The judgment delivered by the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India on the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid civil dispute in Ayodhya has given finality to the dispute over 1480 sq yds of land. This small tract of land where the Babri mosque once stood came to be believed to be the birthplace of Lord Ram.
This finality has to be respected. Such is the vigour and demand of a society governed by the Rule of Law. All communities of this great nation, of course including the Muslims, are bound by it. The collective sentiment of Indian Muslims must not supersede the Rule of Law.
However, every final judgement may not necessarily be right and just. The conclusions of the court, may be criticised, as being against justice and equity.
The Hon’ble Court accepted the contentions — Muslims offering namaz in the Babri mosque till 1949; idols being placed inside the Mosque in 1949; the demolition of the Mosque that stood for 464 years, in 1992, being a gross violation of Rule of Law; faith/belief and archaeological evidence cannot be the basis to decide title; the place of birth i.e. the Janamsthan is not a juristic personality. Having concurred on these facts, the court ought not to have decided to hand over the 1480 square yards to the temple side.
As the dispute before the Hon’ble Court was confined to 1480 square yards, there was no occasion for the court to grant five acres land for the mosque.
The Hindu side had offered 10 acres of land and ₹5 crores in exchange for the mosque in 1986. The offer stood till recently. One of the offers from the mediators to the dispute was five acres of land elsewhere, which was rejected by Muslim parties. I am of the opinion that while recognising the finality of the decision, the community ought to reject the five acres granted by the Hon’ble Court.
The final stamp of the Judiciary has recognised a certain faith and belief, and in doing so, has permitted Lord Ram to be historicised. A simple legal issue pending in court, came to be reignited through vested political interests by filing a fresh case in 1989.
The entire case thereafter became political at the behest of the Vishva Hindu Parishad and its ilk. Finally, the politics of the country prevailed in the shape of tilted judicial verdicts, firstly by the high court and finally by the Supreme Court.
Faith prevailed upon the title by using the extraordinary power of the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court’s duty in this case was to ensure that the wrong caused to the mosque was cured and ensured rule of law and not to be benevolent by giving the land which Muslims had not demanded.
In mediation, at the outset I had objected in writing, to Sri Sri Ravi Shankar being a Ld. Mediator because of his well-known view of a resolution only being possible if the Muslim parties give up the site. The said objection was mentioned in the first meeting held on 13.03.2019. The Ld. Mediation Panel assured us of their impartiality.
Even Sri Sri personally assured me that his personal views expressed in the past, would not prejudice his neutrality. Thus, we did not press that objection any further.
In the first private mediation proceedings, all the Muslim parties including the chairman, UP Sunni Central Waqf Board, in compliance to the request of a proposal, gave up their claim to a part of the land, in writing, in the larger interest.
Till the end of the first round of mediation, we kept asking the panel as to whether the other contesting parties had submitted a resolution plan. The answer was always negative.
All I was told was that they wanted Muslims to leave the entire disputed land. On one occasion, I asked the panel that, in terms of reciprocity, does the other side agree, that the mosque also needed to be built? If so, then where? The answer of the panel was for our side to agree to leave the site and such modalities to be worked out later.
I appeared before the panel on seven occasions. Sometimes with Muslim parties in the case, and twice by myself at New Delhi. On asking by the panel about the general issues faced by the community in general in the country, I summarised various issues before them, including the issue of how the central government and the Archaeological Survey of India had, over the years, taken over various religious structures of Muslims, like mosques and tombs, and prohibited the offering of prayer at these places.
I also pointed out that the State neither allowed the renovation of undisputed mosques in Ayodhya, nor prayers thereat. Later I was told, one more person raised these issues in his individual session.
I also stated to them that despite the provisions of the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991, litigation involving many mosques still remain pending.
Despite this statute, majoritarian political will seems to be against law itself, targeting various religious places of Muslims. Thereafter, the panel formulated a settlement proposal, which included some answers to these issues. I cited these to show the prevailing scenario in the country and not as compensation for surrender of land.
In the last two meetings, the issue of ASI mosques and strengthening Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991— in addition to building the mosque elsewhere in Ayodhya — was placed before the individual Muslim parties as a counterproposal.
I was shown a draft by the panel to this effect in New Delhi meeting. After going through the draft proposal, I inquired, whether the subject set out in the counterproposal had the sanction from the executive/government.
The answer was negative. I think the approach of mediation panel was on a wrong premise.
Firstly, they thought if Muslims surrender their claim on this land, it would resolve other issues which the Muslim community is facing. Secondly, any talks with the Muslim parties were subject to the claim to the site of the Babri Mosque being given up.
Finally, in this case, Rule of Law has been defeated; majoritarianism and faith of one religion has prevailed.
This article also appeared in the print edition of the Hindustan Times on November 10th, 2019.