It was a VHP dharam sabha that, in early 2013, made the first formal demand that Narendra Modi be made the PM candidate—so the words spoken there are no fringe theatre. Now, a new demand is rising from the congregation of sants at Ayodhya. At Kar Sevak Puram, hundreds of stone slabs, some carved already, await their day of fulfilment. Some have quaint messages left on them by visitors: “Ruchi ♥ Santosh”, “Love you Shri Ram, Gudlani Parivar, Jaipur”. Rajnikant Bharat Rai, a craftsman from Gujarat, says engraving a slab takes 8–10 months. “There’s no dearth of craftsmen. All that’s needed is the order,” says Rai, adding that visitors often touch his feet in reverence. Is such an order in the offing? “We have Modi and we have Yogi. If not now, then when?” asks Nritya Gopal Das, head of Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas. And the courts? Pawan Gupta, a shopkeeper in Ayodhya, too says the government should bring in an ordinance or legislation.
But bringing in legislation to build a temple on the disputed site may not be simple. It’s been tried before. In January 1993, following the Babri demolition, the P.V. Narasimha Rao government acquired the disputed property and adjacent land under the Acquisition of Certain Area at Ayodhya Ordinance 1993. The plan was to build a temple and a mosque on the acquired land; the location would be specified only after the Supreme Court decided a presidential reference on whether a Hindu temple had preceded the mosque. The court did not answer that question and returned the reference.
Parliament enacted the ordinance into law in April 1993, and it was referred to a constitution bench, resulting in the ‘Ismail Faruqui judgement’. This ruling is well known for the Supreme Court’s majority decision that a mosque is not an essential part of Islam. The bench found the Act resorted to by the Rao regime to be anti-secular and “slanted in favour of the Hindus and against the Muslims”. The special law also directed that any disputes should be ended, including the title suit. The constitution bench struck down that part of the Act as well, saying it would end the only judicial remedy available to Muslims. However, part of the Act still stands. A new law would have to repeal the existing one to replace it, and stand the scrutiny of a constitution bench in the same manner as the 1993 Act.
By Salik Ahmad in Ayodhya and Ushinor Majumdar in Delhi