May 11, 2021
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Ayodhya Verdict: Commentaries V

Ayodhya Verdict: Commentaries V

Frontline has an excellent cover story that offers detailed analyses of the various issues involved:

Legal Aspects

A.G. Noorani comprehensively recounts "the consistent judicial injustices to Muslims since December 23, 1949":

THE judgments delivered by the Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court on September 30 on the Babri Masjid cases not only flagrantly violate the law and the evidence but a binding unanimous judgment of the Supreme Court on the Babri Masjid case itself ( M. Ismail Faruqui and Others vs Union of India and Others (1994) 6 Sec 360). It sanctified the conversion of a historic mosque, which had stood for 500 years, into a temple.

V. Venkatesan adds:

Of crucial importance is how Justice Khan interprets the Limitation Act. When the suits (except suit No.5) were instituted, the Limitation Act, 1908, was in force. It was replaced by the Limitation Act, 1963. According to Justice Khan, under the old Act, suits for declaration of rights had to be filed within six years of the event. The Sunni Waqf Board filed its suit in 1962, within 12 years of the 1949 incident. This, according to him, made its suit time-barred. This interpretation appears to be debatable.

...Even if it is conceded that historically there has been such a belief, an explanation of how the legal right to worship could be inferred from it would have been necessary. Justice Agarwal seems to condone the illegal placing of the idols inside the mosque in 1949 because it was based on such a belief.

V. Venkatesan also interviews Rajeev Dhavan:

This was a title suit. The court has turned this into a partition suit. The question of title squarely lies with the Sunnis. They had taken over the mosque for over centuries. They have never lost titles. There was a continuity of ownership even if not prayer. On December 22, 1949, some idols were placed there. It was absurd to suggest they came in as a consequence of divination. Fortunately, the court has not gone that far. Therefore, the simple question was whether the Sunni Waqf Board filed its case within the limitation of 12 years. It was filed on December 18, 1961, within the limitation without adversely affecting the title of the Sunnis.

The judgment appears to have unsuited the Sunnis on the basis that the title was never there and that, in fact, they have actual rights only over part of the property. This was argued by none, requested or asserted by none, and came from the sweet will of judicial imagination.

Ajoy Ashirwad Mahaprashasta interviews Rajendar Sachar

The judgment can be summed up in two words: Crime piece. In 1992, a crime was committed. The Babri Masjid was demolished. But assume that the crime was not been committed and the matter had gone to court. Do you think the court could possibly, under any circumstances, order that the land be divided? Frankly, the grounds on which the organised Hindutva plaintiffs went and asked for land, they should have been thrown out on the grounds of remediation. You see, the masjid was there since the 16th century. They filed the suit only recently [in historical periods]. The Limitation Act dictates that a suit could be filed within a period of 12 years from the date of dispute. Legally speaking, the Sangh Parivar does not have a right even if a temple had been demolished to build the Babri Masjid, as the masjid existed before the period of limitation.

Purnima S. Tripathi interviews Ravi Shankar Prasad on treating Ram Lalla as a party to the title suit:

But when the court has accepted that the idol was put inside the masjid on the night of December 22-23, 1949, how can this idol be described as a deity?

By virtue of Hindu faith, the Ramjanmasthan [the birthplace of Lord Ram] itself has become a deity, whether there was an idol or not. It is this concept of the janmasthan having acquired the status of a deity that the court has accepted.

The Repercussions

Venkitesh Ramakrishnan offers the view from Lucknow and Ayodhya

Is there a chance of the HC verdict and division working?

...Ground-level reactions from the twin cities of Ayodhya and Faizabad are overwhelmingly sceptical about the three-way division of the site. Many residents belonging to Hindu, Muslim and Sikh communities were unanimous that the division and the subsequent building of a temple and a mosque in close proximity to each other was a sure-fire recipe for conflict.

“The effort of the judges to go beyond law and bring about something close to a negotiated settlement has little chance of working. In fact, it will complicate matters,” said Khaliq Ahmed Khan, a resident of Faizabad. In Ayodhya, Ram Prakash Gupta, a shopkeeper, aired the same view: “They could have decided one way or the other. This tightrope walk is bound to create permanent tension once the construction actually begins.”

It is evident that implementing the judgment or even using it as an instrument for negotiations is easier said than done. The use of faith and belief as legal categories is bound to be debated in great detail in the coming days and to face intensive critical assessment. The criticism of the same in the days immediately following the judgment was by and large confined to jurists and legal observers...

Politics of UP

...The S.P. president [Mulayam Singh] could well have his eyes set on reclaiming the Muslim vote bank that he seems to be losing to the Congress, but the fact remains that he has made a point that has wide credence among large sections of the judiciary.

The social and political ramifications of the verdict are bound to result in trying times for the Congress at the Centre.

...The saving grace has been the sober and peaceful reaction from large sections of the community. But informed sources in intelligence agencies in Uttar Pradesh said that they were already worried that sleeping terrorist modules of jehadist groups in the State would use the climate created by the judgment to make a few strikes.

Clearly, the verdict has not done much to mitigate the Ayodhya imbroglio. On the contrary, the bizarre use of faith and belief as legal categories and the consequences thereof may actually add to the muddle.

Purnima S. Tripathi examines the parivar's thinkning, pointing out how while the BJP is trying to appear restrained, the hardline is back. Take this sample quote from Rajnath Singh:

“The issue should now be sorted out through negotiations, which should begin before the case reaches the Supreme Court. Once the issue reaches the Supreme Court, it will leave no scope for any reconciliation. Muslims should understand that after the court verdict any Muslim claim over the land would be akin to Hindus staking a claim for a temple at Makkah. Now is the time for both communities to realise that since the title suit has been decided, there should be no further acrimony over the issue. Forget December 6, forget the past acrimony, let the past be a closed chapter and let us resolve the issue through reconciliation,” he said.

Pravin Togadia in an interview to Purnima S Tripathi expands on what the VHP's idea of reconciliation is:

Togadia: See, their title suit claim has been dismissed by the court, so they should be magnanimous enough to give up their claim over this land now and join hands with us in building a temple. This will be in the larger interest of all. We have made it clear in our resolutions before that we will not allow any mosque in or around the disputed area. We can offer Muslims land anywhere else but Ayodhya, and if they agree to our proposal we will help in making a grand mosque for them. Ayodhya is one of the most sacred places for millions of Hindus and they should respect this.

T.K. Rajalakshmi recounts the evidence presented by leading historians on the disputed site:

The September 30 judgment has evinced strong reactions from a cross-section of historians and archaeologists. On behalf of the Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust, 62 academics, including Romila Thapar, Irfan Habib, D.N. Jha, K.M. Shrimali, K.N. Panikkar, Utsa Patnaik, Shireen Moosvi, Amiya Kumar Bagchi, Suvira Jaiswal and Arjun Dev, have demanded that the notebooks, artefacts and other material evidence relating to the ASI's excavation at the site be made available for scrutiny by scholars, historians and archaeologists.

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