Secularists seek to prolong Ayodhya case indefinitely – Balbir Punj

Rahul Gandhi Cartoon
Balbir PunjBoth the pro- and anti-Ram temple parties have failed to grasp the issue at stake. The fight has never been for a piece of land or against a mosque. … The Babri structure was brought down because a Ram temple could not be built at that very spot without doing so. What the agitated karsevaks demolished was not a mosque, but a symbol of humiliation forced by a ruthless foreign victor over the vanquished. – Babir Punj

While Congress President-designate Rahul Gandhi was making a desperate bid to pose as a practicing janeu-dhari Brahmin in the wake of elections to the Gujarat Assembly, another top leader of his party and noted lawyer Kapil Sibal was arguing against an early hearing of the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid case in the Supreme Court, a move clearly aimed at cultivating the Muslim vote bank. Running with the hare and hunting with the hounds?

Appearing for the Uttar Pradesh Sunni Central Wakf Board, Sibal asked the Supreme Court to postpone the hearing of the case to July 2019. An absurd request considering the fact that appeals against the Allahabad High Court verdict in the case have been pending for the last seven years!

In fact, litigation on the vexed Ayodhya issue is over a century old. On January 29 next, it will compete 133 years!  Still, Sibal questioned the court about the “hurry” to hear the matter now and pleaded for the hearing to be postponed to July 2019. This is ‘secularism’ in action. Keep such emotive issues alive to infinity and the communal cauldron boiling.

A flashback: On 29 January 1885, Raghubar Das, Mahant of the Janmasthan, filed a civil suit seeking permission to construct a temple over the Ram Chabutra spot. The Mahant’s plea was opposed by Mohammed Asghar, mutawalli (guardian) of the Babri Mosque.

The Faizabad sub judge dismissed the suit on 24 December 1885. On 23 December 1949, idols of Hindu Gods were installed in the “disputed structure” and puja was started. Meanwhile, the Faizabad civil judge, on 1 January 1950, passed an ad-interim injunction  restraining the removal of the idols. The puja continued. The public was allowed darshan from beyond the brick-grill wall.

In 1985 came the Shah Bano judgment and the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi gave in to the Muslim fundamentalist pressure, overruling a secular court’s decision that the divorced Bano was entitled to alimony from her ex-husband. Rajiv enacted a law abolishing the alimony provision in conformity with the sharia.

Within months, Rajiv tried to restore the balance. In 1986, the Faizabad district judge, on an appeal by advocate Umesh Pandey, allowed the public to have the darshan from inside and ordered the respondents to remove the locks on the brick-grill wall. Rajiv Gandhi’s hand was clearly seen behind the court order.

However, mere unlocking was not good enough for the Hindus, who have been aspiring and struggling for centuries to build a grand temple at the Janmabhoomi site, befitting the stature of Lord Rama in Hindu tradition. So the agitation for the temple continued.

On the fateful day of 6 December 1992, a frenzied mob tore down the Babri edifice and hurriedly put a temporary-tented structure on the demolition site under which an idol of Ramlalla sits till this day.

There are irrefutable historical records that the Hindus had repeatedly attempted to recover the Janmabhoomi—in 1735, 1751, 1756 and so on. In 1767, Austrian Jesuit traveller Joseph Tiefenthaler noted that in spite of the Mughal king’s efforts to prevent them, the Hindus were worshipping and celebrating Rama Navami under the Babri structure.

Why has the issue remained unresolved for so long, even after the departure of the British? One, the “secularists” of various hues, who have been in power for most of the time in post-independent India, have a vested interest in keeping the dispute alive. And both, the pro- and anti-Ram temple parties, too have failed to grasp the issue at stake. The fight has never been for a piece of land or against a mosque. Twenty-five years ago, on December 6, the mob which demolished Babri, did not touch any other mosque either in Ayodhya or neighbouring Faizabad.

The Babri structure was brought down because a Ram temple could not be built at that very spot without doing so. What the agitated karsevaks demolished was not a mosque, but a symbol of humiliation forced by a ruthless foreign victor over the vanquished.

Demolishing a temple, highly revered by the locals and replacing it with a mosque on that very site was a political statement by the barbarous invader. The response to this historical injustice too should have been political and not legal—a la reconstruction of the Somnath temple, undertaken at the initiative of Sardar Patel after Independence.

Courts are a poor mechanism to deal with issues which carry long-standing historical baggage concerning faith and have political underpinnings. Reservations for Scheduled Castes and Tribes, and later for OBCs, was a political decision to undo the injustice of the past. Can you expect a court to decide whether reservations are needed or not?

The pre-Independence leadership gave into the Muslim League’s blackmailing and agreed for the partition of the country. Did any court decide if Muslims needed a separate country to feel safe?

In January 2015, Shireen Dalvi, editor of Awadhnama, was arrested for reprinting a controversial cartoon of Prophet Mohammed. The works of noted authors such as Taslima Nasreen and Salman Rushdie were banned in India, even before anyone in India had even read them. Non-Muslims, who constitute roughly 85 per cent of the population, were denied their right to read these works in deference to the sensitivities of Muslims.

In none of these cases, the executive or the affected parties waited for a judicial intervention or sought the opinion of the courts. In the Ramjanmabhoomi case, the legislature and executive should have taken the call. But with the likes of Kapil Sibal deeply embedded in the system, obviously it is not that easy. – The New Indian Express, 9 December 2017

» Balbir Punj is a former Rajya Sabha member and Delhi-based commentator on social and political issues.

Kapil & Promila Sibal

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Fundamentals of the Sri Ram Temple in Ayodhya – Subramanian Swamy

Sri Ram Lalla Temple, Ayodhya

The Sri Ram Lalla Temple on Ramjanmabhoomi has a superior claim to the site than any mosque. This is the fundamental truth in the Ayodhya dispute. … Therefore under law the Union Government can acquire the Babri Masjid site by a public notification, and urge the Muslim community to agree to shift the building of a new masjid to some other site well beyond and across the Saryu River. – Dr Subramanian Swamy

True and devout Hindus believe that Bhagvan Sri Rama was born in Ayodhya, the then capital of a flourishing kingdom of the Suryavansha dynasty. Rama is venerated as Maryada Purushottam, and worshipped by Hindus of the north. As an avatar of Vishnu, while it was first propagated by the Tamil saints known as Nayanmars and Alwars who composed many hymns and songs dedicated to his divinity, the North which later came to accept Rama as one, especially thanks to the saint Tulsidas, the fervour for Rama worship is much more. In that sense, Sri Rama was the first truly national king of India, supra region, supra varna or jati. That is why poet Iqbal called him “Imam-e-Hind”.

The exact spot of the palace where Rama was born has been and remains firmly identified in the Hindu mind and is held as sacred. This is the very area where stood from 1528 till December 6, 1992, a structure that came to be known as Babri Masjid, put up in 1528 by foreign invader Babar’s commander, Mir Baqi.

In fact, Baqi was a Shia Muslim, and hence he intended it to be a place for Shias to read namaz. Today, interestingly, it is the Sunni Wakf Board, which entered the legal dispute as late as 1961. It has been litigating in the Supreme Court claiming the title to the land on which the structure once stood. At the Allahabad High Court level, Sunni Wakf Board claim to the title of the land was rejected. No Muslim party today claims the Babri Masjid must be rebuilt on where it once stood because a masjid can be demolished under Islamic law.

I call it a “structure” since it cannot be strictly called a mosque by Sunni edicts—because it did not have the mandatory minarets and wazu [water pool]. That a Ram temple existed and or that there is a sacred spot known as Ramjanmabhoomi is attested by many ancient sources and by modern scientific methods.

In Skanda Purana [Chapter X, Vaishnav Khand] the site is vividly described. Valmiki Ramayana also describes it beautifully. Less than two decades before Mir Baqi carried out the horrible demolition of the Ram temple, Guru Nanak had visited the Ramjanmabhoomi and had darshan of Ramlalla in the mandir at the spot.

There are many commentaries on this visit which are a part of the Sikh scriptures. Guru Nanak himself records the barbarity of Babar’s invasions [in Guru Granth Sahib at p. 418]. In Akbar’s time, Abul Fazal wrote the Ain-i-Akbari in which he describes Ayodhya fame as the place of “Ram Chandra’s residence which in Treta age combined spiritual supremacy and kingship.” [Translated by Col. H. S. Jarrett and published in Kolkata in 1891]

In Chapter X of the Report of the Archeological Survey of India, NW and Oudh (1889), it is mentioned (p. 67) that Babri Mosque “was built in AD 1528 by Mir Khan on the very spot where the old temple of Janmasthan of Ram Chandra was standing.”

Hindus throughout foreign occupation of India have deeply held as sacred that exact spot where the Babri Masjid once stood, as is recorded in many official and judicial proceedings. In 1885, for example, Mahant Raghubar Das in a Suit No 61/280 of 1885 filed in the Court of the Faizabad Sub-Judge against the Secretary of State for India (who was based in London), prayed for permission to build a temple on the chabutra outside the mosque. His suit was dismissed on March 18, 1886.

However, in his order the Sub-Judge, an Englishman, stated thus: “It is most unfortunate that a Masjid should have been built on land specially held sacred by the Hindus. But as the event occurred 358 years ago, it is too late now to remedy the grievance.” Since the English as policy never sought to disturb the social status quo in India as evidenced, for example, on the sati question, the Judge took the easy way out and dismissed the suit.

It is now well established by GPRS-directed excavations done under the Allahabad High Court monitoring and verification in 2002-03, that a large temple did exist below where that Babri Masjid structure once stood. Inscriptions found during excavations describe it as a temple of Vishnu Hari who had killed the demon king Dasanan [Ravana].

The Sunni Wakf Board does not accept these findings as of any meaning or of any consequences. It does not, however, matter if all this was indeed so or not, since under Section 295 of the Indian Penal Code it is prescribed that “Whoever destroys, damages or defiles any place of worship, or any object held sacred by any class of personswith the intention of thereby insulting the religion of any class of persons or with the knowledge that any class of persons is likely to consider such destruction, damage or defilement as an insult to their religion, shall be punishable with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.”

That is, an offence under criminal law is committed if a body of persons hold something as sacred. It does not matter if the majority does or does not hold so. Nor can a court decide what is sacred and what is not. Only a body of persons can identify what is sacred. The offence under Section 295 IPC is cognisable and non-bailable, as well as non-compoundable.

The fundamental question before us is thus this: Can a temple and a masjid be considered on par as far as sacredness is concerned ? Relying on two important court judgements that hold the field today, the answer is: No!  A masjid is not an essential part of Islam, according to a majority judgement of a Constitution Bench of India’s Supreme Court.

In the famous Ismail Farooqui vs Union of India case [reported in (1994) 6 SCC 376], the Supreme Court observed: “It has been contended that a mosque enjoys a particular position in Muslim law and once a mosque is established and prayers are offered in such a mosque, the same remains for all time to come a property of Allah … and any person professing Islamic faith can offer prayer in such a mosque, and even if the structure is demolished, the place remains the same where namaz can be offered.” [Para 80]

The Constitution Bench rebutted this contention stating: “The correct position may be summarised thus: Under Mohammedian law applicable in India, the title to a mosque can be lost by adverse possession…. A mosque is not an essential part of the practice of the religion of Islam and namaz (prayer) can be offered anywhere, even in the open. Accordingly, its acquisition is not prohibited by the provisions in the Constitution of India.” [Para 82]

Thus, any Government depriving the Muslims of the Babri Masjid by an order of acquisition is within law, if the government decides to do so in the interest of public order, public health and morality [Article 25 of the Constitution]. The position in Islamic law is even more clear: in Saudi Arabia the authorities demolish mosques to lay roads and build apartment buildings. Even the mosque where Islam’s Prophet Mohammed used to pray was demolished!

But then what of a temple? Is it in the same category as the mosque in our jurisprudence?  When I was Union Law and Justice Minister in 1990-91, this question of the status of a temple—even if in ruins or without worship—had come up before me in a case of a smuggled-out bronze Nataraja statue which was up for auction in London.

Earlier the Government of India, when Rajiv Gandhi was PM, had decided to file a case in the London trial court in 1986 for recovery. The Nataraja statue had by then been traced to a temple in ruins in Pathur, in Thanjavur district. A farmer named Ramamoorthi had in 1976 had accidentally unearthed it while digging mud with a spade near his hut.

When the news spread, touts of an antique dealer by the name Ahmed Hussein reached him and paid a small sum and smuggled it out to London, where in 1982 they sold it to Bumper Development Corporation Private Limited. In turn, the said Corporation sent it to the British Museum for appraisal and possible purchase. By then the Government of India was onto it and asked the UK Government to take action.

The Nataraja idol was seized by London Metropolitan Police, and thus the Bumper Development Corporation sued the Police in court for recovery but lost the case. An appeal was filed in the Queens Bench [i.e., our High Court level] which was dismissed on April, 17 1989. So, the Bumper Corporation went to the House of Lords [our Supreme Court level]. On February 13, 1991 when I was Law Minister, the judgement came, which is truly landmark, dismissing Bumper’s final appeal [see (1991) 4 All ER 638].

The House of Lords upheld the Indian government’s position that because of the prana prathista puja, a temple is owned by the deity, in this case Lord Shiva, and any Hindu can litigate on behalf of the deity as a de facto trustee. The Bench consisting of Justices Purchas, Nourse and Leggatt concluded: “We therefore hold that the temple is acceptable as party to these proceedings and that it is as such entitled to sue for the recovery of the Nataraja.” [Page 648 para g]

Thus, even if a temple is in ruins as the ASI had found the Thanjavur temple or destroyed, as Ram temple was in the Babri Masjid area, any Hindu can sue on behalf of Lord Rama in court for recovery! No such ruling exists for a mosque for the simple reason that a mosque is just a facilitation centre for reading namaz, and has no essentiality for Islamic religion. It can be demolished and/or shifted as any building can and are being so today in Arab countries and Pakistan.

That is, the Ram temple on Ramjanmabhoomi has a superior claim to the site than any mosque. This is the fundamental truth in the Ayodhya dispute. This truth will apply, for example, to Kashi Vishvanath and Mathura temple sites as well.

Therefore under law the Union Government can acquire the Babri Masjid site by a public notification, and urge the Muslim community to agree to shift the building of a new masjid to some other site well beyond and across the Saryu River.

It is important to note here that as of now there are eight mosques in Ayodhya area which the ASI has taken over since these had no one coming to read namaz. Hence what use will another mosque be?

Hence the national response to the judgement of Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court allotting one-third of the Ramjanmabhoomi to the Sunni Wakf Board to build a mosque in the area near the Ramlala temple should be a resounding “No”! A temple cannot be equated to a mosque in either its immutability or its divinity. The masjid in Islamic law is just a building to facilitate reading of namaz, which anyway can be read anywhere.

Nor can we Hindus by the back door allow aggression and atrocity of demolishing temples be rewarded in any manner. Therefore, as with the Shah Bano case precedent, Government should bring an amendment to the Acquisition of Certain Areas Act of 1993 to bar constructing any structure other than those connected with a temple for Sri Rama.

That will be the fit atonement of the so-called secular people of our nation for tacitly tolerating for so long the demolition of Ram temple on the orders of Babar of Afghanistan. Babri, after whom the mosque is named, was a 9 year boy in Kabul who was a “special” intimate of Babar, with whom he was infatuated.

If such an amendment is not brought forth, Hindus should wage a fierce democratic struggle for the next 3½ years to force the government to do so or weld a solid Hindu Front supported by the Hindu Dharmacharyas, VHP and RSS can obtain an absolute majority in the Lok Sabha in the future.

From February 8, 2018, the Supreme Court will hear all the civil appeals plus my writ petition seeking enforcement of my fundamental right under Article 25 of the Constitution to worship at the spot where Hindus have faith Lord Ram was born. Since the Sunni Wakf Board is basing its argument of its rights to property, which is an ordinary right and not a fundamental right, hence under law my right is superior and overrides the Sunni Wakf Board claim of its ordinary right to property. –PGurus, 6 December 2017

» Dr Subramanian Swamy is a BJP National Executive member and Raja Sabha MP.

Ramlalla Temple on the Babri Masjid site after the demolition.

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.

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.