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The Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi dispute

The Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi dispute

BACKGROUND

  • 1529: Babri Mosque constructed by Mir Baqi.
  • 1885: Legal disputes begin with Mahant Raghubir Das seeking permission to build a temple on the adjoining land.
  • 1949: The Ram idol appears inside the mosque, leading to its closure by the government.
  • 1984: The Ram Janmbhoomi Movement begins with Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and LK Advani as a prominent leader.
  • 1989: Shilanayas performed near the disputed site, escalating tensions.
  • 1992: Babri Mosque demolished by Karsevaks; Liberhan Commission formed.
  • 1993: Ayodhya land acquired by the government.
  • 1994: Ismail Faruqui Judgment by Supreme Court upholds the acquisition act.
  • 2002: Ayodhya Title Dispute case begins in Allahabad High Court.
  • 2010: Allahabad HC splits the disputed land into three parts; the Supreme Court stayed the judgment in 2011.
  • 2017-2019: The Supreme Court hears the appeal; orders mediation and eventually rules in November 2019, awarding the title to the deity Ram Lalla Virajman and directing the Sunni Waqf Board to be given an alternate site for a mosque.

FACTS

The Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi case, adjudicated by the Supreme Court of India, involved a complex set of facts and historical arguments. Here are the key facts of the case as per the Supreme Court proceedings:

  1. Historical Background:
    • The disputed site in Ayodhya has been a focal point of contention between Hindus and Muslims for decades. Hindus believe it to be the birthplace of Lord Ram and assert that a Hindu temple stood there before the construction of the Babri Masjid.
    • The Babri Masjid was built by Mir Baqi, a general of Mughal Emperor Babur, in 1528-29. It was named after Babur and was situated in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh.
  2. 1949 Incident:
    • In December 1949, idols of Lord Ram appeared inside the central dome of the Babri Masjid. This led to tensions between Hindu and Muslim communities, resulting in the locking of the mosque premises by the district administration to prevent potential conflicts.
  3. Legal Proceedings:
    • 1950s-1980s: Various civil suits were filed in Indian courts by different parties claiming ownership and right to worship at the disputed site. These included the Sunni Waqf Board, Nirmohi Akhara (a Hindu religious denomination), and representatives claiming to act on behalf of Lord Ram.
    • 1989: The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) launched a campaign to build a Ram temple at the site, gaining significant political and public momentum.
    • 1992: The Babri Masjid was demolished by Hindu nationalist groups on December 6, 1992, leading to widespread communal riots across India and intensifying the legal battle over the site.
  4. Allahabad High Court Verdict (2010):
    • The Allahabad High Court, in its 2010 verdict, divided the disputed land into three equal parts among the Sunni Waqf Board, Nirmohi Akhara, and the party representing Lord Ram (Ram Lalla Virajman).
  5. Supreme Court Proceedings:
    • 2019 Verdict: The Supreme Court heard appeals against the Allahabad High Court’s judgment and issued a landmark verdict on November 9, 2019.

ISSUES

The Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi case, which culminated in a landmark judgment by the Supreme Court of India in 2019, involved several critical issues that were meticulously deliberated upon. Here are some of the key issues addressed in the Supreme Court case:

  1. Title Dispute:
    • Ownership Claims: The primary issue revolved around competing claims of ownership over the disputed site in Ayodhya. Both Hindu and Muslim parties claimed exclusive rights to the land where the Babri Masjid stood before its demolition in 1992.
    • Historical and Archaeological Evidence: The court examined historical records and archaeological findings, particularly the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) report, which indicated the presence of a Hindu temple beneath the Babri Masjid.
  2. Adverse Possession and Waqf Status:
    • Muslim Parties’ Claims: The Sunni Waqf Board claimed ownership under principles of adverse possession (continuous and uninterrupted possession for a long period without contest) and waqf (endowment of property for religious or charitable purposes in perpetuity).
    • Legal Standing: The court scrutinized the legal status of the Babri Masjid as a waqf property and whether Muslim parties had valid claims based on historical usage and religious practices.
  3. Freedom of Religion vs. Property Rights:
    • Religious Freedom: The case also touched upon the fundamental rights of religious freedom and the right to worship, considering the sentiments of both Hindu and Muslim communities regarding the disputed site.
    • Property Rights: Balancing these religious freedoms with property rights was crucial in determining the rightful claimants to the land and the implications of constructing a Ram temple at the site.
  4. Doctrine of Essential Practices:
    • Religious Practices: The court considered whether the act of offering prayers (namaz) by Muslims at the disputed site constituted an essential religious practice and if denying them access would violate their religious rights.
    • Cultural and Historical Significance: It deliberated on the cultural and historical significance of the disputed site in the context of India’s composite cultural heritage.
  5. Role of State and Rule of Law:
    • Government’s Role: The Supreme Court also examined the role of the state in maintaining law and order, particularly in instances of communal tensions and conflicts arising from the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi dispute.
    • Judicial Pronouncement: The case underscored the judiciary’s role in adjudicating sensitive religious disputes and upholding the rule of law to ensure justice and fairness for all parties involved.

ARGUMENTS

Arguments from Hindu Parties (Ram Lalla Virajman, Nirmohi Akhara, etc.):

  1. Historical and Religious Belief:
    • Advocates representing Hindu parties argued that the disputed site in Ayodhya is the birthplace (Janmabhoomi) of Lord Ram according to Hindu religious texts and beliefs.
    • They emphasized that historical and religious evidence supports the existence of a temple dedicated to Lord Ram at the disputed site before the construction of the Babri Masjid.
  2. Continuous Worship:
    • Hindu parties presented evidence to demonstrate that Hindus have been worshiping at the disputed site continuously, even after the construction of the Babri Masjid.
    • They argued that the existence of Hindu idols inside the mosque in 1949 and subsequent worship by Hindus demonstrated their continuous possession and claim to the site.
  3. Archaeological Evidence:
    • Advocates referred to the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) report, which suggested the presence of a Hindu temple-like structure beneath the Babri Masjid.
    • They argued that this archaeological evidence supported the Hindu claim that the site was originally a temple dedicated to Lord Ram.
  4. Legal Ownership and Title Claims:
    • Hindu parties claimed legal ownership of the disputed site based on their continuous possession and religious rights.
    • They asserted that the site should be handed over to them for the construction of a Ram temple, as it holds significant religious and cultural importance for Hindus.

Arguments from Muslim Parties (Sunni Waqf Board):

  1. Ownership through Waqf:
    • Advocates representing the Sunni Waqf Board argued that the Babri Masjid was built on waqf (endowment) land and hence belonged to the Muslim community.
    • They claimed legal ownership of the mosque and sought its restoration for offering prayers.
  2. Adverse Possession:
    • Muslim parties presented arguments of adverse possession, asserting that they had exclusive possession and control over the disputed site for centuries, including offering regular prayers (namaz).
    • They contended that any Hindu claims of prior ownership or historical evidence did not negate their long-standing possession and religious use of the site.
  3. Protection of Religious Rights:
    • Advocates emphasized the constitutional rights of Muslims to practice their religion and offered prayers at the Babri Masjid site.
    • They argued against any decision that would undermine the religious sentiments and practices of the Muslim community.
  4. Secular Principles and Rule of Law:
    • Muslim parties highlighted the importance of secularism and the rule of law in resolving the dispute, urging the court to uphold these principles in its judgment.
    • They emphasized that any decision should be based on legal merit and not on religious beliefs or sentiments alone.

JUDGEMENT of The Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi dispute

The Supreme Court of India delivered its historic judgment on November 9, 2019, in the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi title dispute case. Here are the key points from the judgment:

  1. Title Suit Resolution:
    • The Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the disputed land in Ayodhya would be handed over to a trust for the construction of a Ram temple.
    • The court recognized the faith and belief of Hindus regarding the birthplace (Janmabhoomi) of Lord Ram at the disputed site as well as their continuous possession and worship.
  2. Muslims Granted Alternate Land:
    • As part of the judgment, the Supreme Court directed the Central government to provide 5 acres of land at a prominent location in Ayodhya to the Sunni Waqf Board for the construction of a mosque.
    • This decision aimed to ensure that both Hindu and Muslim communities could practice their faith and beliefs peacefully.
  3. Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) Report:
    • The court referred to the ASI report, which indicated the presence of a structure that resembled a Hindu temple beneath the Babri Masjid.
    • This archaeological evidence played a significant role in the court’s determination of the historical and religious significance of the disputed site.
  4. The doctrine of Essential Practices:
    • The Supreme Court applied the doctrine of essential practices while considering the religious significance of the disputed site for both Hindus and Muslims.
    • It balanced the religious rights of both communities while ensuring that the judgment was based on legal principles and evidence.
  5. Secularism and Rule of Law:
    • The judgment emphasized the importance of secularism and the rule of law in resolving religious disputes of national significance.
    • It aimed to uphold constitutional values and principles while addressing the complex historical and religious dimensions of the dispute.
  6. Implementation:
    • Following the judgment, the Central government moved swiftly to set up the Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust for the construction of the Ram temple.
    • Efforts were also initiated to allocate the alternate land to the Sunni Waqf Board for the mosque construction, thereby implementing the court’s directions.

Overall, the Supreme Court’s judgment in the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi case sought to bring closure to a longstanding dispute, emphasizing reconciliation, religious harmony, and adherence to the rule of law in India.

BACKLASH

  • Demolition of Babri Masjid (1992): The most significant backlash occurred immediately after the demolition of the Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992, by a mob of kar sevaks (Hindu volunteers). This event led to widespread communal riots and violence across India, resulting in loss of lives and property.
  • Communal Riots: The demolition triggered communal tensions and riots between Hindus and Muslims in various parts of the country. Cities like Mumbai, Surat, Bhopal, and others witnessed large-scale violence, resulting in deaths and displacements of people from both communities.
  • Political Fallout: The demolition of the mosque and subsequent events had significant political repercussions. It led to political instability, resignations of leaders, and changes in governments at both the state and central levels.
  • Legal and Constitutional Concerns: The demolition raised serious questions about the rule of law, secularism, and constitutional rights in India. It prompted debates on the role of the judiciary, law enforcement agencies, and political leadership in handling religious and communal disputes.
  • International Reaction: The events surrounding the demolition of the Babri Masjid and subsequent communal violence attracted international attention and criticism. It raised concerns about religious freedom, minority rights, and communal harmony in India.
  • Social Impact: The aftermath of the Babri Masjid demolition and the prolonged legal battle over the disputed site left a lasting impact on Indian society. It deepened communal divisions, heightened religious sensitivities, and affected inter-community relations.
  • Judicial and Political Processes: Throughout the legal proceedings, including the Supreme Court’s final verdict in 2019, there were concerns and criticisms from various quarters regarding the fairness, impartiality, and inclusivity of the judicial and political processes involved in resolving the dispute.

PRESENT DAY

  1. Formation of Trust:
    • One of the primary directives of the Supreme Court was the formation of a trust to oversee the construction of the Ram Temple. Accordingly, the “Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra” trust was established to manage the construction and related activities.
  2. Allocation of Land:
    • The Supreme Court’s verdict allocated the disputed 2.77 acres of land in Ayodhya to the trust for the construction of the Ram Temple. Additionally, it directed the allocation of 5 acres of land at an alternative site in Ayodhya to the Sunni Waqf Board for the construction of a mosque.
  3. Clearance and Permissions:
    • The trust responsible for the temple construction needs to obtain necessary clearances and permissions from local authorities and regulatory bodies. This includes approvals related to land use, construction plans, environmental considerations, and adherence to building codes.
  4. Construction Plans and Execution:
    • The trust, comprising members nominated by the government and religious stakeholders, develops detailed construction plans for the Ram Temple. This involves architectural designs, engineering specifications, procurement of materials, and hiring of contractors.
  5. Fundraising and Financing:
    • The construction of the Ram Temple is financed through voluntary donations from individuals, organizations, and religious institutions. The trust oversees fundraising efforts and ensures transparent management of funds to support construction activities.
  6. Timeline and Milestones:
    • The implementation process includes setting realistic timelines and milestones for various phases of construction. This includes laying the foundation stone, completing structural work, installation of idols, and ceremonial consecration (Pran Pratishtha).
  7. Legal and Regulatory Compliance:
    • Throughout the construction process, the trust must adhere to legal and regulatory requirements. This includes compliance with court orders, land acquisition laws, labor regulations, and any other applicable statutes.
  8. Public Relations and Outreach:
    • Given the sensitivities surrounding the Ram Mandir issue, effective communication and public relations are crucial. The trust engages with stakeholders, the local community, religious groups, and the public to foster transparency, address concerns, and maintain communal harmony.
  9. Monitoring and Oversight:
    • Government authorities and judicial bodies may monitor the implementation process to ensure adherence to the Supreme Court’s judgment and legal requirements. This oversight helps in mitigating disputes, ensuring fair practices, and upholding the rule of law.
  10. Completion and Inauguration:
    • Once the construction of the Ram Temple is completed as per the approved plans and timelines, a formal inauguration ceremony is conducted. This event marks the culmination of efforts and signifies the fulfillment of a long-standing religious aspiration for many Hindus.

Overall, the implementation of the Supreme Court’s judgment involves meticulous planning, coordination among stakeholders, compliance with legal norms, and sensitivity toward diverse religious sentiments. It aims to achieve the construction of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya in a manner that upholds the principles of justice, communal harmony, and constitutional values.

CONCLUSION

The Ram Mandir case marks a significant moment in India’s history, resolving a centuries-old dispute with profound cultural and religious implications. The Supreme Court’s verdict, which allocated the disputed land for the construction of the Ram temple and provided alternative land for a mosque, reflects a judicial effort to balance competing claims and promote communal harmony. The completion of the Ram temple symbolizes a long-awaited resolution for many Hindus and is celebrated as a triumph of justice and faith. However, it also underscores the need for ongoing efforts to foster unity and understanding in a diverse society. The successful implementation of the judgment, including the construction of the temple and mosque, demonstrates the capacity of the legal system to address complex and sensitive issues. Moving forward, it is imperative to ensure that the principles of fairness, inclusivity, and respect for all communities guide the nation’s journey toward social cohesion and peace.

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Sommya Kashyap
Sommya Kashyap
A law enthusiast
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