The unanimous judgement of the Supreme Court in the Ram Janmabhoomi Case (RJC) delivered by the apex court on November 9, brings a religious dispute followed by formal litigation in courts of law which began over a century ago, to closure. This historic judgement should be welcomed by all — as mandated by post-independence India’s social contract and the Constitution — in the interests of ushering a new era of Hindu-Muslim unity.
According to the Archaeological Survey of India whose evidence was accepted by the five-judge bench, the Babri Masjid (mosque) was constructed over the ruins of an ancient temple of uncertain origin, although there is no clear evidence that the Mughal Emperor Babur (1483-1530) had destroyed a Hindu temple to construct the mosque on its foundations. Curiously, the court declined to take judicial notice that in that era of militant Islam, it was normative for idolators’ temples to be demolished and replaced by mosques.
Subsequently, as detailed in the 1,045-page unanimous judgment of the five-strong constitutional bench, the issue of whether the mosque remained in the exclusive possession of Islamic clergy, is doubtful. Records maintained during the British Raj indicate that Muslims and Hindus worshipped in the inner and outer courtyards of the mosque. However, in 1949, some unidentified Hindu zealots surreptitiously placed two Ram idols in the inner courtyard directly under the central dome, which according to several ancient Hindu texts is the exact spot where Lord Rama was born.
This desecration of 1949 and eventual destruction of the Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992 by Hindu militants were adjudged “serious violations of the rule of law” by the judges in the instant case. Despite this, because the Sunni Waqf Board, representing the Muslim community, was not able to prove exclusive possession of the mosque, on the basis of a “preponderance of possibilities,” the inner and outer courtyard areas have been awarded to the Hindu litigants of RJC in the larger public interest.
Although fodder for pedantic scholars and office seekers disguised as political and community leaders, these and other complexities of this centuries-old case should not overly concern lay citizens. Final judgement on this faith-based dispute that has provoked much bloodshed and disharmony between the Hindu and Muslim communities for centuries, has been pronounced by the highest court of the Republic, constitutionally mandated to end all legal disputes.
Therefore, the apex court’s deeply considered verdict should be acknowledged and accepted — notwithstanding reservations — by all right-thinking citizens. It is important to bear in mind that the five judges who unanimously pronounced this verdict, are steeped in legal scholarship, and between them combine over 200 years of experience in the practice of law and interpretation of the Constitution. Therefore, their Solomon-like judgement needs to be given greater weightage than the self-serving fulminations of rabble-rousing political office seekers and shallow 800-words media essayists.