Continued from Previous Page
The disputed site at Ayodhya posed a syncretic blend and medley of faiths simultaneously representing Hindu and Muslim beliefs, customs and practices. At the time of demolition in December 1992, the disputed mosque clearly had both Hindu and Muslim elements of evidentiary values embodying recognizable features of a temple as well as mosque. For illustration, on one hand the black Kasauti stone pillars along with the presence of the carved figurines of Varah, Garud, Jai and Vijay, and so on, suggested sculpture meant for the decoration of a Hindu temple façade, presence of three domes and stone inscription with ‘Allah’ suggested it to be an Islamic mosque. Within the premises of the same complex, there was a visible evidence of two communities co-existing together at peace for some time span while engaged in confrontation and bloodbath at other time. Needless to mention, both the government and judiciary had been seized with this unresolved creedal and ownership issues of the two communities nearly for the last two centuries.
The bifurcation of the whole compound in the inner and outer courtyards by the colonial administration in 1857-58 was merely to achieve peace between two communities rather than setting the propriety right, which, however, didn’t work. Similarly, the earlier judgment of the Allahabad High Court in 2010 to equally divide the disputed land among three parties was neither acceptable nor practicable for the two feuding communities which is evident from the fact of their subsequent petition in the Supreme Court of India. Thus it was a tough challenge to the apex court to hear both sides, judiciously evaluate the available evidence and witnesses, and finally do justice with the both communities. Rightly so, the logical and rational course adopted by the judges was to decide the ownership on the basis of which party had more possessory rights on account of long and continued possession and continuous obeisance at the disputed site on the preponderance of evidence, where necessary, with simultaneous restitution to the other party subsuming powers vested to the apex court under the Article 142 of the Constitution.
Preponderance of Probability and Article 142
In the previous part, the author had concluded with an endnote that the Supreme Court had to largely rely on the preponderance of probability and powers vested in Article 142 of the Constitution to decide the case. In the instant dispute, while the ownership of the “outer courtyard” was proven beyond any reasonable doubt but the possession of the “inner sanctum” remained in question because while the Hindus continuously paid their reverence and worshiped the deity there either from inside or from a distance, the Muslims too had offered namaz regularly or weekly during the intermittent periods. In legal jargon, the preponderance of probability is evidence that persuades a judge or jury to lean to one side as opposed to the other during the course of legal examination. Ordinarily, preponderance of evidence is relied upon in a civil trial and the said case was treated as a property dispute.
The Article 142 (1) relates to special provision provided in the Indian Constitution of 1949 for the enforcement of decrees and orders of the apex court in India. The article provides that Supreme Court in the exercise of its jurisdiction may pass such decree or make such order as is necessary for doing complete justice in any cause or matter pending before it, and any decree so passed or orders thus made shall be enforceable throughout the territory of India in such manner as may be prescribed by or under any law made by the Parliament and, until provision in that behalf is so made, in such manner as the President of India may by order prescribe. While giving possession rights to deity “Shri Ram Lalla” of the disputed land of approximately 2.77 acres for the temple, the Supreme Court directed the government to allot 5 acres of suitable land to Muslims in Ayodhya in restitution for construction of a masjid.
Lord Ram and Janmasthan Temple: Myth or Real
Muslim parties, through their counsels, pleaded that neither there is any public record, much less any record of unimpeachable authority showing that the premises in dispute is the place of birth of Sri Ram, nor there is any historical or judicial record to testify it. It was also pleaded that Hindu books as well as the writing of Hindu scholars themselves make it doubtful whether Sri Ram is indeed a historical personality. It was also pleaded that any temple did not exist at any point of time at the site of the Babri Masjid and it is absolutely incorrect to say that the said Mosque was constructed after destroying any ancient temple and with the material of the alleged temple. The Mosque in question has always been used as a Mosque since its construction during the regime of Emperor Babar. Though the Muslim parties maintained legal finesse but in essence they denied very existence of Lord Ram and ancient temple at his birth place.
Leading counsel of Musim Parties, Dr Rajeev Dhavan, relied upon the “Historian Report to the Nation” referred to in the previous part “Evidence” to deny the existence of the Ram Janmbhumi detailed in Ayodhya Mahatmya of the Skanda Purana. This report stated that the location described in the Ayodhya Mahatmya of Skanda Purana does not match with the present-day location of Babri Masjid and that no place in Ayodhya is associated with Lord Ram’s birth either in Eleventh Century or even six centuries after. In fact, the noted historian RS Sharma had even questioned the vintage of Skanda Purana suggesting alterations/interpolations made in the eighteenth century in the text. The counsel also deduced similar interpretation on Ayodhya from the Hans T. Bakker’s work.
The Hindu parties quoted scriptures and sacred writings, which are of much older vintage than the supposed year of mosque construction (1528) and pinpointed exact location of the Janmasthan of Lord Ram at Ayodhya. Greater reliance was placed on Skanda Purana, Vaisnavakhanda, Ayodhya Mahatmya specifically while citations from the Valmiki Ramayana, ‘ Sri Ramcharit Manasa’ by Tulsidas, Rudrayamala and Srimad Narashingha Puranam were also made wherein the birth of Lord Ram at Ayodhya is described, and which is being celebrated on Chaitra Navami, Shukla Paksha every year as per Hindi calendar. Of this, the epic Valmiki Ramayana dates back to the period much before the Christ era (BC) and world’s greatest epic Mahabharta and Srimad Bhagwad Gita. Specific verses 15 to 25 along with the pages of the Ayodhya Mahatmya of Skanda Purana were quoted giving the geographical location of the birthplace of Lord Ram.
Unlike the Islam and many world religions of relatively more recent origin, Hinduism has at least four thousand years of illustrious cultural and religious history even accepted by Western Indologists and historians. Scriptures and texts such as Vedas, Upanishads, Puranas, Darshana Shashtras and epics (historical texts) constitute the main source and foundation on which Hindu the faith, culture, philosophy, society, economics and even early sciences were concretized. Even the deposition of the expert witness (historian) Suvira Jaiswal of the Muslim parties suggested the period of Valmiki Ramayana as 300 – 200 BC while various other scholars date the Valmiki Ramayana to a much older period. Even in the great epic Mahabharata, an abridged version of Sri Ram saga exists as “Ramopakhyana”, which suggests predating of the former. In fact, it is not at all necessary to dwell much upon the vintage as it is suffice to say that it belongs to much before the construction of mosque at Ayodhya.
Valmiki Ramayan, Balakand, Canto XVIII Verses 8 to 12 refers to birth of Lord Ram with planetary situation. These verses depict Ram as the incarnation of the Lord of the Universe, “Vishnu”, born as the son of King Dasratha and Kaushalya at Ayodhya. He was the Lord of the whole world; a person adored by all the people; a personality invested with divine symptoms. The Valmiki Ramayana, however, does not give any description of the place of birth except in the Palace of King Dasratha at Ayodhya. The Skanda Purana is another religious text which was relied upon by the Hindu parties to prove Sri Ram’s birth place. Ayodhya Mahatmya (Verses 18 to 25, Adhyay X, page 292-293) in Book II Vaisnavakhanda of Skanda Purana and English translation of the same by Dr GV Tagare was cited as evidence in the court. The relevant translated version as placed before the court is reproduced here:
“To the north-east of that spot is the place of the birth of Rama. This holy spot of the birth is said to be the means of achieving salvation. It is said that the place of birth is situated to the east of Vighnesvara, the north of Vasistha and to the west of Laumasa.”
(Verses 18, 19)
The verses 20 to 25 glorify the birthplace, its significance as holy pilgrimage and observance of holy bath on the Navami day that has potential to liberate from the bondage of births. The merit of seeing the birthplace is said to be at par with performing penance in hermitage, thousands of Rajasuya sacrifices and Agnihotra sacrifices. Also merely by observing sacred rites there, the person obtains the merit of the holy men endowed with devotion to their parents as well as preceptors.
The verses 18 and 19 describe the location of Ram Janmasthan with legends i.e. it is situated to the east of Vighnesvara, to the north of Vasistha and to the west of Laumasa. During arguments, the counsel of Hindu parties (PN Mishra) explained that the present place claimed as Ram Janmbhumi is the same as described in Ayodhya Mahatmya, representing the faith and belief of millions of Hindus from the ancient time till date. During the oral evidence, several accomplished Hindu saints deposed as witness proving the legends mentioned in Ayodhya Mahatmya. Jagadguru Ramanandacharya Swami Rambhadracharya, Swami Avimuktswaranand Sarswati and Mahant Ram Chandra Das Digamber among others specifically referred to Ayodhya Mahatmya of Skanda Purana and deposed that birth place of Lord Ram is the sanctum sanctorum, i.e., the disputed site where Ram Lalla is sitting at present.
Detailed testimony of the aforesaid sages along with their cross-examination by the counsel of Muslim parties is well documented in the Supreme Court judgment. Witnesses precisely identified the location of Ram Janmbhumi as per legends given in Ayodhya-Mahatmya of Skanda Purana based on their understanding and interpretation of legends. Earlier, Justice Sudhir Agarwal of Allahabad High Court too observed in his judgment as under:
“It is the same Ayodhya, which is the present site. Lord Rama was born at this place. While giving the boundary in its behalf, there is clear reference in all the above mentioned Hindu treatises. The paper No.107C/75 is before me. It contains clear mention in this behalf in the Ayodhya Mahatmya under the Skanda Purana. The birthplace of Lord Rama and the sanctum sanctorum are the disputed site, where Ramlala is present at present.”
Witnesses produced by the Muslim parties too were examined/cross-examined and statements recorded in the context of the Ayodhya-Mahatmya of Skanda Purana. Suresh Chandra Mishra, Sushil Srivastava, Dr Sita Ram Rai and others appeared as historian for the Muslim parties; the last one was also engaged by Muslims to challenge the findings of the ASI report. During the examination, they conceded their knowledge of relevant verses of Skanda Purana and legends Pindarak, Vighneshwar, Vashishth and Lomesh with certain caveats and suggested that it indicates towards the Janamasthan instead of its boundary with clarity. Report of the four historians produced by the Muslim parties had not only questioned the very existence of Lord Ram, it even casted doubt on the genuineness of the aforesaid Purana.
Incidentally, only Suraj Bhan (archaeologist) out of the “four historians” was examined in the past by the Allahabad High Court; three of them RS Sharma, M. Athar Ali and Suraj Bhan are already deceased, and only DN Jha is alive at an advanced old age. Justice Sudhir Agarwal had elaborately dealt with the report of four Historians and found it unworthy of reliance. In fact, very strong observations were made by him with regard to the report of Historians as well as of some other witnesses endorsing their views. The judges of Supreme Court observed that the court normally avoid adverse comments on the deposition of witnesses but found it difficult to resist in this case considering the sensitivity and the nature of dispute and the reckless and irresponsible kind of statements besides the material getting published by the persons (four historians) claiming to be Expert Historian, Archaeologist etc. without making proper investigation, research or study in the subject. The following observation is relevant which was further adversely commented by the judges in the subsequent paragraphs:
“This is really startling. It not only surprises us but we are puzzled. Such kind of statements to public at large causes more confusion than clear the things. Instead of helping in making a cordial atmosphere it tends to create more complications, conflict and controversy. Such people should refrain from making such statements or written work. They must be extremely careful and cautious before making any statement in public on such issues…”
This author is not a juristic person and has no hesitation in ‘calling spade a spade’. The ignorance, bias and bigotry of these left leaning expert Historians/Archaeologists about the Hindu culture, history, faith and beliefs is apparent from the following brief submission. The four historians had dismissed the findings of the former Director General ASI BB Lal about the pillar bases at the Babri Masjid site during his excavation in the 1970s. Only Suraj Bhan testified before the Allahabad High Court where he admitted during the cross-examination that they had not accessed Lal’s excavation notes and also that the report had been hurriedly compiled "under pressure" from the Babri Masjid Action Committee (BMAC). When the High Court directed ASI to carry out excavations at the disputed site, Suraj Bhan, Irfan Habib and others had issued a press statement denouncing the move. Later, he stayed only three days at the excavation site but later claimed that the ASI lacked objectivity, professional integrity and scientific rigour among many other objections. Suraj Bhan also admitted during examination that he did not have adequate knowledge of Hindu scriptures (Puranas) and he was neither a historian of medieval period nor a specialist in architecture of mosque/temple.
The senior most author of the historians’ report, Professor RS Shrama was a noted historian well known for his Marxist methods. He along with M. Athar Ali, Suraj Bhan and one time student DN Jha put forth the Historian's report to the nation on “how the communalists were mistaken in their assumption that there was a temple at the disputed site” and raised objection on the contents of the Skanda Purana in terms of its vintage and interpolations in the manuscript. Skanda Parana is not the only case, in the past also Sharma was vociferous in his criticism of the great epic Mahabharata, Lord Krishna and Vishnu Hari inscriptions. Sharma’s bias against the Skanda Purana is beyond comprehension when even Western Indologists and scholars have independently opined it to be at least of 8th century vintage. Haraprasad Shastri and Cecil Bendall are known to have discovered an old “palm-leaf manuscript of Skanda Purana” in a Kathmandu library in Nepal, written in Gupta script suggesting its period between 3rd to 5th centuries.
Both Sharma and Jha are also well known for their position against the nationalist ideology calling it a Hindu agenda and creating controversies through their writings, statements etc. For instance, Jha created controversy and sharp reaction for hurting the sentiments of Hindus over his book “The Myth of the Holy Cow” outlining the practice of beef eating by Hindus in ancient India. He was accused by Arun Shourie, a noted writer and journalist, of slander and deliberate distortion of facts of the destruction of Nalanda University by Islamic invaders as also selective lifting of sources, obfuscation and intellectual compromise. M Athar Ali was yet another historian, who wrote the historians’ report junking the notion that Babri mosque was constructed after demolishing a temple. Ali called himself a secularist, advocated leftist ideology and tried to give newer perspective of nobility to the Mughal emperors, particularly the ill-famed Aurangzeb, who ascended to the throne by killing his elder sibling and heir apparent Dara Sikoh and retaining own father and Emperor Shah Jahan under house arrest in Agra Fort till his death.
The above well-known about four historians (one is archaeologist) indicate their fixed mindset, lopsided approach and leanings towards a political ideology pursued by the ruling class following independence in the name secularism. The leftist or left leaning historians are often blamed, and rightly so, for skillful distortion of historical facts as also glorification of certain period and events representing particular dynasties/rulers under the patronage of then ruling and dominant ideological dispensations. Many of them claim to be secular and rationalist but while narrating or evaluating people and events, their blatant proclivity and bias can be easily observed. The present dispute itself is a case in point where these historians denied the very existence of visible and sustainable temporal evidences of Hindu shrine, questioned the period and authenticity of scriptures of historical value and disputed inscriptions of 12th century for its vintage and manner of recovery while acting on the behest of one interested party.
A truly rational and secular person would equally treat all religions and cultures on merit rather than endorsing or giving preferential treatment to one at the cost of other. This is true to state and true to people, but unfortunately in India some political parties, media and intellectuals have taken it to a narrow interpretation of merely showing concern for some religious minorities, particularly the Muslims. People like historian RS Sharma and counsel Rajeev Dhavan can question divine figures, doubt scriptures and blame Hindus as intolerant communalists because Hinduism permits dissent and debate since inception while a similar act in Abrahamic religions, particularly Islam leads to threat to life. Such people also forget that Hindus are the only people since ancient age who constantly talked about “Basudhav Kutumbkam” (Entire universe is a family) and “Sarva Dharma Sama Bhava” (All religions are the same) or (All faiths lead to the same destination).
From the foregoing analysis, two points clearly emerge: First, the Hindu scriptures and text citing the references of Ayodhya and Sri Ram are of much older vintage compared to the disputed mosque by Babur or Aurangzeb in 15th or 17th century and there was no means for the sages Valmiki, Vedvyasa and others to anticipate the possible trouble or dispute in distant future events; secondly, the Puranas and Epics besides their significance for religiosity have impeccable historical and cultural value of the civilization of the Indian sub-continent. It is for the followers and cynics to believe or not believe the divinity of Lord Ram but he indeed existed as the most glorious and august King of erstwhile Kosala with Ayodhya as capital. Even the genealogy of the kings of the ikshvaku dynasty is available in several texts including “Srimad Bhagavad Purana”. In legal parlance, evidence from these texts was found credible while the contents of historians’ report produced deny it were found irresponsible, reckless and slanderous.
Possession Right and Obeisance at Disputed Complex
The disputed site and surrounding features have been described at length in the ‘Part-2 Evidence’. Ordinarily, jointly or in conjunction with a masjid, no temple or shrine and associated religious symbols of any other religion are found or permitted. On the contrary, the very entry to the erstwhile disputed complex was through two gates named Hanumat Dwar and Singh Dwar with several Hindu religious features and inscription including picture of “Lord Hanuman”. The other features included Kasuati stone pillars with engraved ‘Jai’ and ‘Vijai’, Garuda, two lions, Varah, Ramchabutra with small temple, idols of Shiva and associates, Sita Rasoi, carvings of Lotus flowers, Tandava Nritya, images of Lord Hanuman and Lord Krishna, Sita-koop, carved image of Shesh Nag, Narad Chabutra, samadhis of ancient sages such as Angira, Markandeya, Gautam, Shandilya, Garg etc., and huts of sadhus/bairagies in the adjoining areas. On the other hand, the three-domed structure symbolizing a mosque lacked several features that ordinarily a mosque should possess.
Besides the element of jurisprudence in the decades old litigation, few other temporal facts may also relevant. Neither it is secret nor surreal to that many Muslim rulers oppressed Hindu subjects for centuries and thousands of temples were destroyed in the past and mosques constructed at the place. To illustrate the point, we can cite the Kashmir Valley which was inhabited only by Hindus and Buddhists till 12th century has now been almost completely replaced with Muslim population with barely a few original inhabitants and religious shrines. Even after the Babri demolition in December 1992, the communal backlash led to desecration and destruction of dozens of temples elsewhere in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Ordinarily, most Hindus have accepted these facts and moved on to new beginning. So, what is that it makes Hindus so sentimental and resolute only about this place in Ayodhya and restoration of temple by all means at the site?
Answer to the above question is quite simple: Ayodhya is among the seven most sacred places of Hindus and the disputed site is Janmasthan of Lord Ram, believed to be incarnation of the God (Vishnu) Himself, as glorified in Skanda Purana and many other Hindu scriptures. The citation of Officiating Commissioner and Settlement Officer of Ayodhya and Faizabad, P Carnegy in 1870 is relevant – “…Ayodhya is to Hindus what Mecca is to the Mohammedans (Muslims) and Jerusalem to the Jews.” The above citation is very crucial and significant because it reflects essence of the Hindu faith. Unfortunately, people born and brought up in the same country with radical ideas, vested interests and pseudo-secular approach fail to appreciate what British Carnegy could so easily perceive and spelt out years ago.
While evaluating available evidence, the Supreme Court divided it into three time spans: period before 1528 AD when the mosque was supposedly built by or under the order of Babur; the period after 1528 and upto 1858 AD when the British administration erected railings bifurcating the disputed premises into an outer courtyard and inner sanctum; and the period after 1858 till date. This was done by the Bench perhaps for better appreciation of the claims and counterclaims of feuding parties as also to ascertain their possessory right by observing the trend and continuity of obeisance at the site by the adherents of both communities at different time span. The author too feels that this approach would present a more rational, logical and out-and-out analysis.
(1) Period Before 1528
AD Hindu parties had produced citations from the Skanda Purana, Valmiki Ramayana and Sri Ramcharitmanas in support of their position on Ayodhya and Janmasthan of Lord Ram. Besides, Lord Ram and many other Ikshvaku dynasty kings of the Kingdom of Kosala with Ayodhya as capital find mention in other Mahapuranas, Epic Mahabharata and many secondary texts. For instance, the Brahmanda Purana of 4th to 6th BC vintage refers to Ayodhya as one of the seven most important pilgrimage sites (Saptapuri) for Hindus owing to their obeisance and belief about it as the birthplace of Ram; other places being Mathura, Haridvara, Kashi, Kanchi, Avantika and Dwarka. Similar description of the most holy cities is also found in Garuda Purana. The Vishnu Purana and Srimad Bhagavata Purana (also referred as the Fifth Veda) are amongst the oldest religious texts that describe Lord Ram as King of Kosala and glorify him as incarnation of Lord Vishnu. In Srimad Bhagavad Purana, Skandha (Canto) 9, Chapters 10-12, entire genealogy of the Ikshvaku kings including Lord Ram has been described. The faith and belief in Ram not only exists in the South Asian countries but also in the far east Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia and Indonesia.
The most crucial and discernible evidence of obeisance of Lord Ram at Janmashan Temple prior to 1528 AD is vindicated by the record of the visit and stay of Guru Nanak at Ayodhya during 1510-11. Rajinder Singh, Sikh Scholar appeared as a witness for the Hindu parties along with several books about Sikh Panth and history, and deposed in his examination-in-chief that Guru Nanak Dev Ji had sought darshan of Shri Ram Janmbhumi Temple at Ayodhya. The judgment refers to Sikh Janma Sakhies containing the record of “the description of visit of Guru Nanak Devji to Ayodhya, where he had darshan of birthplace of Lord Ram.” It is also mentioned there that invader Babur had not invaded India till that time. These 'Janam Sakhis' are sacred writings which profess to be biographies of Guru Nanak Dev. The judges observed that the visit of Guru Nanak Devji in 1510-11 AD and to have darshan of Janmbhumi of Lord Ram do support the faith and beliefs of the Hindus.
It is indeed surprising and mystifying why many left leaning historians have ignored Hindu scriptures, archaeological evidences and old inscriptions to systematically denigrate Hindu cultural and religious history and faith. May this be intentional or sheer ignorance; either way it unfair and unacceptable. For instance, according to historian Romila Thapar, the first historic mention of Ayodhya dates back to the 7th century, when the Chinese pilgrim Xuanzang described it as a Buddhist site. Obviously, in her endeavor to refute importance of Ayodhya for Hindus by portraying it as Buddhist city, she ignored all available Hindu scriptures and texts, archaeological findings and temporal evidences available on ground. This is when Ms Thaper is considered better historian than many of this genre. Thaper and four other historians are not exception, there are many others, who call themselves liberals while viewing history from a narrow prism of class and communal struggle and do not accord scientific and rational value or chance to scriptural, linguistics, archeological evidence and analysis to decipher the truth.
Period After 1528 and upto 1858 AD
The Supreme Court has held that Muslims claimed construction of the mosque but no records are available with respect to their possession, use or offer of namaz in the mosque between the date of construction and 1856-57, i.e. for almost 332 years that elapsed since the date of the construction of the mosque until the setting up of a grill-brick wall by the British. Also the Muslim parties could neither adduce evidence to establish the exercise of possessory control over the disputed site nor there is any account in the evidence of the offering of namaz in the mosque, over this period. The earliest evidence of namaz being carried out at the disputed site is documented in an application (complaint) of one Rajab Ali dated 5 November 1860 to British administration for removal of the construction of the Hindu Chabutra, allegedly on the grounds of the Azaan of the Moazzin being met with the blowing of conch shells by the Hindus.
On the other hand, the Hindu parties produced several travelogues and books in support of their possessory rights and continued prayer at the disputed premises some of which are illustrated in the previous part. The travelogues of Joseph Tieffenthaler and Montgomery Martin provide a detailed account of both the faith and belief of Hindus based on the sanctity which they ascribed to the place of birth of Lord Ram and of the actual worship by the Hindus at the Janmasthan. The Supreme Court observed that both the travelogues have probative value as they render conspicuous accounts of the Hindus worshiping Lord Ram. Tieffenthaler specifically referred to Hindu places of worship including the Sita Rasoi, Swargdwar and Bedi or cradle symbolizing the birth of Lord Ram where the devotees circumambulated three times and prostrated on the floor. The account also refers to associated religious festivals during which Hindu devotees would throng for worship. Both these accounts are of the eighteenth century prior to the construction of the grill–brick wall in 1857 in the disputed complex. The book Hadith-e-Sehba by Mirza Jaan (1856) also refers to the birthplace of Lord Ram and obeisance of Hindus adjacent to ‘Sita-Ki- Rasoi’.
The leading counsel of Muslim parties, Dr Rajeev Dhavan dismissed the statement in travelogues as hearsay and travellers as only story tellers on which no reliance can be placed. The counsel appearing for the Hindu parties, PS Narsimha argued that the travelogues in the form of published books are relevant and shall be relied by the Court under Section 57 of Indian Evidence Act, 1872. He suggested that the test, which has to be applied for marshaling the evidence, is the standard of preponderance of probability. Referring to Section 3 of Evidence Act, Narsimha argued that proof of fact depends upon the belief or probability of the fact looking to the circumstances of the particular case. The accounts of independent travellers certainly reflect history, if nothing, at least the facts based on the concurrent belief and customs that cannot be ignored.
The books and travelogues corroborated by both Hindu and Muslim witnesses point towards identifiable places of offering worship and the prevalence of worship by Hindu pilgrims at the disputed site during the aforesaid period. The setting up of a railing around 1858 by the British partitioning the disputed structure took place in the backdrop of conflict and contestation over the claim of the Hindus to worship inside the precincts of the mosque. However, the railing which comprised of a brick grill-wall was neither a sub-division of the disputed site nor determination of title by the colonial administration. This is evident from the facts of the immediate setting up of the Ramchabutra by the Hindus right outside three domed structure, the continued assertion of rights of Hindus to the inner sanctum and continued offering of worship by devotees towards the sanctum (Garbh-Grih) standing outside the railing. The raising of brick grill-wall by British was merely an effort to maintain peace that remained elusive as is evident from future events.
Period After 1858 AD
Apart from the scriptures, books and travelogues, a plethora of evidence was produced by the Hindu parties in the form of gazetteers, official reports, archaeological findings & artifacts, Vishnu Hari inscriptions and witnesses in support of the site being Ram Janmbhumi with their continued possession and obeisance. The counsels of Muslim parties tried to dismiss gazetteers and reports on technical grounds and archaeological findings lacking scientific values, and so on. However, the court upheld gazetteers as published work by Government authorities with substantial evidentiary value stating that gazetteers have been relied by the court to decide several cases. Similarly, Archaeology cannot be dismissed as an unscientific discipline and such findings have immense use in determining the nature, period and ownership value in many cases.
Quite obviously, the construction of the railing was not to settle proprietary rights but simply a measure to ensure law and order. Periodical events at the disputed site between 1858 and 1883 indicate that the move to exclude Hindus from the inner courtyard (sanctum sanctorum) through a railing remained a continuing dispute and Hindus never accepted this bifurcation. The evidence indicates that despite the existence of a three domed mosque, Hindus faith remained undeterred and they continued to worship at the inner courtyard believed to be the birth-place of Lord Ram from a distance. The physical structure of an Islamic mosque did not shake the faith and belief of Hindus prior to and after 1858 that Lord Ram was born at the disputed site. Evidently, in every gazetteer and official record produced in the court, the disputed structure is recorded as “Masjid Janam Sthan” or “Janam Sthan Mosque”.
On the other hand, all available indicators including Hindu-Muslim riots in 1856-57 suggest the offering of namaz by the Muslim residents commenced from around this time; Following 1934 Hindu-Muslim clashes, evidence suggests that access of Muslims for the prayer in the form of namaz remained only intermittent and interrupted due to resistance offered by the sadhus/bairagies in the outer courtyard. This clue is available in the Waqf Inspector report dated 12 December 1949 where he wrote that Muslims visiting the mosque to pray were being harassed by Hindus in the outer courtyard where many of them resided. The mosque was apparently being used only for Friday namaz and last such prayer was paid on 16 December 1949. There had not been any prayer since 22nd-23rd December 1949 till its demolition on 6th December 1992, after a group of bairagies allegedly installed idol of Sri Ram Lalla with other religious symbols under the central dome.
The Muslims did not have possession over the outer courtyard, which was in exclusive possession and use of devotees of Lord Ram. Similarly, there is a lack of evidence to establish that there was exclusive or unimpeded use of the inner courtyard after 1858 by any community, which was continuously used by Hindus for paying obeisance to deity either by entering the sanctum or standing at the railings ever since its erection by British. It is significant that the religious activities of the Hindu devotees in the outer courtyard continued uninterrupted with increased frequency which is evident from the decision of the colonial administration to allow an additional door (Singh Dwar) to the outer courtyard in 1877 to facilitate the entry of Hindu devotees. Objection against his decision was raised by Muslims but rejected by British adminisration. The need for an additional gate of entry for Hindu devotees clearly suggests their extensive use for offering worship. The Hindu devotees continued to offer worship at several structures in the outer courtyard such as the Ramchabutra and Sita Rasoi, an indicator of their settled possession and practicing of faith.
This possession of the Hindu devotees over the outer courtyard and obeisance to inner courtyard (sanctum) was under the knowledge of Muslims. Well documented record of several incidents between 1857 and 1949 suggesting constant struggle and serious contestation for assertion of right to inner courtyard. In 1858, a Sikh Nihang Singh and others installed a symbol of Sri Ram, hoisted a flag and started havan-puja within the premises of the mosque; he was eventually ousted in December 1858. In 1860 and 1861, Mir Rajjab Ali complained about construction of new chabutra in the graveyard and blowing of conch shells. The Muslims alleged encroachment on the north western corner of the Masjid in 1868, which was proved wrong on investigation. The Mutawalli sought an eviction order against a Faqir in 1870 from the graveyard; the order passed in 1871 stated that the former had no right of ownership over the graveyard in front of the door of mosque. In 1873, a dispute occurred in regard to the placement of an idol on the chabutra. As already mentioned in April 1877, the permission was granted by the Deputy Commissioner for the construction of a new gate (Singh Dwar) on the northern side in addition to pre-existing Hanumat Dwar on the eastern side, while simultaneously dismissing objections of Muslims. In 1883, a dispute occurred between Mutawalli and Mahant Raghubar Das; while the former was directed not to lock the outer door of the mosque, the latter was restrained from carrying out repairs in the inner and outer parts of compound.
Thus the events between 1858 and 1883 clearly indicate that the setting up of the railing for separation of Hindus and Muslims for prayers could neither stop disputes nor Hindus’ quest and passion for worshiping in the inner sanctum. While the outer courtyard remained in exclusive possession and used for worship of Hindus; evidently the inner sanctum remained a matter of contestation between the two communities. While the Muslims asserted it to be a place of their worship, the Hindus intermittently contested it by seeking their entry hitherto fore as was practice prior to the setting up of the railing and continued worship by standing at the railing. The riot of 1934 led to a considerable damage to the domes of the dispute structure (mosque) with the imposition of fines on the Hindus and Bairagis. At the same time, the frequency of Muslims visiting mosque significantly declined only for weekly namaz after 1934 and the last reported such prayer was on 16 December 1949. *Under Islamic Law, Mutawalli is the person who supervises or takes over the management of a wakf.
Emerging Key Points
- The Muslim account of worship prior to 1856 is conspicuously silent as opposed to Hindus who constantly offered their obeisance to deity at the disputed site;
- Prior to 1856-57 there was no exclusion of the Hindus for worshiping within the precincts of the inner courtyard;
- The riots of 1856-57 led to the setting up of the railing by the colonial administration to bifurcate the compound for separate worship by two communities but decision did not address ownership issues;
- Hindus’ control and worship in the outer courtyard area was absolute and they continued to assert their right to worship in the inner courtyard (sanctum sanctorum) through intermittent contestation and regular paying obeisance from a distance at the railing after 1858.
- The pattern of worship and constant offerings to the Garbh-Grih (Sanctum) while standing at the railing shows the commitment, faith and belief of Hindus that the place below the central dome was the birth-place of Lord Ram;
- The inner courtyard remained under constant contestation between the two communities and Muslims did not have exclusive possession of it.
Evidential Value of Archaeological Evidence
Initially, Muslim parties maintained that the mosque was constructed on the vacant and virgin land denying existence of any Hindu temple or structure at the disputed site. The report of four historians was cited by them in support of their claim. As the evidence of the structure and artifacts following excavations by the ASI at the disputed site emerged, the narrative was changed by Muslim parties claiming existence of an Idgah at the site. During argument, the counsels of Muslim parties, among other objections, raised fundamental question on ASI report citing archaeology as a social science with subjective inferences, instead of being a natural science, and is prone to errors as an archaeologist draws inferences from a variety of disciplines like history, sociology and anthropology. The judges were, however, inclined to accept earlier observations of Justice Sudhir Agarwal of Allahabad High Court that Archeology is a multi-disciplinary scientific subject and it uses scientific methods in its working and deriving inferences.
While avoiding a categorical inference of a pre-existing temple at the disputed site, the ASI report concluded with following remarks:
“Now, viewing in totality and taking into account the archaeological evidence of a massive structure just below the disputed structure and evidence of continuity in structural phases from the tenth century onwards upto the construction of the disputed structure along with the yield of stone and decorated bricks as well as mutilated sculpture of divine couple and carved architectural members including foliage patterns, amalaka, kapotapali doorjamb with semi-circular pilaster, broken octagonal shaft of black schist pillar, lotus motif, circular shrine having pranala (waterchute) in the north, fifty pillar bases in association of the huge structure, are indicative of remains which are distinctive features found associated with the temples of north India.”
On a detailed examination and analysis of the ASI report and findings, the following conclusion can be drawn:
- Archaeological excavation revealed traces of successive civilizations up to about 1000 BC, with significant artifacts findings from the age of the second century BC onwards;
- The excavation revealed the existence of a pre- existing underlying large structure dating back to the twelfth century AD. On the preponderance of probabilities, the nature of the underlying structure clearly indicated it to be a Hindu religious shrine;
- The disputed mosque was constructed upon the foundation of the pre-existing structure. The construction of the mosque has taken place in such a manner as to obviate an independent foundation by utilizing the walls of the pre-existing structure;
- The layered excavation at the site of excavation also revealed the existence of a circular shrine together with a makara pranala indicative of Hindu worship; and
- No artifact recovered during the excavation was of Islamic origin.
Skeptics argue that the ASI report failed to provide the reason for the destruction of the pre-existing structure; and whether the earlier structure was demolished for the purpose of the construction of the mosque. Some reports had appeared in the media about the pressure exerted by some experts on the ASI panel, particularly those representing the interest of Muslims, to avoid a definitive conclusion about the nature of shrine. In any case, neither it was ASI’s mandate nor studies with limited scope can answer such questions. All available evidences viz. scriptures and texts, books, credible inscriptions, travelogues, gazetteers, official reports and archaeological findings suggest only one probability that any rational and logical mind would conclude i.e. the existence of a Hindu temple at the site before the construction of mosque at the site.
In the aftermath of the judgment, the opinion among the Muslim community is divided. Barring a few minority politicians and members of All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB), the verdict of the apex court was hailed and welcomed by the community. While the dispute was under litigation, the Muslim politicians, clergy and litigants unequivocally held that they will honour and accept the Supreme Court decision either way. However, this opinion appears to be split now: while a large section including SCWB and few individual litigants appear to be in peace with the outcome, the AIMPLB and other litigants are inclined to file petition in the apex court for a review. Some self-styled secularists and liberals have constantly added fuel to the fire though their blogs and public utterances that the alleged dispute involved temporal reality versus spiritual belief; and in the ongoing litigation, the Supreme Court has tilted towards the spiritual belief thereby denying justice to the Muslim community.
As for the Supreme Court judgment, it was rather a rare instance of 5-judge bench with a heterogeneous blend of education, ideology, faith and belief delivering a verdict with an absolute unanimity clearly pronouncing that for them it was a dispute over immovable property and they decided the title on the basis of evidence instead of any faith or belief. As the variety material evidences overwhelmingly supported Hindu parties’ claim in terms of more possessory rights and continuous obeisance, the title of land was granted to them; at the same time, recognizing the mosque-like features of the demolished disputed structure and intermittent namaz at the site, Muslims were restituted with almost double the size of disputed land elsewhere in the same city. Be it an individual or community, if they honour own public utterances, it certainly adds to their credibility and acceptability. Notwithstanding, if a community still feels aggrieved, they are well within their right to seek further relief as admissible under Law.
Finally, there are a few questions for the self-proclaimed secularists and liberals, who so often have a lopsided view of almost all good or bad events impacting the future well-being growth and prosperity of this country. Why have they been so eager to deny the very existence of the legendary Ayodhya and Ram? Why can’t they see facts beyond the three domed structure or the history before 1528? If the disputed mosque at Ayodhya was the only temporal reality, in what category should we place Hindu cultural or religious carved figurines on the black kasauti pillars used in its construction, holy structures of utmost religious significance in the same complex, scriptions, well documented books, travelogues, gazetteers and plethora of archaeological evidence recovered from the site. Last but not the least, if the holy book and prophet in one religion can’t be questioned, how fair is this to question scriptures and deity of other religion just because it tolerates dissent and debate? One wonders if they would ever realize what damage and disservice they have been doing for the cause of nation and communal harmony through their biased and so often slanderous vision and discourse.