Ayodhya: Where 1=2

My mind is numb. The Ramayana myth-faith is now winging its way into the judicial books, but it is Shylock that has claimed the pound of flesh. Today, nationality is being lent.

Like most citizens of this country I believed that the courts would decide on the fate of not just the land but what happens when history is revisited to annihilate the contemporary. The issue is beyond land. What next? Silence. Nobody wants to know.

A day before the verdict of September 30, I saw one of those anchor’s faces in profile promising to give a blow-by-blow account. She would be there, as we knew they would. I did not watch a single news channel on that day. I switched on Zee cinema; it telecast Mani Ratnam’s film ‘Bombay’ on the riots of December 1992-93. The Brahmin-kasai emotional war transmogrified into a street fire and bloodshed; what did not burn were the stereotypes. They still exist. Why was this film so pertinent to be shown on that day? To capture eyeballs and the public imagination.

Silence. I thought the law of the land would prevail. We are supposed to respect it. My judiciary has instead taught me a new math. One is equal to two. The 2.77 acre land has been divided into three parts – one for the master, one for the slave and one for the little boy who cries down the lane.

Has the judiciary defined what exactly it means by the term ‘Hindus’ and ‘Muslims’? Does Hindus include those of the backward castes and tribes? Are they permitted to visit temples? Which Hindu group will have ownership rights over that one-third land and how will it utilise it? Will it have the acquiescence of all Hindus?

Who are the Muslims? Is every sect been taken into account? Can the Waqf Board claim rights over it? Is the Muslim Personal Law Board the rightful governing body over land issues? What would this generic group called ‘Muslims’ utilise the property for and will it be acceptable to the ‘neighbours’?

This secular democratic republic has copped out under the weight of its own mythology and given a verdict where religion IS the state. Let us stop pretending. This happens only in theocracies. And do not stuff the argument about the Muslim Personal Law on our faces. That has to do with a specific segment of society to deal with its personal issues and not about how they behave as Indian citizens. These rights are protected for every community, including the majority.

This brings us to the third portion – the demolished mosque. It “belongs to Hindus”. Which Hindus? From an ancient era? To those who decided there was a temple deep beneath the innards of the mosque that was built over its rubble? Or those who opened the locks of the mosque? Or those who took bricks along and finally razed the Babri Masjid? Which Hindus have any right to that space?

Did the judges even think about how careless their terminology is? Ever since stars started twinkling in the eyes of those who woke up to claim their ancient heritage, which is around 1990 right up to 2007, they started acting like architects. Artisans have been busy chipping away on slabs of stone to create pillars, beams and platforms. 65 per cent of the work is supposedly complete. To take a conservative estimate of what it has cost, let us imagine 50 artisans who worked at 200 rupees daily wages. Since it has been 17 years, Rs. 6.12 crore have been spent at the very minimum only on labour. Who is sponsoring this? Have any accounts been maintained? The Vishwa Hindu Parishad is behaving like an employment agency and is already making plans of recalling the artisans, who incidentally earn a far greater deal of money than other construction workers. It is to “finish the work”.

Has the verdict taken cognisance of the fact that the case was subjudice all these years and no work ought to have been started in the first place? Will the judges order that any of the materials that have been placed inside or in the vicinity that falls within the purview of the ‘dispute’ be dismantled with immediate effect and only after the case has been completely cleared can it be resumed?

Many of us recall the early days when there was magnanimity expected of Muslims and many did start parroting the ‘let us gift the Babri Masjid’ line. It was ridiculous, for you cannot gift something that you have not created. Then there is the ‘Muslims should help in the temple building’ suggestion. All Dale Carnegie fans, it would appear: How to win friends and ingratiate yourself. Had such a scenario occurred, it would still not have solved the problem. Whose riots were those?

They forcibly placed the idol of Ram lalla inside a makeshift temple. On what grounds can any judgement go in favour of a makeshift structure? What is the basis for it? Aren’t people evicted for forcibly occupying land? Aren’t slums bulldozed?

This brings us to the moot issue beyond the structure and the land – the people. We are still waiting for the culprits to be brought to book. They include our top leaders. Everyone who was on the dais that day. There is evidence that they incited the public and the kar sevaks. There is evidence that they sat back and watched the riots. There is evidence of their harsh words against the Muslims.

There is evidence that they created an India that Partition had not envisaged. They have failed the country and have no claims to be called Indians.

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Published in Countercurrents, October 4

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UPDATED on Oct 5

The following is a note from a senior bureaucrat who wishes to remain anonymous. He has raised some important points, and therefore I am using it in the blogpost itself. Reproducing it verbatim:

For a variety of reasons I have no desire to join a discussion on the much talked about judgment. As however on many networks, including the present one, many speculative opinions have been expressed I feel it incumbent to set the record striaght on obseravations of Justice Sibghatullah Khan on the limited point of the place of birth and the reason for not ordering the removal of the deities.
Contray to the general impression, Justice Khan has not upheld the argument of faith and tradition. He has further drawn a distinction between the expressions "Janam Bhoomi" and "Janam Sthan" and held that the latter connotes place of birth and not Site of Birth. He has accordingly, upheld only that Ayodhya is undisputedly the place of birth of Lord Ram. Nowhere in his judgment he accepts that the very spot where the deities are presently placed is the site of birth. The reason that he has upheld that the deities may not be removed from the present site i.e. the place over which the central dome once stood, is on account of adverse possession (adverse possession which in persian legalese is called "Qabza-i-Ghasibana" means that if physical occupation for a long time, it will not be disturbed even if ownesrship does not exist). On this point, in fact, he is in a minority as the other two judges have relied on "faith", "belief" and "tradition" to hold that the site where the deities were wrongfully placed on 23rd December, 1949 is the exact site of birth.
I regret to say that people who are well versed in law and should have known better before expressing opinions on the matter without going through the texts of the three judgments which are contained in 27 pdf files. It is even more regrettable that hasty criticism in a particular case has gone to the reprehensible extent of questioning his religious beliefs which remids one of:

Zafar Adami usko na janyee ho woh kaisa hee sahib-i-fahmo zaka
Jise taish mein yade khuda na rahee, jise aish mein khaufi khuda na raha!

I hold no brief for Justice Khan (it is quite likely that careful reading of his judgment will throw many valid grounds of criticism). Clearly, however, the present line of adverse comments without going through his order is wrong and smacks of righteous indignation.


  1. I can not resist the temptation of giving a point by point reply here:

    1. If Zee Cinema showed a film on riots, a news channel showed Anand Patwardhan's documentary "Ram Ke Nam" on the same day. Where was the need to show it either?
    2. No, the judiciary hasn't defined what it means by Muslim. Just as Parliament did not define it when making Muslim Personal Law. Or when ammending it to deny divorce alimony to a specific person on insistence of rabid fanatics. I am still looking for one Muslim who says "No. I do not care about that stupid old structure. I am different from those Muslims."
    3. The Ramjanmabhumi "belongs" to Hindus in the same manner that countless mosques springing up across India "belong" to Muslims. Can a Hindu go to a mosque and pray to One Almighty God by singing a Bhajan? Not unless he wants to be lynched.
    4. If Muslims can not gift something they have not created, they similarly can not CLAIM something they have not created. No?
    5. Babri Demolition is a criminal/political case (viewpoints!) entirely independent of the title suit. I am sure intelligent journalists will not mix up the two.
    6. The analysis that (a few) Muslims helping build the temple would not solve the problem is absolutely spot on. The issues are much deeper and much more serious. Sheer genius to have recognized that!
    7. The stones being carved are way outside the entire plot presently under govt acquisition. Surely it would not be practical to cease all construction activity in Ayodhya!

    I know I am gloating. But this crybaby syndrome has been taken too far. If govts, babus, judges, cops, CBI, opposition, NGOs, media, Zee Cinema, and everybody else round the corner is out to get the Muslims' goat, then I guess the community will benefit immensely from a mass migration to the prosperous, peaceful, just, secular and stable neighboring countries where they can put to practice their ideas of minority protection!

  2. Farzana,
    1.Ramayana myth-faith !? Hymm !? but don't you know - the moon being split into two as stated in Arabic islamic text ( or is it the Quran itself?) did happen. (Fortunately there are no muslim historians who would dare

    question it and invite a fatwa.)
    2.Ofcourse the Prophet did ascend to heaven in winged horse from Al Hasque mosque? in Jerusalem and get Quran from Allah. That is a fact. ( don't believe ? Ask our indian eminent secular historians like the one and

    only Romila thapar - they would vouch for it. )
    3.No no Ram was a myth , but Muslims existed before Ram. (No secular historian dare question the presence of a mosque in a totally Hindu area in Ayodhya.How did it come there?)
    4.How did a mosque come up next to Krishna Janabhoomi and Kashi Viswanath temple? Don't talk about that. Let us talk about divisions amongst Hindus. That will be more comfortable.
    5.No no, Md bin Qasim, Mahmud of Ghaznavi and Aurangazeb were virtuous. Their acts of killing Rajputs and force marrying the women was a noble act. Was it not a noble deed killing the males and marrying the

    women thus liberating them from tyranical, brahmanical minded hindu male! All this nonsense of jauhar are myths-faith like ramayana. Now tell me , were not Md bin Qasim, Mahmud of Ghaznavi and Aurangazeb

    virtuous for having liberated the subjugated women from the clutches of hindu. Only the facist , communal forces will dub Md bin Qasim, Mahmud of Ghaznavi and Aurangazeb as tyrants.
    6.Ruins of Vijayanagar - again a conspiracy by upper caste brahminical hindus. No no the magnificant statues were mutilated by hindus themselves. An historian who is shortly going to be crowned eminent by The

    Hindu, CPI and CPI(M) has just found out the truth. He will vouch for it in CNN-IBN to Rajdeep Sardesai and Sagarika Ghosh.

    Come on Farzana, be just to atleast yourself, like Mr.Najeeb Jung VC of Jamia Millia, who openly accepted in NDTV that why he is uncomfortable with this type of verdict - for another 200 mosques would have to be

    relocated, since mosques were built by destroying temples. It is also a bitter fact that people like you and Farah Naqwi are offsprings of Hindus ( upper or lower castes - I am using your language, I don't care about it),

    who were converted to Islam or whose great great great grandfathers were massacred and the hapless women were forcibly married to Muslim soldiers( Let us make it 1 : 4 i.e. converted : forcibly converted ).
    Is it not rape? Then what do you call people like Mir Baqi who perpetuated this? A feminist like you will know better. That is the fact. Accept it. Adjust to it.

  3. Dear Ms Versy,

    I am compiling a list of temples destroyed by Muslims in medieval India from history books. I will include only those temples the destruction of which finds a mention in contemporary texts of those times.

    I know nobody in interested in this. But I think a credible compilation of this data is necessary. Because the VHP kind of exaggeration without evidence (E.g. "50000 temples were destroyed")is damaging the genuine Hindu case based on historical facts.

  4. Ms. FV
    It may be a myth that Ram was born in Ayodhya at the Babri Masjid site but it is no more a myth than what is believed by Muslims all over ( not sure how you think) that Prophet Mohammad ascended to heaven from an area in the ‘Dome of the Rock’ in Jerusalem. I personally visited the place but learned later that Prophet Mohammad never visited Jerusalem; it was only in his dream that he ascended to heaven from there. And now Jerusalem is the third holiest place for Muslims. Is it too much to question the beliefs of Hindus in their own land? As for facts it is a fact Muslim rulers demolished indiscriminately thousands of Hindu temples in northern India. As for proof visit the Qutub Minar in Delhi and in one of the inscription, the rulers at that time had etched in stone that he had built this mosque after demolishing a number of Hindu temples.
    And isn't the Dome on the Rock, built over the site of Jewish temple? So for devotees, perception is more important that mere historically proved facts.

  5. Hi FV

    The court's verdict was shocking, to say the least. They relied on mythology to ascertain the claim, but failed to see that a 500 year old mosque was destroyed to put that claim. This verdict condones the very act of Babri maszid demolition.That a mob can pull down a place of worship of another religion and then be legally given most part of it, is not secular justice. If the maszid had not already been brought down then what would have been the court's directive.. to pull it down and make way for Sita's Rasoi?

    About the mandir maszid issue,what was there when India gained independence? It was the mosque.
    India inherited it as part of her heritage,as she inherited the Taj,the Lal Qila,the Qutub Minar etc. The Ram-Sita idols were put there stealthily in 1949.For a secular court of modern India,it shouldn't have gone back 500 years to give justice, but just go back till the 1947,when this nation and her independent judiciary was born, and when we proclaimed it to be equal in treatment to all religions.If Babar had demolished the Ram temple to build the mosque, he was a foreign invader who came into this country, who didn't know the language or the way of life of the people here and couldn't have cared less. But modern India knows that she has citizens of all religions and colours and has to care for all in her justice, for things which happen after 1947. Why was it so difficult for the court to say this simple thing?

    Hope this case goes to the Supreme court and doesn't die out in some out of court settlement. We need
    to know what would be the final verdict be.

  6. Well done Mr.Baruah. Go ahead preach and implement your secular ideas in your own state Assam. Already Assam has become flooded by Bangladeshi Muslims.
    It is a matter of shame, no no , pride for secularists like you that today Nagaon the birthplace of Srimanta Sankaradeva -saint of Assam, is now a Muslim majority area. What happened to the Baniyam Buddhas is for everyone to see.
    If acts of Babar is justifiable to you then so is the mass migration of Bangladeshis from their overcrowded land to your sparsely populated, fertile Assam. Today Assam is facing a precarious situation. Assam is 35% muslim today. By applying your secular ideas very soon in India many more areas will face Assam like situation. With one muslim majority state Kashmir we are having a tough time in spite of it having highest per capita income. (Just yesterday The Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Hind (JUH) has justified the happenings in Kashmir by stating that Kashmiris have legitimate aspirations! )
    For a change go to your Assam and legitimise all illegal entry into Assam, fight for it! Explain to your ULFA comrades that it is all right for Bangladeshis to settle in Assam. Allow your Sankaradeva Satras to be converted to mosques, so that 500 years from now your off springs can get a chance to justify the same – the same way you are justifying the act of Babar – provided they remain Hindus!!

  7. Free and Footloose:

    1. Agreed. I mentioned what I saw.

    2. Interesting that you only mention definition, or lack of it, of Muslim and not Hindu and khap panchayats, child marriage ad nauseum. The fact that you are looking for a Muslim to say that they do not care about a stupid structure reveals a great deal about you, for many Muslims have said so, stupid or not is another issue. How many Hindus have said they don’t care for the stupid structure over which it was supposedly built? How did a political party rule this country twice based on a temple issue? (Oh, I forgot, thanks for the compilation of razed Hindu temples. Do you have a list of razed Jain and Buddhist temples by Hindu kings? It happened, too, you know.)

    3. Wow. That’s all I have to say about the possibility of lynching…did I not mention the little boy who cries down the lane? Right said, Fred.

    4. Muslims are not claiming the Babri Masjid; they are claiming their right to be treated justly and not be killed in riots because of what some Mughal emperor created. The fact that it was a place of worship does affect a great many people. Btw, do not all Indians claim the Taj Mahal even though they did not create it, and it does not matter that they will not even carry their wives’ shopping bags let alone build an awfully ostentatious structure?

    5. Thanks for saying that the Babri Masjid case is a “criminal/political case” as has been stated by this writer often, although no claims to intelligence have been or are being made!

    6. The sarcasm won’t work for this writer has been accused of ‘harping’ on this issue often.

    7. “All” is different from some construction activity. Let’s be selective occasionally at least.

    Oh, we aren’t about to give you the pleasure of gloating. Even if you get the goat, you let it graze in the pasture or take it to the abattoir. Either way, you do the work and we lie back and enjoy. While we are at it, we might protect your fragile sensibilities that project victimhood. I mean, are we such a threat?

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    Look, the idea of myth and faith is not new. If you wish to twist it, then your choice. And I don’t care if the moon was split into a hundred little pieces.

    I have not discounted the possibility of a temple beneath the mosque, so please try this questioning of secularism elsewhere. I maintain that the Mughals, like those before them and after, were colonisers and they did not come to make friends here.

    Thanks for the history lesson. I am surprised that you would assume I would condone rape by conquest and subsequent conversion. It happened and there is no denying it. There is nothing to look back and pat anyone; similarly merely critiquing it won’t serve a purpose when rape remains one of the most dastardly crimes in contemporary society.

    I have no problems if my ancestors were Hindus, Mongols, or monkeys – of any caste or class. I have a special affinity towards lemurs, though.

  8. Hi RBaruah:

    You have rightly questioned the verdict that does not take cognisance of the act of destruction.

    If the maszid had not already been brought down then what would have been the court's directive.. to pull it down and make way for Sita's Rasoi?

    An interestingly hypothetical query. I doubt there would have been such a court directive given that it is all politically driven and the Mandir issue came to the forefront only two decades ago. It still makes us wonder at the idea of how secularism is viewed even by the judiciary.

    The problem is that we refuse to accept history as it is when we speak about a certain kind of heritage. I have always maintained that there will not be noise regarding the Taj because it is a money-spinner and the moment there is an internationally visible movement to make vedic claims over it, out goes our forex earner and for whatever reasons the most visible symbol of historical India.

    I am surprised that there is even talk about an out-of-court settlement. We have seen mahants and maulvis earlier confabulating on TV panel discussions. It makes absolutely no sense. The Supreme Court should be put on test because it has to do with how the Constitution will be perceived, both in respect of the criminal acts of demolition and following riots as well as treatment of minorities.

    Of course, some people don’t even realise that the trouble in Assam has nothing to do with this and started in the early days due to the influx of the well-to-do seths of Kolkata and the central government’s divide and rule policy in the NE. I am not sure if Babr was interested in tea estates.

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    I have already explained that a faith can be based on myth (mythology). Geez. And it can be Islam. Happy?

    And please, make your lists. My building too has some inscription, I am sure. Can you send someone to get it renovated and all cleaned up?

  9. Dear FV,

    I am happy we are talking in clear bullet points and not hyperventilating like that pious Hindu Teesta Setalvad. I am always worried that she will drop dead from sheer exhaustion in the middle of a TV show! Anyway, Powerpoint presentation in point form continues!

    1. No comments since we agreed.

    2. Would you have conceded a point had I mentioned Hindu also? I guess not. The answer is bound to reflect the kind of person I am. If my being Hindu appears to colour my opinion (in your eyes, there's little I can do to help it.
    I accept Khap crimes are a shame of Hinduism. So are child marriages. Do you accept that temple desecration was shame of Islam? Let me be more provocative here. Do you accept that Prophet's marriage to an underage girl was a shameful act?
    2(a). Do you want me to enumerate the people who are unfortunately Hindu and who want to reconstruct the Babri? I named one just above. The other names will exceed the word limit of this comment. The sad fact is these people call themselves Hindus and the others like me can do nothing about it. Now go ahead and name that Muslim I asked about!
    3. Sorry, my IQ is lower than you flatteringly believe. I did not understand.
    4. If "something created by an emperor" is causing widespread riots and unrest, is it worth anything to peg the dignity of an entire community to it? Has anyone asked for demolition of the grand mosques in Delhi, Hyderabad, Lucknow or Srinagar? Why struggle doggedly at the cost of everything else?
    5. Again, my IQ isn't up to the challenge, but I take it as agreement.
    6. Ditto. But an explanation would be welcome.
    7. Agreed. Take it as the needless gloating on my part.

  10. Well San, about the verdict first.You yourself say how disturbing it was when the Taliban
    destroyed the Bamiyan Buddhas, so don't you think it's even more pathetic when
    the same is done in a secular democratic republic? Babar might have struck down a
    temple to build the mosque.. but that was 500 years ago!Also the question is, was
    that the grandest temple of the Hindus? Would the religion be in peril if that
    temple was not reclaimed? No, that's not the case you know. So why a hype was created
    about it, the buildup, the awakening of the Hindu pride and the ultimate demolition? ISn't that to
    capture votes rather than to give Ram his Mandir? Ayodhya is the birthplace of Ram.
    The whole land is pavitra, isn't it? Hindu religion wouldn't have been poorer if a
    Ram Mandir was built in Ayodhya, which is not on the same site as the Babri Maszid.

    The Assam illegal immigrant problem is also votebank politics,in the sense that they are
    the votes. It grew under the patronage of the politicians. I grew up in the '80s, so have
    seen the movement, passions running high, fear of the "other", finally culminating in the Accord
    and electoral victory.But 25 years down the the line the problem still remains.For the
    Assamese people it was fear of losing the language, rather than religion, but now
    it's acceptance, peace and business as usual.I can go on and on, but this post is not
    about that.

    The ULFA are not my comrades and I don't keep a hotline to talk to them. And oh, by the way
    they are not fighting the Bangladeshis in Assam, they are fighting Indian occupation!Their
    top leaders are hiding in Bangladesh and our Govt. is making some half hearted attempts
    to extradiate them. So I doubt the ULFA will say anything against the Bangladeshis now!

    The Satras of Srimanta Sankardev and the numerous temples of Assam are under no threat from
    anyone as far as I know.

    The Bangladeshis will keep coming to India to escape their overcrowded, overflooded
    land.(The other option for them is to jump into the Bay of Bengal.) It's upto the Govt.of
    India how they handle it. Whether they allow them to be exploited by unscrupulous politicians
    and contractors(they provide the cheapest labour) or give them work permit and legitimise
    their stay here as foreign workers.There's no use hitting the panic button. Assam tried but
    didn't succeed.

    After 600 years of Mughal rule India still remained Hindu majority. I am ready to take my
    chance in India for another 500 years of secular rule.

    You are right. People don't know that there are so many parallel movements going on in the NE,
    most of them directed at the apathy of the Central govt towards the region. One of the
    slogans during the Assam movement was "will give blood, but not oil". There was fear that
    the central Govt. was abetting the influx in Assam to make the Assamese a minority in their
    own state and hence inconsequential in the political scene.Back then the concern was losing the
    language and culture, because everyting was not painted under one brush as Indian culture.

  11. I still remember being swept up in this sentiment in 1990 and one and the only vote cast in my entire adult life for Mr. Advani in Gandhinagar consituency (that is just an argument for raising the voter eligibility age).

    In any case, politics, religion, law all being loosey-goosey in India (e.g. Arms dealer Nanda's son mows down 5 poor citizens and some lawyers get entangled in bribery scandal to save him; eventually going to prison 1 year for each life he took; with special release to attend his grandpa's funeral or Rajiv Gandhi overturning the Shahbano judgement and much worse the Bhopal fiasco), there isn't really hope for meeting the needs for justice of all its citizens but now the Indian government is indeed playing with fire.

    The issue that is obviously emotional (and therefore domain of politicians) now even has the judiciary caught up in it. Many sections of Indian society has suffered for decades under corrupt bureaucracy and judiciary but now they are moving along a path where nation's dominant minority is at the receiving end of this ham-handed treatment (may be they have always been but it is much more blatant now that the Capitalism is the new religion sweeping India) and it doesn't bode well for long term viability of Indian Union unless they reverse the course.



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