The Ayodhya judgment will go down in history as a fair, nuanced, pragmatic, balanced, and perhaps the only verdict that may bring closure in this complex and sensitive case. The judgment of the five-judge Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi not only adheres to principles of pragmatism and secularism, but also restores “a sense of balance” by correcting a historical wrong. In that sense, the judgment ascribes to a higher sense of fairness.
This correction was important, necessary and topical. What is more important, however, is that this addressing of a historical grievance that shaped the faith, psyche and socio-political beliefs of Hindus for generations was arrived at through jurisprudence, logic and careful examination of facts. The fact that an unambiguous verdict has been delivered by the highest court of the land through a rigorous judicial process extends to the outcome a legitimacy that would have otherwise been difficult if it was arrived at through legislation or mediation.
Time will tell if there is indeed closure — there is certainly a prevalent mood in the nation that we must acknowledge the reality and move on — but this verdict goes pretty close to addressing the subterranean sense of injustice that Hindus long suffered from, where not only their article of faith was ignored (that the disputed site was a holy place for worship for Hindus by virtue of being the birthplace of Lord Ram) but crucially, that history was denied expression.
We were told by fraudulent historians that there is no evidence of Ayodhya being an ancient Hindu pilgrimage site, or that the Archaeological Survey of India’s findings, that the Babri mosque was built on top of a temple, was merely an “opinion” and not fact. This paved the way, therefore, of the narrative being built of the Babri mosque being “timeless”, and its demolition an inflection point in India’s history where we let go of our secular credentials.
Ironically, this suppression of history and mainstreaming of a one-sided narrative under the aegis of fraudulent historians brought to the fore the subterranean grievance narrative of the Hindus and fueled the BJP’s political rise — a movement that resulted in the unfortunate demolition of the mosque. It is important to recognise, therefore, that while the act of demolition of the mosque was wrong, it was equally wrong for a marauding invader to destroy a temple and desecrate a site considered holy by Hindus by building a mosque over it — almost as a marker of subjugation and humiliation.
The judgment makes it clear that “that there was evidence from the ASI report to conclude that the Babri Masjid was not constructed on vacant land. There was a structure underlying the disputed structure, which was not an Islamic structure.” The judgment also notes that though the mosque was claimed to be built on vacant land, ASI findings clearly indicate that it was built over a non-Islamic structure that appears to be a temple though there is no clarification on whether it was dedicated to a specific deity. The apex court observes that terming the archaeological evidence as merely an opinion would be a “great disservice to the ASI.”
Had the Babri mosque demolition been only an act of right-wing wantonness activated and executed by a party for political gains, the dispute wouldn’t have survived for hundreds of years. On the contrary, the fact that this dispute refused to die down, leading to the demolition of the mosque, points to an anger of suppressed history that has been denied articulation and validity.
The beauty of the judgment — that gives the entire, disputed 2.77 acres of land to Hindus (via a trust) for construction of a Ram Temple and five acres of land to Muslims at an alternate spot to be identified by the Centre and state governments — is that it acknowledges the acts of desecration of the Babri mosque by placement of idols and eventual demolition in 1992 as illegal, condemns the acts but also recognises the necessity of acknowledging the fact that the site has always been a place of worship for Hindus and an article of faith that it is the birthplace of Lord Ram.
Addressing and acknowledging this article of mass faith would have been enough, but the judgment excels exactly at this point by arriving at this conclusion through logic and evidence. It is worth quoting from the judgment in this context. As an adjudicator of essentially title suits, the court first establishes the inalienable right of worship of Hindus over the outer courtyard, and then proceeds to establish their right of worship in the inner courtyard — the main point of dispute.
The judgment observes: “there is clear evidence to indicate that the worship by the Hindus in the outer courtyard continued unimpeded in spite of the setting up of a grill-brick wall in 1857. Their possession of the outer courtyard stands established together with the incidents attaching to their control over it.”
In other words, while the Hindus have “established a clear case of a possessory title to the outside courtyard by virtue of long, continued and unimpeded worship at the Ramchabutra and other objects of religious significance”, when it comes to inner courtyard, they have contesting claims. And here, “there is evidence on a preponderance of probabilities to establish worship by the Hindus prior to the annexation of Oudh by the British in 1857. The Muslims have offered no evidence to indicate that they were in exclusive possession of the inner structure prior to 1857 since the date of the construction in the sixteenth century.”
This is the nub of the dispute and the court makes it clear why the title suit must be settled in favour of Hindus even as we acknowledge that demolition of the mosque was wrong, and therefore the Muslims are entitled to five acres of land in an alternate site at Ayodhya. It is worth stressing that while demolition of a mosque is wrong, the act of demolition cannot be considered as a factor while deciding on titular claims.
Finally, the handing over of the land to a trust to be set up by the government within three months is aimed at achieving two objectives. One, preclude a sense of triumphalism in one community over another and two, transfer some of the responsibility to the Centre.
In the times to come and given India’s demographic and cultural complexity, the judgment may prove to be an invaluable legal treatise that upholds “justness” and delivers impartial treatment to a vexed and emotional case.
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Updated Date: Nov 09, 2019 18:42:26 IST