Ayodhya-Babri Dispute: Timeline, SC Verdict & its Significance

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The Supreme Court had given the much-awaited verdict on the Ram Janmabhoomi – Babri Masjid land dispute case. Though this verdict, the Apex court cleared the way for the construction of a Ram temple at the disputed site at Ayodhya and directed the Centre to allot a 5-acre of land to the Sunni Waqf Board for building a mosque. It is one of the most important and most anticipated judgements in India’s history. The Constitutional Bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi put an end to the more than a century-old dispute that has torn the social fabric of the nation.

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What is the dispute about?

  • The Ayodhya dispute or Ram Janmabhoomi – Babari Masjid Title Dispute is a political, historical and socio-religious debate that centered on a plot of land in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh.
  • The dispute revolves around the control of a site that is traditionally regarded by the Hindus as the birthplace of the Hindu deity Rama, the history and location of the Babari Masjid at the site and the question of whether or not there was previously a Hindu temple that may have been demolished or modified to create the mosque.
  • The Babari Masjid was destroyed during a political rally that was turned into a riot on December 6 of 1992.
  • Following this incident, a land title case was lodged in the Allahabad High Court.
  • In the judgement on 30th September 2010, the 3 judges of the Allahabad HC ruled that the 2.77 acres of Ayodhya land be divided into 3 parts, with one-third going to the Ram Lalla or Infant Rama as represented by the Hindu Maha Sabha, one-third going to Sunni Waqf Board and the remaining one-third to Nirmohi Akhara.
  • The judgement affirmed that the disputed land was the birthplace of Rama as per the faith of the Hindus and that the Babari Masjid was built after the demolition of the Hindu Ram temple.
  • The five-judge bench of the Supreme Court heard the title dispute cases from August to October 2019.
  • On 9th November 2019, the SC vacated the previous decision and the land belonged to the government per tax records.
  • It further ordered the land to be handed over to a trust to build the Hindu Temple.
  • Also, it ordered the government to give an alternate 5-acre land to the Sunni Waqf board to build the Mosque.

The History:

  • 1528: According to the inscription on the walls of the Babri Masjid, it was constructed on the orders of Emperor Babur. The local tradition says that it was built after the demolition of the temple at the birthplace of Rama.
  • 1611: English Merchant William Finch recorded Rama’s castle and houses being visited by Pilgrims.
  • 1717: Rajput noble Jai Singh II purchased the land of the mosque and entrusted it in the deity. The Hindus worship Ram idols outside the Mosque.
  • 1853: The first recorded communal clashes over the site
  • 1859: The colonial British Administration put a fence around the site, to denominate separate areas of worship for the Hindus and Muslims. This is how it stood for the next 90 years.
  • 1949: The idols were placed inside the mosque. Both sides of the dispute filed civil suits. The Indian government locked the gates, saying that the matter was sub judice and declared the area to be disputed. The civil suits were filed for ownership of the area.
  • 1961: Case filed in the Indian courts against the forceful occupation of the Babri Mosque and placing idol within it. The movement to build a temple in the site, which the Hindu claimed was the birthplace of Lord Ram, gathered momentum when the Hindu factions formed a committee to spearhead the construction of a temple at the Ramjanmabhoomi site.
  • 1986: A district judge ordered the gates of the mosque to be opened and allowed the Hindus to worship inside the “disputed structure”. A Babri Mosque Action Committee was formed as the Muslims protested the move to allow the Hindus to pray at the site.
  • 1989: The clamour to build Ram temple was growing. In November that year, the Vishva Hindu Parishad laid the foundation of a temple on the land adjacent to the “disputed structure”. As a consequence, there were sporadic clashes in the nation.
  • 1991: The UP state government acquired 2.77 acres of land in the area and gave it on lease to Ramjanmbhoomi Nyas Trust. The Allahabad HC stopped any permanent construction activity in the area.
  • 1992: The UP state government took steps to support the movement by making entry into the area easier, promising no firing on Kar sevaks, opposing the decision by the Centre to send the Central Police Force in the area, etc. In July, several thousand Karvesak assembled in the area and the work for the maintenance of the temple started. This activity was ceased following the intervention by the Prime Minister. Talks between Babri Masjid Action Committee and VHP in the presence of Home Minister was initiated but failed to resolve the issue. The Allahabad HC was hearing the legality of the structure of the foundation laid in 1989.
  • 6th of December 1992: The Babri Mosque was demolished by a gathering of nearly 200,000 Kar Sevaks. Communal riots followed.
  • 16th of December 1992: The Centre had set up a commission of inquiry under Justice Liberhan.
  • 1993: Liberhan Commission began investigations into whom and what led to the demolition of the Babri Mosque.
  • 27th February 2002: At least 58 were killed in Godhra in Gujarat, in an attack on a train believed to be carried out by Hindu volunteers from Ayodhya. Riots followed in the state and over 200 people were unofficially reported dead.
  • 2003: The court ordered a survey to find out whether a temple to Lord Ram existed on the site. In August, the survey presented evidence of a temple under the mosque. The Muslim groups disputed these findings.
  • 2007: The SC refused to admit a review petition on the Ayodhya dispute.
  • 2009: The Liberhan Committee, which was instituted 10 days after the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992, submitted its report on 30th Its contents were classified.
  • 30th September 2010: The Allahabad HC pronounced its verdict on 4 title suits relating to the Ayodhya dispute on 30th
  • December 2010: SC challenged the Allahabad HC’s verdict.
  • May 2011: The SC stayed the Allahabad HC order of splitting the disputed site into three parts and said that the status quo will remain.
  • 6th August 2019: The 5-judge Constitution bench, headed by CJI Ranjan Gogoi, of SC, initiated the final hearing of the case.
  • 16th of October 2019: Final hearing of the SC ends. The bench reserved the final judgement. It granted three days to contesting parties to file written notes on “moulding of relief” or narrowing down the issues on which the court is required to adjudicate.
  • 9th November 2019: Final judgement was delivered. The SC ordered the land to be handed over to trust to build the Ram temple. It has also ordered the government to give 5 acres of land inside Ayodhya city to the Sunni Waqf Board to build a mosque.

What was the Supreme Court’s verdict?

  • SC ordered the Centre to set up a trust to build a temple while allotting alternative 5-acre land for the construction of a Mosque.
  • It had also ordered the Centre to formulate a scheme in 3 months to establish a board of trustees for the construction of a temple at the disputed structure.
  • The SC allotted the entire 2.77 acres of the disputed land for the construction of the temple.
  • The Apex court had ruled that the Allahabad HC’S judgement on the 2010 case was wrong in dividing the disputed site into 3 parts.
  • It had also ruled that the Nirmohi Akhara suit was not maintainable and it has no shebait rights (priestly rights). However, it had also directed that in the Board of Trustees that will be set up, the Nirmohi Akhara should be given the appropriate representation.
  • The claim against the Sunni Waqf board by the Shia Waqf Board was dismissed.
  • The SC took into account the report that was submitted by the Archaeological Survey of India in 2003. This report concluded that before the construction of the Babri Masjid, a temple-like structure existed at the Ayodhya site. This report did not give any opinion as to whether this structure was demolished to make way for the mosque or if the mosque was built on its ruin without there being any demolition. The Court said that the findings of the ASI can’t be brushed aside as conjuncture. The findings prove that the Babri Masjid was built, not on vacant land but on a Hindu structure.
  • the SC also stated that the desecration of the Mosque by placing idols in 1949 and its demolition in 1992 is contrary to the law

What is Article 142 as invoked by the SC during the verdict?

  • Typically used in human rights or environmental judgements, Article 142 allows the SC to supplement any previous ruling in the pursuit of “complete justice”.
  • Although the Nirmohi Akhara’s claim to the land was dismissed under the statute of limitation, the SC also used the Article 142, in mandating the Nirmohi Akhara’s involvement in the design and construction of the temple.
  • This Article is usually invoked in cases that have a peculiarity that requires the Apex Court to supersede laws that would conventionally govern an issue.
  • It was previously used in the cases pertaining to the cleansing of the Taj Mahal when SC pointed out the importance of protecting India’s heritage.
  • It was also invoked in the case of Union Carbide vs. Union of India, to grant $470 million in the form of relief to the victims of the tragic Bhopal gas disaster of 1984.

Who were the travellers mentioned in Ayodhya judgement?

  • This landmark judgement relied partly on the century-old travelogues, gazetteers, and books to provide the account of faith and belief of the Hindus.
  • The travelogues that the court took note of included, among others, those by the European travellers Joseph Tieffenthaler, William Finch and Montgomery Martin.
  • These travellers have written before the building of the grill-brick wall in front of the Mosque during the British colonial rule.
  • Tieffenthler was an 18th Century missionary who travelled in India for 27 years. He wrote his travelogue “Description Historique et Geographique De l’Inde”. In India, he commissioned the observatory of Sawai Jai Singh, the Raja of Jaipur and was later attached to the Jesuit College in Agra which was built with the patronage of Akbar.
  • William Finch’s account was recorded in the 1921 book “Early Travels in India (1583-1619)” by the historiographer Sir William Foster.
  • Montgomery Martin was an Anglo-Irish author from Dublin, Ireland. He was an author and a civil servant. He also practised medicine in Ceylon (present-day Sri Lanka), East Africa and Australia. Martin then worked in Kolkata where he helped found the paper “Bengal Herald”. He wrote the three-volume work “History, Antiquities, Topography, and Statistics of Eastern India”.

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What is the significance of this verdict?

  • SC, through this landmark judgement, has emphasised the importance of the rule of law.
  • The arguments the Apex court chose to arrive at this verdict is as important as their final decision.
  • Not only has it struck the right cord by drawing in the Constitutional provisions which state that the right of all faiths is equal, for the first time, it also held that “the deity of Lord Ram” was a “jurist person” in according the site for the construction of the temple.
  • Hence, it has acknowledged the sacredness of the site for the Hindus.
  • Certainly, it is a benchmark judgement, which will fundamentally redefine the idea of India as a nation.
  • Coincidentally, the judgement came on the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, which redefined the idea of Germany.
  • A lot, however, depends on the political leadership’s action in the future.
  • It would be better if there are limited interventions from the government in this issue to safeguard the secular character of the Indian polity.
  • The passive nature in which the impact of the verdict has been absorbed suggests India’s polity is demonstrating the desired maturity.
  • By resolving the Ayodhya dispute legally, the politics of the verdict is contained – at least for now.

Conclusion:

The Ayodhya verdict has provided a good opportunity for India to hit the reset of its communal harmony. India can seize this moment to re-establish the idea of unity in diversity – which is sometimes forgotten by many.

Model Question:

The recent landmark verdict of Ayodhya – Babri dispute highlights the “tolerant and secular nature of India and the fact that law overrides political considerations, religion, and beliefs”. Analyze. (250 words).

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