By Syed Mansoor Agha
Todays’ date, 9 November 2019, has been recorded in the pages of history as the day when the political strife initiated in the midnight of 22-23 December 1949, to capture and occupy the Babri Mosque, built in 1528, in Ajodhya, ended in favour of the usurper. The Supreme Court delivered its judgement in favour of the usurper stating that the land, where a mosque stood for 463 years and where congregational [Muslim] prayers had been regularly held, rightfully belongs to the party that claims, merely on the basis of assumptions and speculations, that [their deity] Rama was born at this very site thousands of years ago.
The court said that: (1) Muslims were unable to prove that prayers were held there regularly and uninterruptedly; (2) Hindus have always seen it as a site of religious importance; (3) even before the construction of a partition wall in 1858 [Hindu] devotees had been stepping into the courtyard of the mosque, i.e., not only Ramchabootra but the Mosque’s courtyard as well remained in their use; and(4) even after the construction of the grilled wall they [Hindus] continued to express their devotion to the site by looking at it from outside.
[The facts, however, are that] the existence of the mosque was a reality and (1) the opposite party’s [Hindus’] claim [over the site] was based on a faith based in a fanciful story. (2) The court accepted the existence of the mosque. (3) It held as illegal the surreptitious installation of idols inside the mosque and its demolition [by the so called karsevaks on 6 December 1992]. It accepted that [Muslim] prayers were held in the mosque. Majoritarianism has become the country’s new law for everyone out there to see, but now the court’s verdict too endorsed it. The faith of the majority thus came to be the basis for declaring that it was the majority’s due right to occupy the land in question.
A court’s verdict is meant to deliver justice and do [as the Urdu saying goes] ‘doodh ka doodh, pani ka pani’ [make everything crystal clear and separate milk from water]. But in the judgement in question, milk has been declared water and water milk. Therefore, several legal questions are being raised thereon . For example, the former Supreme Court Judge Ashok Kumar Ganguly said, ‘As a student of the Constitution, it is little difficult for me to accept it [the verdict’].
According to Justice Markundey Katju, this judgement has ‘set a dangerous precedent and has given sanctity to belligerence.’
The legal expert Professor Faizan Mustafa, too, has raised a number of questions saying that the apex court has preferred faith over the law. One wonders how this case will be taught in classes to law students.
The arguments given against open proofs cannot satisfy an impartial mind. Because it has impinged upon the rights of Muslims, it would be more appropriate to refer to it as a ‘decree’; not a ‘judgement’ which Muslim organisations and personalities had repeatedly assured to accept. , Therefore, to deviate from it with ifs and buts would not be morally justified on our part. ‘khisiani billi khamba noche’ [an embarrassed cat scratching the post] sums up the response of the legal adviser of the Muslim party soon after the judgement was delivered. They are now saying that a review petition would be filed against the judgement. Well, go ahead by all means. Would it be more than yet another note in law books?
Following some of the arguments in the court, Hindu leaders repeatedly appealed to their followers to maintain peace, upon which I, in one of the Facebook posts, had warned ‘Read the writing on the wall. Ayodhya judgement would also be on the lines of the judgement on the Triple Talaq!’
Many of my friends were upset at this speculation because they had convinced themselves that all the evidence was in our favour and, therefore, the judgement will be in our favour, too. However, no sooner was the judgement delivered than fears were expressed that it would be used as a precedence to make claims to other places of worship as well. The apex court, however, made it clear that according to ‘Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act of 1991’ no claim can be made to any other place of worship. But the shock the judgement has given to the masses is understandable. The [poet] Nimrah Hashmi says :
اے گردش ایام مجھے رنج بہت ہے
کچھ خواب تھے ایسے جو بکھرنے کے نہیں تھے
(O the cycle of time I am in tremendous grief; for some of my dreams were not meant to shatter)
Other legal aspects:
In addition to legal aspects, there are some other implications, too, that one feels more concerned about. One of these aspects has been covered in the very first sentence of the statement issued yesterday by All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawrat that emphasises that, ‘maintaining communal harmony and peace is vital.’ One may well ask if the morale of law enforcement agencies of the country, whose task it is to maintain peace and security, has dropped so low that for maintaining peace majority community must be appeased? Sadly, the answer is yes. Politicians have been holding the law enforcement agencies by the neck. Not justice but self-gratification and luring voters is what they always keep in mind. This is exactly what the incident (the demolition of Babri Mosque) of 6 December 1992 testifies.
All those who launched countrywide campaign gathered mobs in Ayodhya, pulled down the Mosque in accordance to their plan; following this, shed the blood of thousands of innocent people, pillaged their properties, and yet escaped justice. Prior to this, despite all the power and capability at their disposal, these law enforcement agencies did not stop those who had conspired to install idols in the mosque, organised foundation laying ceremony, and got the mosque unlocked [for Hindu worship].
During the anti-Muslim riots, in which 700 people were killed in Bombay alone, properties worth millions of Rupees was destroyed, and on which Justice Sri Krishna Commission report was suppressed. All of this was carried out under the shadow of ‘secularism’. With this background in mind, in the given situation, the fear of destruction of peace and disruption of law and order was quite justified.
But why it never occurred to our brethren, who have been fighting the case, to find out ways to avoid this situation and pay attention to the proposals of mediation? The present Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, by forming a mediation team, headed by the retired Judge Justice Khalifatullah, had provided the opportunity to settle the dispute outside the court. A package of three proposals was reportedly offered, provided Muslims withdrew their claim from the Babri Mosque site. It included the offer of an alternate and larger piece of land at a place of community’s choice, unlocking of mosques for prayers held by Archaeological Survey of India numbering almost 600.
After the committee submitted its report, it was given one more opportunity, during the hearing, to make a second attempt to find an outside court settlement. Some among them responded positively to the proposals but our leaders failed to read the writing on the wall.
After the Supreme Court’s Judgement, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar said that more or less it was on the same lines that had come up before the committee.
What did we gain from this? One ‘Mr Responsible’ said, ‘We did lose the mosque but saved ourselves from the sin of surrendering a Waqf [Muslim trust] mosque.’ Without a doubt you did. But what about [losing] the reward for having opened 600 mosques [for prayers]?
The former Chief Justice J S Khehar had offered his services for mediation. I am not making any suggestion as to what impact our instance would have had on the judges, but there must have been something there [behind the scene] that had convinced the opposite party that judgement would be delivered in their favour.
In 1989 when the issue had started raising its head, I remember a statement by L K Advani in which an offer was made to use modern technology to move the mosque’s structure with its foundations to a location nearby. This technology had been successfully tested in moving an archaeological site from its location to another place during the construction of Aswan Dam in Egypt. [In Turkey, perhaps using the same technology, a 15th-century mosque was moved to another place—UMM].
A proposal, mentioned earlier, was made in June 2003 during Vajpayee Government. In brief: on the instructions of central government the late Jayendra Saraswathi had himself travelled all the way up to Lucknow with this proposal in which reopening of mosques held by Archaeological Survey of India, nine per cent reservation of jobs to Muslim youths, no claim on Kashi and Mathura mosques ever in future and an alternative site for the construction of a mosque were promised. [Similar offer was made by Chandra Shekhar during his 223 days tenure as PM—UMM].
I had supported this proposal in my two series article in the daily Qaumi Awaz (27-28 June 2003) in which I said: ‘Muslim party should accept the proposal on the condition that the construction of the [proposed] temple and its affairs [after the construction] would be managed by a government’s Trust and the wealth that would rain on the temple [after completion] would be spent on public welfare;’ I thought so because if it was controlled by the VHP then all the money would have been used in anti-Muslim campaigns. But, folks, who pays attention to a feeble voice amid the cacophony?
What did we get by rejecting all these proposals? The prime reason for rejecting these offers has been this [Islamic] jurisprudential opinion that once a mosque has been constructed on a site, the whole space on that site right from the earth to the skies becomes a mosque. And Allah himself is the Guardian of this place and, therefore, neither its ownership nor its status could ever be changed. However, some Islamic jurists think that there is no harm in doing so. Ibn Qudāmah al-Maqdīsī, in the celebrated book on Islamic jurisprudence Al Mughni, quotes Imam Ahmad saying: , ‘If there is fear of theft in the mosque or if it is situated in a dirty and undesirable location, then it can be moved to another place.’
Sheikh Abdul Aziz ibn Baz too, in an edict, says, ‘If a Trust ceases to be useful, be it a mosque or something else, then by the consent of two scholars, it can be sold and, from the money so procured, some other item can be purchased.’
The Sheikh has narrated an incident from Caliph Umar (RA) who had ordered the transfer, in Kufa, of a mosque to another place as the move was more beneficial [to the public]. He then gives his opinion: ‘If a mosque ceases to have its usefulness, then it should be transferred to another place. [Islamic] jurists differ on this view but the more reliable view is that this [transfer] is permissible because Islamic jurisprudence is perfect and has come for the maximum benefit of people and to minimise or put an end to things that are against the collective benefit [of society].’ (Fatawa Sheikh Ibn Baz).
But, despite the fact that the situation so demanded, these jurisprudential opinions were not taken into account.
Let it be said that a single person is free to abandon a wide road and opt for a narrow lane but when you have with you [a large] caravan of the community then opting for a wide road is the only option without which you will never be able to reach your destination. If you are praying on your own, it is up to you to decide for how long you want to recite the Qur’an in it. But when you are leading a large congregation, prolonged recitation is forbidden.
Be it the Babri Mosque or the issue of the Triple Talaq, in both instances, a hard-line stand was taken that only one jurisprudential opinion was Islam as such. Other jurists were equally momins [good Muslims] and sincere in their endeavours though. Why not, then, benefit from their views?
No doubt the Supreme Court’s judgement has disappointed and hurt the feelings of everyone who were expecting justice i.e., the restoration of the mosque to its rightful status. But the general public has taken a sigh of relief because one of the issues that have been creating sectarian tensions has been settled and thankfully no riot has taken place.
Ajodhya issue has been suddenly appropriated by the BJP though at its root were Congress politicians who subscribed to Hindutva ideology much before the Sangh. Who can forget the installation of idols inside the mosque, refusal to remove those idols in spite of court orders, unlocking the mosque [for Hindu worship]? More or less everyone remembers the central government’s mysterious silence during the demolition of the Babri Mosque and the then Prime Minister’s retiring to bed. This is the very reason why the so-called secular leaders across the political spectrum are silent.
Recall the sequence of events during the last six months: the passing of the Triple Talaq Bill by the parliament, the killing of Kashmir as a state and now Supreme Court’s judgement on the Babri Mosque. Had Supreme Court delivered a judgement that was being expected, would it have reduced the government’s Hindutva zeal in any way, and would it not have tabled a legislation in the parliament and reversed the Supreme Court’s decision?
No matter how weak is the basis of one’s faith, be they Hindus or the so-called Muslims, all remain under its spell. Humans have this innate weakness that, despite all their claims of being enlightened, whatever has been ingrained in their minds, they find it hard to get rid of it. But for us [as Muslims] the consoling factor is our belief that it is God who decides our fate. Remain steadfast on your faith—not in a traditional or customary manner—God willing the results will be as narrated in the Holy Qur’an, ‘Indeed, there is ease with hardship. Most certainly, there is ease with hardship.’ (Al-Sharh, 94: 5-6) And the Prophet Moses’ prayer: ‘Lord! Open my breast for me; and ease my task for me, and loosen the knot from my tongue so that they may understand my speech’ (Ta Ha, 20:25-28).
And our prayer, ‘O Allah! Make it easy, and do not make it difficult Allah! Make it end well’. (Hadith).
Syed Mansoor Agha is a senior Urdu journalist and has edited several reputable dailies and journals.