Tag Archive for 'Babri Masjid'

Ayodhya: The battle for India’s soul

This article was originally published as a six-part series on the Wall Street Journal’s India Real Time. Krishna Pokharel and Paul Beckett unravel the long legal and political drama that lies at the heart of Ayodhya.

A photograph of the Babri Masjid from the early 1900s

CHAPTER ONE

The Sarayu river winds its way from the Nepalese border across the plains of north India. Not long before its churning gray waters meet the mighty Ganga, it flows past the town of Ayodhya.

In 1949, as it is today, Ayodhya was a quiet town of temples, narrow byways, wandering cows and the ancient, mossy walls of ashrams and shrines.

The town’s residents included both Muslims and Hindus. But most noticeable were the Hindu holy men known as sadhus, with painted foreheads, long beards and loose robes. They flocked there, as they do today.

Hindu scriptures say Ayodhya is the birthplace of Lord Ram, making it one of the religion’s holiest places. (Ayodhya means “unconquerable” in Sanskrit.)

Among the sadhus, back then, was Abhiram Das, a muscular priest with a strong voice, a severe visage and a quick temper, according to two of his surviving disciples. In his mid-40s, he had arrived in the town 15 years before from the countryside of Bihar, to the east, they say.

He revered Ram. And, his disciples say, he made it his mission to restore Ram to the exact place he believed the god had been born: a site then occupied by a mosque called the Babri Masjid. more

It happened one night

Ayodhya, 22-23 December, 1949. This is the untold story of that fateful night, when a small group of religious activists stole into the Babri Masjid to place an idol of Ramlalla under the main dome, the night that shaped India’s modern political history. This is the testimony of the few who survive to tell the tale. Dhirendra K. Jha in Open:

In a small, two-room tenement in northwest Mumbai, 85-year-old Indushekhar Jha sits on a battered cot with his gods plastered on the wall behind him. He is the last survivor of an event in Ayodhya on the night of 22-23 December 1949 that still echoes disturbingly in the Indian political arena of our times.

He has been seriously ill for the past few months, and has difficulty understanding your questions, but his face reflects both apprehension and pride. The apprehension stems from his fear of the legal consequences of what he might say, the pride from the knowledge that he has been part of an event that has shaped the history of modern India, altering the balance of power in a manner unforeseen by those who framed the Indian Constitution.

“Abhiram Das and Yugal Babu (Indushekhar’s elder brother Yugal Kishore Jha) entered the compound first,” he says. Of the two, Abhiram was the prime mover. Born as Abhinandan Mishra in 1904 in Rarhi village of Darbhanga district in Bihar, Abhiram moved to Ayodhya in 1934 as a sadhu and disciple of Mahant Yamuna Das of the Nirvani Akhara, whose main seat of power had been Ayodhya’s Hanumangarhi, a fortified structure in the centre of which stands a lofty temple of Lord Hanuman. More:

The Ayodhya judgment – Any retreat to pre-modernity is dangerous for democracy

Prabhat Patnaik, professor, Centre for Economic Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, in The Telegraph:

There are three obvious problems with the Allahabad High Court judgment on the Babri Masjid issue. Each of them in isolation is potentially damaging for the constitutional fabric of the country; together they can cause irreparable harm.

The first is the obliteration of the distinction between “fact” and “faith”, which represents a serious retrogression to pre-modernity. In medieval times, witches were burned because people believed that they engaged in evil deeds. A premise of modernity is that this and other such “beliefs” cannot be accepted as “facts”, that there has to be independent and credible evidence on the basis of which alone a “fact” can be established. Hence the verdict of the Lucknow bench that Ram was born at the very spot which was the sanctum sanctorum of the Babri Masjid, because “people” believed this to be the case, is as mystifying as it is retrograde.

There are, to start with, the obvious, but weighty, questions of who these “people” are, how many such “people” must be there to qualify being called “the people”, and what evidence the Lucknow bench had, even regarding the views of the “people”, other than what it might have gathered as a result of the activities, claims and mobilizations of a few Hindu organizations which professed to speak in the name of the “people”. To take the word of organizations that claim to speak in the name of the “people” as the voice of the “people” is dangerous enough. But to take the “beliefs” of the “people”, even assuming these are indeed the well-established “beliefs” of a very large number of people, as synonymous with “facts” strikes at the very root of the rationality that must underlie a modern society. More:

Also in The Telegraph: Swapan Dasgupta:

The court watched a parade of the good, the bad and the ugly

When the history of the Ayodhya movement comes to be written, there will be the inevitable search for heroes and villains. The selection will be contentious: one man’s hero is, after all, another man’s villain. At this interim stage, when the Allahabad High Court verdict has opened a small window of opportunity for an amicable settlement that leaves no side completely dissatisfied, it would help to examine how the beauty parade of the good, the bad and the ugly has been viewed from the Bench.

An exploration of the voluminous judgment of the judge, Sudhir Agarwal, is pertinent in the context of a determined bid by India’s vocal left-wing intelligentsia to rubbish the judgment as a departure from modernity, constitutionalism and the rule of law. In a statement by 61 ‘intellectuals’ led by the historian, Romila Thapar, that includes the cream of the left-liberal establishment and sundry art dealers, photographers and food critics, the judgment was attacked for dealing yet “another blow to India’s secular fabric”.

At the heart of the fury of the ‘intellectuals’ is the court’s assault on the reputation of the clutch of ‘eminent historians’ which has dictated the ‘secular’ discourse on the Ayodhya dispute. The court questioned the competence of various ‘expert’ witnesses and cast doubts on their intellectual integrity. More:

Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla Virajaman

There is an anomaly in treating the Nirmohi Akhara as a “Hindu” group, when in fact historically, akharas (aakhra in Bengali) were gymnasiums associated with sects that were usually opposed to organized and/or textual religions like Hinduism and Islam and claimed themselves to be non-Hindus. Susmita Dasgupta in Kafila:

Archaeologists are divided over the issue of whether a Ram Temple at all existed under the dome of the Babri Masjid and the Muslim theologicians are divided over whether the Babri is a legitimate mosque at all because in Islam if a mosque is built over a heathen’s structure of worship then it is not fit for prayers. Historians from JNU are almost universally concerned that whatever the archaeology is, the mosque should remain intact as a historical monument. The secularists are upset that the fictitious Ram Lalla be accepted as a party to a dispute and every structure of the Muslims could be pulled down on the flimsiest belief that the land archaeologically belonged to the Hindus. Such a judgment would then be a precedent in pulling down every mosque in the land and may even cast aspersions on the continued existence of the Taj Mahal and Red Fort !! I, too share similar concerns.

But historians of such caliber have failed to note the greatest anomaly of the case and which is the confounding of the Nirmohi Akhara as Hindu. The akhara is a gymnasium, a place where people are supposed to do their exercises, train in weights and various kinds of martial arts and athletics. Akharas were somewhat like the youth clubs and became as central to various mystic cults like Sufis, Bauls, Vaishnavs and Rampanthis and even certain sects of the Sikhs. The akhara was the same to these cults as the temple was to the Hindus and the mosque for the Muslims. Important saints like Ramdas, Namdeo, Eknath, Tukaram and others had veritable akharas. These sects were usually opposed to organized and/or textual religions like Hinduism and Islam and claimed themselves to be non-Hindus. They were influenced by Vaishnavism, the Bhakti and even some surviving remnants of Buddhism and Jainism. More:

Ayodhya verdict: How each judge reached the ‘precise birthplace’ of Lord Ram

From The Indian Express:

To arrive at their unanimous conclusion that Hindus have the right to the makeshift temple under the central dome of the Babri Masjid, each of the three judges of the Allahabad High Court relied on a blend of Hindu faith, belief and folklore but each qualified his argument in his own way.

For both Justice Sudhir Agarwal and Justice D V Sharma (now retired), Lord Ram, son of King Dashrath, was born within the 1,482.5 square yards of the disputed Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid premises over 900,000 years ago during the Treta Yuga. To ask for “positive evidence” to back this, Justice Agarwal said, “is not only a futile attempt but is against all the canons of the principles of law”. For Justice Sharma, the “world knows” where Ram’s birthplace is.

For Justice S U Khan, the conclusion is an “informed guess”…based on “oral evidences of several Hindus and some Muslims” that establish the “precise birthplace of Ram” under the central dome.

The salient arguments of each:

Justice Sudhir Agarwal

“Whether Lord Ram was born and was a personality in history, as a matter of fact cannot be investigated in a Court of Law,” Justice Agarwal begins. “Simple logic is that failing to find evidence to something does not necessarily result in that the thing does not exist.” more:

Insaniyat over insanity

In The Asian Age, Suneel Sinha has a different take on the Ayodhya dispute:

It is a strong logic. The answer to a dispute from mediaeval India might eventually lie in a mediaeval practice. Simultaneum mixtum first came to be used in the Europe of the Reformation less than five years before the conqueror Babar, or his general Mir Baqi, raised the Babri Masjid in 1528 AD over an area where Hindus believe a temple to Lord Ram stood. The Latin phrase was used in Germany to denote a church premises used by more than one type of Christian for prayer after Martin Luther decided in 1517 that the Vatican’s sale of indulgences was really a chit fund scam, something we in India are familiar with, and nailed his objections, the Ninety-Five Theses, to a church door.

As a principle, simultaneum was used with effect down the ages when no other alternative presented itself. It has involved the peoples of three faiths — Judaism, Christianity and Islam — in Europe and West Asia. Much later, even if they didn’t know the word simultaneum, Hindus and Muslims worshipped at Ayodhya at the same time. In 1859, the British put up a fence to separate the places of worships after communal violence. It was a separation; it was also a forced sharing.

Simultaneum, or forms of it, is still the practice at disputed sites in the Levant, at sites considered among the holiest by the Abrahamic religions. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem is today administered by no less than six denominations of Christians and the guardians of the main door of the church are still the descendants of the same two 12th century Muslim families appointed by the conquering Kurdish general Saladin, Sultan of Egypt and Syria, in 1192 AD. Christians were permitted by a treaty between Saladin and Richard I (the Lionheart) to visit the holy site after the Third Crusade failed to wrest back Jerusalem from Saladin. The region of the eastern Mediterranean is filled with historical examples of the absence of tension, and even collaboration, between religious groups, without, of course, the intervention of later politics. There are examples of Christian, Jewish and Muslim voluntary pilgrimages (Ziyara) to pray where saints and prophets were born or died. Just like Ayodhya. Right here in India we have the tomb of the Sufi saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti at Ajmer Sharief, venerated by all faiths. More:

The muddle path

Dileep Padgaonkar in The Times of India:

The verdict of the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad high court on the title suits related to the disputed site in Ayodhya makes you wonder whether anything straight can ever emerge from the crooked timber of the majoritarian mind. The three parties involved in the suits the Nirmohi Akhara, the Sunni Central Board of Waqf and the Ramlalla Virajman had expected, on wholly reasonable grounds, that the court would rule in favour of one or the other side without a trace of ambiguity. What the three judges decided instead was to trifurcate the land and hand it over to the litigants in equal parts.

Among the factors that led them to do so, the most intriguing by far is the cachet of legality that they have bestowed on belief and faith. Both, we had assumed, naively as it turns out, had to be kept outside the ambit of the court. Here, judges weigh evidence rooted in incontrovertible facts, examine the pertinence of reasoned arguments and proceed to deliver a judgement that conforms, in letter and spirit, with the laws prevalent in the land. But by their very nature, faith and belief have no factual basis. They are above reason. And if push comes to shove, they aren’t answerable to norms of legality laid down by mere mortals.

This is the road that the three judges chose to tread. They looked upon Lord Ram not as a mythological figure who, given his exemplary life and character, dwells in the hearts of millions of Hindus, but as a historical character. This explains the court’s willingness to identify the precise location of his place of birth. The exercise did not call for a shred of evidence. None was sought and none was forthcoming. It was undertaken simply because the faith and belief of Hindus decreed that the Lord was born under the central dome of the mosque that was razed to the ground. More:

The Indian verdict

Why the Ayodhya judgment could signal the evolution of a new liberal politics. Shekhar Gupta in The Indian Express:

So here is my first takeaway from this September 30. When all else fails, politics, social dialogue, intellectual and philosophical argument lean on the system of institutions. But for that you have to build great institutions and also tolerate what you might sometimes see as their excesses.

Because it is the institutions that serve as both parent-cum-guardians as well as pressure valves of a democracy. Institutions that are seen as impartial, credible and fair protect us and our rights from the whims of the executive, vagaries of our politics and, most importantly, the tyranny of brute majorities.

The second takeaway has to be the pragmatism and wisdom of our politics. So far no political party has tried to exploit the verdict for partisan purposes. The Congress, you can see, is a little lost. Its government is simply relieved that the judgment has been accepted with unprecedented calm and equanimity so far. The party itself, having built its post-2002 politics (following the Gujarat riots) on aggressive, almost Nehruvian secularism, where the BJP was evil and its leadership vermin, if not worse, finds that a compromise such as this might help the larger common good rather than any grand turnaround to undo the injustice of 1992. That, in fact, will be and should be achieved by pursuing the criminal cases arising from the Babri Masjid destruction more vigorously. This judgment has in fact created space for just that, by distancing a criminal act from a purely civil property dispute. More:

Ayodhya: your comments

Good, bad or faulty? What’s your take on the Ayodhya judgement? And how do you think this dispute can be solved? Post your comments below.

Ayodhya verdict: Commentaries

Force of faith trumps law and reason in Ayodhya case: Siddharth Varadarajan in The Hindu:

From at least the 19th century, if not earlier, we know that both Hindus and Muslims worshipped within the 2.77 acre site, the latter within the Babri Masjid building and the former at the Ram Chhabutra built within the mosque compound. This practice came to an end in 1949 when politically motivated individuals broke into the mosque and placed idols of Ram Lalla within. After 1949, both communities were denied access though Hindus have been allowed to offer darshan since 1986. In suggesting a three way partition of the site, the High Court has taken a small step towards the restoration of the religious status quo ante which prevailed before politicians got into the act. But its reasoning is flawed and even dangerous. If left unamended by the Supreme Court, the legal, social and political repercussions of the judgment are likely to be extremely damaging.

Life after Ayodhya: Ramachandra Guha in the Hindustan Times:

The Allahabad High Court itself seems to have vaguely recognised the imperative of communal harmony. Hence the compromise apparently endorsed by two judges, that the land be divided into three parts, one going to a sect long established in Ayodhya, a second to a (presumably new) trust to represent the Hindu god and the third to the Sunni Waqf Board. How this division will actually take place does not seem to have been spelt out. It does, on the face of it, seem an untenable solution and one productive of more conflict. How, for example, will the respective shrines for Muslims and Hindus be built? And how, in a place already marked by so much blood and discord, will worship ever be peaceful and uncontentious?

I write this not just as a historian, but as one who lived through north India from 1988 to 1994, and saw, at first hand, evidence of the lives lost and villages burnt as a consequence of the Ram Janmabhoomi agitation. My own view has thus been that the land should have long ago been acquired in toto by the Centre, and put to a purpose other than the construction of a temple or/and the reconstruction of a mosque. By that action the government would have equally offended the Muslim bigot and the Hindu bigot, but perhaps struck a chord with the public as a whole.

The verdict should end a troubled chapter: Swapan Dasgupta in The Telegraph:

That a section of the Muslim community is unhappy with the judgment is obvious. But far more significant than that is the fury with which the judgment has been greeted by the secular modernists. Apart from contesting everything that the ‘eminent historians’ have been suggesting about Ram being born in Afghanistan or somewhere else and about the Babri structure having been built on vacant rock, the judges have attached greater weight to the Archaeological Survey of India report and to local tradition.

This approach is certain to send the secular establishment into a complete tizzy. Without exaggerating the importance of this minusculity, it can safely be said that this lobby will be desperate to have its reputation salvaged by the Supreme Court. Therefore, even if a section of the Muslim community decides that there is little point in persisting with the dispute and settles for an honourable way out, there will be a powerful secularist establishment urging the minorities to fight to the last.

The leap and the faith: Pratap Bhanu Mehta in The Indian Express:

The Lucknow bench of the Allahabad high court has perhaps delivered a judgment befitting India: On God: there should be no dispute. On property: compromise. On history: move on. At first glance, based on the summaries, this has all the elements of an artfully worked out set of fine distinctions and complex historical judgments. Justice S.U. Khan, for instance, in his summary seems to recognise the special sanctity of the spot for Hindus as the birthplace of Ram. He seems to recognise the existence of temple ruins at the location. But he does not accept the contention that Babur demolished the temple; the ruin predates the temple. They all recognise that the site has been jointly used in various ways. They seem to recognise that long usage has some bearing on who has rights. And they divide the property. More controversially, the judgment is seen as sanctifying the appearance of idols on the site in 1949.

Mandir partisans can misuse rulings: Mukul Kesavan in The Telegraph:

The court also seemed to endorse the argument from faith in a way that is certain to be controversial. Both decisions, as they stand, might set precedents that could have worrying consequences for pluralism and the freedom of religious belief and practice, especially for disputes between a religious minority and a religious majority.

I can already see partisans of the Ram Mandir movement rhetorically citing the judgment to argue that the razing of 1992 wasn’t, morally speaking, a demolition at all, merely a form of Hindu housekeeping, given the mosque shouldn’t have been there in the first place. For this and other reasons, it’s important that the Supreme Court should be asked to re-examine the matter of Ayodhya.

Ayodhya verdict: 2 parts to Hindus, 1 part to Muslims

Manoj Mitta in The Times of India:

Sixty years after Ram’s idols were forcibly installed under the central dome of the Babri Masjid, the Allahabad high court, in a judgement running into about 12,000 pages, paved the way on Thursday for the construction of a temple at that very spot which is believed by many Hindus to be his birthplace.

While disposing of four title suits, the majority of the three-judge bench directed that the disputed site of 2.77 acres in Ayodhya be partitioned equally among three parties: Muslims, Hindus and Nirmohi Akhara (a Hindu group).

In deference to the widely-held belief about Ram’s birthplace, the court stipulated that the crucial area under the central dome of the mosque demolished by kar sevaks in 1992 be allotted to Hindus. This means the idols will remain where they are.

In the course of the partition due to take place after three months, the court directed that Nirmohi Akhara be allotted parts of the outer courtyard covered earlier by Ram Chabutra, Sita Rasoi and Bhandar, which had long been used for worship by Hindus despite their proximity to the mosque. More:

Graphic: The Times of India

3-way split plan leaves room for reconciliation: Sankarshan Thakur in The Telegraph

Ayodhya verdict surprises govt, surpasses saffron hopes: in The Times of India

Text of Allahabad high court order on Ayodhya dispute: in The Times of India

Hindustan Times editorial: At last, faith in the law

The Indian Express editorial: Law and sacrifice

The Times of India editorial: Beyond Mandir And Masjid

Ayodhya verdict: Split the land three ways

In Hindustan Times: A three-judge bench of the Allahabad High Court on Thursday ruled that the disputed land in Ayodhya where a makeshift temple was built after razing the Babri mosque in 1992 was Lord Ram’s birthplace. However, it ruled that the land be split among three contesting parties equally.

Download summary of the judgment:

1: Issue wise Summary

2: Issues for briefing

3: Justice S.U.Khan

4: Justice Sudhir Agarwal

Timeline: Ayodhya title dispute: In Mint

Ayodhya: A place that cannot be fought

Political philosopher Jyotirmaya Sharma in Mail Today:

The Ayodhya issue is not a religious issue. It is not a religious issue simply because the understanding of what religion constitutes has radically changed since the nineteenth century. Just as our definitions of religion would be incomprehensible to someone in the time of the Buddha, contemporary understanding of religion also requires a careful delineation. A single glance at definitions of religion offered by a figure like Swami Vivekananda would be enough to illustrate the confusion that has been introduced in the definitions of religion. For him, any entity that bore the name of religion must shun dualism and work towards perfect unity; it must direct its efforts to banish divisions and promote fellow-feeling. It also must shun rituals, eliminate poverty and uplift the masses. Religion ought also to promote, argued the Swami, radical individuality and shun the credo of the mob and the masses. Religion, he argued, must manifest itself in the form of love, empathy and posses a weeping heart for the suffering of others; the idea of God for him is unconditional love. At other moments, he describes religion as action and ceaseless work. The consequence of such a broad definition of religion is not, as apologists of the Swami suggest, to make religion broad and tolerant, but to infuse a sense of religiosity in all walks of life. After all, if one carefully looks at these definitions, they could easily fit the description of a government working towards elimination of poverty, an NGO working towards social uplift and providing emotional and material support to people, or a football club working towards promoting brotherhood and fellow-feeling. In other words, all arenas of public life were covered by religion. Politics as generally understood was enveloped by these definitions of religion and the public and private distinction, so crucial in democracies was sought to be eliminated. It affected a totalization of both politics and of religion: the distinction between them was effectively erased and fatally compromised. Continue reading ‘Ayodhya: A place that cannot be fought’

Ayodhya verdict on Thursday, India on high alert

According to The Indian Express, the court will give its verdict at 3.30 pm September 30.

The verdict will be posted at www.allahabadhighcourt.in/ayodhyabench.html

From The Times of India:

The Allahabad High Court will on Thursday pronounce its verdict on the decades-old title suits seeking ownership of the disputed Ayodhya site, amid signs of an easing of the anxiety about its fallout because of the growing assessment that it may not throw up a clear winner or loser.

This announcement from the HC’s Lucknow Bench, which was set to pronounce the judgment in the sensitive case on September 24 but was stopped from doing so by the Supreme Court, came after the apex court dismissed an appeal to defer the verdict in order to explore the possibility for a negotiated resolution of the case which has defied several similar bids.

While it is sure to mark a crucial point in the fight for the site, Thursday’s verdict is not going to bring closure to the dispute either. More: and also here

Also read: Anxious moments for all parties

Athletes and Ayodhya: a two-dimensional security challenge — read here

Ayodhya verdict deferred

In a last-minute move India’s Supreme Court temporarily stayed a lower court’s verdict in a case whether Muslims or Hindus own the land under the 16th century Babri Masjid mosque in Uttar Pradesh state.

The mosque was destroyed in December 1992 by a right-wing Hindu mob. Many Hindus believe the site was the birthplace of Lord Ram, one of the religion’s most revered deities, and claim a temple in his name was destroyed 482 years ago to build the mosque.

The Allahabad high court was to deliver its verdict today (September 24). The Supreme Court would resume the hearing on the petition on Tuesday. More here.

Click here for the Ayodhya dispute timeline

The Ayodhya files in the Indian Express:

Among the questions before the court are whether a temple existed at the site before 1528 when the Babri Masjid was built; whether the site is the birthplace of Ram; whether the idols were placed in the sanctum sanctorum on the night of December 22-23, 1949; whether the property within the inner courtyard at the site was of the Babri Masjid and the land adjoining it a public Muslim graveyard; whether the suit filed by the Sunni Central Board of Waqfs was barred by limitation; and whether the Masjid had been abandoned by Muslims. The title suits have been on in the courts for 60 years, but the legal battle for rights to the site began in the 19th Century.

Click here to read how it has played out over the years.

This is Ramjanmabhoomi in The Times of India

Ayodhya: Waiting for the verdict

Shobhan Saxena in The Times of India:

Ayodhya has its Ground Zero — a 90 feet by 110 feet platform on which the Babri Masjid stood till it was razed by a fanatical mob in 1992. Today, a small makeshift temple with idols of Ram, Laxman and Sita stands at the site. Around it, 47 acres of land are barricaded with steel fences and barbed wire and protected by armed jawans who maintain a vigil round the clock.

On Friday (September 24), the Allahabad High Court’s Lucknow bench will deliver its verdict on a 60-year-old case that will either order the resurrection of the 428-year-old mosque or pave the way for a temple to be built at the disputed site. A wary government has been moving security forces to Ayodhya in order to prevent trouble on the day of judgment. At every street corner there is a man with an automatic rifle.

The locals are increasingly irritated. They want to reclaim their city — from the security forces, the courts, quarrelling religious groups. “Whatever the judgment of the court we will respect it. If the matter was left to people of Ayodhya it would have been resolved by now,” says Satyendra Das, head priest of Ramjanambhoomi Mandir.

Just a week before the verdict in the title suit, which actually lists the two plaintiffs as “Bhagwan Shri Ram Lala Virajman and Asthan Shri Ram Janmabhoomi”, the people of Ayodhya are indifferent to the issue and fiercely opposed to the politics of it. Even as the state government tries to prove that it can maintain law and order and discredited politicians try to stir up religious emotions, Ayodhya says it wants to move on from the past. “Those who ran a violent movement for temple forgot Ram, when they came to power. The supporters of the masjid too behaved like this when they were in power or close to it. Now they are all worried about it. That worries us,” says Khalid Rashid Faranagi Mahali, a prominent Sunni leader of UP.

“No one in Ayodhya wants violence in the name of masjid or mandir,” says Anil Kumar Singh, who teaches literature at the Saket Postgraduate College. More:

Appeal for calm after Babri verdict

From The Indian Express:

Wary of extreme reactions to the Allahabad High Court verdict on the disputed Ayodhya site which is expected on September 24, the government today appealed for peace, saying judicial recourse will not end till all sections are satisfied, and legal remedies will be available.

The Union Cabinet discussed the issue — the High Court will rule on the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title suits — and passed a resolution, appealing for peace after the judgment. More:

Babri Masjid: A fight to the end

The court will soon decide who owns the Babri Masjid site. Whichever way the verdict goes, the politics of religion will make a comeback. Hartosh Singh Bal in Open:

This is not lost on anyone. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh recently noted, “I am told in a few days’ time, you will [see the] judgment of the Babri Masjid [title suit]. Now the way the country handles this—the aftermath—will have a profound impact on the evolution of our country.”

An appeal in the Supreme Court is likely to follow the judgment, but the decision itself, whatever it is, will become fodder for new arguments. An Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) report of 2003 on the excavations at the site is likely to be one of the key pieces of evidence contributing to the court’s judgment—but it will not settle the dispute, it will only become another element of the debate. Amidst the political rhetoric that will spill out onto the streets, historians will fight the same fight with equal vehemence in TV studios. Such arguments will matter little, because the battle in Ayodhya is not about history, but popular perception.

At my hotel in Faizabad, I ask for the number of a guide in Ayodhya. I want to hear the narrative a guide selected at random would provide. My guide turns out to be Rama Pragat Mishra, a Pandit with his caste mark visible on his forehead. Born in Sultanpur district of Uttar Pradesh (UP), he had studied in Ayodhya before going to work in Gujarat at a polyester firm. He returned in 1999 to become a guide, catering mainly to the Gujarati and Maharashtrian pilgrims who make up the bulk of visitors to Ayodhya.

His Ayodhya tour takes me to the banks of the Sarayu river, the walls of Valmik Bhawan where the Sanskrit text of The Ramayan has been inscribed in full, a nearby gaushala where a cow has just taken birth, the datun kund where Rama is believed to have taken care of his dental hygiene every morning, Dashrath’s palace, Kanak Bhavan gifted to Sita by Kaikeyi, the karyashala, and the site where the Babri Masjid stood. More:

Also read: Uncorking the Babri genie: Jawed Naqvi in Dawn

Saw this, Liberhan?

A team of TV journalists recorded what happened — and what didn’t happen — on December 6, 1992, in Ayodhya. Madhu Trehan in Hindustan Times:

babriIt should have taken 60 minutes — 30 minutes to watch the footage from Newstrack, the old video magazine, and 30 minutes to write the report. Newstrack’s December 1992 edition gave a minute-by-minute account of what happened in Ayodhya on December 6, 1992. And yet, M.S. Liberhan took 17 years to come up with what he came up with.

Mritinjoy Jha along with his team were in Ayodhya from November 23, 1992. Thousands of pumped-up, slogan-shouting people were pouring in, carrying pick-axes and other equipment. Manoj Raghuvanshi, with another Newstrack team, had pulled the story together. In his voice-over, Raghuvanshi spoke about “a chief minister who spoke from both sides of his mouth — promising the Supreme Court that no construction would take place on the disputed site — and a prime minister who trusted everybody, including his central forces sent ostensibly to defend the masjid”.

The recordings captured Hindu leaders, including Tyagi Maharaj and Acharya Dharmendra, exhorting the crowd that the masjid must be destroyed and a temple built. Uma Bharti in her speech made three crucial points by demanding answers from the crowd: “Will you restrain yourselves when the leaders ask you to? Will you maintain peace and observe rules? Will you obey your leaders?’” The crowd bellowed a yes. But did the BJP really believe that it could control the kar sevaks, the RSS volunteers, the Bajrang Dal and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad after its own passion-rousing rath yatra? More:

Babri Masjid demolition was meticulously planned

Maneesh Chhibber in the Indian Express:

babri The Justice Manmohan Singh Liberhan Commission of Inquiry has indicted former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee along with current Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha L K Advani and former BJP president Murli Manohar Joshi, among others, for the demolition of the Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992.

Citing the evidence it gathered, which includes witness statements and official records, one of the key conclusions of the Commission is said to be that the entire build-up to the demolition was meticulously planned. And there was nothing to show that these leaders were either unaware of what was going on or innocent of any wrongdoing.

The one-man Commission probed the “sequence of events leading, and all facts and circumstances relating, to the occurrences at Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid complex on December 6, 1992” — the day the Babri Masjid was brought down by kar sevaks. More:

Read the followup stories in the Indian Express here and here.

Previously in AWWho demolished the Babri Masjid?


The party man or the economist?

LK Advani and Manmohan Singh

LK Advani and Manmohan Singh

One wants to be the Prime Minister of India for the next five years; the other, the incumbent, has been PM for the past five. Aakar Patel on LK Advani and Manmohan Singh in Mint-Lounge:

He opposes the Indo-US nuclear deal. Why? Because America does not treat India as “equals”. He views strategic policy through honour and emotion.

Of his autobiography’s 48 chapters, not one is on economics. Muslims, Kashmir, terrorism, Pakistan, Musharraf, Kargil, Shah Bano, Naxalism, Godhra, Assam, Ayodhya. These are his concerns. His passion is all about what other people should not do.

Under Advani, the BJP’s three policy thrusts were all negative: Muslims should not keep Babri Masjid; Muslims should not have polygamy; Kashmir should not have special status.

He offers nothing creative, even to Hindus, only resentment.

There is one brutally tough man in politics, but it is not Advani. This man is cold and emotionless when you observe him talk.

If power means the ability to influence change, he is the most powerful leader in the history of India.
His policies, 18 years old, cannot be bent, forget changed, by leaders who came after he wrote them.

More:

Why Gandhi still matters

On Mahatma Gandhi’s 61st death anniversary, Ramchandra Guha writes for Mint Lounge

This photograph was taken by Ram Rahman in 2002, during an India Day parade in New York. A man dressed as Gandhi walks down Madison Avenue as others follow him, holding the tricolour in their hands. At Saffronart Gallery, Mumbai, till 15 February

This photograph was taken by Ram Rahman in 2002, during an India Day parade in New York. A man dressed as Gandhi walks down Madison Avenue as others follow him, holding the tricolour in their hands. At Saffronart Gallery, Mumbai, till 15 February

Since independence and Partition, no event has so divided the Indian people as the demolition of a mosque in the northern town of Ayodhya in December 1992. Hindu radicals claimed that the mosque, known as the Babri Masjid, was built on the ruins of a temple, and that the site itself was the birthplace of god Ram. Through the late 1980s and early 1990s, bands of volunteers tried to storm the mosque, in the process provoking a series of bloody riots across northern India.

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