Ram Mandir-Babri Masjid dispute is a watershed for Hindu-Muslim polarisation in India. While the same controversy could have been an example of magnanimity and grace of Hindu-Muslim cemented amity, it turned out to be a violent, long-standing dispute. The issue has been mired in the interwoven events, marinated in garbled and inane theories in reports. The issue has witnessed high decibel pretentious narratives through self-serving politicians as well as verbose articulations by the press. The issue cannot be spoken about without mentioning the aggressive posturing of the Sangh Parivar and definitely not pronouncements made by Indian courts, that are constricted by rules defined by politics of the time period. Today, the Supreme Court has reportedly sought an urgent hearing on the issue next week. The Apex court has offered to play a mediator to find a solution to the dispute. It suggested that the contesting groups should try for an amicable solution through talks. Here is a brief introduction on the long-standing Babri Mosque-Ram Mandir dispute:
What is the issue?
The dispute is about a plot of land in the city of Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh. This particular site is considered among the Hindus to be the birthplace of Lord Rama, but it also located the Babri Masjid. The question arises if an earlier Hindu temple was demolished or modified to create the mosque. The issue is one of its kind. It has defined people’s history, especially the ambiguity that distills the belief of a civilisation and in the later stages, a strife that had the capability of disrupting the social equilibrium of a modern state. In aeonic terms, the controversy is unique as it has stretched out for more than half a millennium. Two empires (Mughals and British) to the third regime of modern India. The Babri Masjid was demolished by a gathering of more than 2 lakh Karsevaks in the year 1992, followed by communal riots all across India. The destruction of Babri Masjid had triggered the culmination of the historic schism. Later in the year 2002, in an attack on a train which carrying Hindu volunteers from Ayodhya, many were killed. This was followed by riots in Gujarat, which reportedly killed thousands of people.
The Hindus regard the land in Ayodhya, on which the Babri Masjid was built in the year 1528, is the Ram Janmabhoomi. It has been said that one of Babur’s generals, Mir Baqi demolished a temple of Lord Ram in order to build the mosque, which was named after Babur himself (Babri Masjid). Meanwhile, both the communities prayed at the site. But in the year 1885, the head of Nirmohi Akhara had filed a petition, where he asked for permission to pray to Ram Lalla inside the Babri Masjid. The court did not grant the permission, but in 1886, district Judge of Faizabad court Colonel FEA Chamier famously said that it was an unfortunate event that a mosque was built in a sacred place for Hindus, yet with the passage of more than three centuries, it was too late now. Similar petitions and judgements continued for a long time. The way the dispute has been reduced to a mere law and order situation and assigned culpability to particular sections of the society and the eventual treatment is a clear indication of a myopic mindset which disregards the overarching historical political and religious avenues. It is essentially a very simplistic approach and has been the bane of this controversy.
The recent SC order has asked for an amicable, out-of-court settlement in the ongoing dispute. The Apex court said that instead of a judicial pronouncement, as the settlement was a better course of action. An Allahabad High Court order in 2010, had said that there should be a partition of the site in Ayodhya and distributed among the concerned parties, BJP leader Subramanian Swamy had urged the Supreme court to constitute a bench to hear a batch of petitions which had challenged the 2010 Allahabad High Court order. However, SC has said that it is a sensitive and sentimental issue and it’s best to be settled amicably.
After the Babri Masjid demolition, the court had ordered a survey to investigate of a Ram temple on the site. Later evidence was found of such a temple under the mosque, which was again disputed. Later many BJP leaders were asked to stand trial for inciting the demolition of Babri Masjid. The issue, after 1992 saw many disputable judgements, including the Liberhan Commission, that was instituted in 1992, but it submitted its report in 2009. 17 years later, the report was submitted, and leaders like Atal Bihari Vajpayee, LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Uma Bharti, Kalyan Singh, Pramod Mahajan were found culpable.