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Counterview: The Ayodhya verdict is based on evidence and not on faith

By Niranjan Pant

Even a casual reading of the Supreme Court judgment (SCJ) makes it obvious that the main issue before the top court was whether or not the demolished mosque stood on a barren land or over an existing temple. Since the SCJ drew a great deal from the Archeological Survey of India Report (ASIR), which was primarily ordered by the High Court to settle the main issue, it is of prime concern in my analysis. However, before I discuss the issue, I must confess that the judgment makes an interesting reading spread over 929 pages plus 116 pages of addenda, which is precisely 1045 pages.

Archeological Survey of India Report (ASIR)

The SCJ covers all aspects of the ASIR such as its procedure, findings and the validity of its findings by the 2010 judgment of the High Court and finally their acceptance or rejection by the SCJ. The ASIR after examining a variety of factors had come to the conclusion that the huge structure over which the Babri mosque stood contained “distinctive features found associated with the temples of north India.” But this contention was not accepted by the High Court mainly because Justice A.U. Khan, one of three judge of the High Court bench, did not rely on the report. In addition, objections by the opposite party pointed to the ASIR exhibits and the possibility of some of the exhibits belonging to Jainism or Buddhism.

Ultimately after analyzing the observations of Justice Agarwal of the three judge bench of the High Court, the Supreme Court came to the conclusion that the evidence which the top court arrived at is as follows: (i) The disputed structure was not raised on a virgin, vacant, unoccupied, open land; (ii) There existed a structure at least comparable or bigger than the disputed structure, at the site in dispute; (iii) The builder of the disputed structure knew the details of the erstwhile structure, its strength, capacity, the size of the walls, etc. and hence did not hesitate in using the walls, etc. without any further improvement; (iv) The erstwhile structure was religious in nature and that too non-Islamic one; (v) The material like stone, pillars, bricks of the erstwhile structure was used in raising the disputed structure of the mosque; (vi) The artefacts recovered during excavation were mostly such as non-Islamic, i.e., pertaining to Hindu religious places, even if it is accepted that some of the items were such which may be used in other religions also. Besides no artefacts etc., which can be used only in Islamic religious place, had been found (p.531).

The Issue of Evidence versus Faith in the Verdict

Going through various articles published in respect to the Supreme Court Judgment (SCJ) on the Ram temple case, I find there are many from the pseudo-secular, Muslim legal professionals and left-liberal stock that are of the opinion that the SCJ has relied more on faith than evidence. Although I am not a law student, reading about 1050 pages rapidly of the SCJ, I have come to the conclusion that nowhere in the judgments the faith gets precedence over the facts/evidence that came before the top court of India.

After going through all the records, evidences and arguments, the SCJ states that the “Hindus have established a clear case of a possessory title to the outside courtyard by virtue of long, continued and unimpeded worship at the Ramchabutra and other objects of religious significance” (p.915). However, the Hindus and the Muslims have contested claims to the offering worship within the three domed structure in the inner courtyard. But after analyzing all the records available with the court and after assessing all claims and counter-claims of the contending parties to the dispute, the court concludes, “In respect of the possessory claim of the Hindus to the composite whole of the disputed property stands on a better footing than the evidence adduced by the Muslims, the Muslims were dispossessed upon the desecration of the mosque on 22/23 December 1949 which was ultimately destroyed on 6 December 1992. There was no abandonment of the mosque by the Muslims. This Court in the exercise of its powers under Article 142 of the Constitution must ensure that a wrong committed must be remedied” (p.923). It is for these reasons the court grants the whole land under dispute in favour of the Hindu parties and for the same reasons the Court allocates five acres of land to the Muslim party. However, in arriving at this decision the court not only very studiously examined the arguments, comments, observation of the judgment of the 2010 three judge High Court bench but meticulously examined the arguments of various eminent lawyers of the contesting parties.

Historical Evidence

The SCJ goes to substantiate Hindu claim even before 1528 AD, when the Babri mosque was said to be constructed and cites Janma Sakhies [Sikh historical chronology of Guru Nanak] regarding the visit of Guru Nanak Devji in 1510-11 A.D. for a pilgrimage of Janma Bhumi (birth place) of Lord Ram to support the faith and beliefs of the Hindus (Addenda p.71). In addition the SCJ quotes various religious scriptures like Brihad-dharmottara Purana, Skanda Purana, etc. to substantiate the point.

In respect of faith and belief regarding Janma Asthan (birth place) during the period 1528 A.D. to 31.10.1858, the court submitted records of many documents including the Ain-i-Akbari, which is attestation of the faith and beliefs held by Hindus in the period of Emperor Akbar when Ajodhya was mentioned as residence of Ramachandra, who was further described as Avatar, i.e., incarnation of Vishnu (Addenda p.87).

The next work of noticeable importance is a historical sketch of Tehsil Fyzabad, Zilah Fyzabad, published by the Government in 1870. The sketch was prepared by P. Carnegy, Officiating Commissioner and Settlement Officer of the then Ajodhya and Faizabad. Carnegy states that Ajodhya is to Hindu what Macca is to the Mohamedan and Jerusalem to the Jews. He further refers to Janmasthan and other temples and categorically states that at the place of Janmasthan Emperor Babar built a Mosque, which still bears his name in A.D. 1528 (Addenda p. 88).

In addition to the present ASI report one more report published by Archaeological Survey of India in 1889 clearly states that Babar’s Masjid at Ajodhya was built on the very spot where the old temple Janmasthan (birth place) of Ramchandra was standing (Addenda p.91). Consequently the SCJ ends saying, “It is thus concluded on the conclusion that faith and belief of Hindus since prior to construction of Mosque and subsequent thereto has always been that Janmaasthan of Lord Ram is the place where Babri Mosque has been constructed which faith and belief is proved by documentary and oral evidence discussed above” (Addenda p.116).

Conclusion

Given the fact the ASI excavation done on the express and precise order of the High Court in 2009, did prove an un-Islamic structure stood below the Babri structure, yet it didn’t give its observations on whether or not the Mosque was built by demolishing the un-Islamic structure beneath it. It may be so due to the scope of excavation as defined to them. Further, given the fact that Justice Khan of the three judges 2010 bench of the High Court, while rejecting temple below the Babri mosque, based his opinion in respect of ASI report on a conjecture rather than on reasoning and logic, this clearly means anyone can assume as to what purpose a Mosque would be serving at the epicenter of the place called Ayodhya, having temples all around? It is rightly summed up by Abhinav Prakash in a piece in the daily newspaper Hindustan Times: “It is unprecedented in world history that a religious community of one billion people waited for over five centuries and then left the fate of one of their most sacred sites to the wisdom of five judges. It is unprecedented that the religious community of 200 million accepted the verdict peacefully even if some among the community believe their claim was legitimate. With this, one more brick has been laid in the foundation of modern India.”

Bio:
Niranjan Pant is erstwhile Director, Centre for Development Studies, Lucknow, from 1988 to 2010. He had been doing research in the field of irrigation management since 1975. Initially he was associated with two research institutes, A. N. Sinha, Patna and Giri Institute, Lucknow. In addition, he has worked as a consultant/advisor to National and International organizations such as Ford Foundation, USAID, Planning Commission of India and TAHAL Consultants and the World Bank, Danish, Dutch, SIDA, and NORAD missions. In the course of research work he has availed visiting fellowships/research collaboration with Harvard University, U.S.A., JSPS and IDE, Japan and WAU, the Netherlands. He has had several associations with IWMI since 1980.

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Read the latest issue of Cafe Dissensus Magazine, “Rohingya Refugees: Identity, Citizenship, and Human Rights”, edited by Chapparban Sajaudeen, Central University of Gujarat, India.

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