Ayodhya Dispute: Tracing History and Controversy
The aftermath of the Supreme Court’s unanimous decision on the Babri Masjid site in Ayodhya was marked by a commendable development. The article- “Lord Ram, from ‘mandir’ to the more important ‘rajya’”, delves into the factors contributing to this outcome and explores the legal and societal dimensions surrounding the Ayodhya dispute.
GS-02 (Government policies and interventions)
Evaluate the role of the Places of Worship Act in preventing conflicts and discuss the unique aspects of the Supreme Court’s judgment in the context of constitutional principles. (250 words)
Dimensions of the Article:
- Genesis of the Dispute
- Post-Independence Unfoldings and Legal Interventions
- Pivotal Moment in the Case
- Places of Worship Act Overview
- Unique Aspects of Supreme Court Judgment
- Ram Mandir and Beyond
Genesis of the Dispute:
- The Ayodhya case traces its origins to 1528 when tensions escalated over the construction of Babri Masjid by Mir Baqi, Babar’s commander.
- Local Hindu communities strongly believed that the mosque was erected after the destruction of their revered Lord Ram’s Ayodhya temple at the same site.
- This discord led to violent clashes between Hindu and Muslim factions from 1853 to 1859. To quell the unrest, the British government intervened, partitioning the land with a fence. The interior was allocated to Muslims, while the outer part went to the Hindus.
Post-Independence Unfoldings and Legal Interventions:
- The Ayodhya case underwent a significant shift post-independence in December 1949, when the idol of Hindu Lord Ram was discovered within the mosque.
- This discovery, attributed by Muslims to Hindu intervention, heightened tensions. To manage the situation, the government imposed a ban on the entire area, prohibiting both parties from entry.
- Subsequently, numerous civil cases were filed by both sides to lift the ban and gain control of the area.
- Legal mediations intensified the conflict. In 1986, the Faizabad Court ruled that Hindus were allowed to worship Lord Ram’s deity inside the premises, provoking further discontent among Muslims. They initiated committees and legal actions to claim ownership of the area and prevent the construction of the Ayodhya temple.
Pivotal Moment in the Case:
- A significant turning point occurred in December 1992 when kar Sevaks descended on Ayodhya. They demolished the Babri Masjid and erected a temporary Ram Mandir in its place.
- This event had far-reaching consequences, sparking nationwide riots as Muslims reacted with outrage.
- To investigate and mediate the aftermath, the Liberhan Committee was established. The ruling Congress party proposed a solution advocating the construction of both a mosque and a temple, along with a library and museum. However, this proposal faced opposition, leading to its rejection and subsequent non-implementation.
Places of Worship Act Overview:
- Enacted to freeze the status of religious places as of August 15, 1947, the Act prohibits conversion and ensures the maintenance of their religious character.
- Key Provisions:
- Prohibition of Conversion (Section 3): Prevents conversion from one religious denomination to another.
- Maintenance of Religious Character (Section 4(1)): Ensures the religious identity remains the same as of August 15, 1947.
- Abatement of Pending Cases (Section 4(2)): Terminates ongoing legal proceedings before the specified date.
- Exceptions to the Act (Section 5): Excludes ancient monuments, settled cases, and disputes resolved by mutual agreement. The Act doesn’t apply to the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute.
- Penalties (Section 6): Specifies penalties for violations, including imprisonment and fines.
- Critics argue it restricts judicial review, undermining constitutional checks and balances.
- Opponents claim the Act’s cutoff date disregards historical injustices.
- Critics assert it infringes upon the religious rights of Hindus, Jains, Buddhists, and Sikhs.
- Opponents argue it violates the principle of secularism, favoring one community.
- Specific criticism for excluding the Ayodhya dispute, raising concerns about differential treatment.
- Supreme Court’s View: The Supreme Court sees the Act as upholding secularism, ensuring equality among religions, and preserving places of worship for every community.
Mediation Process and Its Impact:
- The dispute went through the intricate legal system, including a three-way partition by the Allahabad High Court.
- Mediation, involving figures like former Supreme Court judge Ibrahim Kalifulla and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, played an important role. The first round concluded hastily, but a subsequent return to mediation led to a simple yet significant settlement.
- This proposed settlement included relinquishing the disputed land without compensation and protecting all places of worship, including mosques, through the strengthening of the Act.
Unique Aspects of Supreme Court Judgment:
- The Supreme Court, despite acknowledging the settlement effort, chose not to use it as the basis for resolution but delved into facts and law.
- The judgment has faced criticism for its reasoning and the absence of the author’s signature. However, it addressed Muslim concerns by elevating the Places of Worship Act to the status of the Basic Structure of the Constitution, safeguarding it from potential amendments by a majoritarian Parliament.
Ram Mandir and Beyond:
- While building the Ram Temple is a significant achievement, preventing the recurrence of such disputes is equally crucial.
- Strict implementation of the Places of Worship Act, embodying constitutional morality, is imperative.
- It emphasizes the need for living up to commitments and avoiding the resurgence of divisive disputes.
- Ensuring lasting peace requires a commitment to the Places of Worship Act and a constitutional backbone to prevent the recurrence of disputes. While the construction of the Ram Temple is symbolic, the true essence lies in upholding dharma and the ideals of Lord Ram’s rule.
- The calm post-judgment serves as a testament to the possibility of harmonious resolutions when guided by understanding, dialogue, and a collective commitment to peace.