The Muslim community had possibly reconciled itself to the verdict a while ago. The damage caused to the social harmony of India because of this dispute has been enormous
The long-awaited Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid case verdict has finally been delivered by the five-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court. In a unanimous verdict, the Bench of Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, Justice SA Bobde, Justice DY Chandrachud, Justice Ashok Bhushan and Justice S Abdul Nazeer decided that the disputed land should be handed over to the petitioners representing the deity, Ram Lalla. Further, they said the Sunni Wakf Board, representing the Muslims, should be allotted five acres of land within Ayodhya to enable them to construct a mosque.
The judgment will hopefully bring the curtain down on one of the most contentious cases in post-Independence India. While there is still a possibility that the Sunni Wakf Board could ask for a review of the verdict, their restrained reaction after the verdict indicated that there was also the possibility of letting the matter rest.
The court said that the installation of the idols in the masjid in 1949 was a desecration of the mosque and added that the demolition of the Babri masjid on December 6, 1992, was unlawful. However, it then went on to hand over the entire 2.77 acres of the disputed land to the Hindu side representing Ram Lalla, the deity.
One of the key reasons adduced in the judgment was that the outer courtyard of the area was continuously used for worship by the Hindus while with reference to the inner courtyard, “the Muslims have offered no evidence to indicate that they were in exclusive possession of the inner structure prior to 1857 since the date of the construction in the sixteenth century”. Further, the judgment says “here is evidence on a preponderance of probabilities to establish worship by the Hindus prior to the annexation of Oudh by the British in 1857”. The judgment though says that while it was established that under the mosque, pillars of a structure that was non-Islamic in origin were found, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) had not said that they were from a temple. Indeed, the court said it had not been established that a temple was demolished for the Babri masjid to be built.
After quoting voluminously from history books and the opinion of experts, one judge on the bench (not identified) went on to say, “It is thus concluded on the conclusion that faith and belief of Hindus since prior to construction of mosque and subsequent thereto has always been that Janmaasthan of Lord Ram is the place where Babri mosque has been constructed which faith and belief is proved by documentary and oral evidence discussed above.” However, the other four Judges have not explicitly opined on this matter.
The verdict was expectedly hailed by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the sangh parivar. So far, however, they have been restrained and there has been little triumphalism or open celebration. That has helped cool tempers. The Prime Minister’s statement saying the verdict should not be seen as a victory or defeat has also helped. Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat after welcoming the verdict made a reassuring statement suggesting that the RSS was unlikely to get involved in Hindu groups’ claims over the Gyanvapi mosque in Varanasi and the Shahi Idgah in Mathura.
Security has been beefed up all over India, but hopes are now high that they would not be called into action. Indeed, an oft-quoted phrase across India today appeared to suggest the need ‘to move on’.
The cautious manner in which the Opposition reacted to the verdict spoke as eloquently about the impact that Project Hindutva has had on the country as the verdict itself. Almost all of them asked for the verdict to be accepted. Except AIMIM’s Asaduddin Owaisi, none even questioned the judgment. The Congress welcomed the verdict and appealed for peace and even parties such as the DMK, which have taken a strident anti-Hindutva line in the past, were curiously restrained, asking for the verdict to be respected.
The feeling that questioning the judgment would be seen as anti-Hindu and cost votes was clearly visible in the way the Opposition reacted. Such has been the polarisation effect that it was in many ways a sad commentary of where we are.
In the end, it was not about whether one agreed with the basis on which the judgment itself was given. There are those who question the strength of the evidence on the basis of which the final order was passed. Also, the fact that the court ruled that “the disputed site admeasures all of 1,500 square yards; Dividing the land will not subserve the interest of either of the parties or secure a lasting sense of peace and tranquility”, may not have pleased some.
The Muslim community had possibly reconciled itself to the verdict a while ago. The damage caused to the social harmony of India because of this dispute has been enormous. It is time to heal the wounds and ensure that the project of rewriting history takes a long pause. It is indeed time to ‘move on’.(Sumanth Raman is a Chennai-based television anchor and political analyst. Views are personal.)Get access to India's fastest growing financial subscriptions service Moneycontrol Pro for as little as Rs 599 for first year. Use the code "GETPRO". Moneycontrol Pro offers you all the information you need for wealth creation including actionable investment ideas, independent research and insights & analysis For more information, check out the Moneycontrol website or mobile app.