Ram reigns, but site is divided

Hindus, Muslims get joint possession of the disputed land over which the Babri mosque stood

Ram reigns, but site is divided

The judgment, which, till it was read out, had kept the country on the edge, sought to script a conclusion to an otherwise acrimonious and bitter 61-year-old story whose violent manifestation 18 years ago had threatened to polarise the Hindus and the Muslims.

Not satisfied with the judgment, the Uttar Pradesh Sunni Waqf Board, one of the plaintiffs, said it will move the Supreme Court against the High Court order and that it would not surrender one-third of the land given to it. But the Board, its Zafayab Jilani said, was open to negotiations.

But the verdict, when it was delivered in courtroom 21 slightly after 4 pm, did not stir any primordial passions among the people whose calm and restrain — there could not have been a reaction otherwise — was testimony that the they had put behind the horrific events that followed in the wake of the December 6, 1992 demolition of the Babri mosque.

Despite a deft balancing act, which was reflected in the three separate judgments of the three-judge special Bench, there were certain marked differences and variations in the manner in which Justices D V Sharma, S U Khan and Sudhir Agarwal interpreted the voluminous evidence which produced divergent opinions.

The majority verdict held that the disputed land be divided into three parts and be given to the three contesting parties — the Muslims, the Hindus and the Nirmohi Akhara. But the court dismissed the suit of the Sunni Waqf Board, which had claimed possession of the disputed land since a mosque stood on it, on the ground that it was barred by the doctrine of limitation.

In this context, the court directed that status quo be maintained at the disputed site for three months, by which time, according to Justice Khan’s order, the “parties are at liberty to file their suggestions for actual partition by metes and bounds”.

While Justice Sharma, who will retire on Friday, ordered that the entire land over which the mosque existed be given to Hindus, Justice Khan and Justice Agarwal favoured division of the disputed land into three parts. In Justice Khan’s language the “portion below the central dome (of the once three-domed structure) where at present the idol is kept in (a) makeshift temple will be allotted to the HIndus in the final decree”.

While declaring the three sets of parties — Muslims, Hindus and Nirmohi Akhara — as “joint title holders”, Justice Khan’s judgment said that each of them could use and manage the respective areas awarded to them for “worshipping”. Concurring with him, Justice Agarwal said the “acquired land shall be made available to the parties in such manner so that all the three parties may utilise the area to which they are entitled to, by having separate entry for egress and ingress of the people without disturbing each others rights”.

But Justice Sharma took a divergent view on several critical issues which were at the heart of the dispute. While Justice Khan said that the “disputed structure was constructed as mosque by or under orders of Babar”, Justice Sharma observed that “the disputed building was constructed by Babar, the year is not certain but it was built against the tenets of Islam. Thus, it cannot have the character of a mosque”.

Justice Agarwal on the other hand concluded that “the defendants (Sunni Waqf Board) have failed to prove that the property in dispute was constructed by Shahanshah/ Emperor Babar in 1528 AD”. Justice Agarwal held that “the building in dispute was constructed after demolition of non-Islamic religious structure, i.e. a Hindu temple” and that the “idols were kept under the central dome of the disputed structure in (sic) night of December 22-23, 1949,” a point which Justice Khan and Justice Sharma agreed with.
Justice Sharma also concluded that “the disputed structure was constructed on the site of the old structure after demolition of the same. The Archaeological Survey of India has proved that the structure was a massive Hindu religious structure”. Significantly, none of the three judges could conclude whether the “temple” over which the disputed structure was constructed was built in the honour of Rama.

However, providing an interesting, though curious, interpretation on (Rama’s) birthplace, Justice Sharma observed: “Place of birth is a juristic person and a deity. It is personified as the spirit of divine worshipped as birthplace of Lord Rama as a child.

“Spirit of divine ever remains present everywhere at all times for any one to invoke at any shape or form in accordance with his own aspirations and it can be shapeless and formless also”.

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