The issue of the demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya has been one of the most contentious topics in, both, the Indian political, and religious scene. The disputed site rose to fame in 1992, when a mob managed to demolish the existing structure, claiming that there was a temple dedicated to the birthplace of Lord Ram before the Babri Masjid was built. The mob violence, that initiated after some fiery speeches by popular leaders of that time, left the ruins of a mosque in its wake, burying the dream of a secular India under the rubble.
As time went by, the details and memories of the incident began fading away slowly, replaced with narratives woven in by those in power. Parties like the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the same party that is in power right now, had risen to power with the help of the Ram Temple movement itself, in the early 1990s. Even more recently, the BJP’s election manifesto in, both, 2014 and 2019 Lok Sabha elections had included the promise to “facilitate the construction of Ram Temple in Ayodhya”. Thanks to this political connection to the construction of the Ram temple, the need to fulfil this promise has become more of an agenda for political prowess, than that of religious morality.
The discussion, these days, has been more concentrated on the issue of the Ram Temple dispute that has been making rounds of the Indian judiciary system. In 2010, the Allahabad High Court had divided the 2.77 acres of disputed land into three parts, one each for the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhada, and Ram Lalla, the three main parties in the case. Since then, 14 petitions had been filed in the Supreme Court, opposing the judgment delivered by the High Court. In October 2018, the Supreme Court had turned down all the appeals for an early hearing on the dispute. In a five-minute session, a three-judge bench had denied heeding to any appeal and had said that the final date of the hearing would be fixed in January 2019.
Following the appointment of a mediation committee in March 2019 and the ensuing day-to-day hearings that took place from August to October, the Supreme Court had promised to wrap up the dispute by October 18. An interesting update on the case emerged when the Sunni Central Waqf Board, on October 16, conveyed that they were ready to give up their claim on the debated land. They had presented this move as a conditional bargain, only to be agreed upon if the following conditions were met:
Another dramatic feature of the hearing on October 16 was the Muslim parties’ lawyer shredding a pictorial map that was being submitted by Vikas Singh, the advocate for the Hindu parties.
Following this thrilling display of emotions in the courtroom, the five-judge bench, issued a notice saying that it would sit in chambers to conduct proceedings on the mediation. Another interesting fact is that the bench has been presiding over the hearings for over 40 days now, making it the second-longest dispute to be heard by the Supreme court! As for now, the Court would look to give its final judgement, before the chief justice of India leaves office, on November 17th.
While we, as the Indian populace, wait for this 27-year-old matter to be put to rest, we must also acknowledge the sentiments attached to it. We must reflect on the fabric of harmony, that risks being ruptured in the wake of the judgement, and we must introspect on our humanity and patriotism. Most of all, we must question the ways in which we have normalised the demolition of a religious structure, especially when the structure is one that belonged to a historically persecuted minority.