The Indian Supreme Court on Saturday awarded the disputed site on which a mosque was demolished by a Hindutva mob in 1992 in the town of Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh to the Hindus, paving the way for a Ram temple to be built there. It also ordered the government to acquire an alternative plot of land on which a mosque can be built instead.
The case, which dates back decades – with even some antecedents in the 19th century – has been the source of great communal tension in India, particularly since the now-ruling Bharatiya Janata Party made the demand for a temple a key plank of their political mobilisation in the 1980s, sparking riots and deaths around the country.
The Supreme Court’s 1,045-page-long verdict handing over the land where the Babri Masjid once stood to plaintiffs associated with the Vishwa Hindu Parishad rests on a narrow and extraordinary claim: that the Muslim side has not been able to provide documentary evidence that only namaz and no other form of worship was offered in the mosque from the time of its construction in 1528 until 1857, when it enters the annals of colonial law thanks to a riot in Ayodhya.
A Constitution Bench led by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi has delivered its verdict on the disputed land in Ayodhya.
Here are the top highlights from the judgment in the cross-appeals filed by the Hindu and Muslim sides challenging the three-way partition of the disputed 2.77 acres of Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land.
Background – The Ayodhya Case: A Timeline
Babri Masjid Constructed in Ayodhya by Mughal emperor Babur’s commander Mir Baqi.
Mahant Raghubir Das files a plea in the Faizabad district court, seeking to build a temple on land next to the mosque. Court rejects plea.
December 22-23, 1949
Idol of Ram Lalla found inside the mosque. Hindus call it divine appearance; start offering prayers. Others say that it was smuggled in there.
Suits filed in Faizabad Court by Gopal Singh Visharad and Paramhansa Ramachandra Das, seeking permission to worship the idols of Ram Lalla.
Nirmohi Akhara files plea seeking possession of the disputed land.
UP Sunni Waqf Board files petition to get possession of the site and removal of idols from the mosque.
February 1, 1986
Faizabad Sessions court orders to open the site allowing Hindus to worship the idols. Babri Masjid Action Committee is formed in protest.
August 14, 1989
Title suits shifted to Allahabad High Court. Court orders status quo with respect to the disputed site.
November 9, 1989
Rajiv Gandhi government allows Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) to perform Shilanyaas near the disputed site.
BJP’s LK Advani begins Rath Yatra from Somnath in Gujarat to gather support for a Ram temple at the disputed site.
December 6, 1992
Babri Masjid is demolished by Karsevaks. Violence breaks out.
December 16, 1992
Liberhan commission is constituted to look into the events leading up to the demolition of the mosque.
Narsimha Rao-led central government acquires over 67 acres of land — disputed site and adjoining areas.
Supreme Court upholds validity of Acquisition of Certain Areas at Ayodhya Act. In Ismail Farooqi case, it concludes that mosque is not integral to Islam .
Hearings of title dispute begin in Allahabad HC.
SC says that no religious activity to be allowed on the acquired area.
Liberhan Committe submits report to the Prime Minister.
September 30, 2010
In 2:1 judgement, HC orders a three-way division of the disputed land between Sunni Waqf Board, Ram Lalla and Nirmohi Akhara.
Supreme Court stays HC verdict.
Chief Justice JS Khehar suggests an out-of-court settlement over the dispute.
A three-judge bench of CJI Dipak Misra, Justice Ashok Bhushan and Justice S Abdul Nazeer begins hearing the appeals.
After appeals from petitioners to reconsider Ismail Farooqi judgement (1994), the bench in a 2:1 judgement, decides to not refer it to a larger bench.
January 8, 2019
CJI Ranjan Gogoi forms a 5-judge bench of led by him and consisting of Justices SA Bobde, NV Ramana, UU Lalit and DY Chandrachud to hear the appleals
January 10, 2019
Justice UU Lalit recuses himself from the hearing. Justices Ashok Bhushan and S Abdul Nazeer replace Justices NV Ramanna and UU Lalit.
March 8, 2019
The matter is sent for court-monitored mediation. The panel submitted its report in October.
August 6, 2019
The 5-judge bench begins daily hearings of appeals challenging the Allahabad HC verdict in the title suit.
October 15, 2019
SC bench reserves its verdict in the title suit. Judgement expected before CJI Ranjan Gogoi retires on November 17, 2019.
Temple on disputed site; Alternative land for mosque
The Supreme Court granted the entire disputed land in Ayodhya for temple construction.
SC directed Centre and UP govt to allot 5 acres of land to Muslims at a prominent place in Ayodhya for building a mosque.
A trust to be set up
SC directed Centre to formulate a scheme for forming a trust within 3 months for construction of a temple at the site. The land must be handed over to the trust. Till the Trust is formed, the ownership of the site will rest with the Centre.
‘Mosque wasn’t abandoned’
The court upheld the belief of Hindus that Lord Ram was born at the disputed site in Ayodhya. It also upheld that the mosque was neither abandoned nor seceded by the Muslims.
“Iron railing was set up at site in 1856-1857, it suggests Hindus kept worshipping at the site. Evidence suggest Hindus were in possession of outer court yard.”
ASI had not established whether temple was demolished
“The fact that there lied a structure beneath the destroyed structure has been established by the ASI. ASI had not established whether temple was demolished to build the mosque.”
SC said that terming the archaeological evidence as merely an opinion would be a great disservice to the ASI.
Shia Wakf Board’s claim dismissed
The Bench dismissed the Shia Wakf Board’s petition claiming the disputed site belonged to them.
‘Muslims not able to establish ownership of the land’
“Uttar Pradesh Sunni Central Waqf Board has failed to establish its case in Ayodhya dispute; Muslims have not adduced evidence they were in exclusive possession of dispute site,” the SC said.
“Babri mosque was not built on vacant land. The underlying structure was not an Islamic structure.” “Damage to Babri mosque was violation of law,” the apex court added.
Akhara’s suit dismissed
The suit filed by Nirmohi Akhara for sherbaiti rights has been time barred and hence dismissed. The court said the Akhara might be made a part of the Trust.
Places of Worship Act
The Supreme Court refers to Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, which prohibits conversion of any place of worship, to say that all religions are equal.
At the heart of the Constitution is the commitment to equality. Constitution does not distinguish between one faith and another, says the CJI.
Now that a section of Hindus (to be referred to henceforth as ‘Hindus’) has been given the right to build a Ram mandir at the disputed site in Ayodhya, inter-denominational (to be referred to henceforth as ‘social’) amity should descend on India once and for all, proving the till-now doubted efficacy of the ‘trickle-down’ phenomenon.
This, in turn, will redouble the nation’s focus on reaching the goal towards economic prosperity (to be referred to henceforth as ‘a Rs 5 trillion economy’).
That a section of Muslims (to be referred to henceforth as ‘Muslims’) has been given a tract of land in Ayodhya (the location of which is yet to be determined) to build a masjid is also welcome. This way, the Supreme Court has used common sense (to be referred to as ‘judicial judgment’) to put a closure on an issue that has been on the agenda of a moderately modernist, forward-looking nation since at least the late 1980s (to be referred to henceforth as ‘centuries’).
The simplicity of Saturday’s verdict may make commentators criticise, or even question it. The judgment may even resurrect the notion of a new-found demand for ‘many Ayodhyas’ (to be referred henceforth as ‘Mathura and Kashi’). But by expecto patronum, and in special cases such as locations with ‘living’ mosques and dargahs, wingardium leviosa, Saturday’s verdict ensures that this decision pertaining to Ayodhya is restricted to Ayodhya (to be referred to henceforth as ‘wahi’ (there), in contradistinction to ‘yehi’ (here), in the context of ‘Mandir wahi banega’).
All in all, the Supreme Court verdict has allowed both the State and the citizenry (in conjunction to be referred to henceforth as ‘India’) to now focus on other matters pertaining to governance, development, social and economic prosperity, and the keeping of law and order. In other words, in the building, completion and maintenance in perpetuo of a sidelined national project that is inclusive as well as extensive (to be referred to henceforth as ‘Ram Rajya’).