Delhi: A 125-year-old Hindu-Muslim dispute that
repeatedly frayed India's secular fabric was sought to be settled
Thursday with a court ruling that the place where the Babri mosque
in Ayodhya stood before it was razed by Hindu mobs in 1992 was
indeed the birthplace of Ram revered by millions.
A three-judge bench, comprising a Muslim and two Hindus, of the
Allahabad High Court's Lucknow bench ruled by majority that a Ram
temple had been destroyed to build the Babri mosque in Ayodhya in
the 16th century and so the mosque violated Islamic tenets.
But judges S.U. Khan, D.V. Sharma and Sudhir Agarwal ruled that
the entire disputed land in Ayodhya, a riverside town in Uttar
Pradesh which for decades became synonymous with Hindu-Muslim
tensions, should be divided among the Sunni Waqf Board, Hindus and
the Nirmohi Akhara, a Hindu sect who were among those who fought
the court battle.
The status quo, however, would be maintained for the next three
Despite the divisive nature of the judgement against which both
Hindu and Muslim litigants have vowed to appeal in the Supreme
Court, India -- whose over one billion population includes 80
percent Hindus and 14 percent Muslims -- remained calm. Both
Muslim and Hindu leaders said nothing should be done to offend any
"The disputed site is (indeed) the birthplace of Lord Ram," said
the brief two-page official synopsis of the judgement. It ruled
that the place of Ram's birth must also be construed as a juristic
person and a deity.
"It is personified as the spirit of divine worshipped as
birthplace of Lord Rama as a child," the majority ruling said.
The other highlights of the eagerly awaited judgement were that
idols of Ram were sneaked into the Babri mosque in December 1949
and that archaeological evidence proved that a temple had existed
at the mosque site.
The judgement, running into about 10,000 pages, was furiously
analysed across India, where tens of thousands of security forces
had been deployed to prevent any communal violence.
"The disputed building was constructed by (Mughal emperor) Babar
-- the year is not certain -- but it was built against the tenets
of Islam," the majority judges said. "Thus, it cannot have the
character of a mosque."
The verdict sparked calls for Hindu-Muslim amity.
All India Muslim Personal Law Board's Kamal Farooqui said: "There
could be a (temple) and a (mosque) existing alongside in Ayodhya
in the larger interest of the nation. The court has opened up some
consensus for us and a chance for reconciliation."
Zafaryab Jilani of the Sunni Waqf Board, whose title suit for the
Ayodhya land was dismissed by the court, vowed not to "surrender"
but added that the board would abide by anything the Supreme Court
Mohan Bhagwat, chief of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS),
which played a major role in the mass movement aimed at building a
Ram temple at the Babri mosque site, said the ruling should not be
seen as a victory or defeat for anyone.
"This has almost cleared the way for building a grand Ram temple,"
he said, asking people to forget the bitterness of the past.
The Nirmohi Akhara, one of the three parties allotted a third of
the disputed land, hailed the ruling as a "victory for all people
who have faith in Lord Ram" but quickly added that it was no
defeat or victory for any religion.
Hindu lawyer and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Ravi Shankar
Prasad urged Muslims, India's largest religious minority, to help
in building a Ram temple at Ayodhya.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh stepped in soon after the verdict
was announced, convening a high-level meeting to discuss the way
ahead. The central government is the custodian of the land where a
makeshift Ram temple stands.
"The correct conclusion, at this stage, is that the status quo
will be maintained until the cases are taken up by the Supreme
Court," he said. "I have full faith in the people of India. I
alsohave full vondidence in the traditions of secularism..."
Thursday's judicial fiat marked the end of a chapter in a more
than a century-old Hindu-Muslim dispute that has its genesis in
1528 when a military commander of Babar is said to have built a
three-domed mosque named after the emperor.
The row took a new twist in December 1949 when idols of Ram were
sneaked into the mosque, leading to daily Hindu prayers. The
present case kicked off in January 1950 in a court in Faizabad,
Ayodhya's twin town.
The emotive movement took a volatile turn in the 1980s when Hindu
groups began mobilizing the community so as to build a grand Ram
temple at the Babri mosque site. It quickly escalated Hindu-Muslim
The issue led to the worst eruption of Hindu-Muslim violence after
India's 1947 independence when Hindu mobs demolished the Babri
mosque in December 1992, leaving over 2,000 people dead across the
Hindu activists quickly erected a makeshift temple on the ruins of
India Inc hailed Thursday's judicial ruling -- and the country's
ability to digest it without taking to the streets. "The verdict
is a win-win for all," said industry lobby Assocham.
Political leaders were, however, more nuanced.
"We should all welcome it. If anyone has any reservation over the
verdict, the Supreme Court is open...," Congress general secretary
Janardan Dwivedi said. "Nothing should be done to disturb harmony
The Communist Party of India-Marxist said: "In our constitutional,
secular, democratic system, judicial process which includes
recourse to the Supreme Court should be the only way to resolve