Ayodhya dispute is perhaps the longest and most complex civil suits in the annals of the legal and judicial history of India if not in world as it dragged almost seventy years in various courts including the Supreme Court of India, where it was pending for the last eight years. While hearing petitions, the apex court made it clear that they will deal with it as a “title suit for the disputed land” which Hindus claimed as the birth place of Lord Ram, an ancient great King of Ikshvaku dynasty and an incarnation of Lord Vishnu as per belief, while Muslims claimed it a Masjid constructed by Emperor Babur. For the two communities, it was a matter of religious faith and belief with umpteen conflicts and clashes reported at the site and elsewhere since 1850s taking a toll of numerous lives and property not only in Ayodhya but also at other parts of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi (Retd) deserves laurels and appreciation for his grit and commitment for an objective consideration and taking it to a conclusive end. By doing so, he has also set an example that a problem, however difficult and challenging, can be resolved only by facing it rather than postponing or running away from it. Several petitions were filed by the two communities in the Supreme Court by both parties in December 2010 following a verdict of the Allahabad High Court in September same year. Ever since eight Chief Justices retired without substantive action or focus on the case before Chief Justice Gogoi, heading a five-judges constitutional bench, resolved to take it to finality through continuous hearing from August to October 2019, even giving ample opportunity for a negotiated settlement too. While delivering judgment on 9 November 2019, the judges’ bench opined that Hindu parties were able to produce sufficient evidence through scriptures, books, travelogues, gazetteers, reports, inscriptions, archaeological findings and witnesses in support of their claim of continuous possession and worship at the site compared to the opposite parties.
Notwithstanding aforesaid observation, the apex court avoided any concrete inference about the nature of the disputed structure; instead, they relied mostly on the preponderance of evidence and Article 142 of the Constitution, which empowers the supreme court that in the exercise of its jurisdiction it may pass such decree or make such order as is necessary for doing complete justice in any cause or matter pending before it. Accordingly, the entire site comprising of about 2.77 acres was decreed in favour of the deity of Hindus simultaneously directing the government to allot 5 acres land in favour of Sunni Waqf Board at a suitable place in Ayodhya for the construction of Masjid. Quite obviously, the earlier verdict of the Allahabad High Court equally dividing the disputed land in three parts in favour of contenders was not practicable in the context of the nature of dispute.
The verdict generally received a warm welcome by both the communities nationwide. In so for as Hindus are concerned, they avoided any celebration or public expression of their joy and satisfaction; similarly, the majority Muslims expressed their agreement and satisfaction with the verdict barring a section of clergy and politicians, who openly expressed their dissent and anger with the judgment as also some of them tried to incite the community to reject the outcome and unitedly raise voice against it. Soon, contrary to the long asserted stand of Muslim parties to accept the Supreme Court judgment in whatever way it comes, many of them filed a review petition in the Supreme Court during the first week of December 2019 raising technical flaws in the verdict. Some Muslim and other organizations, which were not part of original litigation, too filed review petition.
The first plea was filed on 2nd December by the Jamiat Ulama-e-Hind, representing Islamic clergy of the Deobandi school of thought in India. Six more petitions were filed by the other Muslim litigants on 6th December for the review of judgment and directing the Central Government to stop formation of trust for temple construction. Among the rest of petitions, two petitions - one by the Hindu Mahasabha and the other by fourty academicians and rights activists filed on 9 December were also significant. While the Jamiat Ulama-e-Hind Chief held that complete justice could only be done by directing reconstruction of Babri Masjid at the disputed land, the Hindu Mahasabha had moved their petition against the direction of court to allot five-acre land to Sunni Waqf Board in an obvious retaliation for building a mosque in Ayodhya.
However, the most unconventional and outlandish petition was that of fourty academicians and activists such as Irfan Habib, Harsh Mander, John Dayal, Farah Naqvi, Nandini Sundar, Shabnam Hashmi, John Dayal and Jayati Ghosh among others, who filed the review petition through advocate and rights activist Prashant Bhushan stating that they were "deeply aggrieved" by the verdict as it "errs in both fact and law". Among several contentious points, they alleged that the judgment overrides the faith of one community to favour the faith of another and has a direct adverse impact on the syncretic culture of the country. According to them, the belief of the Hindus that Ram was born in Ayodhya is not without doubt. They argued that the existence of Babri Masjid is a fact that has been historically documented, whereas the existence of the Hindu temple on which this mosque was built is merely a belief of the Hindus, one that has not been corroborated by any of the evidence adduced by the Hindu parties.
The aforesaid averment of the rights activists was either due to ignorance or conscious attempt to justify their case. The fact is a plethora of credible evidence was evinced by the Hindu parties to establish their possession and faith while the Muslim parties, except for intermittent period of prayer inside the premises, could not even establish whether the Masjid was constructed by Babur or Aurangzeb. These facts are documented in the 1045 pages long judgment itself. Taking a prompt action on the review petitions, the Supreme Court comprised of the same five judges bench headed by new CJI SA Bobde (one judge replaced retired CJI Gogoi) dismissed all eighteen review petitions on 12 December 2019 filed against the historic Ayodhya case judgment. The apex court considered only those review petitions, which belonged to the parties of the original four lawsuits filed in the case. The bench observed that the review petitions were lacked in merit and did not contain any point which was not addressed in the judgment. The bench also held that those who were not party to the suit cannot be permitted now to file a review inter alia dismissing pleas of fourty activists.
Well! Irrespective of what they said before judgment, the original parties to the litigation have right to seek remedies available under law, be it the already dismissed Review Petition or now perhaps a Curative Petition if they so desire. But what really bothers is the approach and action of the fourty academicians and rights-activists, popularly also known as “intellectuals and liberals" in India. Questioning existence of King Ram or a temple in Ayodhya by Irfan Habib Inc. in petition has not come as surprise. Likes of him, Romila Thaper and others have done it in the past too denying and criticizing legacies of Hindu civilization and culture including Ayodhya and Ram. During prolonged hearing, the Supreme Court judges too had considered and held unreliable “four historians’ report” disputing Hindu scriptures and evidence of temple at the disputed site even without visiting the place and ignoring archaeological findings.
For many, it remains a puzzle why many of these academicians (mostly historians) can’t see facts beyond the three domed disputed structure in Ayodhya or the history before 1528. They see a mosque there as a temporal reality but close their eyes to umpteen realities, present and past, in and around same site representing Hindu culture and religion. An academician or historian is expected to dispassionately reveal truth rather than discreetly glorify one aspect and suppress others. Of late, many conscious Indians have started questioning academicians who wrote history during the British rule and after the independence. After all, it’s a fact that an average Indian can narrate the entire pedigree of Mughals or Khiljis while the same Indian, leave aside the pedigree of Guptas or Mauryas, hardly knows anything about even the great emperors like Ashoka, Chandragupta Vikramaditya or Lalitadiya Muktapida. This is so because prominet historians mainly focused on the last millenium from Slave dynasty to Mughal dynasty that ruled largely north and central parts of India.
The question arises why many of the academicians aka historians have had a lopsided view of the history in the past and what is that some of them continue to remain discreet while writing about past glory, faith and beliefs of two different communities. Even prevailing laws of many countries insist that the faith and belief system of people should be respected. Sadly, some of the Indian academicians/historians have even attempted to see nobility among Islamic invaders and mercenaries who are infamous for mass murder, loot, violation of modesty of women while systematically destroying temple and shrines i.e. symbols of Hindus' faith and beliefs; then while they cast doubts on scriptures of one religion but never dare even to talk about another religion. There is no need to discuss names but apart from Ram and Ayodhya, they have similarly questioned Mahabharata and Krishna, and other ancient divine and historical entities and symbols of Hindu faith and belief.
A background check of the academicians / rights-activists would reveal how many of them are either established Marxist or have leanings towards the left ideology. It could be anybody's approximation what justice an extreme leftist or rightist will do with a cause. The leftists are well known for their disregard about the established faith and belief system of the masses in any country or civilization, and many of them are declared atheist or agnostic people. To a considerable extent, this explains their apathy and indifference or even strong dislike of Hindu culture and religion in India. Another point that often bothers any well-meaning person is as to why some of these people are so selective in their approach towards two different religions when it comes to the question of their critical evaluation. Here the answer is rather simple: There is one religion that tolerates all kinds of dissent and debate, so anybody can take liberty and get away with it without any mortal fear or risk; then there is another religion with zero tolerance where a person could risk his life and everything for any criticism or even caricature. So apparently they remember the nemesis of people who ventured into such acts in the past elsewhere and, for sure, they are wise enough not to forget the Charlie Hebdo in 2015.