The Indian Supreme Court has ruled that Hindus will be able to construct a temple on a disputed plot of land in Ayodhya. The verdict was announced today (November 9) by a five-judge bench, headed by the chief justice of India, Ranjan Gogoi.
A trust will be set up by the Centre to construct the temple. Muslims will be given five acres of land in Ayodhya to construct a mosque.
They ruled that it is an undisputed faith of Hindus that Lord Ram was born under one of the domes. The court should not interfere in faith, it has said.
However, the judges say the title of the land should be decided on legal principle. It has said that the Archaeological Survey of India’s conclusion that the Babri Mosque was built over an existing structure is supported by evidence. It was not constructed on vacant land, say the judges.
The mere existence of a structure beneath [the mosque site] cannot be basis of claim to have title over the land today, says CJI Gogoi. Muslims cannot say that they have composite title to the disputed site, he said.
The argument that the mosque was not built in the Islamic way has been rejected. The demolition was a violation of rule of law, said CJI Gogoi. In the original ruling in the case, judges had ruled that the mosque was not built in the Islamic way.
Officials have appealed for calm, and thousands of police and paramilitary troops have been deployed in the city. Hundreds of people were detained on Friday amid fears of violence and Section 144 has been imposed in several areas. Schools and colleges in the area have been closed and all roads leading to the site have been blocked.
“Each and every security officer is committed to prevent minor skirmishes or large-scale riots after the court delivers its verdict,” said a senior home ministry official told BBC. “State governments have identified several schools to set up temporary jails if the need arises.”
The land, once the site of the Babri Mosque and where many Hindus claim is the birthplace of their Lord Ram, has been a point of contention for over 70 years, one that has often led to violence.
The dispute over the 2.77 acre plot turned violent on December 6, 1992 when a mob of Hindu nationalists razed the medieval mosque. It sparked communal riots across India, leaving thousands dead. Many say that clash led to a shift in the country’s political fabric from secularism to the Hindu nationalism that colours the BJP-led country’s politics today.
Birthplace and Babar
The tussle centres on an area of land measuring just 2.77 acres (1.1 hectares) in Ayodhya, a small city in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh.
India’s majority Hindus believe that Lord Ram, one of their most important deities, was born there.
They also believe the Muslim conqueror Babar, the first Mughal emperor, razed the temple in the 1500s to make way for a mosque, the Babri Masjid.
Under British colonial rule, a fence was erected to separate places of worship so Muslims could worship in an inner court and Hindus the outer.
The first legal dispute emerged in 1885 with a plea seeking permission to build a canopy outside the mosque premises for Hindu devotees.
But in 1949, two years after independence, idols of Lord Ram appeared inside the mosque, which allegedly were placed there in a staged “miracle”. Muslims objected and both parties went to court, kicking off a tortuous legal battle over the right to worship at the site, which continues to this day.
In 1984, Hindus formed a committee to “liberate” Ram’s birthplace and build a temple, led by LK Advani, a senior figure in the BJP, now headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
On December 6, 1992 a Hindu mob estimated to number 200,000 — aiming to symbolically lay the first stone of a new temple — reduced the mosque to ruins.
This triggered some of the worst religious riots since India’s bloody partition in 1947, leaving around 2,000 people dead, mainly Muslims.
In 2002, 59 Hindu activists died in a fire on a train returning from Ayodhya, sparking riots in Gujarat state — when Modi was state premier — that saw upwards of 1,000 people perish, most of them Muslims.
An important ruling came in 2010 when a High Court ruled that Muslims and Hindus should split the site — albeit unevenly, with Hindus granted the lion’s share.
But this left no one happy. Both Hindu and Muslim groups appealed and the Supreme Court in 2011 stayed the lower court’s ruling, leaving the issue unresolved.
In March this year, the Supreme Court appointed a three-man panel including a famous guru to resolve the prickly issue through mediation, but this too failed.
The hearings ended in drama on Wednesday as Rajeev Dhawan, a lawyer for one of the Muslim parties in the case, tore up a map purportedly showing the temple existed in ancient India.
As a Hindu lawyer appearing for a Muslim party, Dhawan faced abuse and death threats. He has been likened to Atticus Finch, the hero in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird.
Another lawyer, former attorney general K Parasaran, represents the infant Lord Ram. In his mid-90s, Parasaran declined the court’s offer to make his case sitting down and reportedly spent two days on his feet explaining why the deity could be a “juristic person”.
The court had adjourned the hearing on October 16.