Sri Ram Temple Some Fundamental Aspects
True and devout Hindus believe that Bhagvan Sri Rama was born in Ayodhya, the then capital of a flourishing kingdom of the Suryavanshi dynasty. Rama is venerated as Maryada Purushottam, and worshipped by Hindus of the north. As an avatar of Vishnu, while it was first propagated by the Tamil saints known as Nayanmars and Alwars, who composed many hymns and songs dedicated to his divinity, the north which later came to accept Rama as one, especially thanks to the saint Tulsidas, the fervor for Rama worship is much more. In that sense, Sri Rama was the first truly national king of India, supra region, supra varna or jati. That is why poet Iqbal called him ‘Imam-e-Hind’.
The exact spot of the palace where Rama was born has been and remains firmly identified in the Hindu mind and is held as sacred. This is the very area where stood from 1528 till December 6, 1992, a structure that came to be known as Babri Masjid, put up in 1528 by Babar’s commander Mir Baqi.
In fact, Baqi was a Shia Muslim, and hence he intended it to be a place for Shias to read namaz. Today, interestingly, the Shia clerics have made it clear to Hindu organisations that they would agree to have the site restored as a Ram Janmabhoomi. It is the Sunni Wakf Board, which entered the legal dispute as late as 1961, that has been litigating in the court claiming the title to the land on which the structure once stood.
I call it a “structure” since it cannot be strictly called a mosque by Sunni edicts—because it did not have the mandatory minarets and wazu [water pool]. That a Ram temple existed and/or that there is a sacred spot known as Ram Janmabhoomi is attested by many sources.
In Skanda Purana [Chapter X, Vaishnav Khand], the site is vivdly described. Valmiki Ramayana also described it beautifully. Less than two decades before Mir Baqi carried out the horrible demolition of the Ram Temple, Guru Nanak had visited the Ram Janmabhoomi and had darshan of Ramlala in the mandir at the spot. There are many commentaries on this visit, which are a part of the Sikh scriptures. Guru Nanak himself records in 1521 the barbarity of Babar’s invasions [in Guru Granth Sahib at p 418]. In Akbar’s time, Abul Fazal wrote the Ain-i-Akbari in which he describes Ayodhya fame as the place of “Ram Chandra’s residence who in Treta age combined spiritual supremacy and Kingship” [Tranlated by Col HS Jarrett and published in Kolkata in 1891].
In Chapter X of the Report of the Archeological Survey of India, NW., and Oudh (1889) it is mentioned (p.67) that Babri Mosque “was built in AD 1528 by Mir Khan on the very spot, where the old temple of Janmasthan of Ram Chandra was standing”.
Hindus have throughout foreign occupation of India have deeply held as sacred that exact spot, where the Babri Masjid once stood, as is recorded in many official and judicial proceedings. In 1885, for example, Mahant Raghubar Das in a Suit No 61/280 of 1885 filed in the Court of the Faizabad Sub-Judge against the Secretary of State for India (who was based in London), prayed for permission to build a temple on the chabutra outside the mosque. His suit was dismissed on March 18, 1886.
However, in his order the Sub-Judge, an Englishman, however stated: “It is most unfortunate that a Masjid should have been built on land specially held sacred by the Hindus. But as the event occurred 358 years ago, it is too late now to remedy the grievance.” Since the English as policy never sought to disturb the social status quo in India as evidenced, for example, on the sati question, the Judge took the easy way out and dismissed the suit.
It is now well established by GPRS-directed excavations done under the Allahabad High Court monitoring and verification in 2002-03, that a large temple did exist below where that Babri Masjid structure once stood. Inscriptions found during excavations describe it as a temple of Vishnu Hari who had killed the demon king Dasanan [Ravana].
The Sunni Wakf Board does not accept these findings as meaning anything. It does not however matter if all this was indeed so or not, since under section 295 of the Indian Penal Code [IPC] it is prescribed that “Whoever destroys, damages or defiles any place of worship, or any object held sacred by any class of persons, with the intention of thereby insulting the religion of any class of persons or with the knowledge that any class of persons is likely to consider such destruction, damage or defilement as an insult to their religion, shall be punishable with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both”.
That is, an offence under criminal law is committed, if a body of persons hold something as sacred. It does not matter, if the majority does or does not hold so. Nor can a court decide what is sacred and what is not. Only a body of persons can identify what is sacred. The offence under section 295 IPC is cognisable and non-bailable, as well as non-compoundable.
The fundamental question before us is thus this: Can a temple and a masjid be considered on par as far as sacredness is concerned ? Relying on two important court judgments that hold the field today, the answer is no! A masjid is not an essential part of Islam, according to a majority judgment of a Constitution Bench of India’s Supreme Court.
In the famous Ismail Farooqui vs Union of India case[reported in (1994) 6 SCC 376], the Supreme Court had observed: “It has been contended that a mosque enjoys a particular position in Muslim law and once a mosque is established and prayers are offered in such a mosque, the same remains for all time to come a property of Allah…and any person professing Islamic faith can offer prayer in such a mosque, and even if the structure is demolished, the place remains the same where namaz can be offered.” [para 80].
The Constitution Bench rebutted this contention. The Bench stated: “The correct position may be summarised thus. Under Mohammed law applicable in India, title to a mosque can be lost by adverse possession…A mosque is not an essential part of the practice of the religion of Islam and namaz (prayer) can be offered anywhere, even in the open. Accordingly, its acquisition is not prohibited by the provisions in the Constitution of India.”[para 82].
Thus what was wrong in the demolition of the Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992 was that it was unauthorised by law and hence a criminal offence. Otherwise, any Government depriving the Muslims of the Babri Masjid is within law, if the government decides to do so in the interest of public order, public health and morality [Article 25 of the Constitution]. This is the position in Islamic law as well since in Saudi Arabia the authorities demolish mosque to lay roads. Even the mosque where Islam’s Prophet Mohammed used to pray was demolished for a road to pass through!
But then what of a temple? Is it in the same category as the mosque in our jurisprudence? When I was Union Law and Justice Minister, this question of the status of a temple—even if in ruins or without worship—had come up before me in November 1990 in a case of a smuggled out bronze Nataraja statue, which was up for sale in London.
The Government of India when Rajiv Gandhi was PM had decided to file a case in the London trial court in 1986 for recovery. The Nataraja statue had by then traced to a temple in ruins in Pathur, Thanjavur district. A farmer named Ramamoorthi had unearthed it 1976 while digging mud with a spade near his hut.
When the news spread, touts of an antique dealer by name Ahmed Hussein reached him and paid a small sum and smuggled it out to London, where in 1982 they sold it to Bumper Development Corporation Private Limited. In turn, the said Corporation sent it to the British Museum for appraisal and possible purchase. By then the Government of India was onto it and asked the UK government to take action.
SUMMARY OF ARCHAEOLOGICAL EVIDENCE
- The Babri mosque had 14 pillars made of ‘Kasauti’ black stone with Hindu images. Also inside the Babri compound was a piece of a door jamb with images of ‘Mukut-dhari Dwarpal’ and ‘Devakanyas’. Iconographical evaluation of these pillars and the door jamb by Dr SP Gupta (former Director of Allahabad Museum) showed that these belonged to a Hindu temple of the 11 th century AD period when the Garhwal Kings of Kanauj ruled Ayodhya.
- Between 1975 and 1980 Prof BB Lal (the then director general of Archaeological Survey of India) conducted an excavation behind the Babri structure and even touching it. The excavation showed pillar bases of burnt bricks (of the pre-existing temple). The most beautiful pottery dated around 8 th-9th century BC was also found.
- On June 18, 1992, when the ground near the Ram Janmabhoomi was being levelled, at a depth of 12 ft, several beautifully carved buff sandstone objects were found. These objects included images of Vaishnav divinities with one ‘Chakrapurush’ sculpture also showing ‘Parashuram’ and ‘Balram’, an image of ‘Shiv-Parvati’ (largely broken) and many carved stones such as corner were terrecotta Hindu images of Kushan period (1st to 3rd century AD).
These and other objects found during subsequent excavations during July 1992, were found to be members of a Hindu temple complex of about 11th century AD by a team of 8 eminent archaeologists and historians. The team included Dr YD Sharma, former deputy director general of Archaeological Survey of India, and Prof BR Grover, Director of Indian Council for Historical Research.
- The destruction of Babri structure on December 6, 1992 revealed many archaeological remains which irrefutably prove that parts of the pre-existing temple were incorporated in the construction of the Babri mosque. The remains include a temple bell, several intricate and detailed carvings, an image of Vishnu, and several other Hindu images.
The principal amongst the findings, however, is a 2 ft wide by 4.5 ft long buff sandstone tablet ‘shilalekh’ bearing an inscription in ‘Devanagari’ script and Sanskrit language. The ‘shilalekh’ describes an ancient Ram Mandir existing at Ram Janmabhoomi at least since the 12th century AD which was built by a Garhwal king Raja Govindachandra.
The 4 th line of this ‘shilalekh’ specifically describes a temple of Lord Vishnu (Hari) at the ‘Janmabhoomi Sthal’. The 15th line describes it as a massive, magnificent temple dominating the landscape, and with steeples shikhar adorned with gold Kalash. The 17th line specifically mentions the location as Ayodhya and the ‘Saket Mandal’, while the 19th line mentions the ‘Vaman Avatar’ and then mentions Ram as the destroyer of evil Ravan.
As per historians, since 1528 there have been at least 76 armed conflict in which over 300,000 Hindus sacrificed their lives to restore the Ram Janmabhoomi temple.
The Nataraja idol was seized by London Metropolitan Police, and thus the Corporation sued the Police in court for recovery but lost the case. An appeal was filed in the Queens Bench [our High Court level] which was dismissed on April 17, 1989. So, the Bumper Corporation went to the House of Lords [our Supreme Court level]. On February 13, 1991, when I was law minister, the judgment came which is truly landmark dismissing Bumper’s final appeal [see (1991) 4 All ER 638].
The UK Apex Court upheld the Indian government’s position that because of the prana prathista puja, a temple is owned by the deity, in this case Lord Shiva, and any Hindu can litigate on behalf of the deity as a defacto trustee. The Bench consisting of Justices Purchas, Nourse and Leggatt concluded : “We therefore hold that the temple is acceptable as party to these proceedings and that it is as such entitled to sue for the recovery of the Nataraja.” [page 648 para g].
Thus even if a temple is in ruins as the ASI had found, or destroyed as Ram Temple was, any Hindu can sue on behalf of Lord Rama in court for recovery! No such ruling exists for a mosque for the simple reason that a mosque is just a facilitation centre for reading namaz, and has no essentiality for Islam religion. It can be demolished and/or shifted as any building can and are being so in Arab countries and Pakistan. That is, the Ram Temple on Ram Janmabhoomi has a superior claim to the site than any mosque. This the fundamental truth in the Ayodhya dispute. This truth will apply to Kashi Vishvanath and Brindavan temple sites as well.
Ram Temple-Babri ‘Masjid’ Dispute
A CHRONOLOGY OF EVENTS
- Year 1528: Babur, Mughal Empire, builds a mosque in Ram Janmabhoomi, Ayodhya. Some Hindus say Ram Janmabhoomi is the birthplace of Lord Rama.
- Year 1853: First recorded incidents of religious violence at the site.
- Year 1859: British colonial 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.
- Year 1885: The first suit was filed by Mahant Raghubir,who sought permission to build a temple on Ram Chabootra a temporary structure built for the Hindus to pray right outside the Babri Masjid. But this was not accepted by the Faizabad district court in 1886.
- Year 1949: Idols of Lord Rama appear inside mosque allegedly placed there by Hindus. Muslims protest and both parties file civil suits. The government proclaims the premises a disputed area and locks the gates.
- Year 1950: Gopal Singh Visharad and Mahant Paramhand Ramchandra Das file suits in Faizabad, asking for permission to offer prayers to the idols installed at Asthan Janmabhoomi. Inner courtyard gates are locked, but puja is allowed.
- Year 1959: Nirmohi Akhara and Mahant Raghunath file a case, claiming to be the sect responsible for conducting puja.
- Year 1961: Sunni Central Board of Waqfs, UP, files a case claiming the mosque and the surrounding land was a graveyard.
- Year 1964: All three suits filed by Hindus and the one filed by the WAQF Board are consolidated as suit No. 12/196, becoming the main case in the dispute. (1) To build a temple at the Ram Chabootra. (2) Mosque gates to be opened and Muslims allowed to pray Namaz.
- Year 1984: Hindus form a committee to “liberate” the birth-place of Lord Rama and build a temple in his honour, spearheaded by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad party (VHP). Then Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Lal Krishna Advani takes over leadership of campaign.
- Year 1986: On a petition of Hari Shanker Dubey, a judge directs masjid gates be unlocked to allow darshan. District judge orders the gates of the disputed mosque opened to allow Hindus to worship there. Muslims set up Babri Mosque Action Committee in protest.
- Year 1989: VHP steps up campaign, laying the foundations of a Rama temple on land adjacent to the disputed mosque. Former VHP vice-president Justice Deoki Nandan Agarwal files a case, seeking the mosque be shifted elsewhere.
- Year 1990: VHP volunteers partially damage the mosque. Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar tries to resolve the dispute through negotiations, which fail the next year.
- Year 1991: BJP comes to power in Uttar Pradesh state, where Ayodhya is located.
- Year 1992: The mosque is torn down by supporters of the VHP, the Shiv Sena party and the BJP, prompting nationwide rioting between Hindus and Muslims.
- Year 1998: The BJP forms coalition government under Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee.
- Year 2001: Tensions rise on the anniversary of the demolition of the mosque. VHP pledges again to build Hindu temple at the site.
- Year 2002: The High Court directs the Archaeological Survey of India to excavate the site to determine if a temple lay underneath.
- Year Jan 2002: Mr Vajpayee sets up an Ayodhya cell in his office and appoints a senior official, Shatrughna Singh, to hold talks with Hindu and Muslim leaders.
- Year Feb 2002: BJP rules out committing itself to the construction of a temple in its election manifesto for Uttar Pradesh assembly elections. VHP confirms deadline of 15 March to begin construction. Hundreds of volunteers converge on site. At least 58 people are killed in an attack on a train in Godhra which is carrying Hindu activists returning from Ayodhya.
- Year Mar 2002: Between 1,000 and 2,000 people, mostly Muslims, die in riots in Gujarat following the train attack.
- Year Apr 2002: Three High Court judges begin hearings on determining who owns the religious site.
- Year Jan 2003: Archaeologists begin a court-ordered survey to find out whether a temple to Lord Rama existed on the site.
- Year Aug 2003: The survey says there is evidence of a temple beneath the mosque, but Muslims dispute the findings. Mr Vajpayee says at the funeral of Hindu activist Ramchandra Das Paramhans that he will fulfill the dying man’s wishes and build a temple at Ayodhya. However, he hopes the courts and negotiations will solve the issue.
- Year Sept 2003: A court rules that seven Hindu leaders should stand trial for inciting the destruction of the Babri Mosque, but no charges are brought against Mr Advani, now deputy prime minister, who was also at the site in 1992.
- Year Oct 2004: Mr Advani says his party still has “unwavering” commitment to building a temple at Ayodhya, which he said was “inevitable”.
- Year Nov 2004: A court in Uttar Pradesh rules that an earlier order which exonerated Mr Advani for his role in the destruction of the mosque should be reviewed.
- Year July 2005: Suspected Islamic militants attack the disputed site, using a jeep laden with explosives to blow a hole in the wall of the complex. Security forces kill five people they say are militants, and a sixth who was not immediately identified.
- Year June 2009: The Liberhan commission investigating events leading up to the mosque’s demolition submits its report—17 years after it began its inquiry. Its contents are not made public.
- Year July 2010: On July 27, the court took the initiative for an amicable solution to the dispute when it called on counsel for the contending parties to go into the possibility. But no headway was made.
- September 23, 2010: Supreme Court of India delays the verdict in the Ram Temple and Babri Mosque Demolition. Ramesh Chandra Tripathi filed a petition regarding this and Supreme court of India delayed the verdict for one week and issued the notice to all parties concerned.
- September 28, 2010: A three-judge special bench comprising of Chief Justice of India SH Kapadia, Justice Aftab Alam and Justice KS Radhakrishnan announced that the three-judge High Court bench could go ahead with the pronouncement of judgement while dismissing the special leave petition of Ramesh Chandra Tripathi that had appealed for deferment of the verdict so that an out-of-court settlement could be tried. All the three judges concurred that the stay order must be lifted and dismissed Tripathi’s petition.
- September 30, 2010: The three-judge special bench of Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court delivered the verdict.
The only compromise we Hindus can accept is that Muslims agree to shift the building of a new masjid to some other site beyond the Saryu River. It is important to note that as of now there are eight mosques in Ayodhya which the ASI has taken over since these had no one coming to read namaz. Hence what use will another mosque be? If however the Muslim hardline organisations want to re-build the Babri Masjid in the Ram Janmabhoomi area, then the Hindus will launch a struggle.
Hence what should be the patriots’ response to the judgment of Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court permitting the re-building of the mosque in the Ram Janmabhoomi area? As with the Shah Bano case precendent, government should bring an amendment to the acquisition of certain areas of Ayodhya Act of 1993 to bar constructing any structure other than those connected with a temple for Sri Rama.
Government using ayodhya issue to pursue its own political agenda
While embarking on his Somnath to Ayodhya Rath Yatra, Mr LK Advani made an interesting assertion that can help understand the Ayodhya issue. He said: “I do not regard the Ramjanmabhoomi as an issue between the Hindus and the Muslims. The problem in this country, are the Hindu pseudo-secularists who regard secularism only as a euphemism for Hindu-baiting.” Mr Advani further asserted: “BJP did not see the Ramjanambhoomi campaign as merely a mandir-masjid issue but an issue with wider ramifications, which affect the basis of nationalism in India. The objective of the Yatra was to educate the people on the BJP’s understanding of secularism.”
If we go little behind and recall the events of 1986, it becomes clear that the Ayodhya dispute though pending in courts since 1949, caught public imagination only after the locks on the gate of the premises were removed on February 1, 1986. Although the order for opening the locks of Ramjanambhoomi-Babri Masjid were passed by the District Judge, but he had done so only after the Deputy Commissioner and Superintendent of Police of Faizabad District, personally appeared before him and averred that they can maintain law and order even without a lock. It is logical to presume that these senior officials were acting as per instructions of the state and central governments. If there was any doubt on this count, it was put to rest by the presence of a Doordarshan team that covered the proceedings of the judicial order being enforced by the local administration within less than an hour of its pronouncement.
Much has been written both by the columnists and the historians as to why and how the central government got involved with Ayodhya dispute. There is general agreement that it happened because the government first buckled under the aggressive and violent agitation of the Muslim Personal Law Board demanding a legislation to undo the Supreme Court Judgment in the Shah Bano case and then realising the severe backlash it aroused sought
to counterbalance it by opening the locks in Ayodhya to give the impression of being equally sympathetic and considerate to the Hindu sentiments.
A reputed historian Mr Ramchandra Guha has written: “In April 1985, in awarding alimony to a divorced woman named Shah Bano, the Supreme Court called for honoring the constitutional commitment to a uniform civil code. The Congress had a two-thirds majority in Parliament. However, instead of taking the Court’s verdict forward, Rajiv Gandhi had a Bill passed overturning it. Less than a year later the locks of the shrine in the Babri Masjid were opened.” Mr Guha is right but this period of less than a year was just about two weeks. On January 15, 1986, Mr Rajiv Gandhi announced to a cheering crowd of MPLB supporters at Siri Fort auditorium that the government has accepted the demand of the Personal Law Board and a bill to overcome the ratio of Shah Bano decision shall be introduced on the first day of the coming winter session of the Parliament.
The announcement caused a furor provoking strong criticism of the government for succumbing to a patently divisive and communal demand. In its zeal to counterbalance the adverse fallout of its decision, the government zeroed in on Ayodhya, so as to play both the Muslim and Hindu cards simultaneously. Mr KR Malkani in his book Politics of Ayodhya has written:
“The authorities informally asked the VHP to move an application for the unlocking of the premises, with assurances of positive response. But the V.H.P said it was interested in the unlocking and not in going to the court. So the Congress got a junior local advocate, one Umesh Chand Pandey, to move an application on January 21 in the Munsif’s court. On January 28, the Munsif declined to pass any orders. An appeal was, therefore, immediately filed in the Court of District Judge. Here the authorities admitted that unlocking the premises would not pose any law and order problem. The court thereupon ordered on February 1, that the locks be removed. Within hours the locks were removed to the boundless joy of the devotees, and the scene was duly recorded and telecast by the Doordarshan.”
Neerja Chaudhry, a senior journalist commenting on the sequence of events in Ayodhya wrote on April 20, 1986, in her column in Statesman, “Mr Rajiv Gandhi wants both to run with the hare and hunt with the hounds.” Ms Chowdhury further remarked on May 1, 1986, “There is evidence of a connection between the opening of the doors of the disputed Ramjanamabhoomi in Ayodhya and the introduction of the ‘Muslim Women Bill’ in Parliament, both of which have heightened communal tension in the country.” She concluded her piece saying: “A policy of appeasement of both the communities being pursued by the government for electoral gains is a vicious cycle which will become difficult to break.”
The political motives of the government became further obvious when on the eve of the 1989 General Elections; it allowed the laying of foundation stone (Shilanyas) near the disputed site. This was in pursuance of a written agreement between the Congress government of UP and the leaders of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, signed in the presence of Union Home Minister Buta Singh at Lucknow on September 27, 1986. According to Mr KR Malkani, on this occasion, Mr Buta Singh suggested to VHP leaders to invite the Prime Minister for the Shilanyas. The VHP leaders turned down the suggestion and conferred this honour on Kameshwar Chopal, a Scheduled Caste activist from Bihar. Though he was not invited for the Shilanyas but Mr Rajiv Gandhi launched the 1989 elction campaign from Ayodhya; with promise of ushering in Ram Rajya.
It is clear from the foregoing sequence that the government was using Ayodhya to pursue its own political agenda, first to offset the adverse reaction provoked by its abject surrender before the violent agitation of the Personal Law Board and later to influence the outcome of the 1989 elections. But as predicted by Neerja Chaudhry, it failed to yield desired results; instead it proved to be a vicious circle that widened the communal cleavage that claimed precious lives of thousands of innocent Indians and valuable property and resources.
If the government and the ruling party that sworn by secularism felt no compunction in playing religious and communal cards for short-term political gains, it was futile to hope that other political parties will not jump into the fray. But we must give credit to Mr Lal Krishna Advani for not having concealed the purpose of his campaign. He clearly said that he is not taking up Ayodhya problem as a Hindu-Muslim dispute; rather he identified a group of Hindus as part of the problem whom he described as pseudo-secularists. He further emphasised that the objective of the Yatra was to educate people on BJP’s understanding of secularism. So he took up the issue not for its religious value but to expose pseudo-secularism and to propagate BJP’s viewpoint. But the political parties need to ponder how to ensure not to raise communal tempers while launching such educational campaigns.
The Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court delivered its verdict on 30th of September. We must hope that all parties concerned shall show due reverence for the judicial verdict and it shall be seen as culmination of a constitutional and legal process and not as defeat of one group and victory of the other. Of course, anyone not satisfied with the verdict can still go in appeal to the Supreme Court, and the government can also take the initiative to put an end to this dispute by evolving a mutually acceptable solution that can be enforced through the instrumentality of parliamentary legislation.
The places of worship are important and they are hallowed by their own sanctity, but the sanctity of human blood is much greater than the sanctity of the places of worship. We build places of worship to give expression to our feelings of devotion and submission to the Divine, but the human beings are the creation of the Divine and each soul is blessed with a spark of divine. No place of worship, howsoever important it may be, can be built by sacrificing human lives. Once we realise and acknowledge this truth, then we shall have the large heartedness that will motivate us to find a solution of disputes like Ayodhya not in the law courts but in an environment of goodwill and brotherhood where everyone would feel like a winner.
I would like to conclude with four lines of a great Sufi poet Hafiz Shirazi, which I feel reflect the basic teaching of all religions on the obligation to inculcate feelings of kindness and compassion in every heart. He says:
Dil Badast Awar Ki Hajji Akbar Ast,
Az Hazaran Kaba Yek Dil Behtar Ast;
Kaba Buniade Khaleele Azar Ast,
Dil Guzargahe Jaleele Akbar Ast.
(Winning the heart of someone is like performing great Hajj and a compassionate heart is better than thousand Kabas. Kaba was built by Khaleel Azar to rest his spiritual quest but the heart of man is the resting place of the Great Almighty.)
By Arif Mohammed Khan
The author is a former Union Minister
Post-verdict too, Muslims must remain committed to peace, refrain from violence
“Like pre-verdict-post verdict too, the Muslims must remain committed to peace and refrain from any violence, even when provoked,” thus spoke the convener of the All India Babri Masjid Action committee and lawyer representing the Sunni Waqf Board in the Ayodhya tile suit case Mr Zafaryab Jilani. The Lucknow-based attorney who has been contesting the case for the last 24 years expressed full faith in the judiciary and said he respects the secular democracy that India is.
“All these years, Muslims have just had two prayers on their lips one for victory and other for peace. This positive attitude must not change, whatever be the judgment,” said Jilani speaking to Uday India sitting in his chamber on the eve of the highly-awaited verdict on a volatile communal dispute that dates back to over 60 years. The Ayodhya title suit gained momentum after the Babri mosque was demolished by Hindu militants on December 6, 1992. The hearing in the title suite came to a conclusion on July 26, 2010.
“I have been appealing for peace and telling people from my community that victory should not goad them into a vulgar display of happiness nor should a negative verdict make them hostile and violent. Under both circumstances they must respect the decision of our legal body,” said Jilani, surrounded by a battery of lawyers and his supporters.
He said that Indians—whether Hindus or Muslim have to understand that they have to live in this same land no matter what the judgment, so they must behave accordingly and approach the decision a pre-conditioned mind that urges them to ensure communal harmony.
Mr Jilani said that in the 24 years that have passed there has been a positive change in the mindset of people. He said the most staunch Hindus who once refused to accept that any court could decide a matter that rested on ‘faith’ today have reconciled to the fact that the solution lies only a legal settlement of the issue.
“Post-verdict India will be a better place to live in for both the Muslims and Hindus. After all the dispute will be finally solved by a legal constitutional body,” said Jilani.
The man who has contested the case for nearly a quarter of a century appeared cool and calm on the eve of century’s must awaited legal judgment.
“I have done my bit, I strongly feel that we have been able to prove our claim on the title by presenting solid evidence and therefore I expect a fair judgment in our favour. But it is always wise to be prepared for the worst. In that case, we still have the Supreme Court to appeal too.”
About the undue delay in the verdict, Jilani said that there were lots of technical hurdles which made the legal progress slow, but for the past three years there has been a good progress and hearings held regularly leading to the conclusion of the hearing.
Mr Jilani said that while the Muslims by and large have said that they will respect the decision of the court. He said that the Hindus should do so more because they respect and equate judiciary as a Goddess and thus the decision of the court should have a religious sanctity for them.
Realising the great importance and sentimental value attached to the case, Jilani said he has decided not to issue any statement for the press from outside the court but will come back to his office and address the media from there.
“I do not wish to rake up any emotions. The decision will after all be in favour of one party only and the party against which the verdict goes is bound to feel bad.”
By Kulsum Mustafa from Lucknow
A CHANCE FOR RELIGIOUS LEADERS TO SAVE THE WORLD
The past few weeks and months have been quite scary across the globe from New York and Florida to Afghanistan and the Indo-Pak swathe of the sub-continent. In the build-up to the anniversary of 9/11, two self-styled godmen—one Muslim, the other Christian virtually took the world for a ride toward nearly the edge of a cliff before a modicum of good sense prevailed and the world saved from a mini-disaster. Even so, at least six lives were lost, four in Afghanistan and two in Kashmir, in anti-US flag burning protests.
The real saviours of course, were the US administration—which (with a message from defence secretary Robert Gates) coaxed the Florida Pastor into abandoning his mad plan and the US media majors which had voluntarily decided not to highlight the bonfire if the Pastor went ahead with his plan. In fact, the US press to its remarkable credit did abstain from highlighting reports of a couple of instances of tearing up pages of the holy book in New York and Washington and even burning a few pages in Tennessee and Kansas.
Pastor Terry Jones of the little-known Dove World Outreach Center or church with a congregation of some 50 people in Gainesville, Florida, had taken upon himself to start a bonfire of the holy Quran as a counter to a project of a New York godman Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf supported by a small-time rentier and property dealer Sharif al-Gamal, a fellow Egyptian, to build an Islamic prayer centre barely a couple of blocks away from the 9/11 Ground Zero.
Imam Faisal Rauf, married to a Kashmiri woman Daisy Khan, however stuck to his plan and particularly refused to meet Pastor Jones when the latter came to New York for a projected climbdown by both sides. The Imam and his wife are known to be a peace-loving couple said to be promoting inter-faith harmony. But there was no give and take on the Imam’s part. He was going ahead with his project, he told the press a couple of days after the 9/11 anniversary.
A promise to shift the prayer centre to a site a good distance away from the Ground Zero would have greatly assuaged the feelings of US citizens and saved the world from this exercise in brinkmanship. But the Imam failed to signal the message of peace, the central tenet of Islam. He failed to grab the opportunity to win the hearts and minds of a vast majority of US public opposed to the planned site, not the idea, of his prayer centre.
The $100-million-centre (not a mosque with a minaret and loud speaker on the top) is a long way away as the cash required for it far from ready. Not even the first million has been sighted so far, according to reports. Only the site of the centre, first known as Cordoba Initiative but renamed Park 51 and owned by Sharif al-Gamal, is reported to have been earmarked. So there is still time for Imam Rauf not to play the godman and show the true spirit of Islam by shifting the site away from the Ground Zero proximity. He still has the chance to win the hearts and minds of not just his fellow Americans but people in the world at large.
And there is still a chance for the real leaders of Islam like King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, a progressive leader and protector of the holiest of Islam’s Makkah and Madina shrines, to signal a hint to Imam Rauf to relocate his project. Here is also an opportunity for leaders of bodies like the Organisation of Islamic Countries to show their hand of peace.
President Obama has done it for his country by declaring: “As Americans, we are not, and never will be, at war with Islam.” Now it is for the true Islamic leaders to respond.
By Subhash Chopra from London
That will be the fit atonement of the entire people of our nation for tacitly tolerating for so long the demolition of Ram Temple on the orders of Babar of Afghanistan. If such an amendment is not brought forth, Hindus should wage a fierce democratic struggle for the next 3 ½ years to force the government to do so or weld a solid Hindu vote so that in the next general election a Hindu front supported by the Hindu dharmacharyas, VHP and RSS can obtain an absolute majority in the Lok Sabha.
The author is a former Union Law Minister and also the Convenor of the Legal and Parliamentary Cells of the Hindu Dharma Acharya Sabha
By Dr Subramanian Swamy