Mosque pol­i­tics: A means to pres­surise court

Deccan Chronicle - - Edit - A.G. Noorani

An FIR lodged on De­cem­ber 23, 1949, by sub-in­spec­tor Ram Dube, po­lice sta­tion, Ay­o­d­hya, reads thus: “Ac­cord­ing to Mata Prasad, when I reached... Janam Bhumi around 8 o’clock in the morn­ing. I came to know that a group of 50-60 per­sons had en­tered the Babri mosque af­ter break­ing the com­pound gate lock of the mosque or through jump­ing across the walls... and es­tab­lished therein, an idol of Shri Ram Bhag­wan and painted Sita, Ram, etc. on the outer and in­ner walls... Ram Das, Ram Shakti Das and 50-60 uniden­ti­fied oth­ers en­tered the mosque sur­rep­ti­tiously and spoiled its sanc­tity.” Other of­fi­cial re­ports con­firmed this ver­sion.

This mosque was built by Mir Baqi, a gen­eral of Babar in 1528. Three cen­turies later, lit­i­ga­tion erupted but not the mosque. On Jan­uary 29, 1885, Ma­hant Raghubar Das filed a civil suit for “award­ing per­mis­sion to con­struct a tem­ple over the Chabu­tra Janam Asthan, si­t­u­ated in Ay­o­d­hya”. The chabu­tra was out­side the Babri mosque but within the com­plex. The ma­hant made no claim what­ever to the mosque. Hin­dus prayed at the chabu­tra as the birth­place of Ram. The sub-judge dis­missed the suit.

Noth­ing was heard of the mat­ter. De­vout Hin­dus never raised the mat­ter. Nor did the Hindu Ma­hasabha. The Rashtriya Swayam­se­vak Sangh was set up in

1925. At the ini­tia­tive of its chief M.S. Gol­walkar, the Vishwa Hindu Par­ishad was set up in 1964. Two decades later, the RSS-VHP lead­ers de­cided to wrest con­trol of the mosque and build on its ru­ins a Ram tem­ple.

The mosque was de­mol­ished on De­cem­ber 6, 1992. Ra­jiv Gandhi had se­cured the open­ing of the locks at the gates of the mosque in

1986. BJP leader L.K. Ad­vani saw a chance for the party to re­cover and him­self to be­come Prime Min­is­ter. The BJP for­mally en­tered into the fray with a res­o­lu­tion in June 1989, on the eve of the gen­eral elec­tions, flatly re­jected the ju­di­cial process, and de­manded that the mosque be handed over to the Hin­dus. A court of law can de­cide is­sues of ti­tle; not of faith, it said. “The sen­ti­ment of the peo­ple must be re­spected.”

This was a ref­er­ence to the old civil suits filed by both sides since. So de­mor­alised were the Mus­lims that they filed their suit just as the pe­riod of lim­i­ta­tion was about to end. There is in crim­i­nal law a sum­mary rem­edy against forcible ouster. The court sim­ply or­ders resti­tu­tion leav­ing the civil courts to de­cide on ti­tle. Even in these pro­ceed­ings the court made pre­pared in­stead per­pe­trat­ing the ouster.

Af­ter the de­mo­li­tion, the Supreme Court split along re­li­gious lines. All five judges re­jected the Pres­i­dent’s ref­er­ence for an ad­vi­sory opin­ion be­cause it ig­nored the is­sue of ti­tle and sought an opin­ion on whether a tem­ple ex­isted on the site on which the mosque was built. The ma­jor­ity up­held the act to ac­quire the site of the de­mol­ished mosque and ap­pointed the Cen­tral gov­ern­ment as its re­ceiver.

Fi­nally, on Septem­ber 30, 2010, the Al­la­habad high court or­dered a tri-par­ti­tion of the mosque leav­ing the idol in place; one por­tion to a Hindu party and the left over to Mus­lims. This order was made by Jus­tice Sud­hir Agar­wal. Jus­tice S.U. Khan agreed — reluc­tantly for he cited Dar­win’s the­ory of the sur­vival of the fittest. The third judge re­jected the Mus­lims’ case in toto. Had Jus­tice Khan stuck to his rea­son­ing, which dif­fered from that of the other two judges, there would have been no op­er­a­ble order. All three agreed that the idol was placed dur­ing the night of De­cem­ber 22 and De­cem­ber 23, 1949.

Af­ter the de­mo­li­tion, crim­i­nal pro­ceed­ings were in­sti­tuted against L.K. Ad­vani and other se­nior BJP lead­ers. On Au­gust 27, 1994, the sub-di­vi­sional magistrate found that the chargesheet did dis­close a prima fa­cie case of con­spir­acy to de­mol­ish the mosque. On Septem­ber 9, 1997, the ad­di­tional ses­sions judge con­firmed this find­ing and framed charges against Ad­vani and oth­ers. The trial has gone nowhere 25 years af­ter the de­mo­li­tion; though or­ders found them guilty.

The present ag­i­ta­tion arose be­cause the Supreme Court ad­journed the hear­ing to Jan­uary. The VHP, with the gov­ern­ment’s tacit sup­port, threat­ens to build the tem­ple any­how. The Naren­dra Modi gov­ern­ment hopes to se­cure a favourable judg­ment be­fore the gen­eral elec­tion in 2019. The VHP and RSS are play­ing a game of pres­suris­ing the court. They ex­pect a favourable ver­dict since the Mus­lims lost at ev­ery stage in the pro­ceed­ings since 1950.

In the Shahidganj Masjid case in La­hore, there was in­con­tro­vert­ible proof of a 1722 waqf to build a mosque. But it came un­der the pos­ses­sion of Sikhs af­ter 1762. In the 20th cen­tury, the district court, the high court of La­hore and the Privy Coun­cil ruled against the Mus­lims on the ground of ad­verse pos­ses­sion. The premier of Pun­jab Sikan­der Hayat Khan re­jected pleas for leg­is­la­tion to over­turn the ver­dict. It was Quaid-i-Azam Mo­ham­mad Ali Jin­nah who sup­ported him fully. two ju­di­cial prima fa­cie

The Naren­dra Modi gov­ern­ment hopes to se­cure a favourable judg­ment be­fore the gen­eral elec­tion in 2019. The VHP and RSS are play­ing a game of pres­suris­ing the court. They ex­pect a favourable ver­dict since the Mus­lims lost at ev­ery stage in the pro­ceed­ings since 1950.

By ar­range­ment with Dawn

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