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HomeOpinionsRam Mandir, Supreme Court and Munawwar Ranas of India: Decoding Ayodhya verdict

Ram Mandir, Supreme Court and Munawwar Ranas of India: Decoding Ayodhya verdict

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Ravi Shankar
Ravi Shankar
Cancer Specialist, Social Worker (Founder Secretary, Lakshya Peace Foundation)

Last week I heard noted poet Munawwar Rana making a highly objectionable comment on Ram Mandir verdict: “Ex-CJI Ranjan Gogoi sold himself for less than a prostitute”. I was shocked at choice of words this man had! He also said that Ayodhya verdict was not ‘justice’ but rather a ‘court order’. It’s important to remember his reaction when the verdict was announced on 9 November 2019. Munawwar Rana had welcomed it the same day : “I salute today’s verdict. The Babri Masjid had become a political issue but today this matter has come to an end…”. So, what changed in last few months? Munawwar Rana’s statement in November 2019 was more in line with the person we have known for years.

This country has seen a series of events in recent times where, if the propaganda of pseudo-secular political parties is defeated, every institution, and the persons representing those institutions, are denigrated. These political parties have nexus with many similar-thinking non-political groups of people, a nexus which has developed, flourished and perpetuated over decades of brotherhood among these stakeholders, a brotherhood which has drawn motivation from fulfilling mutually beneficial agendas. Agendas that suit their mindset, agendas that suit their ‘wrongly intended future goals’, and agendas that satisfy their male ego (remember their stand in Shah Bano case of 1985, and criminalisation of instant triple talaq act of 2019). Surprisingly, even after decades of this game, the Muslims are living in delusion that they have ‘benefited’ from these political parties. The real pictures of the community on ground say a different story. All this nexus has done to Muslims is keeping some of their leaders ‘relevant’, while ignoring the plight of millions of common Muslims.

So, coming back to Ram Mandir issue, a brief timeline of the matter will update the reader about one of the longest controversy in India’s history. Babri mosque was built in 1528-1529 by general Mir Baqi, on orders of the Mughal emperor Babur in Ayodhya. Ayodhya is birthplace of Lord Ram, the Hindu deity, worshipped by Hindus from time immemorial. Though there are no official data, Muslim invaders to India are believed to have destroyed hundreds-thousands of temples. The most prominent among them being Ram temple in Ayodhya, Kashi Vishwanath temple in Varanasi and Krishna temple in Mathura. Mathura is birthplace of Lord Krishna. These temples have been among the most revered religious places for Hindu devotees and were destroyed, totally or partially, in history. By analogy, they hold the same place in hearts of Hindus, as Mecca-Madina hold in hearts of muslims.

In the ensuing time, the location of the Babri mosque in Ayodhya became a contentious issue as it was built on top of Ram Janm Bhoomi, the birthplace of Lord Ram. The first recorded instance of conflict over the site between the two communities is in 1853, during an era of sociopolitical transition throughout India. During the British raj, separate areas of the site were set up for Hindus and Muslims. In 1949, after India became independent, idols were brought into the mosque. In the ensuing controversy, the site was closed off to both communities by the then government. Civil suits were filed in the court for ownership of the plot.

Even in post independent India, there were no serious attempts to solve the issue for a long time. Erection of a mosque over birthplace of Lord Ram for hundreds of years was something not acceptable to Hindu devotees. It was like making structure of another religion in most sacred places of Muslims, or Christians or other religions and then telling devotees of the religion to accept it. Non-negotiable, right? In 1984, movement to build a temple at the site gathered momentum when Hindu groups formed a committee to spearhead the construction of a temple at the Ram Janm Bhoomi site. In 1986, a district judge ordered the gates of the mosque to be opened after 37 years and allowed Hindus to worship inside the “disputed structure.” Remember, as I mentioned earlier, gates of the disputed structure were closed for both communities in 1949.

A Babri Mosque Action Committee was formed as Muslims protested the move to allow Hindu prayers at the site. A series of events in the ensuing years including Rath yatra, gunning down of scores of Hindu devotees in Ayodhya by the police in 1990, and failed talks between Babri Masjid Action Committee and Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) leaders, led to the demolition of Babri mosque on 6 December 1992. A commission of inquiry was set up under Justice Liberhan by the then government of India. Liberhan committee submitted its reports in 2009, almost 17 years after it began its inquiry. Its contents were not made public.Congress government ruled for a long time after independence but their attitude towards anything related to Hindu religion and tradition was casual and biased. Actions were more guided by politics of appeasement and not by “truth should prevail” and “every citizen has equal rights”  approaches.

Meanwhile, archeological evidences accumulated over time in support of Hindu’s claim over the site. Multiple excavations of various sites in Ayodhya were conducted in 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and the latest one in 2003. Dr B B Lal, who led the excavation in 1970s-1980s, wrote an article in October 1990 in Manthan magazine where he published a photograph from the excavations that he conducted at Ayodhya. This photograph showed several brickbat (broken brick pieces) heaps that he claimed were the “pillar bases” of a temple that had been destroyed by Babur.

Later in 2008, Dr Lal writes in his book titled “Rama: His Historicity, Mandir and Setu”: “Attached to the piers of the Babri Masjid, there were twelve stone pillars, which carried not only typical Hindu motifs and mouldings, but also figures of Hindu deities. It was self-evident that these pillars were not an integral part of the Masjid, but were foreign to it”

The latest excavation in Ayodhya was done in 2003 at disputed sites by Archeological Survey of India (ASI) team which mentioned presence of remains which were distinctive features found associated with the temples of north India.

This article needs a special mention of archeologist K. K. Muhammed (from ASI). He was part of the multiple excavations done at Ayodhya and has been very vocal about presence of temple under Babri mosque. Long back in 1990, Muhammed said that during excavations he had seen the remains of the temple.

The court battle for Ram Janm Bhoomi continued and reached a partial conclusion in 2010 when Allahabad High Court’s 3 judges bench read a majority verdict by 2:1 dividing the disputed land into three parts. ⅓ went to Ram Lalla represented by Hindu Maha Sabha, ⅓ to Sunni Wakf Board, and ⅓  to Nirmohi Akhara. The 3- judges bench (Justice S. U. Khan, Justice Sudhir Agarwal, and Justice D. V. Sharma) concluded that central dome of the disputed building, Babri Masjid, which was demolished by kar-sevaks on 6 December 1992, was the exact birthplace of Lord Ram “as per faith and beliefs of the Hindus”. Judges also wrote separate notes.

I shall like to quote few lines from separate note of Honorable justice S. U. Khan: “The mosque was constructed over temple ruins. For a very long time before the construction of the mosque, Hindus believed that somewhere in the large premises, Lord Ram was born.” Though he also mentioned that there was no direct evidence that Babar built the disputed structure which was a mosque; no temple was demolished to construct the mosque; and both Hindus and Muslims were unable to prove the commencement of their title over the disputed property. What was a very clear opinion of the high court was that temple remnants existed below Babri mosque. And this opinion was based on archeological evidences that accumulated over decades of excavations in Ayodhya, and not just on assumptions. 

Various parties moved Supreme Court against the Allahabad High Court judgment of 2010. Supreme Court of India stayed the High Court order of splitting the disputed site into three parts and said that status quo would remain. Case was pursued in Supreme Court by various parties. Court-appointed mediation attempts failed. After hearing every stakeholder in the case, finally, on 9 November 2019, a 5-judges constitution bench of Supreme Court gave an unanimous verdict (5-0) that the faith of the Hindus that Lord Ram was born at the demolished structure in Ayodhya is undisputed. They permitted construction of a temple at the site where the Babri mosque once stood in Ayodhya. The Supreme Court also told the central government to provide a “prominent and suitable” five-acre plot for Muslims to construct a mosque in Ayodhya.

Before the verdict was to be announced, the government and people’s voices advocated for no “joy or shock reaction” by anybody after the verdict, irrespective of the nature of the verdict. Netizens appealed for peace. The constitutional bench comprised of CJI Ranjan Gogoi, Justice S A Bobde, Justice D Y Chandrachud, Justice S Abdul Nazeer and Justice Ashok Bhushan. Judges based their judgement on archeological and other evidences. Archeologist K. K. Mohammed, who has been very vocal about presence of temple under Babri mosque based on archeological evidences he found in various excavations, says after the Supreme Court verdict : “I have been hounded by communist historians and their stories. They concocted and fabricated all kinds of things against me in these years. Today I feel vindicated. The court has given verdict on the basis of evidence provided by the ASI. This is the most perfect judgment I could ever think of ”.

Coming back to Munawwar Rana’s highly objectionable comments. The great Urdu poet questioned Ex CJI Ranjan Gogoi’s honesty and credibility and refused to believe Supreme Court’s Ayodhya verdict as “justice”. 

So, let’s delve into how else could centuries-old Ayodhya dispute end? I can think of only two alternative scenarios: First is: The case would have dragged for another century or so. Pseudo-secular political parties would have loved to drag the case for indefinite time if things were in their control. In fact, they had been doing this successfully for a long time. Second possible scenario was: The court verdict would have come as what Munawwar Rana seemed to suggest would mean “justice” for him: re-building of Babri mosque at the same site, ignoring all the archeological evidences of presence of temple remains under Babri mosque, and ignoring historical evidence that the disputed site had been the place of worship for Hindus as birthplace of Lord Ram for centuries, even before the mosque was builtA very pertinent question needs to be raised:

How rebuilding a mosque over temple remains at birthplace of Lord Ram is “justice”; while allowing Ram temple construction at His birthplace is not a “justice”, especially keeping in mind that even the mosque was earlier built on Ram temple remains? So, I shall ask this question again that I raised previously: Is it negotiable that structure of some other religion is made at place of Mecca-Madina, and muslims brothers and sisters are said to accept it? They won’t accept it today. They won’t accept it 500 years down the line. This issue looks so simple and understandable if talked in these terms.

Majority of Indians (of different religious beliefs) are happy with Ayodhya verdict. But a section of people think that combined wisdom of 3 High Court judges, 5 Supreme Court judges, experts of archeological survey of India and the archeological evidences accumulated in last 3 decades are all inferior to their wisdom. They are so much focussed in fulfilling their agendas and perpetuating their propaganda, that if you (no matter whether you are a Supreme Court judge or on other high constitutional post) don’t fall in line with them, they will start abusing and demonizing you. 

The big questions is: Are there many like the great poet Munawwar Rana who seems to be speaking not his own mind but actually on behalf of someone else? The same poet was so happy with the Ayodhya verdict that he welcomed the decision the same day. Why is he speaking a venomous language now?

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Ravi Shankar
Ravi Shankar
Cancer Specialist, Social Worker (Founder Secretary, Lakshya Peace Foundation)
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