Everybody is waiting holding their breath and apprehensive as to what the verdict will be on 24th September 2010 by the Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court in the Title suit of Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid case. There are no two opinions that in the year 1528 a mosque was built by Mir Baqi by one of the Governors of the Mughal Emperor Babar and is noted in the waqf register of Sunni Central Board of Waqf. In 1885 and 1886, the claim of the Hindu litigants was only on the Chabutra that was outside the Masjid compound wall called Ram Chabutra as they wanted to construct a structure to protect the devotees from the vagaries of the weather and no more.
The courts dealing with the dispute during the colonial period rejected the prayers of the Hindu litigants to construct any structure even on the Chabutra even though the courts held (it is not known on what evidence) that the Masjid was built on land held sacred by the Hindus but that occurred 356 years ago on the same spot.
After independence, the Hindu litigants adopted incremental approach, slowly enlarging their rights and claims with combination of surreptitious acts, agitational mobilisation and repeated applications to the court. Hindu litigants resorted surreptitiously smuggling Lord Ram’s idols on 22nd December 1949 inside the Masjid. This was followed by another round of litigation praying for unhindered and unrestricted right to worship the idols within the Masjid precincts on threat of agitational mobilisation. The claims were based not on the strength of title to the property but on their right to unhindered and unrestricted worship. This fresh round of litigation virtually ignored the title and turned the court into a receiver of the property giving the Hindus increasing access to the property as and by way of right to worship, while the Muslim community was denied the access in spite of the fact that the property was a waqf property. After the locks were opened in February 1986 on the ground that there would be no problem maintaining law and order if the locks are open, the Hindu nationalist forces were emboldened even more.
As they were mobilising their forces and indulging into hate propaganda, the State remained a mute bystander refusing to act and take preventive measures for maintenance of law and order. Even when the courts had the opportunity, they did not act decisively and the hoodlums of Hindu nationalist forces were allowed to assemble in large numbers, ultimately resulting in demolition of Babri Masjid and construction of a make shift temple. The courts as well as the executive rewarded those who demolished the Mosque by legitimising the "rights" acquired by force in the name of maintaining status - quo and maintaining law and order. The Central Govt. acquired the disputed site and the surrounding areas under the Acquisition Act, thus depriving the Muslim litigants of their defence or claim of adverse possession to the disputed site. The Supreme Court by a majority judgement legitimised the acquisition of the land on which Babri Masjid stood, by state in the name of maintaining public order. The litigants from the minority community cannot match the power of the Hindu nationalist forces in creating law and order problem, which is material in influencing the decision making in our country. The Hindu nationalist forces have enlarged their rights and claims from Chabutra to worship and finally on the disputed site not because of their legitimate claim but by threatening not to obey the orders of the Court in matters of "faith".
Matter of Faith
The issue in the title suit of the Ramjanmabhoomi case was who owns the structure of, and the land on which Babri Masjid once stood. The RSS brought in the issue of faith as they were not confident of winning the title suit. It cannot be disputed that the Masjid was waqf property for more than 420 years when the title suit was filed in 1949. Assuming that Lord Ram was born (only on the basis of faith of RSS and their affiliated organisations) on the spot where Babri Masjid stood and further assuming that there was a Ramjanmabhoomi temple on the spot, law of adverse possession would come into play and the title would pass on to the waqf Board on the ground that undisputedly, they have the possession of the land and the structure of Babri Masjid for over 12 years. The Sangh Parivar started forcefully contending only on the basis of their faith that Lord Ram was born on that very spot where there was a Ramjanmabhoomi Mandir and the Mandir was demolished to construct Babri Masjid.
The Sangh Parivar led mobilization did succeed in getting the Allahabad High Court to frame the issue of ‘whether there was a Ramjanmabhoomi temple prior to the construction of Babri Masjid’ for trial of the Title suit. The issue is otherwise irrelevant in deciding the Title suit. That is why the Archeological Survey of India was ordered to dig Masjid precincts and their report has been submitted to the Court. However, it is doubtful if anything was found. Judgments of courts in secular states are not given on the basis of faith. If faith is made central to governance, conflicts will increase due to religious and sectarian diversity that exists in India. Pakistan split and utterly failed to survive as a united nation on the basis of faith though it was created on that basis. India with much more diversity has survived only because it did not make faith central to its governance. And whose faith would matter for governance? What if there is conflict in faith on the basis of caste, sect, Akharas and Muths?
Faith as a Raod to Power?
Irrespective of our religious persuasion, in a democracy, all must have faith in governance based on transparent procedures and fair systems to deal with contentious issues. Our faith and our world view cannot be imposed on others. Gandhiji had faith in truth. Kabir had faith in love. Often we hear high and mighty accused of various charges proclaim that they have faith in the Courts. What they actually mean is that they have faith in impartiality of the courts, in the transparent procedures for fair trials to establish the facts. Sangh Parivar now tells us that their faith must be unquestioningly accepted (as against respected) as the fact by all, including the state and not called upon to furnish evidence. Sangh Parivar wants to use their faith as a tool to enlarge their claims and rights and convert it into a path to power.
Peace as outcome:
Irrespective of the outcome of the court’s verdict peace may be elusive. If the verdict is in favour of Ramjanmabhoomi Nyas holding in their favour that a temple existed before the construction of the Masjid or that land should be transferred to the Temple Trust, the Sangh Parivar will be strengthened and are likely to become more aggressive in their approach. This may persuade the Muslim litigants to impugn the order of the Allahbad High Court and file an Appeal in Supreme Court, though prominent leaders have opined that the verdict of the High Court should be accepted by the community even if it is not in their favour. Ram Temple may in that case be constructed on the land under massive cover of security forces. Peace will be elusive.
If the Court holds in favour of Muslim litigants that the land belonged to the Waqf Board and / or that there is no evidence to support the contention that a temple existed prior to the construction of Babri Masjid, the Sangh Parivar will not accept the verdict as they never promised to accept the verdict of the Court. Sangh Parivar will aggressively mobilize demanding a legislation to transfer the entire land acquired under the Land Acquisition Act to the Nyas/Temple Trust. In my humble opinion, in case the Court holds in favour of the Muslim litigants, having made the point, the community leaders should rise above sectarian politics show statesmanship and undertake to build a monument or a memorial for peace and harmony showcasing the values of peace as reflected in all religions with common prayer hall for all religions, or an institution for the study of all religions and spiritual traditions. The land has been acquired by the Central Government and the even if the High Court holds in favour of the Muslim litigants, the Central Government may not find it easy to transfer the land to Waqf Board or any Muslim Trust. The decision on transferring land will be delayed indefinitely.
The need is to defeat communal politics and peace should be the outcome. Unless justice is done there is no peace. Justice must be done in accordance with the existing laws and not on basis of faith, as there are faiths and faiths, and all faiths must be equally respected.
By Irfan Engineer