ram birth land not that specific land. All the communal riots were done by the influence of political parties. Hindus and Muslims used to worship peacefully in the same compound. In 1990, the government of India led by V. P. Singh decided to implement some of the recommendations of the Mandal commission, and announced that twenty-seven percent of government jobs would be reserved for people from lower-caste backgrounds. This announcement threatened the electoral constituency of the BJP, which decided to use the Ayodhya dispute to unite the Hindu vote by mobilising anti-Muslim sentiment. The BJP made the Ayodhya agitation a large part of its campaign in the 1991 parliamentary elections, often with the support of the VHP. Its intense campaign drew it a lot of support, particularly campaign funding. The Ram Janmabhoomi issue allowed the BJP to gain significant support in rural areas, whereas it had previously been restricted to support from the urban middle class.

Following the Rath Yatra and the associated protests, the BJP withdrew its support to the National Front central government led by V. P. Singh, leading to its collapse. It also prompted the Mulayam Singh Yadav-led Uttar Pradesh state government, in its eagerness to consolidate Muslim votes, to use excessive police force against BJP workers and karsevaks, resulting in the alienation of Hindu communities from Singh’s Samajwadi party in India’s most populous state.

This BJP strategy paid rich dividends in the May–June 1991 parliamentary elections. Relative to the 1989 general election, the BJP doubled its percentage of votes nationwide and made gains in states like Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh in the South and Assam in the Northeast. It emerged as the second largest party in the Lok Sabha, after the Indian National Congress. It captured a majority of the Lok Sabha seats in Uttar Pradesh, where it also won a majority in the state legislative assembly and formed the government. Muslim votes were divided between the Indian National Congress and the Janata Dal, further helping the BJP. It also was able to win a majority of seats in the state legislatures of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Himachal Pradesh, and made gains in several other states.

In India, this is the problem religion and caste is used for winning election. This dispute or case is the biggest proof, the matter which could be solved easily was considered such a big issue for which many people were killed in communal riots. There are other major issues also which need to be taken in consideration by the government but which are not beneficial for their politics is not considered by parties.. After suffering a lot, the people of Ayodhya wanted peace, they want the end of this dispute. According to them there are many other issues, problem which need to be considered and resolved. Lack of jobs and investment, poor infrastructure and an underdeveloped tourism economy have kept Ayodhya far behind other important Hindu religious centres like Mathura and Varanasi. Opinions in the town mirror communal and ideological divisions; but what most residents agree upon is the stagnation or lack of development, despite the town being located just 125 km from the State capital. Over the past years, especially since the RSS-VHP led movement swept much of north India, Ayodhya became the centre stage for communal politics and a tool for polarisation before elections. The high-pitched events not only disrupted daily life and business, but also endangered communal harmony in the region. This judgement not only opened the doors for temple construction but also closed the doors for BJP and others to politicise the issue.

The response after the judgement was as expected, Hindus were happy but the response of Muslims was mixed. Some have opposed the verdict, going so far as to say that the offer of five acres should be rejected, while others have welcomed the decision and announced that they will not contest it. It never happened that both the parties become satisfied by the decision of Court. Somewhere, this decision will undoubtedly embolden Hindu right-wingers, who will now feel confident in taking on larger issues. With religious tensions between Hindus and Muslims already high – and nowhere more so than in Uttar Pradesh, where bitter religious lines are drawn in the soil – it can be safely expected that more religious-based battles will occur. Already one Indian MP has reignited an oft-repeated, yet vacuous, debate over the true origins of the Taj Mahal. The white marble mausoleum, the most famous monument in India, was built by Muslim emperor Shah Jahan in 1632, yet some Hindus have claimed that it was originally a Hindu temple, called Tejo Mahalaya. (These claims were resoundingly rejected by the Archaeological Survey of India in 2017.).  After this verdict is out, efforts to ensure social harmony and peace between Hindus and Muslims have taken centre stage. BJP is very close to fulfilling its three-decade long electoral promise to build a Ram temple in Ayodhya there have been consistent efforts by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the ideological parent of BJP, and Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind to ensure that no law and order problem occurs after the verdict.

In my opinion, there are many real and serious issues which we need to focus which led to development of our country such as unemployment, education system, poverty etc. We should not get trapped in politics. For the moment, India’s main communities need to avoid triumphalism – because eventually there are no victors and vanquished, in what is essentially a contestation of faith.


[1] Inserted in the Preamble by 42nd Amendment Act, 1976

[2] Special leave to appeal by the Supreme Court

[4] Enforcement of decrees and orders of Supreme Court and unless as to discovery.

Author: Anjuri Karn

Editor: Kanishka VaishSenior Editor, LexLife India.

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