Friday, October 1, 2010

Ayodhya question

Here's my Ayodhya question for the day: could we imagine a verdict dividing the land in the fashion it has been, had the mosque still been standing? If the structure was intact, this verdict would necessitate its demolition, and it's hard to see a court ordering such a thing. That's probably why judges dithered for so long in the first place.
Which means the demolition of the mosque, an act in direct contravention of Supreme Court orders, led to the legal recognition of the claims of those who supported demolishing the mosque to begin with.


Anonymous said...

The demolishing of the temple led to the creation of the mosque, to begin with.

meenakshi said...

Girish, I completely agree with all your arguments about the verdict. While a large part of me believes that the judiciary should be strong enough to take a stand that a majority of the people might not like, I sort of, slightly empathize with the court for coming up with a judgment that most of the country would not be too unhappy with.

The best thing would have been to declare the site as something that needs to be protected for its archeological importance. But it did not do something like that; it did the next best thing - divide up the place and make all the factions happy.

Girish Shahane said...

Anonymous, the ASI, unfortunately, played a terrible role in the case. It bent to the ruling party's wishes and came up with a conclusion unsupported by the facts it had marshalled.
However, even if we accept for argument's sake that the mosque was built after destroying a temple, those are no grounds for giving the area to Hindus in contemporary times. After all, that could be the basis of claims regarding a number of mosques and even temples, and we'd have to begin a wholesale redistibution of holy sites.
Meenakshi, I don't believe all the factions are happy. The Muslim side has certainly got the short end of the stick. But you're right, people in the country at large are not too unhappy with the verdict, and now it's been kicked upstairs for a few more years.
The chap who made the most absurd comments, Justice Sharma, has retired and will now become a hero of right-wing Hindus.

Anonymous said...

Do you think that rather than all peacefully reconciling, it is better to create hypothetical arguments about redistribution and critise the integrity and wisdom all our institutions? ( courts, ASI)
Do you understand that this intellectual exercise may lead to ramifications on the street where totally innocent and indifferent people ( hindus and muslims)may pay with their lives?

torntash said...

With respect to the wisdom of the ASI, please have a look at the comments of R. Nagaswamy in today's Times. He submitted the report to the court on the ASI's 2003 excavations. Witness the struggle he has coming up with concrete evidence of a temple existing on the disputed site. A circular stone construction and some terracottas seems to be the sum total of what he claims is proof. He describes the terracottas as showing "human busts adorned with jewellery". More probably than not he is describing post-Mauryan fertility goddesses which, as we all know, have precisely zero to do with Hindu religions sites as understood in this debate.

Girish Shahane said...

Anonymous, to paraphrase my wife's Facebook status update, the atmosphere remained peaceful because those who instigated the Ayodhya related riots in the past were given what they wanted by the judges. If appeasement by the judiciary is the price we have to pay for peace on the streets, let us at least acknowledge it's a very high price, with many potentially harmful long-term consequences.
Torntash, thanks for your note; that report by the ASI will go down as the lowest point in the history of an institution which has advanced knowledge in many important directions.
Apart from those terracottas, the report also cites animal bones as evidence of a shrine. Maybe we should insist that, should a Ram temple be built at the spot, animal sacrifice be carried out within, in deference to the tradition identified by the ASI.

Ruchik said...


I find this appalling; before the verdict you say we should aide by the verdict; in the court it has been conclusively proved that a temple was standing before the mosque; and this has been unanimously accepted by all 3 judges; before doubting the judgements let us all go through the entire judgement; to understand the reasoning behind the finding; casting aspersions on the judges does not hold any one good; please read through the 10,000 pages before commenting; the judges have made detailed references to thousands of books, literature etc etc to make the decision; I don't agree with the trashing of the ASI report; prominent historians have also said there was a temple which was converted into Taj Mahal; you call that trash; but the ASI report which has been accepted by the court is not ok; there is no point getting into hypotheticals and ifs; if the incident of demolition would not have happened; the demolition happened which was sad; however the case was a title suit ; related to the land; which had nothing to do with the demolition; I find the hypocrisy damaging to India; the court's words should be accepted; divide the land into 3 let there be a temple and mosque adjacent to each other; It is a landmark judgement; very well thought of

Girish Shahane said...

Ruchik, you ask me to read the 10,000 pages of the judgement, but you appear not to have read even the summaries, or what I have written.

First, I didn't write anything like, "we should aide by the verdict", whatever that means.

Second, it was not a unanimous judgement, there was a dissenting opinion from Justice Sharma.

Third, the fact that a mosque was built after destroying a temple has NOT been unanimously accepted by all three judges. Again, two accepted, one specifically rejected the idea.

Fourth, if it was a title suit, why did they not just decide on the issue of title? How did it become a partition suit?

Anonymous said...

Hi Girish,

Let me not undermine the either the seriousness of the concerns or even the honest intellectual intentions in terms of raising them.

However sometimes such concerns are interpreted very differently by politicians and community leaders and translate into vitiating messages to the emotional masses.

This masjid is just one of the issues in a history of uneasy relationship between the two communities. ( We have already had one partition and another active demand in one of our border states)

Riots/ street justice too have preceded 1992 and have had many flash points apart from this issue. The guilt has been with both parties in different instances, so that argument about court ruling in favour of one party may not be necessarily true.

So that makes me believe that the top most priority is protection of lives and establishment of the judiciary as a mechanism of resolution of differences ( as against the street). Lets hope that the Gujarat riot was the last major riots and that we positively embrace the future of this country.

Girish Shahane said...

Hi Anon,

Appreciate your comment, I was afraid a flame war was brewing. Considering that the issue was going to go to the Supreme Court one way or another, it's pragmatically a safe decision to have made, I agree with that.
It certainly seems the case that India's urban youth is less restive than it was twenty or ten years ago. I guess rapid economic growth is creating enough jobs to absorb new entrants into the labour force.
I do hope, though, that when the Supreme Court finally rules on the issue, it will correct some of the weird parts of the judgement. And that the Wakf board will take the process a little more seriously.

Ruchik said...


You are again jumbling facts; please reread the summaries as I have done now; To specifically reply to your points; though usually I am too lazy to do so

First, I didn't write anything like, "we should aide by the verdict", whatever that means.

I was referring not speifically to you; but to the so called secular liberal person who has problems with the judgement;

I never said it was unanimous judgement; I said it has been unanimously accepted that there was a temple at the site

Third, the fact that a mosque was built after destroying a temple has NOT been unanimously accepted by all three judges. Again, two accepted, one specifically rejected the idea.

You are referring to Justice Khan here to quote him even he said that the mosque was constructed over a temple in ruins; hence let there be NO doubt that it has been proved that a temple existed;

All 3 parties failed to prove that they held the title to the land
; In that case what would you expect the court to do ?? how can you decide a title holder of a disputed land if both parties cannot prove ownership' they decided to partition the land as historically both Muslims and Hindus prayed there;

Let me ask you a counter question which was in my earlier reply which you conveniently side stepped
1) Would you have raised any question on the archeological evidence if the court had decided to award the land to Wakf Board? You conveniently tend to ignore archaeological evidence when it suits you? The fact that the judges have ACCEPTED the evidence cannot be wished away ;

2) 2 judges have said that the disputed structure cannot be called a mosque as an existing structure was destroyed to build it? and it is against the tenets of Islam? so you completely ignore that; this convinient interpretation of events must be stopped; As Soli Sorabjee said that it is a judgment that shows great judicial courage do read his views

Girish Shahane said...


The use of 'you' when you meant 'secular liberal person' is strange. I could equally decide you are a Hinduvavadi, and then quote arbitrary Hindutvavadis and ascribe their opinions to you.

In any case, abiding by the judgement and agreeing with it are two different things. I haven't suggested there should be any action aside from what the law allows for, namely an appeal to the Supreme Court.

The fact that a temple might have stood at the spot is irrelevant. If anything is relevant at all, and even that is not certain, is if there was evidence of a temple being destroyed specifically to make way for the mosque.

If a temple had been built and allowed to decay and crumble, it doesn't say much about the great faith of Hindus in the sanctity of that spot.

Just because judges accept a temple existed there doesn't mean that has been proved beyond a doubt. They accepted it mainly because the competent authority, the ASI, told them so. I have read what the ASI has said, and it is utter tripe. I believe I am better qualified to judge the ASI's report than are the three judges. You may take that as hubris is you wish. The ASI found no large pillars or sculptures and nothing remotely like an idol of Rama anywhere near the spot. They decided a temple existed solely because the ruling party at the time, the BJP, wanted them to come to such a decision. Dig into any prime plot of land in a long-settled city and you'll turn up something that could be construed as a shrine.

In any case, the ASI report had been roundly criticised BEFORE the judgement. Independent archeologists who were allowed access to the same site after demolition wrote a report contradicting ASI claims.

The bit about being against the tenets of Islam is ridiculous. Two Hindu judges say it was against the tenets of Islam, one Muslim judge says it was within the tenets of Islam. Even if an existing structure was destroyd to build it, it was still a mosque. There's absolutely nothing in Islam that prevents a mosque from being built on a destroyed or converted place of worship of another religion. I'm not ignoring it, I mentioned this specifically in my previous post on the issue.

In any case, the Hindu judges appear to believe that smuggling in statues of gods into a place of Islamic worship and proclaiming that place is now a temple is presumably OK according to Hindu tenets.

As far as Soli Sorabjee goes, I respect his viewpoint, but I'm not bound to agree with it any more than I'm bound to agree with the judgement itself.

As for title, why not award the land to the ASI, which managed the site for decades?

Ruchik said...


Again you are messing up facts; to reply briefly:
1)Your point about about "you" is taken; my apologies and I am not a HARDCORE FUNDAMENTALIST HINDU by any measure.

2) My apologies but I would rather believe the high court judges than you about the archeological evidence; Even if I take your point about the ASI report being tampered due to the BJP ; I believe that the Waqf board would have provided evidence countering ASI 's claims by providing counter evidence which as you say is very obvious; The archeological evidence should have been strong enough to convince the judges ; I would rather believe a judge who has spent hours listening to both sides of the evidence than a blogger who probably is prejudiced about the issue .If the ASI report is as bad as you say why no lawyer of the Waqf board questioned it? Perhaps it is as simple as you being WRONG?

3)The fact that a temple stood at the spot is not at all irrelevant; it brings into question the ownership of the land; which has to be decided. It was on this basis that Justice Khan decided to allocate 1/3rd land to the Hindus.

4)About the mosque being against the tenets of Islam; even the Waqf lawyer said that if it is proved that a temple was destroyed to build the mosque they would NOT have a mosque there as it is against Islam; again I would rather believe him than you

5)I find what you are doing attributing religious motives to the judges VERY VERY VERY disturbing; I would like to believe that the judges would not have allowed their religion to come in their way; since you are doing so what do you have to say about Justice Khan awarding 1/3 rd of the land ; including area under the dome to Hindus? I would like to believe that the judges examined the evidence in an unbiased way and reached a sound decision.

6)I would not mind awarding the site to ASI; however rightly or wrongly millions of Hindus believe the site to be sacred and I am glad if they can worship Lord Rama there I am glad that Muslims too have an opportunity to worship God in that sacred city of Ayodhya , in their own way. I have no doubt that people have a right to appeal to the highest court in the land. I am glad that those unhappy with the judgement have a right to go to the supreme court. That is democracy.I have no doubt that India needs peace for life and progress. I am glad that Indians have received the verdict peacefully.

Ps: I tried to look up the Soli Sorabjee video for you ; but it seems NDTV has taken it off ;

I respect your view point just as you respect Sorabjee's point; but I am not bound to agree with you as well.

Girish Shahane said...

Ruchik, you obviously believe in appeals to authority. That's fine. I don't.

I don't accept the Waqf board's argument about what constitutes a mosque either. It was foolish to bring in the issue of what happened in the 16th century, and state that building a mosque on another religious structure disqualifies it from being a mosque. By that logic, the Gyanvapi mosque, among others, is not a mosque and should not be a place of Muslim worship. The Waqf board and the Babri Masjid committee, for whom I have very little sympathy, tried to whitewash the history of Islam. The fact is that, while I don't believe there's any evidence for Babur or Mir Baqi having destroyed a temple to build a mosque in Ayodhya, there's loads of evidence for temples and other places of worship being destroyed or forcibly taken over by Muslim rulers in India and across the world.

The Waqf board should have stuck to what we know, which is that the mosque was indubitably a place of Islamic worship for centuries; any fact beyond that is, in my view, extraneous to the legal debate.

My pointing to the faith of the judges was not a way of 'attributing religious motives'. It was just to indicate the irony of the lone Muslim judge accepting the Babri Masjid's status as a mosque, while the two Hindu judges did not.

Justice Sharma's comments, by the way, bring his own faith into the foreground, there is no need for me to do so. He accepts a particular spot as the birthplace of Ram on the basis of NO evidence. In such circumstances, I'm hardly surprised he took the ASI report at face value, and went even beyond to assert a temple was destroyed to build the mosque.

Justice Khan's decision had more to do with the idols of Ram that were smuggled in five decades ago than a temple that might have existed six centuries ago.

For myself, I don't believe people who smuggle idols into a mosque and then pretend they appear miraculously, and people who destroy a five century old mosque, should be rewarded for their behaviour. But that is effectively what the judgement does.

I believe we have reached the end of this argument. If you have any further comments, please address the particular issue in my post, and not the judgement in general, which we can debate forever.

VV said...

If they did want to partition, at the very least, they should have got it to the status quo BEFORE the main dome was broken into and the idols installed. Then, the courtyard part where they had the Ram Chabbutra should have been partitioned for Hindu worship ... based on legal usage or adverse possession or some such legal maxim instead of making ridiculous claims of divinity.

VV said...

Re: you point #3 about allotting ownership of a plot of land based on who owned something 500 years back, I am quite astonished you dont see anything problematic about it. How far back do you want to go? (which is why you have limitation periods to land claims in most parts of the world with a few exceptions made for indigenous land)

In which case, why stop at places of worship? I am sure there must have been 10s of 1000s of cases (if not millions) of land grabs where some powerful zamindar or king illegally grabbed some less powerful's land or house over the past 3000 years of Indian history. And I am sure many people can be found to have the "belief" or "faith" that indeed a certain piece of land is theirs. Why not open such claims to everybody? Why privilege Ram temples alone?

And what about land grabs for "development" projects like the Narmada Valley or the Vedanta mines? We dont even have to go back 500 years for that- just a mere decade.

Anonymous said...

What gives any of the parties to the dispute the right to claim they represent all hindus or all muslims ?

They each represent in order:
a. themselves
b. some of their followers.
c. some sections of the general population.

In light of the fact that the place was used by both H&M centuries ago, it should have been called public land and vested with the government of UP. And then, CM Mayawati could have built all sorts of statues and that alone would've brought all warring factions to gether to demand the building of a multipurpose structure like say a hospice for the terminally ill to be funded in perpetuity by donations from H&M !
All the money from auctioning the gifts of Lalbagcha Raja and Zakat during Ramzan could be channelled towards the hospice. S ANAND

sumanya said...

I just stumbled upon your blog after reading your article on LP in Yahoo and I am enjoying reading your blog too. You make a great point here and I think that peace reigned only because the Ram janma Bhoomi political movement was legitimized by this judgment. If the court has decided differently there is no knowing what might have followed.

Girish Shahane said...

Thanks, Sumanya, appreciate your kind words.

Siddhartha Prakash said...

Just a small part I wanted to clarify..
'I don't accept the Waqf board's argument about what constitutes a mosque either"

You question ASI, the judge, the judgement and the Waqf as well. While democracy allows you to have your view, we all need to have some level of trust in the institutions of our country.

In this specific case, it is the Sharia law. The Waqf board and the judge are not saying in air. This is an established Islamic law and something accepted by courts.

I hope you do believe in my humble right to beg to differ:)

Girish Shahane said...

Yes, Siddharth. And I hope you believe in my right to do the same.

ankan said...

"the ASI, unfortunately, played a terrible role in the case. It bent to the ruling party's wishes and came up with a conclusion unsupported by the facts it had marshalled."

How on earth do you make that judgement? Here is the fact.
The report of ASI are not based on opinions, is is based on physical evidence that was recorded during excavations. Many people, mostly historians from JNU, put their objections and disputes to the court. The court read their objections. The people who wrote these objections deposed before the court and were cross examined. All this is recorded in the judgements in gory detail. You just have to read the vol 7 and 8 of Justice Agarwal's judgement to understand the mode of operation of these historians. Otherwise, read the excerpts as they have come out in the media (TOI, Telegraph, Outlook, Pioneer etc.)

The details are just shocking. One historian said , “I am giving statement on oath regarding Babri Mosque without any probe and not on the basis of my knowledge; rather I am giving the statement on the basis of my opinion.” Another person claimed expertise based on the fact that she had written the introduction to someone's book. Once it was established that Babri masjid was not erected on virgin land, the historians went back on their previous claim and tried to establish that the underground structure was actually an idgah ( based on flimsy evidence that was rejected by all judges). One person tried to argue that since animal bones were found during excavation underground structure could not be a temple. The same person testified that in excavations done at other temple sites animal bones have been regularly found, thus negating his own argument.

There are numerous such instances, I cannot go into all. The bottomline is that all attempts to oppose the ASI report was badly discredited.

Girish Shahane said...

Ankan, I don't believe anybody had ever claimed the Babri masjid was built on virgin land. Almost any land in cities long occupied will reveal other buildings if excavated.
I have read the ASI report as it has appeared in the media, and have read the counter report by Ratnagar and Mandal, and I find the latter more convincing. The ASI was clearly bending over backwards to please the rulers at the time.