The Second Demolition: Ayodhya Judgement September 30, 2010

December 6, 1992

A shameful and shocking judgement.

I am shattered by what it does, by its implications for democracy, and by the statement it makes about what we can expect for the future.

My rage is growing with every statesman-like pronouncement from one pompous man after the other in the media, gravely holding forth on the maturity of the compromise that has been reached.

What on earth can Pratap Bhanu Mehta for example, mean when he says in the piece Aman links to:

The acknowledgement that this site be regarded for this purpose as the birthplace of Ram is, if anything, an attempt to de-politicise religion.

How is it depoliticizing religion to regard the site “for this purpose” as the birthplace of Ram? The purpose of deciding whom the land belongs to? You’re going to bring in God Himself into a property dispute and this is “de-politicizing religion”?

Whether Ram is an artefact of faith or reason, of myth or history, eternal or contingent, real or non-existent, can be debated. But the court seems to recognise that that discussion cannot simply wish away the forms of self-consciousness that have characterised Indian society…

What is this “Indian self”, in Pratap’s understanding and in the Court’s? Does it include practising Brahmo Samajis or devout Sanatani Hindus like my mother, appalled that any Hindu can really believe that the Divine Presence is limited to the sankirnata, the limitedness, of a precise earthly spot? What about non-Hindus and Dalits? What about atheists and religious agnostics? What is the Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas after all – a trust set up with the sole purpose of building the temple, a loose coalition of mostly north Indian sadhus, sants and mahants, and VHP and BJP members. That represents “Indian” self-consciousness?

The court seems to accommodate [religion’s] claims, without jeopardising the secular character of the state. This will not satisfy purists. But it is not an implausible way of strengthening secularism.

But the Court hasn’t accommodated the claims of “religion” per se, has it? The claims of Sunnis or of Muslims in general, have not been accommodated, have they? Recognizing the claims of a powerful section of Hindus is strengthening secularism? I feel like Alice, wandering bewildered in Looking Glass Land.

I am sick and tired of mealy-mouthed caution: perhaps we’re missing the technical points of the judgement, this is a land title dispute, let’s figure out what it means legally, do we really understand all the finer points of the law here…

Technicality? Legality? The judgement is utterly cavalier and selective about when it will emphasize legalities and technicalities, and when it will ignore them. When one argument seems a little weak, other, quite contradictory ones are added on, just to be on the safe side. Like a liar who says, sorry I couldn’t do what I promised to do, because I was flat out with dengue, and also I was busy looking after my old mother who fractured her foot, and then it started raining heavily so the roads were flooded.

“Faith” is enough to ground a judgement in a modern court of law, but also, the ASI report shows that a temple was demolished to build the mosque, and also the Sunni Waqf Board is unable to prove its rights conclusively.

So which is it?

The scientificity of the ASI report? Full of flaws, highly suspect and technically unsustainable.

Legal documents? The Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas has none that survive legal scrutiny. The terms and conditions of the lease deed of March 20, 1992,on which the RJN-VHP claim to 43 acres of land is based, reveals that the 43 acres belonged to the State of Uttar Pradesh. It was given on lease to the RJN for specific purposes only. It is state land to be used only for a public purpose. Construction of a temple is in conflict with such purposes. So the Nyas has no legal ownership of the land.

Hence the resort to Faith. But you know what? Bet the Sunni Waqf Board has plenty of that.

Pratap also says “it would be a mistake for any side to go for a maximalist position” on the property issue. “Any” side can only mean the Sunni Waqf Board, because neither the Nyas nor the Akhara can possibly stake a claim to more than they have been awarded by the Court. To assert a right to more than they have been awarded, warns Pratap,  would show they are “relentless in pursuit of property”. So – when the RJN claims property it is about various abstract and high-minded principles going all the way up to God. When the Waqf Board claims what is legally its, that’s venal and crass.

When all the reasoning comes to a grinding halt,  everyone mutters all around, but imagine if the judgement had recognized that the “Hindus” have no legal ground to stand on at all, imagine what would happen, there would be a bloodbath.

That’s what this is about. But if this is it, if preventing a bloodbath is what it’s about, and if what’s required for that is to satisfy the slaughterers, then why bother to go to court? Why not just have a negotiated settlement in the appropriate “panchayat” of wise men from both communities in which the weaker party compromises fully, and shuts the hell up after that?

The woman has been raped, she is pregnant, she has nowhere to go, the panchayat meets, the rapist is willing to marry her, all sorted out. The baby will be born legitimate, the woman has a husband. And anyway, imagine if he was not ready to marry her, what would we do, she would have to commit suicide. Or we would have to kill her. He has another wife? No matter. He is a drunkard and serial rapist? Cool. As long as she can put some sindoor in her parting.

We’re done with it, we have sorted it out, can we move on now please? Let’s not dwell in the past, kya phayda.

Forget the past? Okay, I’m confused. You mean forget that Babar may or may not have destroyed a temple to build the Masjid?

Oh no, no. We meant “the past” as in the demolition of the Masjid in 1992, eighteen years ago. Forget that. The past when Babar destroyed the temple? Five hundred years ago? That past we will remember forever.

We’re the raped women married to our rapists so that the village can carry on as before.

Muslims of course, and other religious minorities.

But also Hindus for whom Ram is irrelevant.

And also us poor fools – bearing our religious community identities in our names and under the Personal Laws that govern us, but imagining ourselves to be citizens in a modern democracy, believing that justice must be done to every community and group in any situation of conflict.

Many of us shouted ourselves hoarse at the time – this is a political issue. It cannot be decided in a court of law. It has to be addressed politically, by sustained work at every level, all sections of India society should have a say in the debate, make this a huge public, national referendum of sorts.

But how much easier to say “let the courts decide”. As if the courts are above the politics of our times.

So now the court has decided.

And we have been married to our rapists. Silenced by the threat of violence.

At least let’s not pretend that this hideous situation is fair or just.

61 thoughts on “The Second Demolition: Ayodhya Judgement September 30, 2010”

  1. And, the question of ‘disputed land’ is also problematic. As if putting idols in stealth in any plot of land would make it disputed, and not occupied. May be we need to think through the terminology of the disputed.


  2. Not only have we been married to the rapist, we must continue to live in constant fear of his uncontrollable impulses. Once again, the Hindu nation has othered its muslims. And perhaps in principle, it’s not really about whether there was a mosque or temple to begin with. Public land does not recognize religion. But the logic of this land division is exactly the underlying violent logic of communal division. So we stop one kind of violence only to perpetrate another kind. This should be declared National Shame Day for India.


    1. How do you explain the fact that many people of all religious backgrounds, including Moslems, are happy or at least not unhappy with the verdict? It seems to be an extreme tribe of militant-secularists( who may or may not have any interest in religion per se) are the ones making the biggest noise. Case in point, look at this website and its comments!


    2. Varun, you say: “How do you explain the fact that many people of all religious backgrounds, including Moslems, are happy or at least not unhappy with the verdict?”
      Here are two replies to your question from this site alone, and which, if you personally knew even one Muslim, you would have come across by now:
      Jamal: “a Muslim friend and colleague from Gujarat who works in a riot affected Muslim ghetto in Ahmedabad. She called me immediately after hearing the judgment and said she is relieved and happy. Had it been in the favour of Muslims she was sure another dhamal (riot) would have happened…”
      Khurram Khan: “i am a normal working middle-class (struggling to be modern) muslim of india. i believe that the judgement was based more on the fact that ‘It Never Was Ours’ and ‘We’d never get it anyway’. the fact of the matter is, i believe that i am nothing but a second class citizen. sad but true, this judgement has been accepted by many muslims as a ‘gift’ than a right…i just don’t want any communal riots…”

      “Moslems” as you call them, have accepted the judgement because they have realised they are second-class citizens, and are relieved not to face the violence the Hindu Right would have set off, if the judgement had been really fair and based on sound legal principles. Of course, that is the success of the politics of the Hindu right, but what I find intriguing is why so many of you from Advani down, do not want to claim THIS as your success, and instead, keep on and on about legality and democracy.


  3. The author of above piece needs a reality check.

    She categorizes the Ayodhya verdict as “shameful and shocking”. Even in a democracy like India, this qualifies as contempt of court. Is the author implying that the high court judges are biased against minorities or is she accusing them of incompetence ? The author further labels the judgement as “utterly cavalier and selective” giving you the impression that the judgement was made by some kangaroo court in a banana republic. It was not according to me (and scores of writers and journalists accross the nation). On the contrary the court gave a clear cut decision and made sure that no party feels vanquished.

    The author then goes ahead and terms the ASI report as “Full of flaws, highly suspect and technically unsustainable”. This is an equally absurd allegation if not more. As in the case of high court judges, the author is accusing the ASI of religious bias or incompetence or both. I don’t know how much the author knows about archelogy and I surely can’t figure out how she gained access to the reports submitted to High Court by the ASI (by a thorough examination of which she came to the conclusion that ASI has played the villain) but I do know that ASI is a government institution and if there had been glaring discrepencies in its reports the high court had every right to question the reports and even reject them (unless, of course, the High court judges was simply incapable of perceiving what was obvious to our esteemed author).

    The author then blasts the journalists who see an even iota of justice and good sense in the judgement. It seems that the author has lost faith in Indian judiciary, its institutions and to some extent, the media. My advice to her would be – “Ma’am, you are too good for this wretched Hindu nation. Kindly pack you bags and leave. Saudi Arabia will be a good destination, Pakistan will be better (they have demolished all the hindu temples so you will be spared the agony of seeing one). Enjoy the real democracy in a MUslim nation. Adieu”.

    For others who do not agree with Ayodhya judgement – For a monent do not look at this issue as a religious one. Keep aside faith and think like an Indian. The Ram temple symbolises India and its heritage. Babar was an attacker, enemy of our nation who came to India to take us slaves and crush our civilization. What should be the sign of a free and resurgent India, Ram mandir or Babri mosque ?


    1. Vicharak, this judgement IS the reality check. And the reality is that the Court has now given legitimacy to bigoted voices such as yours, which can claim that not only “the law” but EVEN “scores of writers and journalists across the nation”, think like you. Well congratulations, you have won. For now. But voices such as mine are not silent either. In fact I realised only after I posted this that a commentator on Aman’s post (Satya Sagar) has independently referred to the judgement as the second demolition.
      a) “Contempt of court.” The actual (and perhaps the only) contempt of court in this respect was committed by the BJP which had given a legal commitment to the Supreme Court that the Babri Masjid would not be harmed. It broke that commitment and showed its utter contempt for rule of law.
      b) “Are judges biased against minorities and/or incompetent?” Judges are human, with human prejudices that arise from their social contexts. They are not robots descended form outer space. And yes, there can be incompetent judges like there can be incompetent teachers and doctors and engineers.
      c) “I don’t know how much the author knows about archelogy and I surely can’t figure out how she gained access to the reports submitted to High Court by the ASI”. Vicharak, these are public documents, and the problems with the ASI report have been pointed out for very long in the public domain. Here is an article written in 2003 by Praful Bidwai and here is a statement by SAHMAT that Aman also links to.
      d)”Kindly pack your bags and leave”. Hindustan aap ke aadarniya pitaji ki bapauti hai kya?? Get a grip, Vicharak!
      e)”What should be the sign of a free and resurgent India, Ram mandir or Babri mosque ?” The sign of a free and resurgent India would actually be neither, but should be free and prosperous and secure people living their lives. I would have said “Parliament” except that that building has seen more betrayals of Indian people than any other structure in history.


    2. There was three judges bench in Ayodhya land dispute ,out of three one was muslims and other two were hindus so naturally ,they decided to favours the hindus.why they did not form the five bench where they should have had five judges so if matter goes to supreme court ,135 million muslims must asked for five judges bench and and hindu and muslims judges should be equal numbers then only we will have proper decision.It is great news that sunni wakf board is going to supreme courtto chalange the ayodhya verdict.


  4. One of the most telling posts I have come across. Finally someone has had the courage to speak the truth.

    The rest of us just watched the bull being slaughtered in the arena. Wonder what would happen if the bull becomes the matador, and matador the bull? Oh! But that is already happening, isn’t it? Painted red with pelted stones.


  5. The judgment is premised on deciding title to the disputed property based on competing legal claims as of 1949. So thats why it claims to ignore the demolition of the mosque in 1992, as irrelevant. But interesting counterfactual arises here. What if the mosque had indeed not been demolished. Would the court have decreed the same relief: a three-way partition then? In order to execute such a decree, the court would then have to order demolition of the mosque! Perhaps that would have been solomonic (as opposed to panchayati) justice.
    Indeed, precisely because the mosque was demolished, the court now was able to order such a partition of the property.


    1. the court could still have ordered partition three ways and handed over a portion of the mosque to the Hindus. Whereas you might want to argue that is equivalent to demolition the fact is that is how most shared places of worship are structured. Witness the Bababudan giri dargah ( and other dargahs) which has idols.


  6. So now you know there are pompous sanatan hindus who like to believe that their intellectual understanding of ‘aham brahmasmi’ makes blighted souls out of believers in Lord Ram. Of course you can then remove yourself from the Indian self that believes in experiential worship and belief. The comparison of the verdict to panchayati justice is an extension if that same intellectual pomposity. My way of faith and belief says it’s ridiculous to think that Ram can be virajman in any particular place more. But that my friend is the basis of every temple and every temple going worshiper. It’s an affirmation of divine presenc arrived at through a myth of the divine potency – an ithihyam – of thenplac and a sacralisation of it. So if you don’t understand anything but your mother’s belief please don’t venture to comment on other people’s. Thank you.


    1. Devi, the pomposity that you display beats anything my poor mother can manage!
      The point she makes is not about whether God can be said to reside in temples at all, but about the actual precise birth-place of Ram being that exact spot. Not just “Ayodhya”, but THERE, under that dome, where the Ram Lalla murti was placed by an interested political group.
      Dont give me anthropological wisdom about the sacralisation of temples – there IS NO temple there at Ayodhya. The building of one is what the Hindutvavaadi brigade has run its engine on since the late 80’s. So if you’re going to call it a “temple” already, you’re referring to the “beliefs” of a political movement, not of any entity called “Hindus”. And those beliefs for you are superior to the beliefs of other Hindus as well as of non-Hindus, and non-believers of course. That’s fine, but it would be more honest then to make a straightforward Hindutvaadi argument like Vicharak, than to make a pretence of liberal tolerance which only extends to some sections of Hindus, not even all of them.


    2. As much as I thought – people who love their own words, dont listen to others. Some of the other comments to this post make more sensible reading that your scholarly intervention. Clearly you havent even read what I wrote – except for the word ‘pompous’. And its also clear you havent so much as stepped inside a temple. If you have and cared to understand how a temple comes to be in a place, you would have known that it requires a myth, usually referred to as Aithihyam, and a process of sacralising that myth as architectural form, called Prathishta. And that is a way of reaffirming faith in different sacred locations. As the verdict points out, in Islam, there is no such idealisation of a particular place as a place for the divine, prior to the construction of a space for worship. The divine is formless and omniscient. It is the same in the metaphysical reaches of Hinduism, but not as it is practised, where it involves an active form of reaffirming that omnisience. So, when you say that a section of people can be “appalled that any Hindu can really believe that the Divine Presence is limited to the sankirnata, the limitedness, of a precise earthly spot”, you are clearly exhibiting a bourgeoise intellectual stance that would put our colonial masters to shame. Radical liberals like you can sometimes do more damage than your mirror image, the fascists, who at least make no bones about their stakes in the dispute.


    3. 1. “Its also clear you havent so much as stepped inside a temple”
      Devi, let’s make a deal. You dont make assumptions about places I have stepped into or not, and I wont make assumptions about your location in a salubrious place far away from India, from where you pronounce on how we should live here. After all, we may both be wrong, right?
      2. “a temple…requires a myth, usually referred to as Aithihyam, and a process of sacralising that myth as architectural form, called Prathishta…As the verdict points out, in Islam, there is no such idealisation of a particular place as a place for the divine, prior to the construction of a space for worship.”
      In other words,the judgement (and you) decide on what will and will not count as faith/religion, and makes a particular “Hindu” belief the test of faith. Not very unlike an Islamic state which declares idolatry to be anti-God. It will never cease to amaze me how much you guys look like each other. We “left-wing, pseudo-secular” types are constantly being exhorted to pack our bags and go to Saudi Arabia etc – it seems to me it’s you people who will feel right at home there. Or maybe when you actually have to encounter yourselves in another form it’s not so pretty.


  7. I have just begun to read the full judgment but my guess is that it is not tenable legally. But remember that a very large part of Indian jurisprudence would fail the strict requirements of legality. For example, all the rights declared under art.21, which many would readily admit, do not have any real basis in our Constitution but have gained legitimacy owing to their political acceptability. And many recent judgments like in the rickshaw-wallah case, RTI case (at least in some part), gay rights case would fail legal scrutiny had they been adjudged on purely legal grounds. The reality, like it or not, is that Indian courts for several decades now have tailored their judgments to address political exigencies especially in sensitive cases. Their value is assessed by the reaction of the media pundits and the political class which decides whether it meets the test of “nyaya” rather than “niti” – this, as some commentators have approvingly labeled, is the “dialogic” approach of the Indian judiciary where political pragmatism is everything and legal principles are secondary.

    Now you may disagree with many of these folks on whether this particular outcome amounts to “nyaya” but since both sides have something of a moral case (though you may disagree, many people believe and all the three judges agreed that a temple predated the mosque on that site) there is no objective or textual basis to determine the answer to that, it is simply your word against theirs and whoever has the louder voice in public prevails. Unless the educated elite is willing to stand up for legal and constitutional principles in all circumstances no matter how odious and inconvenient their political consequences are, these are exactly the sort of judgments you are going to have to live with.


  8. NIvedita’s excellent article expresses what many of us are feeling. It is shocking that so many so-called secularists should ask us to ignore the reasoning and move forward. I wonder whether in the 10,000 page Judgement there is evidence culled from past life regression. This HC judgement is the world according to Amar Chitra Katha and NDTV Imagine’s Pichle Janam Ka Raaz. It has done what the Sangh Parivar hasn’t been able to do in the last 10 years – give legitimacy to the Ramjanmabhoomi movement.


  9. Sub standard judges give sub standard judgements.

    By the way, Pratap Bhanu Mehta is the epitome of establishment intellectual. He has always played to the gallery. He knows his career is more important than all these silly moral principles. No surprises over there.

    I don’t think even supreme court will roll back this faith based judgement.

    It requires moral fibre to stand up to majoritarian community. It is something not many in establishment have. It is one thing to approve governments stealing land belonging to tribals, it is entirely a separate matter to stand up to Hindu fundamentalists and put them in their proper place.


  10. i am too sad and shocked to write anything except that it is a very dangerous judgement as it openly asserts and confirms the sangh parivar’s fascist agenda.


  11. gsk , pratap does not always write nonsense of this kind. but one can argue that this is where he can be tested for his logic which in this case is very shallow and dangerous.
    because all those who are talking about a compromise mean only one thing–muslims should surrender! this one-sidedness is called a compromise–my foot!
    but the real point is this: why is this talk of compromise taking place after religious fanatics backed by a fascist political party demolished a mosque? and the case is sub-judice? the sangh parivar is establishing its hegemony over the terms of discourse. for example, vajpayee wanted a national debate over conversion when nuns were being raped and churches were being vandalized—that is, you move into some other spatio-temporal horizon where the darkness of violence is ‘enlightened’ by a debate!
    they destroy a mosque and they spell out a compromise!


  12. The ‘judgement’ is yet another instance when the judiciary has had to take on itself functions of government/executive . The executive has the onus of making its citizens feel they live in an ‘equal’ land. the courts for their part judge matters on the basis of facts. That is, the equality and fairness responsibilities, on the edifice of which the state rests. But this blurring of responsibilities, or its very absence is what characterises the absent state in India.


    1. the state is not absent. it is partisan/sectarian from the point of view of gender, class, religion, caste etc. this on the ground leaves authoritarian markers.


  13. Dear Nivedita,

    You are so right!

    ‎… as some ‘Create a Nationality’ by force …
    … some others get ‘exiled at home’ …



  14. I share your anger and despair! Excellent! What saddens and scares me most is a reaction from a Muslim friend and colleague from Gujarat who works in a riot affected Muslim ghetto in Ahmedabad. She called me immediately after hearing the judgment and said she is relieved and happy. Had it been in the favour of Muslims she was sure another dhamal (riot) would have happened. People like Pratap Bhanu Mehta and other “liberals” will of course read her reaction as “people want to move on and forget the past”….


    1. pratap should audit logic-101.

      i do forget many things of my past but the point is nobody directs me to forget and remember!

      has pratap read how many muslims in gujarat left their villages on the verdict-day? can they forget this? or, should they forget this? logically speaking, it is important to note that these are two different questions. a natural process of forgetting is not the same as a socially, culturally instigated method of forgetting which is not really forgetting but suppression of memory. for example, sikhs are being asked to forget 1984.

      here, citizens are being directed by the media, political parties and the state—forget this; do not forget this; remember this; do not remember this. in other words, a play of psychological forces has been set into motion to construct both uniformity and diversity—a specific kind of uniformity and a particular form of diversity(gujarat is, perhaps, the most horrifying example of this)! THIS IS SCARY! and this must be countered.


  15. What should also concern us is that there are no forums/andolans available in Delhi where we could gather and make our protest public. On 7th December 1992, i remember a gathering of nearly 1000 people/activists. That was followed by several public meeting/dharnas/meetings in localities, debate and discussion. Similar mobilisation happened after the Nuclear tests and post Gujarat progrom. This judgment is a clear endorsement of the right wing Hindutava politics which we fought against during those years. Such moments should make us reflect on why we are not out on streets. Is it tiredness? Is it NGOisation? Are we too preoccupied (correctly) with state atrocities against tribals/maoism/kashmir? Is it fragmentation of democratic rights movements into categories of gender, human rights, environment, dalit rights etc….


    1. Dear jamal,135 million muslims donot have even a single national news papers how you will tell your brother about judgement.Dalit voice editors is writing about the vaccum in medias but no body listened and now time has come 135 million muslims and 160 million dalits should have their national news papers,what we are reading in national medias are hindu version of ayodhya decision.


  16. When Bhanu Pratap Mehta says the verdict on Barbri Masjid is an attempt depoliticise religion, he probably means it in the same sense as Justice Verma’s judgment on the the manohar Joshi case. Hinduism is Hindutva, and the latter is the ‘culture’ of India. Culture, according to some, has nothing to do with politics.

    Please to note, that our De-fence Minister has advised us all to hang in there, and wait for the final word from the Supreme Court on this matter. (Just an amused side remark).

    Those for the defense of secularism and democracy should seek ways to intervene; decide what to challenge as most violative of those principles; the fact that a deity, dubbed minor (talk of eternal childhood), is a litigant? that the ASI’s evidence is dubious (How can the court order rapid diggings to prove or disprove a matter like this); or something else.
    A lot is at stake, for India and indeed for Asia.


  17. Our country is not yet ready for the ‘right’ decision, which in this particular case should have been fairly easy to make based on archaeological evidences and legal documents. Instead the court passed an absolute farcical statement which I believe will work quite well under the present circumstances. I am NOT shamed. As the author of this post has rightly pointed out, the people in the courts are people like us. The decision is a reflection of our prejudices, our bigotry. This is totally what we deserve.


  18. Brilliant and courageous piece of writing, Nivedita…I think this is the best and most balanced commentary I’ve read on the issue…Please keep writing! It should appear in print and the so-called mainstream media


  19. While I share the sentiment expressed in the article, however it does not do justice [excuse the pun] to the analytical and conceptual issues at stake here. This dawned on me after discussing the verdict with an eminent (emeritus, now Delhi-based get the hints?) professor of jurisprudence [ideologically a left-liberal person, or you can even call him a radical liberal].

    His argument is shocking at first : the verdict and even Justice Sharma’s position can be defensible [‘can’ – because he wanted to arrive at a conclusion after going through the entire text of the judgments his final]. His tentative argument is as follows:

    #1 : Hinduism is a pagan religion and worships idols [I am not quite sure about this, but perhaps this is a personification of gods – in plural, which is beyond the problematic of representation of God – the singular God in the monotheistic traditions, SS.]. This personified god is accepted by the Indian law [perhaps the only country in the world] as a legal person (sometimes, a minor), and hence can become a plaintiff, who is represented by a human agent, and the law admits faith-based claims [an invention by the Indian jurists during the colonial period to ‘protect’ the Hindu religious sites from the conquest]. Hence, “Ram Lalla” became a party.

    This principle most probably holds good for or applies to the cases of claims over sacred groves, trees, animals, etc. in India.

    #2 : The possession through conquest is no longer admissible as a valid ground to hold the title to a property [i.e land or territory]. [Hence, Saddam Hussain’s ‘conquest’ of Kuwait was ‘illegal’ as per international laws]

    #3: A distinction has been made between [ the Mughal] “conquest through invasion” [leading to the establishment of a kingdom/ a structure of governing the conquered territory] and [the Hindu] “trespassing” [of a property of others (i.e. Wakf Board’s Babri Masjid of ) and then adversely holding it].

    #4 : As a consequence of the above two, the Wakf Board could only appeal as a title holder of the land, i.e. file a TITLE SUIT. Since Islam is strictly against idolatry, so their claim had to be a modern claim over property rights, not a faith-based claim.

    #5 : Hence, a conflict between the [historical] ‘faith-based’ (Hindu) claim , and a MODERN-property rights (Muslim) claim. Two different systems of legal reasoning are at play here, and the aporia therein – a classical postcolonial predicament.

    #6: The nature of the TITLE SUIT and the CLAIMS were different. It was not between INDIVIDUALS as most title suits are, but these are historical claims of COMMUNITIES. Hence, the scope of legal interpretation is wider and open to social considerations.

    #7: The question of evidence: the legal decision is arrived after going through the evidences produced. In this case, the Archaeological Society “had shown” that there was a structure which “resembled a temple.” Hence, the Mosque came up on a land which the builders [of the mosque] did not possess, or there is no proof that they were the original title holder of the property. The builders were the “conquers”, and the “conquers” cannot have a legal right to property that they possess [as per #2 above]. Hence, the Wakf Board’s historical claim over the property was on a weaker ground.

    # 8: The question of adverse possession: Under the Indian law, if anyone holds a property for 20 years or more, without any opposition (- but not sure how this is obtained in this case, SS.) , then the land/ property in the question becomes the property of the possessor. In this case, since, the Wakf Boad, the Idol, and Akhara were holding the land jointly and simultaneously for more than 20 years, hence, they are equal rights holder.


    I find the case quite (academically, speaking) interesting because the same BJP wants a Uniform Civil Code, which will deny the special status of minority Personal Laws. But in this case, they were the beneficiary of this hodgepodge legal system, which allowed the (pagan) faith-based claim to be made !!!

    The challenge before us is: how do we criticise this legally valid, but morally-politically wrong verdict?

    The political commentators have only criticised the Judges and their Judgements, in various ways;the point is to criticise law and legal reasoning.


  20. Sorry for the typos in my earlier post.

    Another point, which pertains to the questions raised by Romila Thapar in her the Hindu [‘Hindu’ !!] open-ed.

    The very fact that “whether a temple existed” was indeed a question before the High Court, and there
    is a legal procedure to answer this question, namely inferring from the evidences produced [inter alia, the ASI report – and as far I know, it is not the Court’s duty to judge the validity or the veracity of the report, rather the onus is on the opposing petitioners to prove it wrong], so the court could either throw the question out or entertain it – both of which are legally valid. The High Court in this case decided to entertain the question. The Supreme Court on another occasion did the opposite. But it seems, legally, both are right !

    Can someone shed more light on this issue?


  21. Swagato, the whole point is that this is a deeply political judgement with a political objective, and the legal reasoning has been produced post-facto to justify it. I would in fact say that all judgements do this, and that there is no purely technical, sterile legal judgement. “Legality” is produced within a vortex of political choice. Courts can decide to entertain a petition or not, intervene in executive functioning or hold back saying that is the executive’s prerogative, and in each case some equally sound legal principle is adduced. I think it’s a huge big red herring to start thinking that there are some abstruse legal principles involved that we dont get. This ‘rule of experts’ (to quote Tim Mitchell) is the big silencing move preventing the understanding of the political game that’s really going on.

    So I simply don’t agree that this is a legally sound judgement which happens to be ethically wrong. Satish in his comment above too, thinks the judgement is not legally tenable. Hilal’s post here on kafila shows the asymmetrical application in the judgement of ideas like faith, property ownership etc.

    The distinction you point out, made between conquest and trespass, is self-serving and an instance of the post-facto reasoning I am talking about. How can a court of today recognize a conquest that took place 500 years ago, but refuse to recognize as illegal a trespass that took place 60 years ago? How can international law of the 20th century (you cite Saddam Hussein) be applied to the 16th century?? Does this make any sense at all? That your left-liberal professor can calmly make these series of absurd claims, and that you can take it with such seriousness says a lot for how talk of Law can send common-sense spinning out of the window.

    Of course I am aware in India God is a juristic person. This has nothing to do with paganism but with property ownership.Temples are huge property owners and that is why the Devasthanams of temples like Tirupathi etc have IAS officers on their boards. My point precisely is that Ram Lalla the juristic person has no legal standing at the site of the Babri Masjid, and hence the resort to faith in the judgement.

    As for saying that the Waqf Board can only claim property and not faith because Islam is not an idolatrous religion, this is yet anothr example of self-serving reasoning masquerading as legal technicality. The question in that case was of an existing mosque, not of an idol. Worship had carried on at that mosque for decades. Worship at a mosque is about faith. As Anuj points out so astutely in his comment above, if that mosque stille existed, would the court have ordered its demolition?

    The fact that even ‘left-liberal’ professors of jurisprudence (who IS this person!?)are caught up in the looking-glass world produced by this judgement is precisely what make me angry and sad. And ever more convinced that political groupings abdicated their responsibility when they said let the courts decide.

    And finally, re your statement that this is about the “conflict between the [historical] ‘faith-based’ (Hindu) claim , and a MODERN-property rights (Muslim) claim. Two different systems of legal reasoning are at play here, and the aporia therein – a classical postcolonial predicament.” Not true. Either both claims must be treated as faith-based or both as involving claims to property. The fact that different standards are being applied to both is precisely the illegality here.


  22. 1) While this judgment is certainly ‘shameful’, I don’t think it is ‘shocking’ or even surprising really.
    Anyone familiar with the manner in which the Indian higher judiciary has operated – especially post-90s – would have *expected* the judgment to embody some kind of political calculus lurking behind a very thin veneer of judicial reasoning. I.e. ‘judgment’ – a reasoned deliberation based on evidence and law has now become only one of many *possible* outputs from the judiciary.

    2) One big difference since the post-90s has been the total decline in the craft of judicial writing. It is almost impossible now to find a well-written decision which makes a coherent argument from start to finish (This doesn’t mean there have been no ‘good’ decisions – the Naz Foundation case strikes one as an example of a poorly written, but “at heart” good decision)

    Viewed entirely aesthetically, the ‘Indian decision’ has, over the past 2 decades, acquired a fascinatingly pastiche quality. Judges liberally toss law, facts, extracts from previous judgments, personal reflections, wikipedia entries, extracts from reports etc into their word processor and anything that flies out counts as a ‘judgment’.
    (Another feature of contemporary judgment writing seems to be the escalating size per judgment, which adds little analytically to the overall quality of the judgment. This seems to be an acceptable, if apologetic. substitute for ‘quality’)

    Coherence is a far too exacting standard which which to judge the higher judiciary – one is grateful, in its stead, to know at least “who won”.

    Why should our expectations from this decision be any different?

    “When one argument seems a little weak, other, quite contradictory ones are added on, just to be on the safe side.”
    Rather than an evaluation of this particular decision, I think this statement sounds like its been drawn from some secret ‘Manual of Judgment-writing’ which the Indian higher judiciary assiduously follows.
    (Expecting Vicharak to squeal ‘Contempt!’ right about now.. :) )

    3) How we would WISH, as you hope, that the Indian judiciary would enter into a psychoanalytical exploration of the various possible Indian ‘selves’. Or to cut through the ASI report with the astuteness of an expert historian.How much we’d be disappointed.

    4) I think your rape-victim/panchayati justice analogy is accurate, but would only surprise those who in fact believed this to be a strictly legal ‘title’ suit.
    I don’t think we ‘Indians; believed this to be a case that would determine, narrowly for us where Lord Ram was born or who owned what parcel of land – but much more broadly, we believed this to be a case that would determine whether and on what terms ‘peace’ was possible. That latter expectation has, I think, been vindicated. Note that nobody is fooled – we know that we are negotiating with bullies (or rapists in your metaphor). But this mirrors the quotidian negotiations of life for a vast proportion of our population (both Hindu and Muslim). In this narrow sense, this may be a very ‘democratic’ decision indeed, mirroring the very canons of ‘justice’ that we experience through most of our lives!

    Note I am not aiming to “justify” the decision, only explain why shock is certainly an exaggerated response.


  23. Thanks Prashant. Just want to clarify that “shocked” can mean surprised, but also (and more commonly) appalled or disgusted. From your wonderful account of judgement-writing I take it that you wouldn’t consider either of the two latter adjectives “exaggerated” in this case :)


  24. The sense of justice that prevailed, the feudal past still lingers, the past that based the judgment on beliefs, the church, the ‘manus’, the talibans…

    yes the ghost of the judgments that burnt Bruno is screaming at us…


  25. Nivedita,

    I am a student in the US and was quite shocked by the verdict.However, I was even more shocked by the manner in which public intellectuals like Pratap Bhanu Mehta have reacted to the verdict. That the BJP and RSS would talk about bhavya mandir was predictable. That eminent lawyers and media personalities would call it a fair verdict was something that took me by surprise.

    I think that in many ways this judgement is more damaging to Indian secularism than the riots in Gujarat or the demolition itself. Those were such openly violent acts that moderate opinion could rally behind more confident secular voices. However this judgement, couched as it is in the language of conciliation, institutionalizes violence against minorities and ensures that the terms of discourse in the future will shift to the right

    Thank you for having the courage of your convictions to stand up and speak out against this despicable verdict.


  26. More than anything else, its the dissonance between the three judges themselves which is a cause for concern. There’s so much of a difference of opinion between the three that I wonder how a judgement was arrived at in the first place.

    The only inference I can derive from the entire episode is that the judiciary was used as a laboratory – “Let’s come up with an ambiguous judgement and see which way the wind blows. We can then have a clearer perspective when it comes to the Supreme Court.”

    This politicisation of the judiciary and the experimental judgement coming from such a high level of the judicial structure is scary.


  27. Devi,
    Are you serious? Do you really think, or want us to believe that it is the general question of how temples come into being in Hinduism, that is in question here? Is that the dispute being addressed in the judgement? The question here, very simply, is of stealth in installing the statue of Ram Lalla by an interested political formation.
    Your style of drowning the specifics of a question in a barrage of words expressing some general wisdom is precisely what is called subterfuge – or plain deception in more straightforward language.

    Your insights into how Hindus build temples are profound, but they are clearly out of sync with ground realities. The fact is that in contemporary India, temples are built routinely by many naamdhaari ‘Hindus’ simply to grab property or illegally take hold of government land. No Aithihyam! No praan prathishtha! Simply land grab! And often they all style themselves as ‘prachin mandirs’ and are exactly of a piece with the matter at hand – that of grabbing property in Ayodhya. You are probably aware (or am I assuming too much?) that it was none other than Narendra Modi who had to recently go around demolishing such Hindu temples in Gujarat – and you want to tell us that it was all a matter of belief in the sacredness of the place that these temples had come up?
    That is why your profound wisdom seems to me to be nothing but an attempt to drown the actual matter under dispute in a stream of banalities about ‘devout Hindu practice’.


  28. India was not a secular democratic Nation, when Babri Masjit was built, some 500 years ago. It is so now, supposedly. Discussions around the ASI excavations, and the existence of a 12 Century AD temple are impertinent. Even if Babri Masjit was constructed on some temple grounds, it happened at a time when the land was under a monarchic rule.
    The demolition of the mosque is a criminal act. No discussions about the history of destruction some 500 years ago can take away the importance of what happened in 1992.
    The Allahabad High Court verdict legitimizes the violence. The verdict only reinforces the fact the India is a Hindu nation.


  29. the second demolition… of the mosque….i’ve stepped in so late into this debate… just a few thoughts. I wonder if such wrongs can be made right by disengaging the passions of religious rhetoric all together, appeasing least of all the criminals attempted to represent one of the religions in question, when they went ahead and struck terror in the heart of their countrymen/women. Modern nation states to protect all its citizens equally, will have to discover the vocabulary necessary to administer such justice. Until such time… we support your voice nivedita…. and every other such voice ….


  30. Anuj makes the main point that I simply have not been able to get my head around. Given that the court takes as given the absence of the mosque, and proceeds to order a division with that as the starting point, how can people keep claiming that this judgment does not legitimise the demolition?

    There are a couple more things that I do not understand at all (okay, there’s lots, but this is me trying to give the judges some benefit of doubt).

    Let’s assume for a moment that the court is right that nobody has clear title, and that there is a history of joint use of the plot as a place of worship. On that basis, I can see how you can then say both Nirmohi Akhara and Sunni Waqf board have joint ownership (assuming NA has something to do with 19th-century joint use). But given that Ram Lalla only appears, as the judges agree, in 1949, how does joint ownership *prior to 185x* give *him* a claim? (Note that I have made the mental adjustments needed to accomodate Ram Lalla as a juristic person, which took some doing).

    And also: if joint worship and lack of title are what counts, how does it matter whether or not there was anything there before the Masjid came into being?


  31. I am more disappointed at the confounding of Nirmohi Aakhra as Hindusim. All through Indian history, especially in the 6th century in southern India and from the 12th century in northern India there grew several sects opposing Hindusim and organized Islam. The ram worhsippers were among them. Even today, the Ram worshippers are marginal to organized religion. Ram is a fiction God with no Puranic standing and hence is not central to Hinduism. I wonder why no one raised the issue that whatever may happen to Ram is not a business of the Hindus. Who were they to put a lock on the temple where Nirmohis and the Muslim believers worshipped together? The Sunni Waqf and the VHP are both to blame to raise ownership issues while neglecting the use issues.


  32. Saugato’s sense of puzzle helps one refocus on the problem.

    1. How does joint ownership give Ram Lalla a claim?

    Ram Lalla has gained possession. Idols can gain possession and lose possession. There are a string of Privy Council decisions on this. Whereas you might want to argue the placing of the idols is a criminal act, the fact remains that the District Magistrate ruled that since the place was a disputed one the idols were to remain and worship was to be carried on. There was also no evidence of frequent prayers by the Muslims since 1934.

    2. Does the judgement justify the demolition?
    The judgement in no way exonerates the demolition. The court has dismissed the title suits and has said that the Hindu and Muslim parties are in joint possession. To determine this, they need to figure out one criteria – is the place dedicated to God. If the place meets the conditions of dedication it is an Islamic place of worship it doesn’t matter what the condition of a place is (it can be a garden for all one cares- please note that the graveyard is also wakf property) Therefore whether the mosque exists or not is immaterial. As I said earlier they could have partitioned the mosque.
    Justice Khan has himself said that he is not here to rule on the demolition and that is a separate case. Whereas the dissenting judgment of Dharam Veer Sharma is rather problematic in the sense it denies the existence of a mosque on the ground that it must have minarets, should be in a quiet place etc ( my neighbourhood mosque wouldn’t meet his conditions)one cannot fault him on his reasoning when he says that the Islamic place cannot have anything idolatrous and valid dedication has not been made, therefore the mosque does not exist.

    3. Whereas a lot of objections have been raised that this judgement is biased against Muslims it is actually the other way around. The legal framework is squarely in favour of Muslims. 1). You have Islam where there is a clear concept of a creator god to whom one can make a dedication and ensure that the property is carried out according to His Purposes. In Hinduism it is not possible to produce a similar dedication , the property is dedicated to the idol. Dedication in Islam results in an abstract purpose which is not just about prayers but other good things that property can be used for – such as feeding the poor. Dedication in Hinduism results in a concrete purpose such as worship of the idol and the ceremonies that need to be carried out. Therefore the burden of proof to show that a ‘temple” exists is much more than a mosque. 2) You have a concept of History in Islam and a concept of myth in Hinduism . It is not possible to even ask the question whether Rama exists but it is possible to ascertain that Muhammad is a real figure. What the courts have said – is that there are two unequal parties and lets bridge the gap.

    4. And how do we do it- lets dereligionise. The fascinating part about this judgement is that its gone beyond religion. It has treated this dispute as any other dispute. For the purpose of demolition it is not necessary for the Wakf Board to claim that a mosque has been demolished ( even going by sharma’s judgement). They can merely make a civil or criminal claim for the destruction of property.


  33. Geetanjali – you offer a reading of the judgement similar to Pratap Mehta’s, and I understand that you’re trying to be measured, as Pratap is. But the most favourable understanding possible, from a democratic perspective, of such a judicious reading, is that it is wishful thinking. So, attributing no motives to you, let me take up your points one by one:

    1. Ram Lalla’s claim arises from having gained possession.
    Through criminal trespass, you grant that. The condoning of this original act of stealthily placing the idol in the Masjid enables the rest of the points you (and the judgement) make.

    2. There was also no evidence of frequent prayers by the Muslims since 1934.
    This claim is made by the Nirmohi Akhara’s petition. In 1934 there was communal violence following reports of cow slaughter, and parts of the Masjid were damaged. Nevertheless, it is the Sunni Waqf Board’s claim that prayers had continued in the Masjid until 1949 when the idols were placed there and the administration locked the gates. It is not clear from the judgement what evidence the Nirmohi Akhara produced to “prove” no worship had taken place, and how it trumped the claim of the Waqf Board.

    3. The judgement in no way exonerates the demolition.
    Not explicitly, no. But both Anuj and Saugato show that this particular division of land would not have been possible if the Masjid stood. You suggested earlier that the Court could have partitioned the mosque, and you gave the example of Baba Budangiri. But dargahs which show evidence of joint worship evolved organically centuries earlier, and were not court-ordained. As you are also probably aware, Baba Budangiri is the target of Hindu Right-wing organizing and violence, and Togadia has boasted that they will turn Baba Budangiri into another Ayodhya. So a court judgement ordering the turning over of part of a mosque to Hindus would have been equally problematic, and surely nobody could have claimed it to be fair. Now that the mosque no longer exists, it becomes possible to project a three-way partition (of the Sunni Waqf Board’s property) as a fair division.

    So, the judgement does not condone the demolition, but certainly its provisions require the prior demolition to have taken place.

    4. The judgement attempts to determine whether the place is dedicated to God.
    For one thing, your final claim is in direct contradiction to this (“The fascinating part about this judgement is that its gone beyond religion. It has treated this dispute as any other dispute.”)

    For another, precisely by getting into “Hindu” and “Muslim” religious practices, and making certain “Hindu” practices the test of faith, the judgement has overcome the real disadvantage the Ramjanmabhoomi Nyas has – which you notice too – they have NO LEGAL STANDING in the dispute. As you point out, “the legal framework is squarely in favour of Muslims”. This does not make them “unequal parties” as you say, rather, it makes one claim strong and the other weak in LEGAL terms.

    So what is the need for the court, as you put it, to “bridge the gap”? Only if the verdict was pre-ordained to give the Ramjanmabhoomi Nyas what it claimed as its, would there be a need to “bridge the gap.” The “gap” as you term it, is precisely the fact there is no legal standing for the Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas’s claim.

    And another thing – there are three parties to the dispute, to conflate the Nirmohi Akhara and the Nyas as “Hindu” (as you do, too) is only one of the problematic aspects of the judgement. There are three parties in this dispute, not two, “Hindus” and “Muslims.”

    5. It has treated this dispute as any other dispute.
    If it had, as your own analysis shows, then the Ramjanmabhoomi Nyas would have lost the case. Period.


    1. on point 2. justice khan refers to contemporary records (DM and SP’s documents) that prove that friday prayers (if not daily prayers which however might have been stopped after the violence of 34) took place till 49. this seems an important point for the case because it relates to the whole question of adverse possession and limitation.


  34. Dear Ma’am,

    After having read both the judgment as well as your article, I find the latter absolutely shocking, irresponsible and lacking understanding. Since you seem to love analogies, here’s one for you: How about a primary school teacher in the USA who believes that intelligent design is true and despite being questioned several times on evolution, been shown evidence of it still refuses to amend her stand? That’s the sort of person you are when it comes to the Ayodhya dispute; you have a point of view which you are entitled to have and no matter what the judgment actually reads, you will make the point. Alas, if only you had read the judgment, and it is very clear from your analysis that it is only the summaries that you have based your opinions on, better sense may have prevailed; or worse still you would have continued being an even more close-minded frog in your self-constructed, false and patronising secular well.

    The judgment is not based on faith. Read it. It is based on possession. Possession is a legal term; it is not faith as you would like to have it believe. Only the dissenting judgment by Justice Sharma is based on faith and it must rightly be criticised. But neither Justice Khan or Agarwal’s decisions are based on faith. They are based on possession and in law, beliefs and practices are evidence of possession. The COurt would have failed in its legal task if it did not account for all this.

    I agree that we should not have gone to the court for this matter. But given that we did, it is the best approach forward. In criticising the decision, you not only display a shocking ignorance, you do great disservice to the possibility of harmony and compromise in the nation.


  35. It does not look like there was harmony in the three judgments as it is being made out…. That Justice khan has questioned the demolition or even the existence of a temple over the claimed spot has gone un – noticed, unquoted.

    Further, it can be argued that such a temple could only have been constructed after destroying the palace Ram was born, in which case who destroyed the palace ?

    It is not just futile but dangerous trying to legalize faith and beliefs … This judgment sets a clear precedence, and that is one of talibanisation of our judicial system


  36. I would have liked to share Nivedita’s angst totally if I was clear in my mind about how to redeem the millions of faithful Hindus from Hindutva forces without making the Muslims in the country feel like second class citizens again.
    Like many of us, I am a non-believer and consider myself a left liberal. But I may be accused of touting a soft-Hindutva line since I failed to judge the verdicts in terms of the modernist-secular rhetoric.
    Nevertheless, I think we would do justice to the judgement if we put it in the context of the entire secular-nationalist-Left camp’s failures to stop the political hijacking of the age-old but still localised Janamboomi issue by the Sangh Parivar in post-Mandal days. Taking the cue from Nivedita’s metaphor, I feel that it was the collective failure of this camp allowed the rapists to carry away a substantial part of village population including the courts.
    The secularists’ ambivalence and opportunism on the relation of between the faiths and secularism, democracy and rule of law failed to contest the Sangh Parivar’s construction of monolithic, exclusivist and avenger Ram, the surrogate warrior of Sangh’s cherished Hindu Rastra.
    In stead of anchoring the resistance to the multi-layered, pluralist traditions and popular imaginations around the Ram mythology which has been well ingrained both in Hindu and Muslim cultures down the ages, the secularist discourse played in the hands of saffron brigade which counter-posed the temple-mosque dispute as the dispute between India and Bharat, historically wronged majority and pampered minority, Nehruvian elitist psudo-seculars and custodians of true and sanatana Indian self etc.
    Left parties too have never made any imaginative intervention on the questions of politicalisation/communalisation of religious faith and inter-faith disputes but tried to wish away the dispute as diversion from secular and Am Adam agenda. Like other modernists, Left leaders considered Ram a mythical character fraught with many a human failings who should remain in the realm of individual or collective faith. But they never addressed the paradoxes of modern India in which faithful millions including many Muslims differ from the modernist elite and recognise Ram as a historically authentic cultural and temporal icon and believe in his divine incarnation in Aydhoya which neither can’t be contested or proved on the basis of archaeological findings or historical documents and legal documents. So they could not counter the Hindutva manipulation of the popular belief by harping on the axioms of class struggle and class unity alone while failing to ground their campaign in popular social-cultural context of Hindi heartland.
    Neither any serious effort were made by left-liberal intellectuals and other members of civil society for an amicable solution before and after the demolition of Babri mosque by mobilising the voices of pluralism, tolerance and harmony in both communities.
    Both the secular politicians and civil society groups left the temple-mosque dispute to the self-proclaimed community guardians who have vested interests in retaining myopic, archaic views about religious identities and their corresponding prejudices, fears and hatred about the other community that sustains the zeal to avenge the imaginary and real historical wrongs or to defend the faith.
    We virtually allowed the Sangh’s shrewd manipulation of past– memories, histories and myths– to trigger mob hysteria by refusing to come out of our modernist-secular framework that play on the faith Vs reason, emotion Vs law binary.
    As the Sangh’s designs to historicise mythology and vice versa reached the crescendo helping it to harvest the Hindu hysteria through the demolition of the mosque in 1992 and its political consolidation of the Hindutva base, the whole secular-nationalist and modernist camp refused to handle the hot potatoes and passed the buck to the court.
    Now the Lucknow bench took positions on what Supreme Court refused to do in 1994 and tried to ‘remedy’ the Hindu ‘grievance’ which the British district judge of Faizabad declined to do in 1886 on the ground of it being ‘too late’. And, the judgements are fraught with many dangers but also with some possibilities.
    The dangers are becoming obvious as Advani, RSS chief and other Sangh leaders have hardly suppressed their glee over the judicial seal on their faith-based claims and asked the Muslims to accept the construction of a grand temple at the disputed site and begin a new chapter in national integration.
    But none of the Sangh leaders are forthright in accepting the other part of the verdict that makes room for a mosque in the one-third land awarded to the Muslims. In stead they are asking the Muslims to give up their portion and planning to move to the apex court to claim the entire land. None of them have offered apology for the demolition of Babri mosque but want the Muslims to bury the past and ensure the inter-community reconciliation.
    That the verdict is seen as a revenge for Muslim-abated partition is clear from Advani’s post-verdict vibes carried by Indian Express. Advani not only felt vindicated but also said he ‘would have been happier’ if the verdict had come on September 24 as he had left post-partition Karachi and kicked off his rathyatra years later around the same time in the same month. Despite the Sangh’s so-called post-verdict restraint, it is clear that it would try to harvest the partial victory in coming elections while the Congress is playing its usual game of fence-sitting while trying assess which was the wind is blowing.
    With some of the contestants at both sides planning to move SC, there is likely to some respite for a considerable period. But it is unlikely that the apex court would offer a radical, out-of-box resolution to the dispute.
    The saving grace for those who still care for Indian democracy can be the civil society moves to launch campaign against condoning the crime of 1992 and demand action against its main instigators on the basis of the Liberhans commission’s report that underlined the Sangh’s design behind the demolition.
    On other hand, efforts should be made to strengthen the moves to isolate the Sangh from Nirmohi Akhara and other sects including the Bhakti cults opposed to institutionalised Hinduism/Hindutva forces. Civil society groups should encourage Nirmohi Akhara’s reported dialogue with a section of Muslim plaintiffs so that a mosque and a temple can be built up on the disputed land with mutual supports. Those who favoured a national monument on the disputed land or a school, children’s park were really well-intentioned but they failed to make it a potent campaign to catch the popular imagination. It seems too late for such moves.
    We can now pin our hopes on that part of Ayodhya’s history that witnessed age-old assimilation of Hindu and Muslim mythologies and shared local tradition in spite of intermittent communal conflicts over janamboomi-mosque since colonial period. It’s temples and mosques, makbara, dargas and mazars bore the testimonies of both the contests and sharing, bigotry and tolerance While fundamentalists of both camps will harp on the first aspect, our job is to highlight the second which is surely mostly coveted by the ordinary millions.


  37. Dear Nivedita,

    Thank you for your very sound reasoning, and I have found the debate that followed very illuminating. Clearly, if ‘faith’ was an issue that influenced the judgement, it was the ‘faith’ of some, and not of others. And yes, it does read like the Panchayat asking the Rapist to marry his victim, so that ‘life can go on’. Pratap Bhanu Mehta’s take on the judgement is of the slimiest, sleaziest sort, the one that makes what passes for ‘secularism’ in India actually a default form of Majority Appeasement. As a non-believing, non-Hindu, I find the automatic default mode by which the spectre of the believing Hindu now defines the image of the Indian citizen shocking. One wonders what could have happened if one took a different view of the default mode. It is a well known fact that much of Delhi is built on what were formerly Muslim graveyards. It is also a well known fact that the integrity of the site of burial and the buried body is an article of faith in Islam. The body needs to have integrity because the bodies will rise on the day of judgement from where they were buried. Now, the development of modern Delhi as a city does gross violence to this article of faith. Going by the logic of the judgement, a believing Muslim would be fully entitled to argue that say, the Supreme Court, or Parlieament, should be razed to the ground, were it found that it sat on top of an extant Muslim burial ground. I would be interested to know what people like Pratap Bhanu Mehta would make of such a demand. I am sure it would be dismissed as mischievous, as it perhaps ought to be. But then, why is the integrity of the assumptions of the Hindu faith, as put out by one section of the plaintiffs in the Ram Janma Bhoomi case not to be seen as equally trivial? What makes one faith count, and not another? As someone who does not have faith, who is neither Hindu, nor Muslim, and is therefore not inclined to favour one claim over another, I have to conclude it is because one mischievous claim has the ‘backing’ of more thugs than the other has. Pratap Bhanu Mehta, and the judges, have simply acquiesced to those who had more thugs on their side. We could call that pragmatism, but to dignify such a disposition with the cachet of being a ‘not implausible way of strengthening Indian secularism’ (what a marvellous explosion of double negatives) is to me specious, to say the least.


  38. -“an extreme tribe of militant-secularists (who may or may not have any interest in religion per se)” …
    -“It’s an affirmation of divine presenc arrived at through a myth of the divine potency”
    – “kindly pack your bags and leave for Saudi Arabia!”

    hahahaha….these comments prove that we are still a nation of historically blind people.


  39. When the Honourable judges of Allahabad High Court pin pointed the place where Ram was born; a doubt persisting in my mind since long back raised its head again. It is this:

    Ayodhya was the capital of the king Dasaratha, the ‘so called’ father of Ram; not the house of his mother Kausalya. Was not then there in India, the practice of pregnant mother going to her own house for her delivery? And, if not, we must be able to locate the birth places of other three brothers of Ram. All of them must have simultaneously/concurrently born as their unusual method of conception, according to the Ramayana, occurred in that famous Puthrikameshti Yajna king Dasarath conducted with the help of some sages like Vasisht. If any our judicial courts could help us in this matter also, we will have a scope of constructing not only one temple; but four at the same site.


  40. All this while, flipping through the write-ups on Ayodhya Verdict, I was not happy with the imagery of ‘national shame’, ‘violation of democracy’, ‘defeat of secularism’ et al., coming from all those who did not find the judgement fair. Somehow, it seemed the pain, the betrayal, the helplessness had to be more appropriately worded. My congrats to you for metaphorically describing it the way you have….The judgement cannot be summed up more appropriately….Yes, we have been married to our rapists, and we must look happy with the alm of sindoor we have got from them. If we must live, let it also show up in our parting.


  41. As yet another hyphenated secularist, I am in broad agreement with Nivedita’s opinions. I am somewhat more despairing though. The judgment is part of a long history of judicial reasoning on the Ayodhya dispute and I don’t think it’s adequate to reflect merely on what the three judges said or did not say. That this judgment confirms, without providing any legal context, the stand of the Hindu right (incidentally, itself a Johnny-come-lately to the dispute) is unexceptional. What I find more distressing is that this judgment is a kind of teleological summation of previous judgments (with very few exceptions – perhaps the Bommai case) that institutionalise bad faith. The issue of the juristic rights of the deity, of sanctifying earthly spots, cannot in this case be divorced from the shilnyas and the emergence of a new political actor post-1986. One need only read Justice Pandey’s (the judge who passed the order opening the locks to the BM) Voice of Conscience to realize how this actor has been forged in the workshop of blind obedience. That law is political is obvious, but now this judgment goes a step further by silencing the demolition and replacing it with a mythic geography. We are truly in the presence of the fantasm.


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