Ayodhya, post the Supreme Court verdict

| Updated on November 11, 2019

Decency and restraint alone can heal the wounds of dispossession

The Supreme Court’s settlement of a centuries old dispute in Ayodhya may continue to be debated for years to come, but what it has brought about is a sense of closure to an issue which has been dogging Indian politics for decades. In handing over the title of the land where Babri mosque once stood to the deity of Ram Lalla, held by the law as a juristic person, the five-judge Constitution bench has paved the way for the construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya. Even while doing so, the judges admit that the justice would not be done if the Muslims’ claim to the land is overlooked, because they were dispossessed through means unacceptable in a secular nation — first by desecration of the mosque on the intervening night of December 22-23, 1949, when idols were placed inside the central dome and then by demolition of the mosque on December 6, 1992. The Supreme Court is of the view that an act of restitution by way of allotment of five acres of land to the Muslims must be done because a wrong was done to them.

The judges decided that the Sunni Central Waqf Board was unable to prove evidence of possessory claim over the mosque in Ayodhya whereas the Hindus worship of the idols of Ram in the land they believe to be the deity’s birthplace has continued uninterrupted since the 12th century. Despite the existence of the mosque that was built in 1528, the Court found evidence of Hindus having continued their worship at the same site till the communal clashes that erupted in 1855 and continued till 1857. At the same time, Muslims were unable to prove that any prayers were being offered at the Babri mosque for a period of 325 years between 1528 and 1857 when a grill-brick wall came up between the outer courtyard of the mosque where the Hindus worshipped and the inner courtyard where the three domes of the mosque stood.

The documented construction of this wall within the precincts of the Babri mosque was held to be neither a sub-division of the site nor a determination of title by the Colonial administration. The Court’s decision is that while Muslims can prove that they started offering prayers from 1857 onwards and were forcibly stopped and evicted in 1949 when a group of 50-60 miscreants placed the idols of the deity inside the mosque, they do not have sufficient evidence for possession of the land title. This would hardly qualify as soothing balm to a community which has been at the receiving end of majoritarian politics since 1990. The Court has proposed five acres of land by way of restitution. Prime Minister Narendra Modi was quick to tell the nation that the verdict should not be seen in terms of victory or loss. The only way is forward.

Published on November 10, 2019

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