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Ayodhya Is A Matter Of Faith, History: Hindu Arguments In SC

Written By Abhishek Kapoor | Mumbai | Published:

Faith, belief, and some circumstantial evidence are what should help the Supreme Court decision on the existence of birthplace of Lord Ram at Ayodhya. This has been the crux of arguments of the Hindu petitioners in the appeals case being heard by the apex court in daily sittings, with a verdict likely over the next two months. As Muslim side began its arguments Monday, rebutting the pro-temple submissions of the Hindu parties to the case, here’s a brief on what the Court was told in support of the Temple at Ayodhya.

The Hindus were represented by Ram Lala Virajman and Nirmohi Akhara, both appellants having given one-third share each in the disputed 2.77-acre complex by the Allahabad High Court (AHC) in its 2010 verdict, with the third going to the Muslim side represented by the Sunni Waqf Board. Many other parties joined the hearings on behalf of Lord Ram, but only two were prominent enough for a detailed hearing: All India Ram Janamsthan Punaruthan Samiti (RJPS) and the Hindu Mahasabha. Shia Waqf Board, though a Muslim side, supported Hindu petitions.

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Hindu Mahasabha arguments were shortest: "Babur was an invader...built mosque to mark victory...an invader's rights cannot be institutionalized in a modern democracy. So give us the temple." Shia Waqf Board had second shortest brief: "Mir Baqi was a Shia, as also the Mutawali (caretaker) of Babri mosque. As Allahabad HC verdict gives 1/3rd part to Muslims, we claim our share, and have no problem in giving it to Hindus. Shias had filed a title suit in 1945 also which was thrown out by a Faizabad civil court in 1946. An appeal against that was filed only in 2017. Shia Waqf Board too, like Hindu Mahasabha, is not one of the main appellants.

Next in importance was the RJPS, a VHP affiliate, though not directly representing the Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas. Its arguments were premised on completely denying the existence of a Mosque at the disputed site. Marshalling Mughal era books like Baburnama, Humayunama, Tuzuk-i-Jehangiri, and Ain-i-Akbari, RJPS argued that none talks of destruction of a temple and construction of a mosque at the Ayodhya site. Baburnama and Tuzuk-i-Babri, both contemporary accounts of Babur's time in India do not mention the mosque. RJPS argued that Babur defeated Ibrahim Lodi and delegated Awadh to an area commander, never visiting Ayodhya. Humayunama, written by Babur's daughter Gulbadan, does not mention Ayodhya or refer to it in any manner. The RJPS argued had it been important enough, Babri Mosque would have found mention in these contemporary accounts. Ain-i-Akbari written by Abul Fazl, one of Akbar's nine jewels, in 1576, speaks in detail about Ramkot as the birthplace of Ram in Ayodhya and 3 insignificant graves nearby but does not mention the Mosque at all. Akbar's successor Jehangir, great-grandson of Babur, wrote his autobiography Tuzuk-i-Jehangiri, but again no mention of the Mosque at Ayodhya. RJPS thus argued that even official Mughal history does not chronicle the existence of any Mosque at the disputed site. Again, Tulsidas authored his epic rending of Ramayana in Awadhi, the Ramcharita Manas, roughly in the same period without any reference to a Mosque or dispute about Ram Mandir at Ayodhya. RJPS then summed up its argument by saying that the Muslims never prayed at the site till 1855, as there was no Mosque, thus putting the locus of the dispute entirely with the advent of the British and their divide and rule policy.

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Nirmohi Akhara, the key petitioner came next, asserting right on entire site based on their history of possession as a Sevait - devotee/custodian. Akhara claimed that as a Sevait it had absolute management and proprietary rights over the land to the exclusion of everyone else, including Ramlala Virajman, the deity! The Court raised two points. Whether the Nirmohi Akhara had any documents/revenue records to prove its own claims as custodian? Akhara failed to produce any, claiming they were lost in a dacoity in the 1970s! The second was whether the law of limitation applied to their possession claim. Akhara responded by saying it did not as the law kicked in after 12 years. Faizabad Magistrate took away possession in 1949, and Akhara filed suit in 1959, within the limitation period. Judges also found Akhara plea to reject claims of deity Ram Lala Virajman injurious to the overall case. It was like how does a devotee exist if God does not! This friction within Hindu ranks took some time to be resolved. Akhara maintained that while the deity was a juridical person, the birthplace was not. This was contrary to their own position in the Allahabad HC, and against the position of petitioner Ram Lala Virajman. Ultimately, with the intervention of the CJI, Akhara finally acquiesced, deciding not to oppose the suit of the deity Ram Lala Virajman.

This brings us to the final main appellant on the Hindu side: Ram Lala Virajman (RLV), the deity itself. In Hindu law, the deity is considered a minor and represented by custodian/trust/devotee. RLV began by saying that since it was a matter of belief that Lord Ram was born in Ayodhya the Court should not bother further. It was an unshakable faith and there was no need to go into rational arguments. This is contrary to the Supreme Court's clarity at the beginning that they are going to adjudicate on the title suit and treat the case only as a property dispute. Would be interesting to watch how the Court reflect this in their final verdict. Court then asked whether any God in any other part of the world had approached a court of law? Whether there is an instance of adjudication on Jesus' birth at Bethlehem? Whether the idols that were placed under the domes in 1949 were carbon dated? RLV responded by saying that since the deity was a juristic person under Indian law, denying people to pray before him made him eligible to knock at the doors of the Court. RLV further argued that with faith and worship of millennia, even the birthplace of Lord Ram at Ayodhya had acquired divinity and become a holy pilgrimage. Valmiki Ramayana mentioned at least in 3 places that Ram was born in Ayodhya.

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The very interesting response was given by RLV on carbon dating of idols: God need not be in an idol. Hindus pray to Sun and rivers. Ram is a living God and need not be in an idol. Recently the Uttarakhand HC had declared Ganga a living person. This was important as breaking/theft of an idol or temple did not take away from the deity's divinity. It could simply be replaced with another idol and given divinity with prayers. Divinity of Ram Mandir did not get compromised with a Mosque over it. Thus, with divinity vested in the birthplace, the temple is inalienable to Hindu right to pray. Unlike Islam, in which Mosque is only a place of worship (hence alienable), a temple is divinity personified (and hence inalienable).

There was a bit of an interesting diversion when RLV mentioned that Lord Ram was a Raghuvanshi - of the Raghu clan. Court asked whether there were any descendants of Ram present anywhere? At least 7 claimants came forward calling themselves descendants of Ram, including a BJP MLA in MP, BJP Rajasmand MP Diya Kumari, who is also from the Jaipur Royal family, and Arvind Singh Mewar of the Royal family of Mewar at Udaipur.

Now comes the main argument. Ram Lala Virajman put forth the narrative that a temple pre-existed the Babri Mosque that was brought down in 1992. Also, that no regular prayers took place at the disputed site after 1934, none after 1949. An ASI excavation indicated toward a 12th cent Vishnu temple. RLV quoted from a Commissioner's report of 1950 which speaks of the presence of images of Lord Ram, Krishna, and Shiva on the pillars of the Mosque. RLV argued that generally a Mosque wud not have such motifs, thus denying the structure's relevance as a Mosque. Just holding prayers in some period does not make it a Mosque. Praying by the roadside did not turn it into a Mosque. RLV then marshalled information from medieval European travellers, surveyors, and British officials to prove two points. One, Babur or Aurangzeb demolished a temple at the site. And two, it was Ram temple for which Ayodhya was known from those times not mosque. Thus, traveller William Flinch writing between 1608-11 does not mention any mosque but only an active temple. Jesuit missionary Joseph Tiefenthaler too does not mention any mosque in Ayodhya writing around 1845. British surveyor Montgomery Martin mentions that Babur destroyed a temple in Ayodhya to build a mosque. Historian Hans T Bakker also writes of Babur having destroyed a temple and replaced it with a mosque. British archaeologist Patrick Carnegie, who was also officiating Commissioner and Settlement Officer in 1870, wrote after visiting the site that Ayodhya was to the Hindus what Mecca was to Muslims and Jerusalem to the Christians.

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The hearings are going on. On its first day, the Muslim side has begun by asking the Court to not give credence to any of the Hindu side’s arguments are they are based on faith and mythology. The lawyers recalled the Court of its initial ruling under which it had declared that the Ayodhya case was a property dispute to be adjudicated and not a matter of faith to be decided upon. Over to the proceedings of the Supreme Court.

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