Momentous judgment on Ayodhya: SC’s adjudication of Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute represents a new dawn for India 

Lord Ram is also known as Maryada Purushottam. Dignity and ethics are central to his conduct and philosophy. His story for the last thousands of years continues to animate and inspire the psyche of ordinary Indians and remains a proud narrative of our civilisational, cultural and spiritual heritage.  

It was only fitting and appropriate that the long pending dispute for last hundreds of years about his place of birth “Ram Janmabhoomi” at Ayodhya, was finally settled by the Supreme Court after an elaborate hearing of more than 40 days by a unanimous verdict of five judges. An issue which was contentious, full of competing claims and interests many times giving rise to conflicts and hostility, could be resolved in a perfectly lawful manner consistent with the Maryada of our constitutional polity.  

It is equally reassuring that the entire country has accepted this judgment. There is no discord or hostility on the ground and a rare amity, brotherhood and understanding has been witnessed. Prime Minister Narendra Modi as a leader deserves full praise for his appeal which played a cardinal role in this amity as also the requisite administrative arrangement. It is indeed a new dawn for India.  

Illustration: Ajit Ninan

There were basically four suits. One filed by a worshipper Gopal Singh Visharad, second by Nirmohi Akhara, third by UP Sunni Central Waqf Board and fourth by the deity itself “Ram Lalla Virajman”, who claimed a declaration of title to the disputed site coupled with injunctive relief. The Allahabad high court gave relief to the Hindus with the right to pray in the main area and also allotting it to them. It further proceeded to partition the disputed area one-third each to Hindus, Nirmohi Akhara and Muslims.  

The judgment of the Allahabad Hwas challenged in the Supreme Court, which led to the decision of the Supreme Court. There was voluminous evidence on record  both oral and documentary  consisting of thousands of pages. The Supreme Court in the judgment elaborately considered the interplay of all these evidences. It would only be appropriate to recall some of these. 

Joseph Tieffenthaler was a Jesuit missionary who visited India in 1740. He notes the sacred character of Ayodhya, which he called Adjudea. In particular, he mentions a “Bedi” – a cradle – where Beschan (Vishnu) was born in the form of Ram. Alexander Cunningham, director general of Archaeological Survey of India, refers to Ayodhya in his 1862 report as the birthplace of Lord Ram. P Carnegie, commissioner and settlement officer of Faizabad, mentions in his 1870 report that “Ajudhia is to Hindus what Mecca is to Mohammedans”. 

The court concluded vide para 786 that travelogues of foreigners provide a detailed account both of the faith and belief of Hindus based on the sanctity which they ascribe to the birthplace of Lord Ram and to the actual worship by Hindus of the Janm Sthan. Very significantly, the court further noted that for a period of 325 years from the date of the construction of the mosque until installation of a grill wall by the British, no evidence has been adduced by the Muslims to establish the exercise of possessory control over the disputed site.  

The court held that the oral and documentary evidence shows that the devotees of Lord Ram hold a genuine longstanding and profound belief in the religious merit attained by offering prayer to Lord Ram at the site they believe to be his birthplace. Significantly the court mentioned the acknowledgments by Muslim witnesses about the presence of Hindu religious symbols like Varah, Jai-Vijay and Garud outside the three-dome structure. The court further held, “They are suggestive not merely of the existence of faith and belief but of actual worship down the centuries.” Quite clearly, what was brought down was not just brick and mortar but a vibrant and active symbol and place of worship for millions of Hindus through centuries. 

While decreeing the suit in favour of Ram Lalla plaintiff of the Hindus in substance, the court also decided to provide restitution to the Muslim community by directing the government to allocate five acres of land to the Sunni Waqf Board. The central government has been directed to formulate a scheme envisaging the setting up of a trust for the management as also construction of a temple. It has also been given the liberty to hand over the rest of the acquired land for development in terms of the scheme. The order of the Allahabad HC was set aside and the suit of Nirmohi Akhara was dismissed.  

Significantly the court observed the practice of religion, Islam being no exception, varies according to the cultural and social context. Cultural assimilation is a significant factor which shaped the manner in which religion is practised, because cultural assimilation cannot be construed as a feature destructive of religious doctrine. Surely the heritage of Kabir, Rahim and Raskhan stands vindicated today. For me it was an honour and privilege to argue this case on behalf of Ram Lalla and Hindus in the Allahabad HC. 

DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.

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