Ram Temple: The Ayodhya Verdict

By: Navdeep

What is the Ayodhya dispute?

The Ayodhya dispute is at the heart of the Hindu-Muslim communal rift. At the centre of the issue is the belief among sections of Hindus that the Babri Masjid, named after Mughal emperor Babur, was built in Ayodhya after destroying a Ram Temple that marked the birthplace (Ram Janambhumi) of the deity.

The Hindu parties wanted the land to themselves, contending that Lord Ram was born at a spot on which later the central dome of the mosque was built.

The Muslim parties, however, contended that the mosque was constructed in 1528 by Mir Baqi, a commander of Babur’s army, without demolishing any place of worship and since the land rights had not been transferred to any other party, the space was rightfully theirs.

For more than half a century, the dispute has fueled mass polarization in the Uttar Pradesh state and has prompted the country’s worst spate of religious violence since the Partition. The dispute has been a subject of inciting political rhetoric in the lead up to almost all elections in the UP state.

Chronological history of the issue:-

In the early medieval ages, approximate 400 years ago, a temple is

said to be built at Ayodhya on the banks of Sarayu river to

commemorate Lord Rama birth place (Ram Lalla Janambhumi)

                       Map showing disputed Ayodhya land

  1. 1528 AD – A Mosque was built, purportedly at the same site by destroying the temple by Mir Baqi, a commander of Babur’s army.
  2. 1853 AD – Hindus accuse that the mosque has been erected in place of a Ram temple. First recorded incidents of religious violence at the site.
  3. 1859 AD – The British administration erects a fence to separate the places of worship, allowing the inner court to be used by Muslims and the outer court by Hindus.
  4. 1885 AD – The matter reaches the court for the first time. Mahant Raghubir Das appeals to the Faizabad court asking for separate land for a Ram Temple within the premises of the Babri Masjid.
  5. 1949 AD – Idols of Lord Ram appear inside the mosque, allegedly placed there by Hindus. After Muslims protest, both parties file civil suits. The government declares it a disputed area and seals gates.
  6. 1950 AD – Gopal Singh Visharad files suit in court for right to worship the idols and Paramahansa Ramchandra Das files suit seeking to continue worship and keeping the idols in the Babri structure.
  7. 1959 AD – Nirmohi Akhara files suit seeking possession of the site.
  8. 1961 AD – UP Sunni Central Waqf Board files suit for possession.
  9. 1984 AD – Under the leadership of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), Hindus form a committee to liberate the birth-place of Lord Ram and build a temple in his honour. Then Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Lal Krishna Advani takes over leadership of the campaign.
  10. 1986 AD – District judge orders the gates of the disputed mosque to be opened to allow Hindus to worship there. To protest, Muslims set up the Babri Mosque Action Committee.
  11. 1989 AD – VHP steps up campaign, laying the foundations of a Ram temple on the land adjacent to the disputed mosque.
  12. 1990 AD – VHP volunteers partially damage the mosque. Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar tries to resolve the dispute through negotiations.
  13. 1992 AD – On 6th December 1992, The mosque brought to dust by VHP (approx 1.5 lakh, Kar sevaks), the Shiv Sena party and the BJP. Riots erupt between Hindus and Muslims, more than 2,000 people were killed. It was the same time when LK Advani organized a rath yatra to Ayodhya, culminating in the demolition of the 400 year old mosque. Just ten days after the incident, on 16 December, 1992, the government established the Liberhan Commission of India to investigate the demolition of the Babri Mosque.
Text Box:

Images showing demolition of Babri Masjid (6th December 1992)

  1. 2001 AD – On the anniversary of the incident, VHP pledges again to build Hindu temple at the site.
  2. January 2002 – PMAtal Bihari Vajpayee sets up an Ayodhya cell in his office and appoints Shatrughan Sinha to hold talks with Hindu and Muslim leaders.
  3. February 2002 – BJP rules out committing itself to the construction of a temple in its election manifesto for Uttar Pradesh assembly elections but VHP confirms deadline for beginning of construction. At least 58 people are killed in an attack on a train in Godhra that was carrying Hindu activists returning from Ayodhya.
  4. April 2002 – Three High Court judges begin hearings on determining who owns the religious site.
  5. January 2003 – Archaeologists begin a court-ordered survey to find out whether a temple existed on the site.
  6. August 2003 – Archaeologists survey reveals evidence of temple beneath the mosque, but Muslims dispute findings. PM Vajpayee says at the funeral of Hindu activist Ramchandra Das Paramhans that he will fulfil the dying man’s wishes and build a temple at Ayodhya.
  7. September 2003 – A court rules that seven Hindu leaders should face trial for inciting the destruction of the Babri Mosque. No charges are brought against LK Advani, now deputy prime minister, who was also at the site in 1992.
  8. June 2009 – The Liberhan Commission investigating events leading up to the mosque’s demolition submits its report after 17 years.
  9. September 2010 – Allahabad High Court rules that the site should be split, with the Muslim community getting control of a third, Hindus another third and the Nirmohi Akhara sect the remainder (i.e. a three way division of disputed area between Ram Lalla, Nirmohi Akhara and Sunni Central Wakf board). Control of the main disputed section, where the mosque was torn down, is given to Hindus. A lawyer for the Muslim community says he will appeal.
  10. March 6, 2017 – The Supreme Court said charges against LK Advani and other leaders cannot be dropped in the 1992 Babri Mosque demolition case and that the case may be revived.
  11.  January 2019 – Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, sets up a five judge bench to hear the case.
  12. September 2019 – The hearing in the Ayodhya case took place for 40 days continuously in the Supreme Court on and concluded on October 16, 2019.
  13. November 2019 – A  bench led by CJI Ranjan Gogoi delivered the Ayodhya verdict alongside CJI

designate Ashok Bhushan, D.Y. Chandrachud, S.A. Bobde, and S.A. Nazeer. The verdict was unanimous.

What is the Verdict?

  1. Court observations:-
  2. ASI excavation  proves that Babri Masjid not constructed on vacant land
  3. There was a structure underlying the disputed structure. The underlying structure was not Islamic.
  4. Hindus had been offering prayers just outside the structure
  • Final Verdict
  • The Hindus would get the entire disputed 2.77 acres in Ayodhya where the demolished Babri Masjid once stood.
  • Possession of disputed 2.77 acre land will remain with Central government receiver.
  • The Muslims will get alternate 5 acres of land either in the surplus 67 acres acquired in and around the disputed structure by the central government or any other “prominent” place.
  • A trust will be formed in 3 months to build a temple on the disputed land. The court held that the Nirmohi Akhara is not the shebait or devotee of the deity Ram Lalla but will get to be a member of the Trust.

Q1. What is Article 142, invoked by SC to give land for a mosque?

The Supreme Court, implicitly referring to the demolition of the Babri Masjid at the disputed site, said that it was invoking Article 142 “to ensure that a wrong committed must be remedied”.

Article 142(1) states thatThe Supreme Court in the exercise of its jurisdiction may pass such decree or make such order as is necessary for doing complete justice in any cause or matter pending before it, and any decree so passed or order so made shall be enforceable throughout the territory of India in such manner as may be prescribed by or under any law made by Parliament and, until provision in that behalf is so made, in such manner as the President may by order prescribe”.

This was the first time that the court invoked this power in a case involving a civil dispute over an immovable property, involving private parties.

Q2. Who are the travelers quoted in Ayodhya judgment?

In its judgment, the Supreme Court relied in part on centuries-old travelogues, gazetteers and books to provide an account of the faith and belief that the Hindus placed in the Janmasthan. The travelogues that the court took note of included, among others, those by the European travelers Joseph Tieffenthaler, William Finch, and Montgomery Martin – these being written before the building of the grill-brick wall in front of the mosque during British rule.

1. Tieffenthaler was an 18th-century missionary who travelled in India for 27 years, and wrote his travelogue titled “Description Historique et Geographique De l’Inde”. In India, he was commissioned at the famous observatory of Sawai Jai Singh, the Raja of Jaipur, and was later attached at the Jesuit College in Agra which was built with the patronage of Akbar.

2. William Finch’s account has been recorded in the 1921 book ‘Early Travels in India (1583-1619)’ by the historiographer Sir William Foster.

3. Originally from Dublin in Ireland, Martin was an Anglo-Irish author and civil servant. He practiced medicine in Ceylon (present day Sri Lanka), East Africa and Australia. Martin then went on to work in Kolkata where helped found the paper ‘Bengal Herald’. He wrote the three-volume work ‘History, Antiquities, Topography and Statistics of Eastern India’.

Q3. What is adverse possession, the Muslim claim SC rejected?

One of the questions before the Supreme Court was whether the Sunni Wakf Board had acquired the title of the disputed land by adverse possession.

Adverse possession is hostile possession of a property – which has to be continuous, uninterrupted and peaceful.

The Muslim side had claimed that the mosque was built 400 years ago by Babar – and that even if it is assumed that it was built on the land where a temple earlier existed, Muslims, by virtue of their long exclusive and continuous possession – beginning from the time the mosque was built, and up to the time the mosque was desecrated – they had perfected their title by adverse possession. This argument has now been rejected by the Supreme Court.

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