November 9, 2019 was a historic day for India. On this day, after a 70-year-long litigation, the five-justice bench (which included one Muslim justice) of the Indian Supreme Court issued its long-awaited verdict on the land dispute in Ayodhya.
In its verdict, the Supreme Court awarded the 2.71 acres of the disputed land to Hindus where the Hindus claim and believe that Lord Rama was born. The Supreme Court also ordered the Central Government to allocate 5 acres of land to Muslims selected by them for the construction of a mosque. On November 9, two other important things happened, the first a group of Sikhs and Hindus walked through the visa free corridor from Gurudaspur in India to a historical gurudawara located in Kartarpur, Pakistan.
On November 9, Pakistan also celebrated Iqbal day; Iqbal was the first one to use the word “Pakistan.” Iqbal was a famous Urdu poet who called Rama as “Imam-e-Hind”, the great man of Hindustan. Interestingly, thirty years back on November 9, the Berlin Wall came down, a memory of which prompted a Pakistani to start a twitter “#Hindu Muslim Bhaibhai” with the hope that the wall between India and Pakistan would also come down and like the Kartarpur corridor, people of these two countries will be able to walk freely to each of the two countries. This twitter has a good following.
I hope that Rama will send his blessings to this dream in celebration of his victory in the form of November 9 verdict. In the dispute, in addition to Hindus and Muslims, Rama was made a third party to the dispute by the court. Hope the followers of Rama and Iqbal, will also follow the twitter. In his November 11 goodwill message to Muslims on Milad-Un Nabi, Hazrat Muhammad Saheb’s birthday, PM Modi stated, “unity in diversity will lead to totality.”
In 1528, at the order of Mughal Emperor Babar, his general Mir Baqui, demolished the temple in Ayodhya and constructed a mosque there. Since then, on a number of occasions Hindu sadhus unsuccessfully tried to worship Rama at this site. In 1853, the first known communal riots took place at this site. In 1857, Britishers allowed Muslims to pray inside the mosque and Hindus to worship Rama outside the mosque. In 1885, Mahant Raghubir Das filed a lawsuit to build a structure on 17 x 21 square feet area to worship Rama. In 1886, the Session Judge of the Faizabad Court dismissed the lawsuit.
In 1949, idols of Rama were found inside the mosque. No one knew who installed the idols. In 1952 two lawsuits were filed in the Faizabad Court seeking right to worship Rama idols.
In 1959, Nirmohi Akhara filed the third lawsuit. In 1961 Sunni Waqf Board sought the title to the disputed land and removal of the Rama idols. In 1981, the Faizabad Court Justice Pandey allowed the opening of the doors and the worship of Rama idols.
In 1989, Allahabad High Court took over the case. Also, in 1989, after Bhaorao Deoros, then general secretary of RSS met PM Rajiv Gandhi. Mr. Gandhi allowed Vishwa Hindu Parishad (“VHP”) to perform pooja at the site outside the Mosque.
In 1990, BJP’s President, L.K. Advani started his famous Ratha Yatra from Som Nath to Ayodha. At that time, BJP was a part of the V.P. Singh’s government. When Mr. Advani reached Bihar, then the Chief Minister Lalu Prasad Yaday halted the Yatra and arrested Mr. Advani. Upon his arrest, BJP withdrew support to the central government and PM V.P. Singh resigned.
On December 6, 1992, Hindu Karasewakas demolished the mosque. At that time Mr. Narasimhan Rao was the Prime Minister. He had army stationed in Ayodhya, but did not allow the army to take any action. Later he explained that any army action might have provoked Karsewaka’s attack on the army and army might have resorted to shooting. He did not want any Sadhu to be killed which would have amounted to Brahma Hatya (killing of a Brahamin) a great sin for a Hindu. However, he dismissed the BJP government in Uttar Pradesh headed by Kalyan Singh and banned RSS. There were also Hindu Muslim riots, worst one was in Mumbai. In 1993, Mr. Rao’s government acquired 67 acres of land in the area including the disputed land. This acquisition was challenged but was upheld by the Court.
In 2002, the Allahabad High Court started the hearing. In 2010, the High Court divided the 2.71 acres of land, 2/3rd to Hindus and 1/3rd to Muslims. In the Court decision, the Judge Ismail Faroque commented that prayers in a mosque was not integral to Islam. Later Muslims objected to his remark. The decision was appealed by both Hindus and Muslims to the Supreme Court of India and in 2011, the Supreme Court stayed the High Court decision. In 2017, the three-judge bench of the Supreme Court started the hearings on this appeal. These hearings were never concluded.
In January 2019, a five Judge bench under the Chief Justice Ranjan Gagoi started the latest round of hearings related to the land title. The Supreme Court also constituted a Mediation Committee which failed to reach any settlement. On August 6, non-stop hearings were started which concluded on October 11, 2019. On November 9, the Supreme Court issued its verdict. Hindus and Sunni Waqf Board accepted the decision. The Waqf Board stated that it would advise the government where it wants the land for a mosque.
During all these years a number of people questioned the veracity of the belief that Rama was born at the disputed site. It is a correct assertion as there is no record of Rama’s exact birth place. A well known Muslim leader and member of Parliament Owaisi expressed his displeasure by stating that the faith has overshadowed the law. Almost all religions are based on faith and certain beliefs. For example, Christians believe that Moses was the author of the Bible. A mosque was built over Solomon Temple, a Jewish temple, in Jerusalem. This Mosque is the third holiest Muslim place after Mecca and Madinah. Muslims believe that Hazarat Muhammed went to heaven from that site in Jerusalem where the Mosque was built. This belief is held in-spite the fact that Hazarat Sahib never travelled out of Saudi Arabia. When Muslims are confronted with this fact, they acknowledge but they say that Hazarat Saheb dreamed that he would go to heaven from the site.
It is not unusual for the Courts, in reaching their decision, to respect the faith in the world and other considerations and not stick to a strict interpretation of law. When the U.S. Supreme Court was to issue its decision on Obamacare, considering its revocation would leave millions without healthcare, the Chief Justice Robert, a conservative Judge, saved Obamacare by giving his own interpretation that requiring states to offer Obamacare to everyone amounts to imposing a new tax which the federal government has the right to do. Similarly, the Indian Supreme Court justices, including one Muslim justice, viewed all the arguments, the faith and beliefs of Hindus and the impact of their decisions in rendering the verdict.
Now, the verdict has been rendered, what is the consequence? Before the verdict was rendered, Supreme Court and the government of India had issued the alerts, however, no riots or any ugly incidents happened anywhere in the country. Though, some Muslims openly expressed their displeasure, most of them quietly accepted the verdict with the hope that the matter is finally over. The residents of Ayodhya have expressed the hope that this would be the end of a long dispute, in fact the longest dispute between Hindus and Muslims. Hindus are generally happy that their ethos has been achieved after a long struggle. This verdict has mellowed the Hindu groups such as RSS and VHP. In fact, just before the verdict, senior RSS leaders met some Muslim leaders and they all agreed to accept the Supreme Court’s decision. Now Hindus got the Rama temple site, this issue will not be raised in future elections and campaign will focus on other issues which are important to both Hindus and Muslims. Some Muslim groups have announced their intent of seeking a reconsideration of the verdict. Hopefully, they will eventually accept the verdict.
Finally, I hope as Iqbal stated, people will accept Rama as Imam-e-Hind and move on to work together for India’s progress and economic welfare of all.
Jitendra K. Tuli was an advisor to former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee.