'Unhappy, but resigned': Ayodhya judgment is not 'justice', say Mumbai Sunni leaders; scholars say can't trust a court which favours 'faith over merit'
Unhappy but resigned. That was the mood of three well-known Sunni leaders and Islamic scholars in Mumbai, after the Supreme Court verdict on the Ayodhya land dispute case. The highest court had let them down, they felt.
One leader pointed out that the court had said that the Muslim side could not prove its right to the land unequivocally, but it had also dismissed the Nirmohi Akhara's suit, and rejected the Asthan Sri Ram Janmabhoomi as a legal entity
For Maulana Shoaib Koti, member of the Dar-ul-Qaza run by the Iqra Foundation, the alarming aspect of the judgment was its devaluation of what had always been considered important in a property dispute, viz documents
'Giving land in exchange for disputed land is what a village panchayat does, not the country's highest court. At any rate, the Waqf land cannot be exchanged or even given away. If somebody grabs it from us, that's another thing. We have not fought for 68 years for a five acre plot somewhere in Ayodhya', said another scholar
Unhappy but resigned. That was the mood of three well-known Sunni leaders and Islamic scholars in Mumbai, after the Supreme Court verdict on the Ram Mandir-Babri Masjid Ayodhya case. The highest court had let them down, they felt.
"The Supreme Court is after all the Supreme Court. It is expected to look at issues on merits alone," said Maulana Burhanuddin Qasmi, head of Mumbai's Markazul Ma'arif Education and Research Centre, which teaches madarsa graduates English and communication technology. "But this judgment — which I have read in full — seems to have taken faith as the basis of their decision."
The Maulana pointed out that the court had said that the Muslim side could not prove its right to the land unequivocally, but it had also dismissed the Nirmohi Akhara's suit, and rejected the Asthan Sri Ram Janmabhoomi as a legal entity. "Then it goes on to recognise Ram Lalla and gives permission for the construction of the temple!"
"This is not justice," the Maulana said and added, "This is some sort of arbitration, an attempt to cool down the atmosphere by recognising majority sentiments. Well, the Supreme Court has the authority, and they've done it. But both, as an ordinary Indian citizen and a Muslim scholar, I'm not happy."
For Maulana Shoaib Koti, member of the Dar-ul-Qaza run by the Iqra Foundation, the alarming aspect of the judgment was its devaluation of what had always been considered important in a property dispute, viz documents. "We had all the documents necessary to back up our claims, which the Hindu side didn't. Yet, our claim was rejected. In the future, what will be the value of documents?" he asked.
An important part of the judgment was the allotment of five acres to the Sunni Waqf Board for the construction of a mosque in Ayodhya. The judgment noted that the Muslims had not abandoned the Babri Masjid, but had been dispossessed of it, first by the desecration (smuggling in idols) in 1949 and then by its destruction in 1992, both illegal acts. These wrongs needed to be remedied, it said.
But this aspect meant nothing to these leaders. "By the grace of God, we still have the capacity to build a mosque anywhere in India," said Maulana Syed Ather Ali, executive committee member of the All India Personal Law Board and the All India Majlis e Mushawarat. "For us, the site where the Babri Masjid stood is of importance. In the Shariat, a masjid is always a masjid. It's not just the structure, but also the land on which it stands. Because we can't just build a mosque like we would any other building. There are rules for it, and once a mosque is built there, it remains so for eternity. Even we have no right to give it away."
But what about mosques having been shifted for road widening? "If it has been done, it's against the Shariat," said the Maulana. "Something might have happened, but it does not mean we accept it."
The Maulana pointed out that the Supreme Court has said clearly that the structure below the plot where the Babri Masjid stood was not a temple. Yet, they have given the site for construction of a temple.
"Giving land in exchange for disputed land is what a village panchayat does, not the country's highest court. At any rate, the Waqf land cannot be exchanged or even given away. If somebody grabs it from us, that's another thing. We have not fought for 68 years for a five acre plot somewhere in Ayodhya! The Supreme Court should have decided the dispute on principle, on the basis of evidence and Constitutional principles."
The disappointment was evident, but all three Maulanas made it clear they accepted the verdict. "A property suit has to favour one party and go against the other," said Maulana Ather Ali. "Naturally, the side that loses will be disappointed. Only those who win can say things like: 'This is nobody's victory and nobody's loss,' he added hinting at what senior BJP leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, said.
"But, we had already declared before the verdict that in the interests of peace, we will accept the verdict. And you can see, nowhere has any incident taken place. Now it's up to the government to see that peace is maintained," the Maulana added.
When asked how the Ayodhya verdict affected their faith in the Supreme Court, Maulana Qasmi said, "Five Supreme Court judges reaching a unanimous decision based not on merit but on faith. What does it say? You talk of what happened in 1949 and 1992 as crimes, but you don't mention punishment. You acknowledge that we have been slapped, and you don't take our claims into account. Life will go on but this is not what we expected from the Supreme Court."
"Hadn't the Allahabad order of 2010 (which divided the disputed land into three parts) already dented our faith in courts?" asked Maulana Koti. "This one doesn't even give us the one-third concession that order had."
The scholar associated with Islamic education and law made a significant point. "Already, the pillars of democracy are under pressure, be it the media or the administration. All that was left was the judiciary. It now seems to me that the top leaders who were appealing for acceptance of the verdict, and those appealing for no celebrations, already knew what the verdict will be."
The significance of the verdict wasn't just confined to the country, said Koti. "Okay, we had already committed to accepting this verdict without protest. But is the entire world a fool? What's the message being sent internationally?"
"The majority is happy with this judgment. That's the mentality of the country today. This is the direction in which the country has set forward and it will walk this path for a long time," said Koti.
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