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A Synopsis of the Ayodhya Ram Mandir/Babri Masjid Case

India is a unique country which is experiencing rapid advancements but also is known for its diversity. It has so strong influence that people, including the leaders, get themselves trapped in religious beliefs, communalism and casteism. Religious violence is not an unknown phenomenon in India, for ours is the only country which inhabits all of the 8 major religions of the world and thus differences are bound to occur which may, in turn, tempt violence. To maintain, protect and preserve the culture and traditions of all the religions, the country has adopted the principle of Secularism through its Constitution. However, the varying mindsets and beliefs of people lure religious disharmony. Some disputes are so prolonged that they create a solid impact on different facets of the country. 

One such case is the Ayodhya Dispute Case, which witnessed all the Prime Ministers of Independent India, striving for solutions to it. The long wait have now come to an end, with the Supreme Court of India pronouncing the verdict on 09th November 2019. The case finally reached its destination almost after 7 decades since its onset. The entire nation anxiously looked forward for the verdict. Tensions aroused between both the groups. Administrators are conscious on avoiding any violence following the verdict. However, the verdict has been accepted by the masses unlike the one in 2010, which created similar anticipations but turned out unsatisfactory and eventually failed. 

Before analyzing the pronouncement, it is important to know the facts and implications in the case. This particular case had people, across generations, on the edge of their seats right from the beginning.

So what is this case all about and why is it so important to Indian citizens? 
Let us travel back to nearly 70 years from today, to 1949, and introduce ourselves to the city of Ayodhya, a very beautiful city as rightly described by Poet Tulsidas, administered by the Faizabad District, in the United Provinces (present day Uttar Pradesh). This city inhabits both Hindus (who claim it to be the birth place of Lord Ram), and Muslims (who see it as a city which locates the Babri Masjid, built by the first Mughal Ruler Babur in 1528). The dispute took its initial stage when the Hindus alleged that the Masjid was constructed after ruining a temple dedicated to Lord Ram, while the Islams disagreed with it. Earlier, it was only a matter of conflicting views, until in 1949 when an idol of infant Ram, Ram Lalla, was placed inside the mosque, claiming to have emerged itself. This intensified the religious belief among the Hindus and large number of people across the country started visiting Ayodhya to worship the deity. 

According to the Hindus belief, Lord Ram is considered one of the Incarnations of Lord Vishnu, who was born in Ayodhya about 10,000 years ago, a time period unknown to man. We can find its relevance through the Puranas. So, people now wanted to put Ram back to the place where he is believed to have been born and brought up. The matter then came before the first Prime Minister of Independent India, Mr. Jawaharlal Nehru. He was a man of intellectual nature who felt that such agitations would be a threat to secularism. Soon came the partition which gave way to Hindu Domination. According to the census report, partition reduced the number of Muslims in India to less than half the population before partition. However, the proportion of Hindu-Muslim population in Ayodhya had little effect. 

The place was soon modified by devotees and they also started installing more idols, whereas the Muslim were determinant in their opposition. Mr. Jawaharlal Nehru and the state authorities provided for the removal of the idol but the City and District Magistrates showed no interest in removing it. Muslims were also restricted and prohibited from entering the gateway. This created further tension in the area.

The legal battle over Ayodhya began in 1950 when a petition was filed, for the first time, by Gopal Singh Visharad, who was denied entry to the place. He was the Ayodhya Secretary of the Hindu Mahasabha, a organization formed to oppose Congress party's secular principle. The Court dragged on the issue for almost a decade and in 1959, the Nirmohi Akhara filed another suit which claimed the area should be in their possession. In response to the above suits, the Sunni Central Board of Waqfs filed a counter petition in 1961. The Board was established by the Indian Law to protect and preserve Muslim religious and cultural sites. 

This went on and on over decades and the judges kept on postponing the case hearings. The 1981 Meenakshipuram (in Tamilnadu) incident, where around 400 families of low caste Hindu converted into Islam, made this local issue a national one and people started fearing threat to their religious identity. A meeting headed by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) gathered in Delhi to discuss the issue.

In January 1986, Umesh Chandra Pandey filed a petition to open the lock to the temple and on 1st February 1986, the judge ordered for the same, much to the shock of the Muslim representatives and in response, they petitioned the High Court in Lucknow, two days after the order, to prevent anything happening further. The claim was accepted. 

The matter took a new turn when the Babri Masjid was demolished by the Hindu activists on 6th December 1992 that shook the entire nation. President's Rule was imposed in the city. An investigation followed and subsequently cases were filed against 19 people including the leader, Mr. L. K. Advani. The demolition turned a mere disharmony into unrest much that people came to blows. The tragedies such as the 1993 Mumbai Riots and blasts, 2002 Godhra Train blasts and the 2008 Mumbai Terrorist Attack, added fuel to the fire.

A new law was enacted and the area including the disputed site was acquired by the Indian Government. The new law also set aside all the suits but allowed Hindus for worship. This frustrated the Muslims as well as the Nirmohi Akhara and they challenged the new law. By 1995, there were total four suits before the Lucknow bench. One on the Muslim side, i. e. Sunni Central Board of Waqfs, and three on the Hindu side, i. e. by Gopal Singh Visharad (1950), by Nirmohi Akhara (1959) and by Deoki Nandan Agarwal (1989). The forth suit was the most recent to be filed and the retired Judge, Mr. Agarwal, made Lord Ram himself, the plaintiff. The Indian Law treats God as a Legal Person for the purpose of Law. 

In 2003, the Allahabad High Court called the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to carry out survey on the disputed land to find empirical evidence. Post the survey, the ASI asked for excavation. The ASI submitted the report which affirmed traces of northern style temple to have been found under the site. In 2010, the Allahabad High Court declared the decree that the area be trifurcated among Lord Ram, the Muslims and the Nirmohi Akhara. However, none of the partied accepted the verdict. They soon appealed to the Supreme Court. The Apex Court stayed the High Court's Order.

Since then, the suit moved on tediously only till when BJP Senior Member Subramanian Swamy filed a plea to consider this case as a Special Leave Petition. The plea was accepted and the hearing began on 6th August 2019. The judges reserved their verdict on 16th October 2019.

09th November 2019: The day arrived grabbing the attention of millions across the country. The state of U. P. was under full protection and section 144 of the Cr. P. C. was imposed on several cities in India.

And finally, after a month long hearing, the Apex Court, headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, ruled the following:

  • The disputed land of 2.77 acres to be given for the Construction of Ram Temple through a government trustee
  • An alternative 5-acre land to be found for mosque in Ayodhya
  • The Apex Court dismissed all the other suits

Some of the other facts:

  1. The verdict was pronounced by a 5-judge bench.
  2. It is a 1045 page long verdict.
  3. The final hearing of the case took almost 40 days, making it the second longest hearing, post the Keshavanand Bharti case of 1973 (68 days).
  4. It is for the first time that the Supreme Court ruled a judgement on a Saturday, ever since its establishment in 1950.
  5. The report submitted by the ASI formed a major source of the verdict. The report is said to be released as a book soon.

Despite all the controversies and inter-religious unrests, the current ruling and its effect can be taken as a complete victory of Secularism. No wonder why our first Prime Minister, Mr. Jawaharlal Nehru described our Country as a Unity in Diversity.

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