In the aftermath of the Ayodhya judgment by the Allahabad High Court, many social commentators, activists, historians, leaders of groups and parties came out with their opinion in various ways. Making Sense of the Ayodhya Issue captures the background of archeological, historical and political aspects of the issue and lays the foundation of understanding the current debates. Tracing the evolution of the dispute and its political implications, the book goes on to present the intellectual atmosphere in the country post-judgment and gives a perspective about different facets of the consequences of the verdict. It gives the sample of the verdict by giving the major excerpts of the judgment, the opinions of all the three judges and the editorial opinions from different points of view. It includes the interviews of one of the judges, major intellectuals, writers and social activists. It also incorporates the chronology of events related to the dispute.
Asghar Ali Engineer is a writer, activist and scholar of repute. Awarded Righ Livelihood Honorary Award (also called the Alternate Nobel Award)2004, National Communal Harmony Award, 1997, and many other awards, Asghar Ali Engineer has written over 60 books on Islam, problems of Muslims, Muslim women's rights, communal and ethnic problem in India, South Asia and Islamic State.
Ram Puniyani Former Professor IIT Mumbai, Ram Puniyani is a well-known writer activist. his books include Communal Politics, Contours of Hindu Rashtra, Second Assassination of Gandhi, Terrorism: Facts versus Myth. He is recipient of Indira Gandhi National Integration Award (2006) and National Communal Harmony Award (2007)
The Ramjanmabhumi-Babri Masjid issue proved to be much contentious one for about a decade in Indian politics, thanks to BJP and its politics of mobilizing Hindu votes. It fractured and polarized Indian voters along religious lines as never before. The BJP used it for winning elections and never tried to build the temple once it came to power. Also, the judicial processes are so tardy in our country that despite great urgency it never delivered its judgement on time.
And when judgement came in September 2010, it proved to be most controversial as it trifurcated the controversial land, one part going to Muslims for building the mosque and two parts were distributed among two Hindu parties. The result was that all three parties which were in the court were not satisfied with the judgement and people at large, except for a small section, expressed its dissatisfaction with it.
A spate of articles with varied points of view appeared in the Press. Since the issue was a historic one had a great challenge to our secular democracy in post-independent India, we thought it fit to compile these articles and the summary of the judgement in this book for future reference.
This book is expected to be useful for researchers and academics of this and the future generations. The articles have been selected carefully so as to represent different viewpoints of historians, political scientists, lawyers, journalists and peace activists. It covers a broad range of people. The idea is not to uphold this or that point of view but to make available as much material on the subject as possible to facilitate further research. We have left it to the researchers and academics to form their own judgement. While the compilers of this volume have their own points of view, they have not allowed their viewpoint to influence selection of articles.
We are extremely thankful to writers and activists whose articles have been included in this volume. Our thanks is also due to various publications from where we have taken these articles. Last but not the least we are thankful to VItasta Publishing for agreeing to publish it and make so much material available for present and future generations. Let us hope it will be received well by academics, journalists and even by lay people interested in the issue.
Ayodhya-Babri Masjid issue has been one of the most contentious issues in Independent India. It had various facets of History, faith and legal aspects related to the dispute. The Allahabad court verdict 2010 was one of the major landmarks in the settlement of the issue. This judgment was to decide the ownership of the land of the masjid. Since the judgment raised a lot of controversies, many a commentator, judge, scholar, activist came out with valuable material, which clarified the complexities of the debate related to this problem. These contributions have added a lot to our understanding of the dispute. In the light of the worth of these wittings, we thought of bringing these together as an edited volume. The following introduction to the volume is in two parts, part I gives the background of the dispute and part II summarizes the major arguments of the articles incorporated in the book.
The judgment on Ramjanmabhumi-Babri Masjid case by the Allahabad High Court delivered on 26 October 2010 revived the controversy on legal and intellectual level though not on political level. There were two issues involved before the court: One, whether or not Babur demolished Ram temple to build Babri Masjid, and two, of the three litigants i.e., Nirmohi Akhara, Sunni Wakf Board and Ram Lalla Virajman, whom did the title of the land belong to.
The honourable judges held that the land on which Babri Masjid stood before demolition be divided into three parts; one part each going to each of the litigant. Many people welcomed the judgment to resolve the controversy and thought it was in the interest of peace and communal harmony. Some thought the judgment was more like a panchayati tradition judgment rather than of a high court, and some strongly criticized it as not being on legal grounds as a high court should do in a constitutional democracy.
As for another question i.e., whether any Ram temple existed at the disputed site, the two judges Agarwal and Sharma held that since Hindus believed that Ram was born where the idol of Ram Lalla was kept, there existed a temple there. The two judges also referred to the archeological excavation report by way of evidence. However, Justice Khan, the third judge on the Bench, disagreed and held that there was no Ram temple there but agreed that the land be divided into three parts, one part each going to every litigant.
The judgment that the Ram temple existed because the Hindu community believed so came under strong criticism as no judgment could be based on the faith of a community. It should be based only on hard evidence under the Evidence Act of India, it was pointed out
As for the archeological report, it cannot become a hard evidence unless the report is critically examined in the light of history. Many noted historians like Romila Thapar, Irfan Habib and others have rejected the archeological report as 'manipulated' and hardly fit to be an evidence.
Faith as a ground for judgment can even be a more fragile ground. No court can ever base its judgment on it if it is a part of the constitutional democracy where law of the land prevails. Thus if the archeological report cannot constitute hard evidence as unassailable admissible in a court of law, the judgment of the two judges that there was a Ram temple is based on faith. To resolve this controversy it is highly necessary that one should first find the historical truth about Babri Masjid- Ramjanmabhumi controversy. In fact, this controversy was not in public domain until idol of Ram Lalla was smuggled on the night of 20-21 December 1949 and placed under the central dome of the mosque. Even Jawaharlal Nehru was angry for installing the idol and he wrote letter to the then Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh to remove it immediately. Chief Minister Govind Vallabh Pant forwarded Nehru's letter to KKK Nayar, the then District Magistrate of Faizabad. But Nayar refused to remove the idol on the grounds that it would lead to law and order situation. He locked the mosque instead of removing the idol.
However, on a petition from a Pujari he was permitted to worship Ram Lalla and devotees began to flock the place. After installation of the idol, three title suits were filed by Nirmohi Akhara in 1959, by the Sunni Muslim Wakf Board in 1961 and Ram Lalla Virajman in 1989 for the title of the land. The controversy disappeared from the public domain and entered legal domain until the BJP revived it in the late eighties.
The BJP had lost heavily in 1984 general elections post-Indira Gandhi assassination and they were in search of an emotional issue to consolidate the Hindu votes. After Muslims agitated against the Supreme Court judgment in Shah Bano case, the BJP thought it fit to revive the Ramjanmabhumi controversy and created a highly charged atmosphere.
The slogan mandir wahin banaenge (We shall construct temple at the same place where idol of Ram Lalla is kept) caught the imagination of many Hindus and assumed a great vote-catching potential. To outdo BJP, Rajiv Gandhi opened the lock of Babri Masjid for Hindus to worship Ram Lalla thinking that Hindu votes will revert to Congress. Thus, it will be seen that the nature of controversy was primarily political, neither religious nor historical. Both the Congress and BJP were competing for Hindu votes. They were least concerned about Ram Temple.
There was yet another factor which made this controversy even more politically explosive. With an eye on the OBC votes, V P Singh implemented the Mandal Commission Report in 1989 on his becoming the Prime Minister. It created an explosive political situation both for the Congress as well as the B JP. Both were against implementation of the report but could not oppose it publicly because both the parties were eyeing OBC votes too.
The BJP used the Ramjanmabhumi mantra to attract OBC votes. It intensified the agitation by announcing rath yatra by L K Advani from Somnath Temple in Gujarat to Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh. The Ramjanmabhumi politics received an emotional response and took a communal turn. The Times of India described the yatra as 'blood yatra' in its editorial.
The turn of events became embarrassing for V P Singh. He decided to arrest Advani knowing well that it would result in BJP with- drawing support to his government. But who will arrest Advani and where became an issue. Both V P Singh at the Centre and Mulayam Singh Yadav in UP played politics to take the credit for the arrest. V P Singh connived with Lalu Prasad Yadav to arrest Advani when he entered Bihar. Lalu Prasad became a secular hero along with V P Singh but the government at the Centre could not be saved. The BJP withdrew support and the government fell.
It is unfortunate that constructing a temple became the main reason for politics in secular India. Three general elections were fought on this question directly or indirectly. The BJP managed to use the Controversy to the maximum for increasing its vote base. It expanded its vote-base to 29 per cent from 12-15 per cent votes in general elections, thanks to Ramjanmabhumi controversy. The B JP so far was getting only a section of upper caste Hindu votes, mainly from the business community. A very small section of Brahmins also voted for it. The bulk of the Brahmins voted for the Congress as they got maximum share of political power and top government jobs. Minorities also generally voted for the Congress and some secular regional parties. But there was one section called the OBC whose votes drifted. Though no caste census was done since the early thirties, it was believed that the OBC constituted more than fifty per cent of the population.
By implementing the Mandal Commission Report, V P Singh became the messiah of the OBCs and emerged as their uncontested leader. The implementation of the report changed the whole equation of the Indian power politics. This was not acceptable to the established parties. The BJP which had realized the limitation of the upper caste vote base was especially worried and desperately wanted to do something to upset V P Singh's applecart.
Advani had thus hit on the idea of rath yatra immediately after V P Singh announced implementation of Mandal Commission recommendations. Lord Ram is tremendously popular among lower caste Hindus and he thought roping in OBCs would help the movement gain momentum. Many OBC leaders were given key positions in the party to win them over and thus expanded its vote base.
On 30 October 990, the BJP announced karseva in Ayodhya. It was feared that the activists may harm the Babri structure in the name of karseva. Mulayam Singh was the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh at that time. He took the challenge and sealed all the routes to Ayodhya so that no BJP-VHP cadres and supporters could enter Ayodhya. Even then thousands of so called karsevaks found their way into the town. In fact, the policemen were quite sympathetic to the karsevaks and allowed them to enter Ayodhya through different routes.
On 6 December 1992, in the name of the karseva the mosque was demolished. No less a person than Atal Behari Vajpayee, who became Prime Minister of India from 1999 to 2004 had assured the nation that no harm will be done to the Babri mosque. Kalyan Singh who was the chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh at that time also gave an affidavit to the Supreme Court, yet all the preparations were made to demolish the mosque.
Eyewitnesses say that all the senior BJP leaders including L K Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Uma Bharti were present in Ayodhya at the time of the demolition. Anju Gupta, a senior police officer who Was in charge of Ram Katha Kunj Manch security arrangement where Advani was occupying the stage, gave blow by blow account of Advani's movements on 'the day when she appeared as the CBI witness. According to her, the manch was occupied by Advani, M M Joshi, Uma Bharti, Vinay Katiyar, Ashok Singhal, Giriraj Kishore, Vishnu Hari Dalmiya and Sadhvi Rithambara'.
This clearly shows that demolition of Babri Masjid was a planned act and not a spontaneous one by the mob as later claimed by the BJP. Kalyan Singh also reportedly took pride that the mosque was demolished under his chief ministership. He went to jail for a day in violation of the affidavit that no harm will come to the Babri Mosque.
It is surprising that in the 8,OOO-page judgment delivered by the learned judges there is hardly any mention of this criminal act of de- molition of Babri Masjid right in the presence of the senior BJP leaders. None of them tried to stop the mob. It is close to two decades and yet no one has been punished.
Some activists and scholars and a section of politicians blame the then Prime Minister, Narasimha Rao, for the demolition. Some suggest that he should have dismissed Kalyan Singh Government in UP. But Narasimha Rao maintained that how could he dismiss it before the act of demolition. He would have been accused of partisanship and interference in state affairs.
The Justice Liberhan Commission also held that Narasimha Rao was in no way responsible for demolition of the mosque. Such a clean chit was taken with a pinch of salt by secularists in the country. It was argued that he could have ordered paramilitary forces posted just 11 km from the site of the Babri Masjid to intervene and stop demolition. The Director General of CRPF said at a seminar in CRPF Academy at Mount Abu that they kept on waiting for instructions from the Centre but none came. The DG said that they had prepared their own strategy to save Babri Masjid with minimum loss of life, however, could not implement it for want of instructions.
Most Muslims believed that Narasimha Rao was an RSS sympathi- ser and hence he too favoured the demolition. Another argument which did the round was that Narasimha Rao let the masjid fall because he wanted to deflate the BJP balloon. If masjid itself vanished, the BJP would have nothing to exploit, it was argued.
It is very difficult to know the truth but one thing is certain that Narasimha Rao did not stop demolition. Had he acted on time Babri Masjid could have been saved.
It is true that Babri Masjid was a state subject, but equally true is that protection of the tomb was the Centre's responsibility as the department of archeology comes under the Central Government. It could have also advised the state governments to take action against those making provocative speeches like Sadhvi Rithambara, Uma Bharti, Vinay Kariyar, Singhal and others under Section 153-A and it would have sent a proper message. When some Congressmen advised Narasimha Rao to stop such hate speeches he is reported to have said that it would mean giving them undue importance. This showed either lack of responsibility or collusion at worst.
Or perhaps, Narasimha Rao feared BJP walking away with Hindu votes as high pitched BJP propaganda had created strong feelings among Hindus for construction of the Ram Mandir. Rao perhaps thought any action against Hindu leaders might affect his prospects as Prime Minister. Thus in a democracy power becomes priority over principles.
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