In 2003, the ASI in a report submitted before the Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court had said that it found evidence of a pre-existing large structure similar to a Hindu temple beneath the Babri Masjid — which was destroyed by a large crowd of Hindu karsevaks on December 6, 1992.
Twenty-five years and counting! The last round of the legal wrangle over the disputed site at Ayodhya has begun. The case pertains to a batch of petitions challenging the Allahabad High Court verdict that had equally divided the land between three warring parties – Ram Lalla, Sunni Waqf Board and Nirmohi Akhara.
Millions of Hindus believe that the disputed site is the birthplace of Lord Ram and that Muslims destroyed the temple and built a mosque over it. This is a matter of faith for both the religious communities. However, the Supreme Court has already made it clear that it will not entertain any religious and political arguments and treat it just as a property dispute. So, in order to decide the ownership of the land, what are the contentious issues that the court has to settle and find the answers for?
Speaking to Financial Express Online, senior Supreme Court lawyer Rajeev Dhawan said that among the key issues that the court has to settle are the rights of deity, the concept of the Waqf and most important of all – “Did the Muslims destroy the temple to build the Mosque at Ayodhya?” And this is where the findings of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) could play a major role in deciding the case.
In 2003, the ASI in a report submitted before the Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court had said that it found evidence of a pre-existing large structure similar to a Hindu temple beneath the Babri Masjid — which was destroyed by a large crowd of Hindu karsevaks on December 6, 1992. When asked whether ASI findings will play any role in the case, Dhawan said: “The architecture of the structure will have to be considered and that cannot be disposed of.”
But that is not all that the court will have to look into. A senior Supreme Court lawyer, who appeared in the case in the past but chose not want to be named, said that the top court may have to look at many things before it decides on the title suit.
Explaining what could come up during the proceedings, the senior lawyer said that among the issues that the court is likely to address are: What constitutes a mosque; is there a concept of faith; and what is a mosque in Islamic law and whether the temple was destroyed. He also said that the ASI report will be crucial as it provides “ample evidence” of what existed historically and the court will have to decide who owned this land before. “There will be many arguments and counter-arguments before the court and archaeological report will be part of all that. The ASI findings are important but there are several other issues — rights of deity, whether there was a temple before, if there was who destroyed it, and who was the owner — that the court will be looking into,” the senior lawyer said.
Large Hindu organisations such as Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) have long been referring to ASI findings to demand Ram Temple at Ayodhya. VHP International Joint General Secretary Surendra Jain said that the ASI report has already proven that there was a temple before the mosque. He further said that the Allahabad High Court in its judgement has referred to Babar as akramak (invader). “An invader cannot be the owner of the property,” Jain added.
Among the things that ASI found during its excavation are several pillar bases, stones with Sanskrit inscription, holy fire-place – yagna kund, slabs with Devnagri inscription, walls with stones that had carvings of Hindu ornaments such as lotus and Kaustubh jewel, terracotta figures of serpent, elephant and saints – these are widely worshipped by Hindus. A senior ASI official who was part of 2003 excavation confirmed the findings.
Backing the claim for the temple at Ayodhya, senior Supreme Court lawyer Monika Arora said that there is innumerable evidence – historically and archaeologically – to prove that it was a birthplace of Ram. She said that there are innumerable British-era documents in which the disputed site has been referred to as Masjid Janmbhumi.
“ASI in its report finds that a large temple structure existed before the Mosque. This is no ordinary temple, this is the birthplace of Lord Ram. Even Shia Muslims support the demand of land be given to Hindus for Ram Temple. But only some people who have vested interest want to keep the matter alive by delaying it in the Supreme Court,” she said.