Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Ayodhya Verdict

There are many absurdities that have piled up in the years since the Ayodhya cases began to be heard decades ago, so it is hardly surprising the verdict is itself a hodgepodge.
I am particularly taken by Justice Dharam Veer Sharma's summation of the matter.
The way I see it, there are four issues that can be enumerated in descending order of certitude:
1) We can be absolutely sure a mosque existed at the spot for centuries.
2) We can be fairly certain the mosque was built on the order of Emperor Babur's general Mir Baqi around 1528.
3) We have strongly divided views on whether the mosque was built after demolishing a temple.
4) We have no way at all of proving the spot is the birthplace of Lord Rama. What archeological evidence we have suggests that the present site of Ayodhya was not settled at the time when Rama is supposed to have been born.

In Justice Sharma's 'issues for briefing' the order of certitude I have outlined is reversed. In his view:

1) The disputed site is the birthplace of Lord Ram.
2) The mosque on it was constructed after demolishing a temple.
3) The year of the mosque's construction is uncertain (the verdict says the plaintiffs have failed to prove it was built by Mir Baqi or Babur).
4) It cannot be treated as a mosque at all, since it "came into existence against the tenets of Islam".

I feel I've travelled through the looking glass.

And now, onto the Supreme Court, and a few more years of the same arguments.


The Cydonian said...

> I feel I've travelled through the looking glass.

By which you mean Justice DV Sharma's ruling is the exact lateral inverse of your views on this matter?

Thought I liked Justice Khan's ruling significantly better; his ruling seems to be centered around the fact that there was syncretic worship in the structure for centuries before 1853, and that the ruling 'merely' takes it all back to that mode. Which of course, is not to say I agree or whether the reasoning even here is logically sound; merely, that if you're looking for a reason to split the land, this is a better reason than to say Lord Ram was born in the exact spot where Babri's central dome used to exist.

To put it politely, this is not a resounding restatement of freedom and liberty that I was hoping for, like that ruling on Section 330 did.

(As you said, the entire stuff is quite a hodgepodge, so I could be reading wrongly)

Also, I'm beginning to feel the question of who owns the land is, ultimately, quite secondary to the question of 'who should be punished for the structure's demolition' The bloodshed and dange happened because of that demolition, not because a title-dispute went on for 150 years.

Girish Shahane said...

Not that Jutice Sharma's ruling is the exact lateral inverse of my view, but of what can logically be described as the order of certitude. Even most of the Hindus in the VHP didn't dispute the idea that a mosque was built by Mir Baqi a general of Babur. There's an inscription from the time at the site, providing a date and the general's name, and the structure is in the same style as other mosques built by Babur. What proof could you get beyond these two very substantial facts? Yet, it is held that the plaintiffs have not proven the mosque was built in the 16th century.
AS for it not being a mosque because it doesn't adhere to Islamic precepts, that's a joke. What precepts is he speaking about? One of them is that there were no minarets. The minarets are just an architectural convention, many mosques around the world do away with them.
So it really isn't a question of just my views. There are a number of verdicts I could quote which are the polar opposite of my views but which I nevertheless hold to be carefully thought through and valid in themselves.

The Cydonian said...

Yup, sorry, should have phrased it better; not _your_ views per se, thought-processes in general. Didn't immediately understand that looking-glass metaphor.

Yup, that bit about what a mosque is (or isn't) bothered me too; back in Hyderabad, we've traditionally been, let's say informal, about temple and masjid architectures; loads of masjids without minars and many more temples without dhvajasthambham's. Can't deny their religious nature just because of a few different features.

Girish Shahane said...

Oh, OK. Yes, 'looking glass' world meaning lateral inverse, with a bit of distortion to bring in a bizarre element.

VV said...

How in the world did a deity get juridical standing? That is just amazing! and how in the world can a judge say such things " 'It is personified as the spirit of divine worshipped as birthplace of Lord Rama as a child.'" .... "According to the majority ruling, the spirit of divine remains ever present everywhere and at all times for anyone to invoke at any shape or form in accordance with his/her own aspirations."

So now anyone can make land claims based on the presence of the "spirit of the divine"? Astonishing!!! I Can I have first dibs on Ambani's house?
-- VV

Girish Shahane said...

VV, I knew of peculiar Indian laws that treat deities like people; gods can pay taxes, have PAN cards and so on. Funny thing is that young gods are treated like young humans. Since Ram lalla is a minor, he needs a guardian in court. That was new to me, a new level of idiocy.

Siddhartha Prakash said...

Hi Girish,
I like your writing style in most of your blogs but I am afraid I cannot agree to the reasoning you have given.

Judgement: 1) The disputed site is the birthplace of Lord Ram.
Me: This is a tricky question and shouldn't have been brought before a judge. Please go through the Calcutta Quran petition verdict.
It has been ruled that for soemthing of religious view, for it to be sanctified, the judges or constitution don't need to follow reasoning.
The mere fact that a considerable number of people believe it that way and there is enough proof of the same being done for many years is enough to decide that the
religious entity is sanctified by law. The only tricky part was 'before the mosque was built, were the people in general worshipping it as the birth place of lord Ram.?"
The defendent(VHP) was able to prove so. Please go through the historical records put before the court. In fact till 1988, Encyclopedia Britannica also mentioned this thing.
Even earlier in almost all historical records it was mentioned as 'Masjid-e-Janmasthan'. That ASI found remains of a temple underneath it is no surprise at all.
The verdict of birthplace is based on the proof being submitted that since time immemorial and much before the mosque was built, the place was being worshipped as such.

2) The mosque on it was constructed after demolishing a temple.
Me: Justice Khan's contention was that the mosque was built on ruins of an existing temple. So he did agree that there was an existing temple. Now it is difficult to
determine that the mosque was built by demolishing it. Still there are many records which court accepted, which claim the demolition. The only reason why this cannot be
confirmed 100% percent is because Babar's memoir during this period were lost in a storm. In fact there are many Muslim scholars who have claimed so as early as 1900s.
But they mention about Masjid-e-Janmasthan being built. They also talk about Sita Ki Rasoi, and Hanuman Garhi to give an indication of the location of the temple
which was demolished to build the temple.

3) The year of the mosque's construction is uncertain (the verdict says the plaintiffs have failed to prove it was built by Mir Baqi or Babur).
Me: I don't understand what is wrong with it. As I mentioned, since the pages are missing from the memoirs of Babar, it is natural that it cannot be proved 100%.

4) It cannot be treated as a mosque at all, since it "came into existence against the tenets of Islam".
sidp: It was AIMPLB which put forth its Sharia law that if a mosque is built by demolishing another religious structure, it doesnt remain a mosque. They used this a
'proof' that no temple was demolished. Now that the demolition of temple was proved, the same law was applied to hold that the structure is not a mosque. They didn't
expect this but got paid pback in the same coin.

One part of judgement you forgot to 'analyze' is: If the title suit is dismissed, how come the Muslim community get 1/3rd of the land.
In fact the AIMPLB had given written statement that 'if it is proved to be birth place of Lord Ram, then for the sake of brotherhood' or 'if it is proved to be built by
demolishing a temple, then for the sake of Sharia' they will give up the title to the complete land. Title suit is a technical lawsuit. It decides, who owns
the land as per law. VHP and Akhara got it based on adverse possession rule and the document of ownership they submitted. AIMPLB had none. Still they got 1/3rd.
This was keeping in mind the sensitive nature of the verdict and judges displayed a good understanding.

I feel the verdict is not only technically sound, but in best interest as well.

Girish Shahane said...

Hi Siddharth,

Your points:

1: I believe you are wrong about the Encyclopedia Britannica. The thing is that there are many temples in Ayodhya claiming to be that birthplace. So it isn't as if all Hindus believed the spot where the Babri Masjid stood was where Rama was born.

2. Anything written about the 16th century in the 19th century, whether by Brits, Muslims or Hindus, and after cannot be taken as historical fact unless it quotes authentic earlier sources.

3. There was a clear inscription on the mosque stating when it was built and by whom.

4. I agree the AIMPLB made that claim. It is an absurd claim. I've said earlier that I support neither the AIMPLB's stance on Ayodhya, nor on society in general. As a matter of fact, I favour a uniform civil code, not various personal laws applicable according to community.

TupacLives said...

Having read your LP article and i am taking the liberty of using its logic here. Muslims lost the babri structure, why whine and moan now, get over it.

Girish Shahane said...

If you think the destruction of the Babri masjid in contravention of court orders within a democratic state is the equivalent of a battle fought between two kingdoms seven centuries ago, that's fine by me, Tupac. But it has nothing to do with the logic of my article.

Siddhartha Prakash said...

Hi Girish,
Thanks for your responses. I am one of the souls just trying to find out the truth through discussion. Here is some proof I can share with you.

1: The wikipedia states that "References such as the 1986 edition of the Encyclop√¶dia Britannica reported that "SriRama’s birthplace is marked by a mosque, erected by the Mughal emperor Babar in 1528 on the site of an earlier temple".[10"
I don't know why it was removed after the 1986th edition but coincides with the time religion became raked up issue in India.

2. I find this strange reasoning. It is based on post 16th century writings that we assume Shah Jahan to be the person who got Taj Mahal built. Those days there were very few people doing this work and weren't guided by pseudo-secularism or
Abhinav Bharat kind of mentality to fabricate something. More importantly , it is the writings of Islamic scholars which are enough to prove it.
Eg: Maulana Hakim Sayed Abdul Hai has written in Nadwatul-Ulama in 1915
""This mosque was constructed by Babar at Ayodhya which Hindus call the birth place of Ramchandraji.
There is a famous story about his wife Sita. It is said Sita had a temple here in which she lived and cooked food for her husband.
On that very site Babar constructed this mosque in H. 963"

Now let me add little logic into available records: All records mention it as Masjid-e-Janmasthan. Hindus attacking the mosque as early as 18th century (per available confirmed records). If you read available history, it is
commonly known that Hindus never attacked places of worship in those days, but they did fight to protect the temples. Babar's memoir mention destruction of main temples at Kashi and Mathura.
After these two places the third once is Ayodhya , pages of which are missing from the memoirs. Add to that the contention even before excavation that temple remains will be
found underneath the structure and they have been found.
I agree that there is no contemporary source to confirm this, but there are just too many historicals, few of them mentioned above, to confirm that the structure was indeed built by destroying a temple.

Girish Shahane said...


1: Don't trust everything you read in Wikipedia.

2. WE use post 16th century documents with respect to the Taj because it is a post-16th century structure. It was built in the middle of the 17th century, and there are a number of contemporary mentions of it, though certain 'scholars' on the web insist there are not, and readers believe them as they believe Wikipedia because that is what they want to believe.

3. Babur certainly mentions nothing at all about destroying any temple in Kashi and Mathura. You are wrong about this too.

I suggest you read a few primary texts and books authored by internationally recognised historians rather than Hindutvavadi pamphlets on the Web. You might get at a more accurate picture of the past.

I'm afraid I don't have time to keep correcting such errors of which there are thousands afloat.

Siddhartha Prakash said...

Thanks for your suggestion, I guess I will have to ask Wikipedia to read a few primary texts and books authored by internationally recognised historians.