After seven decades of a protracted legal battle, the Supreme Court on Saturday will pronounce the judgment in Ayodhya title dispute case at 10.30 am. The notice on the judgement was uploaded on the website of the court during the late evening on Friday. Earlier, during the day, Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi held a highly confidential meeting with Uttar Pradesh Chief Secretary and the Director-General of Police. It is learnt this meeting focussed on taking stock of the law and order situation in the state.
A five-judge bench headed by Chief JusticeGogoi and comprising Chief Justice-designate Justice S.A. Bobde, Justice Ashok Bhushan, Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice S.A. Nazeer, had reserved the judgement on October 17, after 40 days of daily hearing on the matter, which began on August 6.
On the last day of the hearing, the Hindu parties urged the court to take into consideration faith of the millions of people attached with the birthplace of Lord Ram, and the Muslim parties pleaded to restore the Babri Masjid, as it was, before the demolition in 1992. Both sides were involved in intense arguments in the last phase of the hearing, and it appeared high-pitched arguments had led to chaos in the courtroom.
The court began the daily hearing after the court-appointed mediation panel headed by former Supreme Court Justice F.M.I. Kalifulla and comprising spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravishankar along with senior advocate Sriram Panchu failed to develop a consensus among the parties to arrive at an amicable solution.
On the last day hearing, the Muslim parties urged the court to allow the matter to be settled between parties without passing judgement. A faction in the Sunni Waqf Board, Uttar Pradesh, had apparently conceded title of the dispute to the Hindu side on terms and conditions. A representative of this faction told the media that the nature of dispute requires settlement and not judgement, which is essential to maintain peace in the country.
During the hearing, the judges had asked piercing questions, specifically focussed at the complexity involved in faith and its legal outcome, to both parties. Senior advocate Rajiv Dhavan, representing the Muslim parties, had objected this line of questioning specifically targeting them but later, he apologised to the court on the same.
Dhavan also shot into the headlines, after shredding a pictorial map, submitted by one of the Hindu parties associated with the disputed site. Dhavan had objected to this submission. He was also the only lawyer who argued for two weeks, establishing the possession of Muslim parties on the disputed site, before the court.
The Allahabad High Court in 2010 through a judgement equally partitioned the dispute 2.77 acre land between – Ram Lalla Virajman, Nirmohi Akhara and Sunni Waqf Board. A total of 14 appeals were filed in the apex court in four civil suits.
The dispute that stretched over a century and a half is likely to be put to rest finally when the Supreme Court announces its verdict on the title suit of the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi dispute.
It is an issue that has cast a shadow over India’s socio-political fibre for decades and may even continue to do so for a few more years.
The Ayodhya dispute began way back in 1853 when the first incident of communal violence over the Ayodhya issue was recorded.
Nawab Wajid Ali Shah was then the ruler of Awadh. It was the first time that the Hindu community representatives claimed that the mosque was built after the demolition of a Hindu temple.
By 1859, Hindus and Muslims both had started praying at the site. The issue of possession of the site led to more communal clashes and the Britishers built a fence that divided the compound into two parts — the inner court to be used by Muslims and the outer court by Hindus.
Courts got involved for the first time in 1885 as Mahant Raghubir Das filed a plea in Faizabad district court seeking permission to build a canopy of Ram Chabootra on the site of Ram Janmabhoomi. The Faizabad district court rejected the plea.
The first big controversy in the Ayodhya conflict came in 1949 when an idol of Lord Ram was allegedly placed inside the mosque by Hindu activists and a message was spread that Lord Ram had miraculously appeared inside the mosque.
There was a protest from the Muslim side. Both Hindus and Muslims filed a civil suit each in the court. The government had to declare the premises ‘disputed area’ and lock the gates until further notice.
The then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru asked the idol to be removed immediately but the local officer, K.K.K Nair, refused to carry out the order stating that doing so would lead to communal violence.
Cases were filed in the court by the Hindu side seeking permission for the right to worship the idol in the premises. The court held back the removal of the idol and allowed the Hindus to worship. The Nirmohi Akhara became a party to the dispute in 1959 and the Sunni Waqf Board joined in 1961.
After two decades, in the early eighties, the dispute became more political than legal as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) emerged as the torchbearer of Hindutva.
With Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP), Bajrang Dal and other fringe outfits working overtime to whip up a Hindutva wave, Lord Ram’s temple became the dominant issue of Indian politics, dividing communities on religious lines and blurring regional divides.
The Hindutva frenzy reached a crescendo on December 6, 1992, when volunteers of fringe groups demolished the mosque. More than 2,000 died in riots that ensued across the country, but the Hindu flag flew high.
For 29 years after the Babri Masjid demolition, the case of the title suit — ownership of land — has been keenly contested in various courts and the issue has been driving the politics of the country in one way or the other.
The formation of the BJP government at the Centre in 2014 and then in Uttar Pradesh in 2017 worked as a catalyst and the slogan “Ram Lalla hum aayenge, Mandir wahin banayenge” seems to be turning into reality now.
After years of intensive battle between Hindus and Muslims on this issue, there seems to be a palpable difference in the mood now that the apex court is all set to announce the verdict.
Hindus are convinced that the verdict will be in their favour, while Muslims have more or less reconciled to this fact.
Despite unusually high-security arrangements, the verdict is more likely to be received and accepted with restraint.
What cannot be ignored is the fact that some trouble makers may be waiting to deepen the communal divide by provoking and inciting passions and spreading rumours.
This will pose a bigger challenge for the administration, more so in times of social media that takes a few seconds to make news travel.
Moreover, the timing of the verdict is also crucial. Barawafat, a major Muslim festival, will be held on Sunday and Ayodhya will attract lakhs of devotees on Tuesday on the occasion of Kartik Purnima, which will coincide with ‘Prakash Parv’ celebrating the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak.
Crowd management will be a major issue in Ayodhya.
UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath issued an appeal asking people not to see the final Ayodhya verdict by the Supreme Court as a victory or defeat.
The Chief Minister has asked people not to believe rumours and work together for peace. He warned of strict action against those who violate the law.
He said that his government was committed to maintaining peace in the state at all costs and officials concerned have been given necessary instructions in this regard.
Meanwhile, the state government has closed all schools, colleges, educational institutions and training centres from November 9 to 11.
This has been done in view of the Supreme Court verdict on the Ayodhya issue which will be announced on Saturday morning. (IANS)