Saturday, October 2, 2010

A Job Well Done

When I first started this blog I made a firm resolve that I won't post anything regarding politics, but the topic which i'm about to put forward for u all serves an important agenda for our nation, India. "The debate regarding the Babri mosque" and since the final verdict was given on 30th September 2010, i.e., my birthday; I feel the urge to write something about the land debate that took 60 years to be solved.

In short - The Ayodhya debate is a political, historical and socio-religious debate in India, centered on a plot of land in the city of Ayodhya, Faizabad district, Uttar Pradesh. The main issues revolve around access to a site traditionally regarded as the birthplace of the Hindu God Rama, the history and location of the Babri Mosque at the site, and whether a previous Hindu temple was demolished or modified to create the mosque. The Babri Mosque was destroyed by hardline Hindu activists during a political rally which turned into a riot on December 6, 1992. A subsequent land title case was lodged in the Allahabad High Court, the verdict of which was pronounced on September 30, 2010. In the landmark hearing, the three judges of The Allahabad High Court ruled that the 2.77 acres of Ayodhya land be divided into 3 parts, with 1/3 going to construction of the Ram temple, 1/3 going to the Sunni Waqf Board and the remaining 1/3 going to Nirmohi Akhara.

Lets now delve deep into our history book and read the history behind this huge debate. We all know the debate centers around the status of the land known as Ram Janmabhumi, on which the original Babri Mosque was built.

Ayodhya is revered by Hindus as the birthplace of the maryaada purushottam, i.e. ideal person, Lord Rama, legendary King of Kosala, who is also worshiped by millions as an avatar of Vishnu. The Skandh Puraan, an over 2000 year old work of reference for ancient pilgrimage sites in India, narrates in detail the different temples in Ayodhya, including the one commemorating the birthplace of Rama.

As history tells us, when the Mughal invader Babur came down from Kabul in 1525, he first defeated Ibrahim Lodi at the battle of Panipat and then the Rajput Hindu King of Chittorgarh, Rana Sangram Singh at Khanwa, making pioneering use of cannon and light cavalry. After these triumphs, Babur took over a substantial part of northern India.One of his generals, Mir Baki Khan came to Ayodhya in 1528 and built the "janmasthan" i.e. "birthplace" Mosque, demolishing the Hindu temple marking the place of birth of Rama, existing earlier. Mir Baki, after building the mosque, named it Babri Masjid. The Babri Mosque was one of the largest mosques in Uttar Pradesh, a state in India with some 31 million Muslims.

According to many historical findings, in 1767, Jesuit priest Joseph Tieffenthaler recorded Hindus worshiping and celebrating Ramanavami at the site of the mosque. In 1788, Tiefffenthaler's French works were published in Paris, the first to suggest that the Babri Mosque was on the birthplace of Rama, saying that "Emperor Aurangzeb got demolished the fortress called Ramkot, and erected on the same place a Mahometan temple with three cuppolas" reclaimed by Hindus through numerous wars after death of Aurangzeb in 1707 A.D like they earlier fortified it during Jahangir's rule as Ramkot.

During the 19th century, the Hindus in Ayodhya were recorded as continuing a tradition of worshiping Rama on the Ramkot hill. According to British sources, Hindus and Muslims from the Faizabad area worshiped together in the Babri Mosque complex in the 19th century until about 1855. P. Carnegy wrote in 1870:
"It is said that up to that time, the Hindus and Mohamedans alike used to worship in the mosque-temple. Since the British rule a railing has been put up to prevent dispute, within which, in the mosque the Mohamedans pray, while outside the fence the Hindus have raised a platform on which they make their offerings."
This platform was outside the disputed structure but within its precincts.

In 1885, Mahant Raghubar Ram moved the courts for permission to erect a temple just outside the Babri Mosque premises. Despite validating the claim of the petitioner, the Faizabad District Judge dismissed the case, citing the passage of time. On 18 March 1886, the judge passed an order in which he wrote:
I visited the land in dispute yesterday in the presence of all parties. I found that the Masjid built by Emperor Babur stands on the border of Ayodhya, that is to say, to the west and south it is clear of habitations. It is most unfortunate that a Masjid should have been built on land specially held sacred by the Hindus, but as that event occurred 356 years ago, it is too late now to agree with the grievances. (Court verdict by Col. F.E.A. Chamier, District Judge, Faizabad (1886)

Post Independence Several later mosques were built in Faizabad district, in which the pilgrim city of Ayodhya falls. Ayodhya itself has a small Muslim population, though there are substantial numbers of Muslims 7 km away at District Headquarters - Faizabad. Since 1948, by Indian Government order, Muslims were not permitted to be closer than 200 yards away to the site; the main gate remained locked, though Hindu pilgrims were allowed to enter through a side door. The 1989 Allahabad High Court ordered the opening of the main gate and restored the site in full to the Hindus. Hindu groups later requested modifications to the Babri Mosque, and drew up plans for a new grand Temple with Government permissions; riots between Hindu and Muslim groups took place as a result.

Until about 1990 the standard view was that an ancient Ram Janmabhoomi temple was demolished and replaced with the Babri Mosque.But there is no strong proof that states that a temple was demolish and a mosque was built.References such as the 1986 edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica reported that "Rama’s birthplace is marked by a mosque, erected by the Mughal emperor Babur in 1528 on the site of an earlier temple".

Archaeological excavations by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) in 1970, 1992 and 2003 in and around the disputed site have indicated a large Hindu complex existed on the site. In 2003, by the order of an Indian Court, The Archaeological Survey of India was asked to conduct a more indepth study and an excavation to ascertain the type of structure that was beneath the rubble. The summary of the ASI report indicated definite proof of a temple under the mosque. In the words of ASI researchers, they discovered "distinctive features associated with... temples of north India". The excavations yielded:

stone and decorated bricks as well as mutilated sculpture of a divine couple and carved architectural features, including foliage patterns, amalaka, kapotapali, doorjamb with semi-circular shrine pilaster, broke octagonal shaft of black schist pillar, lotus motif, circular shrine having pranjala (watershute) in the north and 50 pillar bases in association with a huge structure 

However, there are some differing viewpoints. In his 
Communal History and Rama's Ayodhya, written prior to the ASI researches, Professor Ram Sharan Sharma writes, "Ayodhya seems to have emerged as a place of religious pilgrimage in medieval times. Although chapter 85 of the Vishnu Smriti lists as many as fifty-two places of pilgrimage, including towns, lakes, rivers, mountains, etc., it does not include Ayodhya in this list." Sharma also notes that Tulsidas, who wrote the Ramcharitmanas in 1574 at Ayodhya, does not mention it as a place of pilgrimage. This suggests that there was no significant Hindu temple at the site of the Babri Mosque, or that it had ceased to be one, after the mosque was built. After the demolition of the mosque in 1992, Professor Ram Sharan Sharma along with Historians Suraj Bhan, M.Athar Ali and Dwijendra Narayan Jha wrote the Historian's report to the nation saying that the assumption that there was a temple at the disputed site was mistaken, and no valid reason to destroy the mosque.

The Ayodhya debate has grown along with a revival of Hindu Nationalism.
The issue of the disputed structure had remained inactive for four decades, until the mid-1980s. The Hindu Nationalist movement pressed for reclamation of three of its most holy sites which it claimed had suffered at the hands of Islam, at Ayodhya, Mathura and Varanasi. L K Advani, the leader of the BJP in his memoirs argued, "If Muslims are entitled to an Islamic atmosphere in Mecca, and if Christians are entitled to a Christian atmosphere in the Vatican, why is it wrong for the Hindus to expect a Hindu atmosphere in Ayodhya?"
The legal case continues regarding the title deed of the land tract which is a government controlled property. While the Muslim parties want the Babri Mosque to be reconstructed through a court order, the Hindu side wants a law in parliament to have a temple constructed, saying faith in the existence of Ram Janmabhoomi cannot be decided in a court of law.
The situation regarding the Ram Janmabhoomi has been compared to the Temple Mount controversies and claims in Israel by conservative blogger Daniel Pipes. In particular, Pipes writes:
Ayodhya prompts several thoughts relating to the Temple Mount. It shows that the Temple Mount dispute is far from unique. Muslims have habitually asserted the supremacy of Islam through architecture, building on top of the monuments of other faiths (as in Jerusalem and Ayodhya) or appropriating them (e.g. the Ka'ba in Mecca and the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople).[27]
Nobel Laureate V. S. Naipaul has said that the destruction of Babri mosque was an act of historical balancing and the repatriation of the Ramjanmabhoomi was a "welcome sign that Hindu pride was re-asserting itself."

In 1950, Gopal Singh Visharad filed a title suit with the Allahabad High Court seeking injunction to offer 'puja' (worship) at the disputed site. A similar suit was filed shortly after but later withdrawn by Paramhans Das of Ayodhya. In 1959, the Nirmohi Akhara, a Hindu religious institution, filed a third title suit seeking direction to hand over the charge of the disputed site, claiming to be its custodian. A fourth suit was filed by the Muslim Central Board of Wakf for declaration and possession of the site. The Allahabad high court bench began hearing the case in 2002, which was completed in 2010. However, the bench withheld its verdict till September 24. After the Supreme Court dismissed a plea to defer the high court verdict, the high court set September 30, 2010 as the final date for pronouncing the judgement.

On September 30, 2010, the High Court of Allahabad, the three-member bench comprising justices SU Khan, Sudhir Agarwal and DV Sharma, ruled that the disputed land be split into three parts. The site of the Ramlala idol would go to the party representing Ram Lalla Virajman (the Ram deity), Nirmohi Akhara to get Sita Rasoi and Ram Chabutara, and the Sunni Wakf Board to get the rest. The court also ruled that status quo was to be maintained for three months.

Reacting to the verdict, all the three parties, including the Uttar Pradesh Sunni Wakf board announced that they will appeal against the division of disputed land among three parties in the Supreme Court of India. All the three parties, however, conceded that this judgment was an important step forward, towards resolution of a long pending dispute.

At the end I would like to say that the equal distribution of the land was a job well done by the Allahabad High Court and although I had to reschedule a lot of my plans regarding an outing because of the high alert in Uttar Pradesh, the day went by peacefully without any riots. 


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