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India has charted new territories with the Ayodhya verdict: What the future holds now for other temple causes?

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On 9th November 2019, a five-judge a bench led by the former Chief Justice of India, Ranjan Gogoi settled indisputably one of the longest and most sensitive litigation of modern-day India, in the, now popularly called Ayodhya verdict. It was a long overdue by the Supreme Court to preserve the shaky democratic prism of the nation, which saw a bloodied struggle among the Hindus and Muslims to see a logical end to the Ram Janmbhoomi litigation that started in 1885 with the case of Mahant Raghubar Das. The court concluded the dispute by deciding in favor of Ram Lalla, vesting the whole 2.77 acres of the disputed property and dismissing the claims of other intervening parties. Muslim defendants in the case were decreed to be provided with 5 acres of lands within the precincts of Ayodhya though outside the disputed complex.


Following the Ayodhya verdict in favor of a Ram temple, the drama started unfolding in some sore corners which were unfittingly at loggerheads with the judgment of the court. Some of these conjectures have already started gaining traction in the national and global press for raking up fear-mongering in similar movements for Kashi and Mathura where disputed temples turned mosques still stand tall today.

Vishwa Hindu Parishad, who coined the slogan “Ayodhya to Jhaki Hai, Kashi Mathura Baaki Hain” back during the Ram Janmbhoomi movement in the 1990s has probably added fuel to the fire, with the current working president of VHP, Mr. Alok Kumar being forced to rebuff such claims during an interview in the aftermath of the judgment. He added, “The focus is now on building the grand temple and to create cultural awareness in society. It (the verdict) is not the end of the story but the beginning of a story of building a grand Ram Temple in Ayodhya”

RSS has also come out to deny such allegations with Sangh Pramukh, Shri Mohan Bhagwat stating in unequivocal terms that

Sangh Kisi andolan ko nahi karta, Sangh manushya nirman ka kaam karta hai (The Sangh doesn’t undertake any agitation, the Sangh is engaged in human character building)”.


With such statements being put across, is a cause for a temple in Kashi and Mathura completely incredulous, well certainly not. Hindu civilization has historically faced the brunt of plunderers, invaders, and tyrants who have tried to subdue the rich cultural legacy and destroy the Hindu heritage. It has been historically claimed although contested that what Babur did to Ayodhya, Aurangzeb did to Kashi and Mathura. In fact, the Gyanvapi mosque in Kashi that is now being disputed unwittingly shares a Hindi name of a real well-named ‘Gyan Vapi’ which roughly translates to ‘well of knowledge’ and has reported imprints of old Hindu scriptures on its rear wall, reminiscent of an ancient Hindu temple. A similar tale is of the Shahi Idgah in Mathura within the temple complex of Krishan Janmsthan, which was built during the latter half of the Mughal era by Aurangzeb after ravenous destruction of temple sites in Mathura, as quoted by Niccolao Manucci in Storia Do Mogor. Most of these structures during the Mughal era have been built on the legacy of cultural domination and consistent subordination of non-Islamic traditions. Denial of the liberal caravan in the post-independence era, to the harrowing temple desecration by the despotic Muslim rulers in the holy cities of India led to a mass feeling of reclaiming justice through a cultural revival and breaking the secular bondage, which finally ended in the Babri Masjid demolition. No claim is being made to correct the wrong of 1992 demolition, but a stronger sense of guilt by the political overlords of the yesteryear governments in renaissance to the minority whining’s did just pave the way for the revivalist Hindu conservative movements to take a violent overturn.


This overturn was summarily criticized by the court in the final ruling, which was marked by repeated invocation of the 1992 Places of Worship Act, in order to give credence to the principle of non-retrogression and secular values of the Act. Additionally, the court noted in Para. 83, that

Places of Worship Act is an affirmation of the solemn duty which was cast upon the State to preserve and protect the equality of all faiths as an essential constitutional value, a norm which has the status of being a basic feature of the Constitution

Several commentators are of the view that the apex court’s recognition of the values enshrined under this Act as a basic feature of the Constitution would mean a natural closure to the appeals for a temple in Kashi and Mathura alike. But these comments are not entirely true, the reason being that there are still ways, a temple construction can follow in Kashi and Mathura.

First of these efforts can certainly be initiated by the government through the exercise of an Amendment to this Act for the specific exclusion of Kashi and Mathura issues, from the ambit of the Act. Furthermore, the Government can also move for the abrogation of the Act itself, though chances of either of these happening in the Modi led era looks bleak.

Yet another middle path can be achieved through the judicial channels, by legitimizing the judgment in its totality to open up the pending petitions for the land dispute in Kashi and Mathura. One of the propositions quoted in the addendum, albeit in a passing reference (not enforceable) recognizes Kashi and Mathura as two of the holiest cities for Hindus in Para 32.

Ayodhya, which is associated with Ram is treated as a holy city by Hindu scriptures. In Brihad-Dharmottara Purana, Ayodhya is referred to one of seven holiest cities along with Mathura, Maya (Haridwar), Kashi, Kanchi, Avantika (Ujjain) and Dvaravati (Dwaraka) are the seven most sacred cities.”

Alternatively, Muslim law clearly identifies that for the sound validity of Masjid, the land must not be in dispute or vest in any person, other than the almighty Allah and namaz must be offered regularly in the place.


Shahi Idgah at Mathura is again a Masjid of questionable origin in this respect, as it was built on the ruins of the famed Keshavnath Temple as a blatant show of Muslim conquest. The property has since been embroiled in multiple disputes with Allahabad High Court, wherein as early as 1935, Allahabad HC prioritized the rights of the King of Varanasi over the whole disputed property including the temple complex and the Idgah. Later on, an agreement was reached between Seva Sangh Trust of the Krishna Janmbhoomi and Shahi Idgah Committee with the rights of the land vesting in the Seva Trust and administrative responsibility of the Idgah, devolving in the Muslim owners. Sarvepalli Gopal in his books Anatomy of a Confrontation has clearly dictated through a translation of this agreement that,

“Outside the southern and northern walls of the area occupied by Muslim ghosis shall vest in the Seva Sangh and inside shall lie under the management of the Shahi Idgah committee”

Within the annals of the Ayodhya verdict, under Para 77, the court remarked in comparing the theological foundations, the constitutional right, and faith of the people,

“The court, as a secular institution, set up under a constitutional regime must steer clear from choosing one among many possible interpretations of theological doctrine and must defer to the safer course of accepting the faith and belief of the worshipper”

Apex Court has made it clear that in matters as fragile and sensitive as this, it would not overlook the faith of the people. It must be noted that this agreement has been already been placed in question before the courts as the Seva Sangh was not a sole representative for making a decision for the millions of devotees that are the beneficiaries of the ‘Seva Sangh’ trust. In addition to this, an agreement as such cannot ouster the jurisdiction of the courts over the land dispute.

Moreover, at least one historian Madhuri Desai contributed to the literature through her book titled, Contested Holy Cities: The Urban Dimension of Religious Conflicts “that the rear wall of the Gyanvapi Mosque still contains inscriptions and remnants of an ancient Hindu temple”. As per the Islamic dictions, it would signify, that if such inscriptions are not removed or the debris of the ancient temple still lies there, any namaz offered at such a place would be Makrooh, including the building itself.

If this invalidity runs to the initiation of the construction in both of these mosques, then the religious character of the place would have been assumed to be unfettered, remaining entrenched under the Hindu traditions of the pre-desecration period, thereafter lending inapplicability of the 1992 Places of Worship. Interestingly, Allahabad High Court in 2017, has already placed two petitions before a bench for hearing in this matter.

Nevertheless, Under Section 3 of the Act, the only bar is for the conversion of the religious the character of a place of worship of any concerned religious denomination to a different religious character, as it stood on the day of 15th August 1947. On a bare strict interpretation of the letter of law, it would leave no doubt to the fact that litigation may still follow, firstly, if a place of worship is retained to be a place of worship by two different religious denominations and secondly if any suit in respect to a place of worship is centered around the ‘concept of land ownership or acquisition’ and not ‘specific conversion’.


Cutting the clutter, all of this hullabaloo may sound out rightly farce to the band of self-branded champions of law but the closure on the Ayodhya verdict was not only a ruling to meet the ends of justice, but it was also to correct the wrongs meted to the majority throughout the course of Indian history. So when Stefan Zweig writes in Beware of Pity, “No guilt is forgotten so long as the conscience knows of it”, it applies fair and square to each countryman and may have been the foundation for this ubiquitous ruling of the court. The purpose dipped in honey and cherry might be so to appeal the taste buds of ‘rule of law’, but it will go a long way in establishing confidence and conviction in the civilization for the afflicted majority.

Sita Ram Goel and Arun Shourie have criticized the notion of historians “to place Hindu kings at par with Muslim invaders in the context of iconoclasm” in the seminal text of Hindu Temples: What happened to them, Vol.1: A Preliminary Survey. What these historians really meant was that the temple desecration carried on by invaders had a more communal touch, unlike the one carried on a smaller scale by the Hindu kings for political prowess and financial gains.  Once touted as the litigation of the century, wanting the sacrifice of blood before it can reach a logical end, the standpoints have changed drastically after the verdict.

Both the traditions, Hindu and Muslim alike have accepted the verdict wholeheartedly in spite of the differences in religious spaces, beliefs and most importantly the interpretation of a unified ‘Idea of India’. This has caused a considerable dent in the political shops of communal marketers who were banking on the animosities of the two traditions and rightly so. But one thing is for sure, the majority don’t have to be the apologists anymore, even after being the victims for centuries.

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