Author: Aheli Ghoshal
Student, Amity University, Kolkata
India is known to be a secular country which respects all religions and all the citizens of India who follow those religion. But after the demolition and heinous attack on the Babri Masjid in the year 1992, it seems like secularism in India remains only in pen and paper. So much of injuries, so lengthy court proceedings which went on for years…. all these occurred to solve one question “Which religion shall win?”
This case truly is a historical case which turned into political quite horribly. And of course, it is communal too.
This case was one of the longest ongoing case in the history of India and the judgement of it was of 1045 pages.
This article tries to portray all the incidents which happened from the beginning, that is 1528, and it provides an analysis regarding the 2019 verdict given by the Supreme court of India, in this famous and truly a landmark case of India.
WHAT IS THE BABRI MASJID?
The Babri Masjid, which as the name suggests, is the religious place for the Muslim religion which is also known as a mosque. Now, this Babri Masjid was constructed by the first Mughal emperor Babur in Ayodhya by Mir Baqi, who was the commander general. He followed the instructions of Babur and constructed the Masjid in 1528.
THE TIMELINE OF THE CONFLICT
Now, people belonging to the Hindu religion were not at all satisfied with it and claimed that the mosque was built on the foundations where a Hindu temple should have been constructed, taking into account that Ayodhya was the birthplace of Lord Ram.
Now in 1886, a petition was filed by a person named Raghubar Das. In his petition, he requested the court to grant him permission for a temple to be made within the outside courtyard of the area where the Babri Masjid was built.
The court declined his request and thereby ordered “status quo”. This means that the Muslims would offer their prayer in the Babri Masjid, which is at the inner area of the land, while on the other hand the Hindus will offer their prayer to the outside area of the land or the outside courtyard. This was done in order to satisfy both the parties, that is, the Hindus and the Muslims.
Now apparently, the Hindus were not satisfied with the court’s verdict. This is because the Hindus believed that the exact place where the Babri Masjid was constructed, that is, the inner area of the land, it was supposed to be the birthplace of Lord Ram. Therefore, they did not agree to the fact that a mosque was being constructed and established thereby. Thus, as a result of the court’s verdict, several communal riots broke out.
Now, after many long years, that is in the year 1949, it was revealed that some idols of Lord Ram appeared quite mysteriously within the central dome of the mosque. The Hindus started claiming that it was Lord Ram’s wish to appear there within the area of the Babri Masjid, and they further claimed that it was the exact place where Lord Ram was born.
Next, in the year 1950, an usher devotee of Lord Ram requested the court to grant him permission so that he can worship Lord Ram within that area. After that, the court passed an order. The court granted permission and ordered that the devotees of Lord Ram can offer their prayers, but it can do so while being outside the area where the Masjid was constructed.
In the year 1959, “Nirmohi Akhara”, which happens to be an organization which worships and maintains and apparently serves Lord Ram, filed a petition in order to own the whole area, including where the Babri Masjid was constructed.
Another organization, called “Shia Waqf Board”, which was a Muslim organization requested the court to let them own the whole area.
In the year 1989, an important thing happened. This is the year when a petition was filed in the court on behalf of Lord Ram, where it was claimed that Lord Ram was a juristic person. The word juristic person means that a person is recognised by law as a person who is entitled to all the rights and duties in the same way as a natural person is recognised.
ANALYSIS ON THE 1989 SCENARIO
After a petition was filed in the year 1989, the Allahabad High Court declared this case as that of “Title Disputes” – which means that now the court has to decide that who was the owner of the land.
Was it Lord Ram?
Was it Nirmohi Akhara, who were supposedly the server of Lord Ram and his devotees?
Or Was it Shia Waqf Board?
Moreover, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad at that time wanted to perform a religious puja at that land, and the then Rajiv Gandhi government provided the permission for it.
The Vishwa Hindu Parishad or the VHP decided to call this thing as “Ram Janmabhoomi Movement” and they made LK Advani as the leader of this movement. LK Advani allegedly made a Rath Yatra in order to get support from the people so that a Hindu Temple can be constructed in the area. Due to the already existing disputes and discrepancies regarding who was the owner of the area, lots of communal riots arose at that time and Advani was also arrested.
The Supreme Court again took the matter in its hand and established the status quo and said that it was necessary for both the religions to be satisfied within their given boundaries.
6TH DECEMBER 1992
On 6th December 1992, however it seems that no one was interested to hear Supreme Court’s decision and ultimately the Babri Masjid got demolished in that year.
This year was a nightmare to the people living in India. Hundreds and thousands of attacks were made on people- there were news of robbery, rapes on women, murders between the two religion. Since it was the Hindus who reportedly demolished the masjid, a war broke between the Hindus and the Muslims.
Bangladesh, India’s neighbouring country faced it too. Since, the Hindus were in a lesser number in that country, the Muslims in Bangladesh tried to avenge for what the Hindus of India did by apparently injuring and killing the Hindus of Bangladesh.
THE YEAR 2010
After lots of disputes and confusions regarding the area, the Allahabad High Court decided to provide for a three-way partition of the area.
- 1/3 of the area should be given to “Ram Lalla”, which was the infant Idol of Lord Ram and which was placed on the central dome of Babri Masjid.
- 1/3 of the area should be given to Nirmohi Akhara
- Lastly, 1/3 of the area will be given to Shia Waqf Board
However, no one was satisfied with this verdict and apparently, the court proceedings went on.
SUPREME COURT’S VERDICT
- A five-judge bench was created in Supreme Court and they gave their verdict in the year 2019.
- The court pronounced its verdict, and said that the whole area of the land, precisely 2.77 acres, should be used to worship Lord Ram, or precisely his infant idol “Ram Lalla”.
- Further, the court ordered that a prominent place of 5 acres should be awarded to the Muslim religion.
- The Centre had 3 months in order to set up a “Trust”, which will administer the 2.77 acres of land.
- No land was awarded to Nirmohi Akhara, however a representative of them shall be a part of the Trust.
- Further, the Supreme Court said that the idols of Lord Ram which were placed inside the area of the Babri Masjid in the year 1949 was illegal in nature.
- Supreme court said that the demolition of Babri Masjid was indeed a rule of law and it confirmed the fact that “Secularism is part of the basic structure of the constitution of India”
RATIONALE PROVIDED BY SUPREME COURT, REGARDING THE VERDICT
The Supreme Court held that there is no valid proof regarding the fact that the Muslims used the Babri Masjid for their religious worship or the “Namaz” continuously, from the time period of the Babri Masjid being established in the year 1528 to the year 1856. Therefore, they cannot claim that they are the true owners of the land.
The Supreme Court further reasoned that the Hindus, on the other hand were able to provide valid proof regarding the fact that they were continuously providing all their religious worships to Lord Ram on the outside courtyard of the Babri Masjid.
Moreover, the Supreme Court of India ordered the Archaeological Survey Of India or the ASI to excavate the 2.77 acres of land in the year 2003. ASI found that there was a large structure prevalent on the area, prior to the establishment of the Babri Masjid. Therefore, as per the evidence provided by ASI, the Supreme Court declared that The Muslims cannot own the land for the prevalence of Babri Masjid because the land was not vacant from earlier. It must be noted here that the evidence of ASI did not mention the structure to be that of an Islamic one or of a Hindu one, it just mentioned the fact that there was something prevalent prior to the establishment of the mosque.
CONSTITUTIONAL VALIDITY OF SUPREME COURT’S VERDICT
The Supreme Court provided its verdict as per Article 142, which gives The Supreme Court the power that they can provide any judgement in order to establish complete justice all around India. This was used by Supreme Court here.
Further, Supreme Court used the Article 141, which states that any judgement or order passed by it shall become the law of the land.
Critics of the verdict of this case argued that since the Hindus are in a majority in India, therefore the Supreme Court has sided with the majority party. The Supreme Court gave a reason towards this criticism that the lawyers of the Hindu party had given better and concrete evidence regarding the fact that they were the ones who worshipped continuously on the outside courtyard of the Babri Masjid. However, the Muslim party failed to provide any solid evidence.
The judgment provided by Supreme Court have cited several travelogues written by travellers such as William Finch who is known to visit India between 1607 and 1611 A.D. The judgment also cited travelogues written by Joseph Tiefenthaler who visited India approximately between 1766 and 1771 A.D. Both the travelogues written by these two travellers proved the fact that Hindus worshipped the place continuously.
But however, one question which arises in my mind is that- although the Muslims did not provide any valid evidence regarding the fact that they actually worshipped in that place, does that mean that the people belonging in the Hindu religion who “illegally” demolished Babri Masjid (as reasoned by Supreme Court), can be provided with the ownership of the whole 2.77 acres of land? The question that whether it was justified arises in my mind.
Moreover, confusion arises regarding the evidence provided by The Archaeological Survey Of India. Yes, as per their evidence, it was clearly mentioned that the structure which was found during the excavation of the land was not Islamic, but also they clearly mentioned that the structure was not a temple either. So how come the court decided to give the land to the Hindus?
The fight which started from 1528 at last ended. It was one of the longest ongoing case in the history of India, the judgement of which had 1045 pages. But the question which arises are that-
Did it really end?
Did the people from both religions get satisfied?
What about the assurance that these types of disputes will not arise in the future?
What if, due to unsatisfaction regarding the verdict of this case, a bigger discrepancy occurs in the future?
The answers to this question are not known, and I wonder that if they ever could be known.
Aishwarya S Iyer & Vakasha Sachdev,” Babri Masjid Demolition Case: A Timeline from 1528 to 2020”, 6th December 2020.