Babri Masjid and the great Indian Muslim divide – Sandhya Jain

Babri Masjid (1991)

Sandhya JainThe Shia Board asserts that the Sunni Board has no stake in Ayodhya as the mosque was Shia property. – Sandhya Jain

In a stunning blow to the hitherto dominant Sunni sect, the Shia Waqf Board filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court on August 8, 2017 fracturing the united front put up by the Muslim community since the dramatic fall of the Babri Masjid on 6 December 1992, asserting that the temple for Maryada Purushottam Sri Rama Chandra could come up at the Janmabhoomi site in Ayodhya, and a mosque could be raised at a reasonable distance in a Muslim-dominated area.

As one of the parties to the dispute, the Shia Board claimed that the demolished mosque was a Shia mosque, as the alleged destroyer of the Rama Mandir was a Shia general named Mir Abdul Baqi; hence the mosque built upon the ruins of the temple was a Shia mosque. The Board indicated a desire for peaceful resolution of the dispute which the Supreme Court is not keen to adjudicate upon.

This is a stupendous development as hitherto, since 6 December 1992, all efforts to strike a deal with the Shia community have met with failure as community leaders in Lucknow always pleaded helplessness in opposing the strident Sunni community. The Babri Masjid Action Committee that spearheaded the movement against handing over the site to the Hindu claimants has been dominated by Sunnis. It was the Sunnis who reneged on the promise to the Government of India and the Supreme Court that they would surrender claims to the site if it was established that the mosque was built on the ruins of a temple.

That claim was conclusively proved in a Supreme Court-ordered and monitored excavation by the Archaeological Survey of India. But far from retreating gracefully, the BMAC dug its heels in and refused to retreat from the scene, resulting in a prolonged stalemate.

The sudden divergence of views between the Shia and Sunni Waqf Boards appears to reflect larger Shia-Sunni conflicts in the Muslim world, with Shias being targetted by jihadis in Pakistan and other Muslim countries, and their holy sites desecrated. Iran, the self-proclaimed protector of Shias worldwide, has facilitated the spectacular victory of the Syrian Arab Army against Islamic State jihadis in Syria, thus enabling the survival of the Alawite (Shia) regime headed by Basher al-Assad; it has also prevented Yemen from crumbling before the Saudi assault.

Now, the Shia Board explicitly asserts that the Sunni Board has no stake in Ayodhya as the mosque was Shia property; hence, “only Shia Central Waqf Board UP, is entitled to negotiate and arrive at a peaceful settlement with other remaining stake holders”.

The Board further opined that proximity of “place of worships should be avoided in as much as both denominations using loudspeakers tend to disturb the religious performance of each other often leading to conflicts and acrimony”. Therefore, “to bring a quietus to the issue, Masjid can be located in a Muslim-dominated area at a reasonable distance from the most revered place of birth of Ram.”

Reports claim that the Shia Board decided late July to stake claim to the Ayodhya site. Such a momentous decision could hardly be taken overnight. It seems likely that Yogi Adityanath, head of the non-communal Gorakhnath Peeth, was selected as Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister by Prime Minister Narendra Modi precisely to accomplish an acrimony-free transfer of the sacred site for the Rama Temple. Should this be accomplished, it would be a far greater feat than rebuilding the Somnath Temple in Saurashtra, where the only resistance to be overcome was that of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.

In Civil Appeal No. 10836-10867 of 2010, the Shia Central Waqf Board through its chairman, Syed Waseem Rizvi (Respondent No. 24), filed a counter affidavit asserting that the “Babari Masjid” was a Shia Waqf and not a Sunni Waqf as claimed by the Sunni Central Waqf Board UP. As the Allahabad High Court judgement stated that “Muslims” should get not less than one-third of the disputed area, chairman Rizvi asserted that this obviously alluded to “Shias” as the High Court had rejected the Sunni Board’s claim (based on Notification dated 16 February 1944 by the Chief Commissioner of Waqfs under the Muslim Waqfs Act, 1936) that Babari Masjid was a Sunni Waqf.

The High Court declared the said Notification of 16 February 1944 as illegal as it was issued in violation of provisions of the 1936 Act, as it was made without issuing a notice to the interested persons, which was a statutory requirement. It follows that the Waqf was a Shia Waqf as a waqf must always be Shia or Sunni, according to its creator (Waqif).

Certain Arabic inscriptions in the disputed structure, cited in previous judgments, establish beyond doubt that the mosque was built by Mir Baqi, a Shia Waqif, who created a Shia waqf. All mutawallis, including the last one (1949) were admittedly Shia and were descendants of Abdul Baqi, a Shia from Ispahan (Persia). It is notable that the Baqi family tree has not been seriously challenged. Verses engraved on a tablet in the central arch of the mosque describe Mir Baqi as an ‘Ispahani’, a resident of Ispahan.

On 30 March 1946, the Faizabad Civil Judge, S.A. Ahsan, ruled that it was inconceivable that a Sunni waqif would appoint a Shia mutawalli, or vice versa (Regular Suit No.29 of 1945).

The affidavit states that Muslims must ponder that the entire world wants to know the exact teaching of Islam in respect of the relationship of Muslims with others. Indian Muslims, it says, enjoy a unique position. They have been rulers, they have been ruled and now they are sharers in power. They are not in majority but they are also not a negligible minority and are in fact the most populous Muslim community in the world after Indonesia. As legatees of a huge corpus of religious knowledge, Indian Muslims are exceptionally placed to tell the world the true teachings of Islam, beginning with a resolution of the Ayodhya dispute.

The Allahabad High Court proclaimed Muslims, Hindus and Nirmohi Akhara as joint title holders to the disputed premises and allotted them one-third share each, with the stipulation that the portion beneath the central dome, where the murti of Sri Rama is installed, would be allotted to Hindus in the final decree. The Nirmohi Akhara would receive the portion including the Ram Chabutra and Sita ki Rasoi, and the parties could make minor and mutual adjustments while dividing their respective shares.

The Shia Waqf chairman observed that the intent of this judgment was that the parties amicably settle the dispute, and his sect was willing to do so. As there has been no dialogue in the matter in the past seven years, he urged the Supreme Court to appoint a Committee headed by a retired Judge of the Supreme Court and two retired Judges of the Allahabad High Court, with the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister (or his nominee) and a nominee from the Prime Minister’s Office. The nominees of the Shia Central Waqf Board UP, Nirmohi Akhara and Hindu sect, would offer suggestions for an amicable settlement to this committee.

The Shia leader added that the Sunni Central Waqf Board UP was dominated by “Sunni hardliners, the fanatics, and non-believers in peaceful coexistence, who have absolutely no stake in the present case”. As Babari Masjid was a Shia Waqf, the Shia Central Waqf Board UP alone is entitled to negotiate a peaceful settlement with other remaining stakeholders.

Chairman Syed Waseem Rizvi further informed the Court that after his views became known, he had received threats from the hardliners, and had informed the Government of Uttar Pradesh, which is reportedly taking steps for his security. He reiterated the keenness of the Shia sect for amicable settlement of the dispute.

Should the Supreme Court constitute such a committee, this could be a very different Diwali. – PGurus, 9 August 2017

» Sandhya Jain writes on political and contemporary affairs. She is a post-graduate in Political Science from the University of Delhi and a student of  Indian civilisation.

Ramlalla Temple on the Babri Masjid site after the demolition.

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Epitaph for the Ayodhya affair – Koenraad Elst

Sri Ram Lalla Temple, Ayodhya

Koenraad ElstProfessor Meenakshi Jain’s new book, “The Battle for Rama: Case of the Temple at Ayodhya,” is a definitive and scholarly guide to the biggest controversy of the early nineties, which totally changed the dynamics of Indian politics. – Dr Koenraad Elst

Ayodhya, the city supposedly founded by the patriarch Manu, and at one time the seat of the kings belonging to the Solar Dynasty, including Rama, still decides who can rule India. It no longer arouses the passions it did ca. 1990, but we all have to live with the political consequences of the controversies of those days.

Political fall-out

In the 1980s the Congress Party aimed for a non-conflictual way to leave the contested site of Rama’s birth to Hindu society, where it belongs, all while compensating the Muslim leadership with some concessions. This would have been typical Congress culture: horse-trading may not be noble, but it has the merit of not needlessly exacerbating tensions, it is bloodless and keeps all parties satisfied. By 1990, the temple could have been built, just one more of the thousands that adorn India, and the whole matter would have been forgotten by now.

But the secularist historians publicly intervened and put everyone on notice that the misplaced Babri Masjid which Muslims had imposed on the site centuries ago was the last bulwark of secularism. Just like Jawaharlal Nehru said about democracy in peril: “Defend it with all your might!” Though it was a Congress PM, PV Narasimha Rao, who presided over its demolition by Hindu militants on 6 December 1992 and refused to save the Masjid, the party did not stay the course. It had been intimidated into conformity with the secularist line and also underwent the natural effect of polarization: it adopted the line opposite to the one that had by then been chosen by its adversary, the BJP.

Under the fateful leadership of Atal Behari Vajpayee, the BJP had been reduced to total marginality in the 1980s. After it committed itself to the Ayodhya cause championed by the Vishva Hindu Parishad, however, it made a spectacular leap in the 1989 elections and became the largest opposition party in the snap elections of 1991. After those profits had been politically encashed, it effectively abandoned the cause. This betrayal (together with the Supreme Court’s dithering in speaking out on the controversy) provoked the activists into wresting the initiative from BJP leader Lal Krishan Advani and physically removing the mosque. This only encouraged the BJP to disown the movement entirely.

No matter, for by then, a decisive turn had been taken. For Rama and his devotees, the main hurdle in the way of building a proper temple at his birth site was now out of the way. Hindus could look forward to Ayodhya becoming an unfettered pilgrimage site. Most Muslims now gave up all hopes of having the site as their own. However, the Muslim hardliners could console themselves that, on present demographic trends, India will turn Islamic-majority anyway, at which time all open accounts can still be settled. The case which the secularist historians had tried to build, deploying rhetoric with which they managed to over-awe the politicians, still had to judicially confront the case built in favour of the temple by other scholars. Those in the know expected that the secularists would not be able to convince the judges.

For the BJP, what counted was that it had by now become a non-ignorable political player. It was on the way to accession to the government. As Prime Ministers, both Vajpayee and Narendra Modi owe a debt to Rama and his dynamic devotees. Conversely, by leaving the issue to the BJP, Congress no longer had a monopoly on being the natural party of government.

Battle

To sum up: the Ayodhya controversy was one of the main events in post-Independence India. It is inappropriate, though significant, that all the vocal Ayodhya-meddlers of yore have fallen silent. Conversely, it is everyone’s good fortune that a comprehensive account of the decisive factors in at least the scholarly debate has been presented, and further researched for angles hitherto unknown, by as competent a historian and as serene a writer as Meenakshi Jain.

In her new book, ‘The Battle for Rama: Case of the Temple at Ayodhya’ (Aryan Books International, Delhi 2017), Prof. Jain gives a contents-wise overview of the controversy. It hardly touches upon the street riots and political campaigns but focuses on the documentary and archaeological evidence and the scholarly debate about these. The book carries plenty of photographs of the artefacts found at the site. With only 160 pages and a pleasant layout, it ought to reach the larger public and henceforth serve as the definitive guide to what the stake of the whole affair was.

She, first of all, lays bare what the controversy was about. First of all, not about Rama’s existence or the exact place where he was born. Religions never submit their basic convictions to a secular court (though these convictions are a fair object of free intellectual debate). Hindus need not lower themselves to that level, though some leaders actually felt pressured into the silly exercise of “proving” Rama’s existence. Conversely, nor should the secularists have demanded this of them: they already showed their malicious intent by even raising the question. And, of course, they never asked of the Muslim party by what right a mosque had been imposed on the temple site, even though it directly implicates their scriptures and the example set by their Prophet, who had personally destroyed the murtis in the main pilgrimage site of the Pagan Arabs, the Kaaba in Mecca.

Rather, the focus rightfully was, and has effectively been, on the medieval history of the site, when a replay of the usual scenario of iconoclasm already enacted in numerous places to India’s west had been inflicted on the Rama Janmabhumi site. Until the early 1980s, no interested party had denied that a Rama birthplace temple had been demolished to make way for a mosque. In the atmosphere of ca. 1990, whipped up by the secularists, arguing for this scenario had seemed an uphill task, and the scholars who did the job were widely acclaimed in Hindu circles. Not just the medieval battles resulting in iconoclasm and the street riots then taking place, but even the historians’ debate turned out to be a battle requiring some courage.

Brazen-faced deceit

But in fact, they could capitalize on a number of documents written in tempore non suspecto, mostly by Muslims, that attested it. Their argument claimed nothing out of the ordinary, it was the secularist case that, with hindsight, stood out as far-fetched. The closer verification of the evidence undertaken by Prof. Jain shows that the secularist case proves to have been even poorer than we thought at the time.

In her book Rama and Ayodhya (2013), she had already shown that the Leftist academics who had fought for the Babri Masjid, had crumbled under judicial court examination. This time, we are given to deal not just with their lack of genuine expertise, but with actual deceit and deliberate lies by some of them. Back in 1990, in his article “Hideaway communalism”, Arun Shourie had already brought to light four cases where Muslim authorities had tampered with old documents that showed how the Muslim community itself had always taken for granted the mosque’s location on land venerated as Rama’s birthplace. Now, Irfan Habib’s seemingly strongest piece of evidence (not for the temple’s non-existence, of course, but at least for the untrustworthiness of some pro-temple spokesmen) turned out to be false.

During the demolition on 6 December 1992, many Hindu artefacts had turned up, albeit in less than desirable circumstances from an archaeological viewpoint. Proper excavations at the site in mid-1993 found some more, before the thorough Court-ordered excavations by the Archaeological Survey of India in 2003 uncovered the famous pillar-bases, long ridiculed as a “Hindutva concoction” by the secularists but henceforth undeniable. Among the first findings during the demolition was the Vishnu Hari inscription, dating from the mid-11th century Rajput temple, which the Babri Masjid masons had placed between the outer and inner wall. Several Babri historians dismissed the inscription as fake, as of much later date, or as actually brought by the Kar Sevaks during the demolition itself.

Prof. Irfan Habib, in a combine with Dr. Jahnawi Roy and Dr. Pushpa Prasad, dismissed this inscription as stolen from the Lucknow Museum and to be nothing other than the Treta ka Thakur inscription. The curator kept this inscription under lock, but after some trying, Kishore Kunal, author of another Ayodhya book, Ayodhya Revisited (2016), could finally gain access to it and publish a photograph. What had been suspected all along, turns out to be true: Prof. Habib, who must have known both inscriptions, has told a blatant lie. Both inscriptions exist and are different. Here they have been neatly juxtaposed on p.104-5. Yet, none of the three scholars has “responded to the publication of the photograph of the Treta ka Thakur inscription, which falsifies the arguments they have been persistently advocating for over two decades.” (p.112)

It is no news if a secularist tells a lie: they have been doing it all along. Only, in the past they could get away with it, as the media and the publishers toed their line and withheld the publication of facts that pin-pricked their authority. Today, internet media have broken open the public sphere and some publishers have been emboldened to defy the secularists by exposing their misdeeds and defeats. The establishment media will not give any publicity to this book but defend the status-quo instead, yet the truth is irrevocably out. Since the suppression of the truth concerning Ayodhya was part of a power equation to the secularists’ advantage, the waning of that power equation means that future scholars will now become free to take the mendaciousness of the then secularists into account.

Pro-temple case

On the other hand, the pro-temple case turns out to have been even stronger than Hindus at the time realized. Thus, in much of the Moghul period, Muslims continuously acknowledged the site’s association with Rama. In the circumstances, Hindus could not replace mosque architecture with temple architecture, but they continued to assert their presence around the site and celebrate Rama’s birthday (Rama Navami). Since the crumbling of Moghul power,  they even seem to have had access to the disputed building itself:

No evidence whatsoever has been proffered of continued Muslim occupation Babri Masjid, while the uninterrupted presence of Hindu devotees has been attested by several sources. Babri Masjid finds no mention in the revenue records of the Nawabi and British periods, nor was any Waqf ever created for its upkeep. No Muslim filed an FIR when the image of Sri Rama was placed under the central dome on 23rd December 1949. (p.144)

It is only in the nick of time that the Sunni Central Waqf Board entered litigation, on 18 December 1961 (five days later, it would have become time-barred), thus juridically causing the controversy. From then on, it was up to the politicians to ensure a peaceful settlement to prevent the Court proceedings from provoking street riots. After the Court gave Hindu worshippers unlimited access in 1986, a definitive formal settlement became urgent. Congress PM Rajiv Gandhi thought he could handle this challenge, but the initiative was wrested from his hands by the secularist historians. With their shrill statements about “secularism in danger”, they raised the stakes enormously. The rest is history.

Discrimination

Even after the Allahabad High Court ruled in favour of the Hindu claim on 30 September 2010, a statement signed by a handful of secularist veterans of the anti-temple campaign considered it a scandal that the verdict had acknowledged the “faith and belief of the Hindus” (quoted p.140). Mind you, the judges had not internalized that claim, they had kept a clear distance, but assumed that “secularism” presupposes a recognition of this fact. This is the attitude that any Indian law or verdict adopts concerning Islam as well. The very existence of a category “Muslim community” (entitled e.g. to the Hajj pilgrimage and even to taxpayer-funded subsidies for this Hajj) implies the acknowledgment of a specific set of beliefs that make up Islam, and nobody finds this a scandal.

So, this statement bespeaks a discrimination between Hindus, who are first expected to give scientific proofs of their beliefs, and the minorities, whose irrational and unprovable beliefs should be accepted without any ado. It is but one of the many illustrations of how in India, “secularist” unambiguously means “anti-Hindu”. That is not paranoia but a hard fact, frequently illustrated by real-life events including unasked-for statements by the secularists themselves. India-watchers who assure their audiences that the Indian state is “religiously neutral”, or indeed “secular”, only prove their own incompetence.

As Prof. Jain concludes:

So why has the matter dragged on for so long? Can a handful of historians be held accountable for stalling resolution of what is essentially a settled matter? Their voluble assertions on Babri Masjid have all been found to be erroneous, yet there has been no public retraction. Are they liable for vitiating social harmony over the issue? If the nation has to move on, honest answers must be found to these questions. (p.145)

Epilogue

This book documents one rare Hindu victory. Having personally lived through some scenes of this long drama, and having seen many of the concerned actors evolve over the years, and seen one generation succeeded by another, I wonder if this victory doesn’t highlight a deeper evolution that can only be characterized as a defeat.

Around 1990, enormous passions were unleashed by the masses’ attachment to the Rama Janmabhumi or the Babri Masjid. It led some activists to acts of resourcefulness and of heroism including giving their lives. It led some scholars to the abandonment of their professional objectivity, to acts of deceit and plain mendaciousness. But at any rate, it proved numerous people’s deep convictions. One can hardly imagine such passions today, and perhaps it is for the better, with cooler heads and calmer minds. Unfortunately, the real reason seems to lie elsewhere.

In comparison, today’s Hindus, and especially the young generation, are more lukewarm about issues of Hindu history. Indeed, they are far more ignorant about them, and “unknown makes unloved”. Today they know all about computer games and silly American-inspired TV shows, but little about Hanuman. When I enquired about this among youngsters looking up from their smartphones, they claimed that they actually knew more about Hinduism than their parents’ generation. That might be true to an extent for the inquisitive ones who look things up on Google (not always a reliable source, moreover), but the vast majority does not compensate for its increasing ignorance this way. On the contrary, the illiterate and semi-literate ones are the demographic where this decline of Hinduism is most palpable (to the extent that an outsider can tell; but then, many insiders confirm this impression). They used to internalize Hinduism not by reading or scanning, but by breathing in the culture that existed all around them. It is this that now disappears, making way for the hollowest contents of the modern media.

In this respect, the secularists have won. It is their version of history that is percolating to the masses. Many of them know nothing about history except what they have learned at school in their history textbooks. And these are under secularist control. A BJP attempt to correct these ca. 2002 failed. The only new schoolbook that was fully up to standard, was precisely the contribution by Meenakshi Jain. In any case, all BJP textbooks were at once discarded as soon as the Congress-Communist alliance came to power in 2004. The present BJP government is hardly equipped to do a new overhaul, and even shows no interest in doing so.

So, either Hindu society is continuing on the present path, and then Prof. Jain’s beautiful book will merely gather dust as a memory from a bygone age when Hindus had not given up yet. A museum piece. Only if it inspires more such thorough history, and only if the latter gets promoted by a powerful establishment among the masses, will it prove to be the light-bringer of a new dawn. – Pragyata, 27 February 2017

The Battle for Rama : Case of the Temple at Ayodhya

 

Indian Muslims should rethink their claim on Ayodhya – Sandhya Jain

Babri Masjid, Ayodhya

Sandhya Jain is the editor of Vijayvaani.“Islamic law does not sanction creation of a mosque on an occupied site. As the Babri mosque was unambiguously erected on the ruins of an extant grand temple, Muslims should withdraw from the site and the dispute. K. K. Muhammad, former Regional Director (North), Archaeological Survey of India, blames Left historians for instigating and manipulating those who were seriously considering return of the site. Muslims should rethink their association with such elements.” – Sandhya Jain

Muslims play Holi in LucknowOn Holi, last month, Muslims in some cities stepped forward to shower festival processions with petals and participate in ‘Holika dahan’, symbolising the triumph of purity over evil. This is not the first time the community has made such spontaneous gestures of goodwill. But it is a time when voices within Indian Islam are struggling to be heard on issues of fundamentalism, terrorism, and their links with certain preachers and madrassas, and on secular concerns such as triple talaq that threatens the physical and emotional security of women and children.

Ram Lalla VirajmanWith Ram Navami [over], it may be appropriate to ask our countrymen to end the tortuous litigation over the Babri Masjid / Ram Janmasthan and consider the matter dispassionately. This writer does not favour pressuring the Supreme Court to prioritise the Ram Janmabhoomi case when suits affecting the lives of lakhs of litigants are pending for decades. However, the Allahabad High Court verdict of 2010, which gave one-third of the disputed land to the Muslim litigant, is utterly unsatisfactory and unworkable. Its sole merit is that it put all evidence regarding the dispute on record; this deserves careful reading by all interested in the subject.

Some of the most compelling evidence on Ayodhya, from the location of the ancient city to the ownership and occupation of the land, was discovered by B. R. Grover (d. 2001), former Chairman, Indian Council of Historical Research. Grover was justly renowned for his archival research and enjoyed a formidable reputation as an authority on Mughal land revenue administration.

His extensive study of the original land revenue documents and maps of Ayodhya, judicial records, accounts of eye-witnesses who travelled to Ayodhya in earlier periods, Babur’s memoirs, and other documents and manuscripts in various libraries (in Persian, Arabic, Chaghatay-Turkish, Urdu, Sanskrit, Punjabi and English) have since been published in a single volume, Rama Janamabhoomi: Professor B. R. Grover’s Analysis of Revenue Records and Historical Facts, ed. Amrita Grover, Dr Anju Grover Chaudhary, Originals, Delhi, 2015.

B. R. GroverGrover spent months at the district office in Faizabad, studying the abadi maps, hadbast maps and revenue settlement maps of 1851, 1893 and 1936-37. He examined the earliest revenue documentary evidence traceable to the early 18th century, including those of the Nawabi period and the British ascent, from 1856 onwards, that are linked with the Mughal pattern of revenue administration.

Examining records relating to village Ram Kot, Haveli Awadh, available at the District Record Office at Faizabad, from 1861 to 1990-91, Grover discovered that from the time of the first Regular Settlement in 1861, the land was shown as nazul (Government) and that this had not been disputed or challenged by anyone. The first Regular Settlement Report of Kot Ram Chandra, appended by two maps, was the most comprehensive document relating to the Janmasthan complex comprising Ram Janmabhoomi.

One map was prepared after an on the spot survey and measurement of the khasras relating to kishtwar and abadi. As per erstwhile Nawabi and Mughal practice, it was attested in every respect by the local zamindars / pattidars of various mahal units, the local revenue officials and witnesses.

The Settlement Report of 1861 was also based on previous summary settlements of 1858-60, and depicted the exact position of Janmasthan / Masjid and neighbouring plots as inherited from the Nawabi period. The revenue documents declared the superior ownership of the land as Sarkar Bahadur Nazul (Government) with the Mahants as under-proprietors (malikan-i-matahit) of the entire Janmasthan complex.

The Settlement Report of 1893 clearly named the sub-plot on which the masjid was situated as Sita Ki Rasoi. Subsequent Settlement Reports of 1936-37 and 1989-90 maintained the same position. There is absolutely no mention of Babri Masjid in the documents preserved by the Revenue Department at the Collectorate and Tehsil at Faizabad.

More pertinently, there is no mention in the revenue records from 1858 to 1991 of any land in Ramkot attached to the masjid as ‘waqf’, for its maintenance. In 1936, the Commissioner of Waqfs ordered an Zahir-ud-din Muhammad Baburinquiry under the UP Muslim Waqfs Act into the ownership of the property. The inquiry asserted that Babri Masjid was built by Babar, a Sunni Muslim, in 1528.

Even Mohammad Zaki, descendant of the Mutawalli family, claimed in 1938 that Babar built the mosque and appointed Abdul Baqi its Mutawalli and Khattib and provided an annual grant for maintenance of the mosque and the family of the Mutawalli. After the fall of the Mughals, the Awadh Nawab increased the grant. Later, the British provided cash grant till 1864, with some conditions, and entered the mutawalli family in the revenue records as superior proprietors and possessors in possession of the property (malik-i-ala qabiz wa mutsarif jadaid).

The descendants argued that property listed as malkiyat-i-ala could not be regarded a Muslim waqf. Further, grants made by the British Government, a non-Muslim body, could not constitute a Muslim waqf. Neither the Sunni nor Shia Boards of Waqfs, constituted by the UP Muslim Waqfs Act of 1936, made any provisions for the upkeep of the masjid. Thereafter, the disputed mosque found no mention in the list of waqfs published in the Government Gazette of 1944.

With such tenuous title, Muslims can easily relinquish claim to the site. A mosque is a congregational space, whereas Hindu temples are dwellings of God on earth. In Hindu law and sacred texts, temple property cannot be lost under any circumstances, even if dispossessed for hundreds of years. The Dharma Shastras assert that the rights of a deity are in perpetuity and cannot be curtailed even by a king. The deity (murti) is a legal person and the concept of juristic personality extends to place (stan), if held sacred by devotees.

K. K. MuhammedFinally, Islamic law does not sanction creation of a mosque on an occupied site. As the Babri mosque was unambiguously erected on the ruins of an extant grand temple, Muslims should withdraw from the site and the dispute. K. K. Muhammed, former Regional Director (North), Archaeological Survey of India, blames Left historians for instigating and manipulating those who were seriously considering return of the site. Muslims should rethink their association with such elements. – The Pioneer, 5 April 2016

» Sandhya Jain is an author and senior journalist in New Delhi.

Muslim boy wearing a 'Reconstruct Babri Masjid' cap in Mumbai

K. K. Muhammed: Left historians thwarted Babri compromise – S. Rama Krishna

K. K. Muhammed

“Left-leaning historians led by Irfan Habib, who was the chairman of the Indian Council of Historical Research at the time, impelled Muslim groups active on the Babri Action Committee not to accept the Hindu groups’ argument that they had a claim on the site owing to the existence of a temple beneath the mosque’s structure.” – K. K. Muhammed

Prof Irfan HabibArchaeologist K. K. Muhammed has alleged that Left-leaning historians are to blame for not letting a compromise take place between Hindus and Muslims on the building of a Ram temple at Ayodhya even though archaeological evidence pointed to the presence of a Hindu temple beneath the site of the now demolished Babri Masjid.

“Left-leaning historians led by Irfan Habib, who was the chairman of the Indian Council of Historical Research at the time, impelled Muslim groups active on the Babri Action Committee not to accept the Hindu groups’ argument that they had a claim on the site owing to the existence of a temple beneath the mosque’s structure,” Muhammed told this newspaper. Muhammed has mentioned in his recently published autobiography, Njan Enna Bharatiyan (I am an Indian), that a temple existed at the site, a revelation that created ripples.

Muhammed, 63, was born in the Muslim dominated Calicut. He studied in Delhi and worked at various places in North India. When he was studying at the School of Archaeology in Delhi, he participated in the excavation works at the Babri Masjid site in 1976-77. He was a part of a team led by the then ASI director general, Professor B. B. Lal. “We had found 14 pillars of a temple, which must have belonged to the 11th or 12th century. The masjid was apparently built on the debris of the temple,” Muhammed has mentioned in his autobiography written in Malayalam.

Muhammed said this was not the first time that he had mentioned about the existence of a temple pre-dating the mosque. “An amicable settlement should take place in the Babri Masjid dispute. The site can be handed over to Hindus for the construction of a Ram temple, but Hindus should take the initiative to offer an honourable settlement to Muslims. Direct talks should be held between Hindus and Muslims and no third-party should be involved,” Muhammed told this newspaper.

Muhammed, however, denied media reports that he had commented on the Taj Mahal or other monuments built by Muslim rulers. “I am an archaeologist and historical facts are important to me. I am not a spokesperson of the RSS or VHP,” he said.

K. K. Muhammed's book in MalayalamMuhammed is surprised to see the response to his autobiography. The 159-page book hit the stands on 16 January, and its first edition got sold within two weeks. Mathrubhumi, which published the book, is planning a second edition, while talks are also underway to translate the book into English and several other Indian languages.

When asked about the reaction of Muslims to his book, Muhammed said that most of them have appreciated his observations. “There are several Muslims who think that a reasonable solution can be found to the dispute. After all, Ram temple is to Hindus what Mecca and Madina are to Muslims,” said Muhammed, who retired from ASI two years ago and is currently working as project director of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture in Hyderabad. The trust has taken up the restoration of world heritage monuments Qutb Shahi Tombs at a budget of around Rs 100 crore.

Muhammed is also known for his restoration of the millennium old Bateshwar temples in Madhya Pradesh. He had also persuaded the Maoists in Chhattisgarh to join the restoration work of many temples in the forest areas. “The uniqueness of India is its secular credentials. We should all work to protect them,” he told this newspaper. – Sunday Guardian, 31 January 2016

K. K. Muhammed with Obamas

The “eminent historians” have blood on their hands – Koenraad Elst

Koenraad Elst“As a weapon against Hinduism, and as a way to whip up Muslim emotion, they alleged that the Hindu claimants of the Ram Janmabhumi site had been using false history. In fact, history was only peripheral to the Hindu claim on the site: it is a Hindu pilgrimage site today, and that ought to suffice to leave it to the Hindus. Yet, secularism’s favoured ’eminent historians’ insisted on interfering and said that there had never been a temple at the site.” – Dr Koenraad Elst

K. K. MuhammedLast week a few marginal media reported that archaeologist K. K. Muhammed had a startling revelation on the responsibility for the Ayodhya controversy and all its concomitant bloodshed.

Young people may not know what the affair, around 1990, was all about. Briefly, Hindus had wanted to build proper temple architecture on one of their sacred sites, the Rama Janmabhumi (“Rama’s birthplace”). So far, the most natural thing in the world. However, a mosque had been built in forcible replacement of the temple that had anciently adorned the site: the Babri Masjid. Not that this should have been a problem, because the structure was already in use as a temple, and the site was of no importance to the Muslims, who never go on pilgrimage there. So, Rajiv Gandhi’s Congress government was manoeuvring towards a compromise allotting the site definitively to the Hindus all while appeasing the Muslim leadership. This was not too principled, just pragmatic, but it had the merit of being bloodless.

Unfortunately, this non-violent formula was thwarted. An unexpected factor came in between. It stimulated and hardened Muslim resistance and especially, it made politicians hesitant to move forward on Ayodhya. As a consequence, street rowdies took over, killing hundreds. The Hindu-Muslim violence culminated in a multiple Muslim terror attack in Mumbai on 12 March 1993, which set the pattern for later terrorist attacks from New York and Paris to Mumbai again. On the other hand, it threw the issue into the BJP’s lap, making it the principal opposition party in 1991 and ultimately bringing it to power.

Ram Lalla VirajmanSo, who thwarted the Ayodhya solution, thus creating a new type of terrorism as well as setting the BJP on a course towards power? Though the contentious site had no special value for the Muslims at first, it had suddenly become the Mecca of another influential community: the secularists. They made it the touchstone of secularism’s resistance against “aggressive Hindu fundamentalism”.

As a weapon against Hinduism, and as a way to whip up Muslim emotion, they alleged that the Hindu claimants of the site had been using false history. In fact, history was only peripheral to the Hindu claim on the site: it is a Hindu pilgrimage site today, and that ought to suffice to leave it to the Hindus. Yet, secularism’s favoured “eminent historians” insisted on interfering and said that there had never been a temple at the site.

Then already, the existence of the temple was known from written testimonies (Muslim and European) and from B. B. Lal’s partial excavations at the site in 1973-4. Until the 1980s, the forcible replacement of the temple by the mosque had been a matter of consensus, as when a 19th-century judge ruled that a temple had indeed been destroyed, but that it had become too late to remedy this condition. The British rulers favoured the status-quo, but agreed that there had been a temple, as did the local Muslims. It is allowed for historians to question a consensus provided they have new evidence, but here they failed to produce any.

Yet, in a statement of 1989, JNU’s “eminent historians” turned an unchallenged consensus into a mere “Hindutva claim”. It is symptomatic for the power equation in India and in Indology that this is a repeating pattern. Thus, in the Aryan Homeland debate, the identification of the Vedic Saraswati river with the Ghaggar in Haryana is likewise being ridiculed by secularist academics and their foreign dupes as a “Hindutva concoction”, though it had first been proposed in 1855 by a French archaeologist and has been accepted ever since by most scholars.

Rama & Ayodhya by Meenakshi JainAfter the historians’ interference, the Indian mainstream politicians did not dare to go against the judgment of these authorities. The international media and India-watchers were also taken in and shared their hatred of these ugly Hindu history-falsifiers. Only, the Court-ordered excavations of 2003 have fully vindicated the old consensus: temple remains were found underneath the mosque. Moreover, the eminences asked to witness in Court had to confess their incompetence one after another (as documented by Meenakshi Jain: Rama and Ayodhya, 2013): one had never been to the site, the next one had never studied any archaeology, a third had only fallen in line with some hearsay, etc. Abroad this news has hardly been reported, and experts who know it make sure that no conclusions are drawn from it. After the false and disproven narrative of the eminent historians has reigned supreme for two decades, no one has yet bothered to demythologize their undeserved authority.

For close observers, the news of the eminent historians’ destructive role was not surprising. I had spoken on it in passing in my paper “The three Ayodhya debates” (St Petersburg 2011, available online), and in an interview with India Facts (8 Jan. 2016): “The secular intelligentsia … could reasonably have taken the position that a temple was indeed demolished to make way for a mosque but that we should let bygones be bygones. Instead, they went out of their way to deny facts of history. Rajiv Gandhi thought he could settle this dispute with some Congressite horse-trading: give the Hindus their toy in Ayodhya and the Muslims some other goodies, that will keep everyone happy. But this solution became unfeasible when many academics construed this contention as a holy war for a frontline symbol of secularism.”

Facile dismissals are sure to be tried against me. They will be harder when the allegation comes from an on-site archaeologist, moreover a Muslim.

The media had allotted an enormous weight to the Ayodhya affair: “Secularism in danger”, “India on the brink” and similar headlines were daily fare. When the Babri Masjid was demolished by impatient Hindu youngsters on 6 December 1992, the Times of India titled its editorial: “A requiem for norms”, no less. Given all the drama and moralistic bombast with which they used to surround this controversy, one would have expected their eagerness to report K. K. Muhammed’s eyewitness account. But no, they were extremely sparing in their coverage, reluctant to face an unpleasant fact: the guilt of their heroes, the “eminent historians”. These people outsourced the dirty work to Hindu and Muslim street fighters and to Islamic terrorists, but in fact it is they who have blood on their hands. – The Pioneer, 26 January 2016

Babri Masjid Demolition

K. K. Muhammed’s autobiography reveals Left is not right about Ayodhya – Balbir Punj

ASI Ayodhya Excavation Graphic

Balbir Punj“[Former ASI Regional Director] Muhammed, who was in-charge of the excavations at Ayodhya, has revealed two important things: one is that the Left historians of the day led by Prof Irfan Habib ensured that the proposal to hand over the [Ram Janmabhumi] site to the Hindu community did not succeed. … The second revelation is the conclusion of the excavation team of the Archeological Survey of India that the  disputed mosque at Ayodhya was indeed built over and with the parts of the temple that existed there by Mughal Emperor Babar’s commander Mir Baqi.” – Balbir Punj

K. K. MuhammedFresh light on the events before the demolition of the old mosque built over the Ramjanmabhumi temple surfaced the other day in  the then superintendent archaeologist K. K.  Muhammed’s recent book, Njan Enna Bharatiyan (“I an Indian”), his autobiography in his native Malayalam.  As yet I have seen only the news report on the release of the book brought out by the prestigious Kerala newspaper publishers of the Mathrubhumi. An English rendering of the book, I hope, will soon be brought out as it will have countrywide readers.

Mr Muhammed, who was in-charge of the excavations at Ayodhya, has revealed two important things: one is that the Left historians of the day led by Prof Irfan Habib ensured that the proposal to hand over the site to the Hindu community did not succeed. They encouraged the extremist view among the Muslims against any agreed and peaceful transfer. Such an agreed transfer was one of the solutions being considered in the late 1989-91. The second revelation is the conclusion of the excavation team of the Archeological Survey of India that the  disputed mosque at Ayodhya was indeed built over and with the parts of the temple that existed there by Mughal Emperor Babar’s commander Mir Baqi.

Mir BaqiThe conclusion was based on the evidence of, among other things, basalt stone pillars with the Hindu symbol of  Poorna Kalasha in the construction of the mosque structure and underneath it. This matter has been discussed so often and in so detail that we need not go into it. What is evident in Mr Muhammed’s revelation is his intense devotion to facts and truth, a trait alien to most of the secularists. It is the Left historians’ role in distorting historic truth that should be a matter of public concern. Under successive Congress governments at the Centre, distortion of Indian history through the ancient technique of suppressio veri, suggestio falsi, had been turned into a fine art by the so-called academicians.

Siraj ud-DaulahThe distortions have been widespread. Siraj ud-Daulah of Bengal was a cruel despot but he is projected as a patriot just because he fought against British colonialists. Tipu Sultan of Mysore has to be upheld as a patriot and his evident misdeeds against the Hindu majority and minority Christians is to be pushed under the carpet. The Congress government in Karnataka recently dug up the past to showcase Tipu with an obvious communal motive. The Left historians have done much damage to Indian history in many other ways. They have found apologies for Aurangzeb’s anti-Hindu and anti-Sikh guru massacres by picking up a few donations the emperor made to some temples. They have sought to obfuscate the terrible pain inflicted by successive Muslim invaders on the majority population of the country and the choice these invaders placed before the people: convert or be killed.

Tipu SultanNobody in his senses would even suggest that the present day followers of the religion should pay for the sins of their ancestors. But at least, a seeker of truth for its own sake would agree that what academicians should present is the fact and leave the interpretation of the past in the context of the present to the others. One readily agrees that present values should not be applied to a past generation. For the Left movement, ideology is supreme, truth and facts secondary. Interpretation of ideology is obviously the prerogative of the leadership. Needless to say, the caucus of the day controlling the organization constitutes the leadership. So, everything—history, economics, human relations, international affairs—is subordinate to the whims of those at the helm at a point of time.

As  a result, there is usually an ocean of difference between what the Left preaches and practises. Communists claim to be fighters against imperialism. But during the Quit India Movement of 1942, they abused national leaders such as Gandhiji and Netaji and worked as spies for the British Empire. After India became independent, they launched an armed war against free India.

M. A. JinnahHowever, the worst sin Communists committed was to work for the vivisection of India and join hands with Jinnah and the British for the creation of a theocratic Pakistan. And now, they claim to be flag bearers of secularism! While the Communist Party of India, both factions, have sought to win power through the parliamentary system, some starry-eyed academics continue to nurse the Marxist-Leninist dreams of violent overthrow of the state apparatus even in our country, giving the Naxalites an ideological justification for their armed insurrection against the democratic system.

Abu Bakr al-BaghdadiMuch the parallel situation prevails among some extremists among the worldwide Islamic community. The so-called Islamic State (IS/ISIS) is an outgrowth of that. What leads some members of the followers of Islam in countries from India to Britain is this Middle Age hangover. Most of the victims of this Middle Age hangover are the Muslims themselves with mosques of one set of followers being attacked with bombs by the other set, civilian population under the constant threat of annihilation by rival claimants to being true followers of one religion.

American President Obama in his State of the Union message to the US Congress mentioned the need for the religious community to look inward and find out why the call for violence and the appeal of forcing their religion over the whole world through brutality are finding response within the community. He wanted an internal movement to scotch such beliefs.

A handout picture released by the King Faisal Foundation on March 1, 2015 shows Saudi King Salman bin Abdul Aziz (L) presenting Zakir Naik, president of the Islamic Research Foundation in India, with the 2015 King Faisal International Prize for Service to Islam in Riyadh. Naik was honoured for being one of the most renowned non-Arabic speaking promoters of Islam. He founded the Peace TV channel, billed as the world's only channel specialising in comparative religion. AFP PHOTO / HO / King Faisal Foundation == RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - (MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO / HO / King Faisal Foundation" )The interior change cannot come and the attraction of thrusting your faith down the throats of resisting people cannot go away so long as the theology that nurses this sick mindset is not discussed and disowned by the faithful.

Those claiming to fight faith-inspired terror are shy of doing this unpleasant job. Look at the contradictions. Saudi Arabia has joined other nations in an international effort to eradicate the power and reach of organizations like the IS and al-Qaeda. But the same royalty is funding a vast network of religious schools among Muslims that exclusively plant and promote dreams of Islamic glory of the past, including in India.

Musharraf & Bush (2006)Same is true of Pakistan. It’s a petri dish of terror and it’s victim as well. Interestingly, both are close allies of the US in its fight against terror! The world can hardly hope to vanquish terror with such dishonesty. The Indian archeologist, a practising Muslim who proudly calls himself a “Bhartiya” in his autobiography, is a shining example of academic honesty, a trait anathema to the Left. Wait for the Communist-Muslim communal pack’s reaction to Mohammad’s revelation on Ayodhya. – The New Indian Express, 23 January 2016

» Balbir Punj is a Delhi-based commentator on political and social issues and a BJP member of the Raja Sabha. E-mail: punjbalbir@gmail.com

Dr. R. Nagaswamy with Ayodhya Hindu artefact photo.

Hindus demonstrate for a Ram temple in Ayodhya – BBC

Demonstration for Ram Temple in Ayodhya (2015)

Ram Lalla VirajmanHindu parties want to rebuild a historic temple, or mandir, to Lord Ram who they believe was born there, and achieving this was one of the promises made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his election campaign. But the demolition of a mosque on the site by Hindus in 1992 triggered some of the worst religious riots in recent Indian history—more than 2,000 were killed across the country.

And so it’s significant that this week Twitter has been flooded with messages saying “India wants Ram Mandir.”

The online campaign started on Sunday after the right-wing group Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) renewed its call for construction of a temple on the disputed land.

The VHP created the hashtag “India wants Ram Mandir” to highlight the issue a week before the anniversary of the demolition. It became a top trend in India and more than 50,000 messages were posted including the tag.

Many tweeted in support of the building a new temple, adding that Hindus should “protect” their religion:

Kinshu Kumar Tweet

The story of the dispute over the land is complicated, but here’s the latest: in March 2015, an Indian court awarded two-thirds of the disputed land to the Hindu plaintiffs and one-third to a Muslim organisation that has staked claim to the land. The matter first went into litigation over 60 years ago, long before the demolition of the mosque. The case is now to be heard in India’s Supreme Court, but it may take a decade to assess the land records, meaning a legal resolution is unlikely anytime soon.

The anniversary of the demolition of the Babri Masjid mosque is always a sensitive time for India and security is beefed up across the country to avoid religious riots. The disputed site is heavily guarded by security personnel at all times. – BBC, 12 November 2015

Ayodhya Timeline

  • 1528: A mosque is built [on Babur’s orders] on the site which Hindus say marks the spot where one of the most revered deities in Hinduism, Lord Ram, was born.
  • 1853: First recorded incidents of religious violence at the site.
  • 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.
  • 1949: Idols of Lord Ram 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.
  • 1984: Hindus form a committee to “liberate” the birth-place of Lord Ram and build a temple in his honour, spearheaded by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad party (VHP).
  • Then Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Lal Krishna Advani, now home minister, takes over leadership of campaign.
  • 1986: District judge orders the gates of the disputed mosque to be opened to allow Hindus to worship there. Muslims set up Babri Mosque Action Committee in protest.
  • 1989: VHP steps up campaign, laying the foundations of a Ram temple on land adjacent to the disputed mosque.
  • 1990: VHP volunteers partially damage the mosque. Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar tries to resolve the dispute through negotiations, which fail the next year.
  • 1991: BJP comes to power in Uttar Pradesh state, where Ayodhya is located.
  • 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 in which more than 2,000 people die.
  • 1998: The BJP forms coalition government under Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee.
  • 2001: Tensions rise on the anniversary of the demolition of the mosque. VHP pledges again to build Hindu temple at the site.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Mar 2002: Between 1,000 and 2,000 people, [Hindus and] Muslims, die in riots in Gujarat following the train attack.
  • Apr 2002: Three High Court judges begin hearings on determining who owns the religious site.
  • Jan 2003: Archaeologists begin a court-ordered survey to find out whether a temple to Lord Ram existed on the site.
  • 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 fulfil the dying man’s wishes and build a temple at Ayodhya. However, he hopes the courts and negotiations will solve the issue.
  • 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.
  • Oct 2004: Mr Advani says his party still has “unwavering” commitment to building a temple at Ayodhya, which he said was “inevitable”.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • June 2009: The Liberhan Commission investigating events leading up to the mosque’s demolition submits its report—17 years after it began its inquiry.
  • Nov 2009: There is uproar in parliament as the Liberhan Commission’s report is published and it blames leading politicians from the Hindu nationalist BJP for a role in the mosque’s razing.
  • Sept 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. 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.
  • May 2011: Supreme Court suspends High Court ruling after Hindu and Muslim groups appeal against the 2010 verdict. – BBC, 6 December 2012

Carved stones for the new Ram Temple at Ayodhya

Ram-Nam bricks donated by Hindus for a Ram Temple at Ayodhya

Sri Ram Temple Model

See also