How Did The Supreme Court Arrive At Its Verdict On The Mandir-Masjid Dispute?

जय श्री राम| Praise be to Lord Ram! For many Indians, the spirit of India does reside in these words, not just because of the place of Sri Ram, an avatar of Vishnu, in Hindu beliefs and religion, (and thereby for a majoritarian positioning) but due to the conception of righteousness and embodiment of the same in the Maryada Purushottam, who speaks up against class and caste and fights for justice. Even then, I have always had apprehensions of the politicking of Sri Ram, and the recent Supreme Court verdict on the Ram Janmabhoomi case made me reflect on the direction we were taking as a nation.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Ram Janmabhoomi debate, here goes some background: Ram Janmabhoomi is the name given to the site that is the birthplace of Sri Ram. The Ramayana states that the location of Ram’s birthplace is on the banks of the Sarayu river in a city called ’Ayodhya’. A section of Hindus claim that the exact site of Rama’s birthplace is where the Babri Masjid once stood in the present-day Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh. According to them, the Mughals demolished a Hindu shrine that marked the spot and constructed a mosque in its place, known as ‘Babri Masjid’ (or ‘Babur’s Mosque’).

On 6 December 1992, a large group of Hindu activists belonging to the Vishva Hindu Parishad, and allied organisations, demolished the mosque, triggering riots all over India, killing around 2,000 people, many of them Muslim. Recently, the Supreme Court of India passed its judgement on the title suit for the disputed land, where the erstwhile Babri Masjid once stood and awarded it to the Hindus to build a Ram Temple in the 2.77 acres. 5 acres of land, elsewhere in Ayodhya, was awarded to the Muslims.

Many see the unanimous judgement as a surprise, and a validation of the fear that even the highest judicial body may not be impervious to the political pressures of the Indian Right. The land given to Muslims is seen as a tokenisation gesture, while another section believes it is the culmination of centuries of struggle and strife for the Hindus, over centuries, and this could finally lead to lasting peace between the Hindus and Muslims.

To begin, I categorically and strongly condemn the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992. I believe that Satya, the absolute Truth, manifests in diverse ways, and cuts across religions. To demolish one to build another, when that essential unity is realised is ridiculous unless we consider an essential aspect of the story. Faith!

Human beings have evolved as a species in civilisations shaped by beliefs and ideas over the millennia. We have gone from the discovery of fire and invention of the wheel to the Egyptian pharaohs, and Mesopotamian trading ports, to Hellenic congregations, ancient Indian statecraft, and Chinese inventions to the Industrial Revolution and Renaissance to contemporary times. People of each aeon have their idiosyncratic belief sets and philosophies. Religions have grown out of systematic sets of beliefs and rituals around a central corpus of spiritual elements and experiences. The manner in which ‘spirituality’ (and religion) first manifested in human experience directly is a question for the ages; some would say it was a result of revelations, some would take a more animistic approach and talk about how man was trying to rationalise the natural forces, while still others would call religion a system of oppression of certain communities and classes by others. I, myself, believe that spirituality is a reflection of a truth so profound that it resonates with that which underlies the workings of nature: Dharma. Dharma is that which maintains the multiplicity of realities with the inherent reflexive tendencies of and within each.

In simpler words, it is the order of things that allows for every element in nature to act as per its characteristics, potentially evolve in myriad ways and move forward in relation to all other elements in the Universe.

Simple, and just common sense, right?

Not quite!

Since every element in nature has a tendency to display a certain creative principle, if you will, and a certain tendency to ‘expand’, it is often not possible to reconcile this with our finiteness or of the singular, the physical, the embodied. You may have seen that in everything from the entropic principle of increased randomisation in nature to the primal instinct of avarice and seeking to acquire more and more, in humans. It is just so fundamental, that we never realise this tendency.

As a result of the impossibility of reconciling the finite and the infinite, people over the ages have tried to reflect on and realise what it means to ‘exist’; what it means to be. And there have been some who have shared how they have glimpsed a greater reality, not necessarily empirically, but experientially, or spiritually, as some would say. Some have made it the Great Other, by other-ing a superlative being of all beings – God, who is omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent, as something distant, and remote, and beyond us all. Others have realised that they are very much a part of that greater reality and yet it transcends them. It is finite and it is infinite; it exists and it does not exist.

However, not everyone is spiritually oriented or even interested in these long-winded reflective pieces. What about them?

The good thing about decentralising this debate, this discussion, about the concept of reality and everything there is, is that it all becomes very accessible, very immediate and very much within reach. It is about you, and you reaching the superlative, or at least trying to, in a responsible and compassionate way (something that comes naturally when you sense the unity in essence with everything there is). It is about you being the best of what you can be. It is about how you can improve yourself and live happily.

Satchitananda. (Existence, consciousness and bliss.) That is what God was described as in ancient Indian scriptural texts.

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The story of Sri Ram as carved into stone as an 8th-century relief artwork in a Shiva temple of the Ellora Caves, suggesting its importance to society at that time. You can see scenes from the Ramayana like the battle between Bali and Sugriva, and the episode of hunting the golden deer.

In India, we have always had prominent figures, be it gods and goddesses or rulers or saints, or tales and even Itihas (crudely transliterated to ‘history’) that transcends the finite, in the ideas and values they represent. That comes from the above-mentioned idea that there are certain happenings and lessons that apply to everyone. There are resonances that cut across physicality and temporality, if we ever to take it one step higher, from society to nature. And it is in the identification and edification of these aspects, these nuances of reality, wherein lies the path of Dharma. No wonder we have 33,00,00,000 gods and goddesses in Sanatana Dharma or Hinduism as it is called today. The way in which these values and ideas and, most importantly, an understanding and relation to the higher truth (satya) are embodied in a person, represent their inherent divinity, in what can be called a very Vedantic understanding of godhood. In the history of India, one individual that has captured the imagination, the lives and the beliefs of people more than many others, over millennia, has been Sri Ram.

The primary source of the life of Sri Ram is the Sanskrit epic Ramayana composed by Rishi Valmiki, a renowned sage, who is said to have lived in the latter part of the first millennia BCE. There have been many subsequent renditions of the story of Sri Ram, from the Kamba-Ramayanam and Ramakirti to Tulsidas’ Ramcharitmanas. Unlike in many countries, India had an oral Sruti tradition of passing down knowledge. This is also true for the of Brahmānda Purana, of which Adhyatma Ramayana -that presents the spiritual aspects of the story of Sri Ram- is a part. The Purana itself may be a text from the 4th century CE but the oral tradition predates it and belongs to around 600 BCE, if not earlier, as per Ludo Rocher in his book ‘The Puranas’. As per Sheldon Pollock (scholar of Sanskrit, history of India, and comparative intellectual history),

the life of Sri Ram is a masterpiece that offers us a framework to represent, conceptualise and comprehend the nature of life and the world.

Sri Ram’s is a story about a divine-human, a mortal god, which combines the human and the divine and yet transcends both. As a person, Sri Ram personifies the characteristics of the ideal person (Purushottama). He has within him all the virtues that any individual would seek to have. He fulfils all his moral obligations during his life, as per the Ramayana, including his obligation as a son to keep his father’s promise to his step-mother Keikeyi that led to his exile. He is considered a Maryada Purushottam or the highest of upholders of Dharma.

As per the Valmiki Ramayana, Sri Ram was born in the legendary city of Ayodhya. The Ramayana and Mahabharata describe the legendary city of Ayodhya as the capital of the Ikshvaku kings, including Sri Ram. Current day Ayodhya is accepted by most as the one described in ancient texts. However, what has been the point of scrutiny and the bone of contention over the last few centuries has been regarding the exact site of his birth. This has only been aggravated by the Ram Janmabhoomi title suit on which the Indian Supreme Court recently passed a judgement. Hindus have been worshipping the space under the central dome of the erstwhile Babri Masjid as the birthplace of Sri Ram for centuries. But since the court does not go after faith alone, but facts, can that be reason enough?  Not really!

Let us look at some of the factual nuances and aspects of this.

 

The Shlokas 18 to 25 from the Ayodhya Mahatmya of the Skanda Purana, cited by the Supreme Court in its landmark judgement.
The Shlokas 18 to 25 from the Ayodhya Mahatmya of the Skanda Purana, cited by the Supreme Court in its landmark judgement.

The first point of discussion has to be a historical contextualisation of the debate and looking at what historical and scriptural texts say about the disputed Ram Janmabhoomi site. The pictures above are those of the Shlokas 18 to 25 from the Ayodhya Mahatmya of the Skanda Purana, cited by the Supreme Court in its landmark judgement.

In May 1991, four historians — R S Sharma, M Athar Ali, D N Jha, and Suraj Bhan — wrote a report titled ‘Historian’s report to the nation’, discussing the nuances of the Ram Janmabhoomi. In their report, they cited various textual and geographic references, and one of these was around these Shlokas. The primary argument in the 1991 report to refute the contention that the Ram Janmabhoomi was where the Babri Masjid once stood, as per the Skanda Purana, was that the Purana was created around the end of the eighteenth century and the beginning of the nineteenth century. This was refuted by historians P. V. Kane and Shirin Musavi, saying that it was created sometime between the seventh and ninth century.

Another major point relating to the Skanda Purana was around the geographical reference points in the 1991 report. The report referred to “Laumasa”, which relates to the specific section:

To the north-east of that spot is the place of the birth of Rama. This holy spot of the birth is said to be the means of achieving salvation etc. It is said that the place of birth is situated to the east of Vighnesvara, the north of Vasistha and to the west of Laumasa 

The 1991 report identified Laumasa with present-day Rin Mochan Ghat, which the Supreme Court said was wrong. The judgment noted that in the site plan and map prepared by Court Commissioner, Laumasa is the south-eastern corner of the Janmabhoomi complex and not Rin Mochan Ghat, which is on the banks of Saryu.

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Map of the Ram Janmabhoomi Complex submitted with the complaint of 1885
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Based on Plan No 01, prepared by Mr. Shiv Shankar Lal, pleader and Court Commissioner, dated 25.05.50 in the court of the Civil Judge Faizabad regular suit No 2 of 1950/ Shri Gopal Chand Visharad V/s Zahur Ahmad and Others

Another lie that was brought to the fore by the Supreme Court in the 1991 report was the point on the lack of any significant evidence of ruins beneath the Babri Masjid in the report. This was categorically proved to be false when in 2003, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) found remains of a ‘non-Muslim’ structure that had various Hindu religious elements like

Makara Pranali (an architectural element used as a channel to bathe the deity), sections of the Amalaka and  Shikhara portions of a temple and 263 terracotta pieces of various gods and goddesses. The structure was found to be large with 50 pillar bases in 13 rows.

Back in 1976-77, when there was an ASI project under eminent archaeologist B. B. Lal, there were elements of Hindus temples found even within the structure of the mosque, such as pillar bases that had ‘Purna Kalasha’ (carving of a water pitcher from which foliage is coming out, in what is a symbol of prosperity in Hinduism). They also found an east-facing, circular, brick shrine built between the 7th and 10th century AD and which the ASI deduced was similar in structure of other ancient temples in the area, including the Chirenath temple of Sravasti.

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The isometric North-East view of the circular shrine as per Manjhi and Mani 2003 (ASI)

The Supreme Court relied on statements of Mahant Ram Chandra, Jagadguru Ramanandacharya Swami Rambhadracharya, Mahant Ram Vilas Das Vedanti, Swami Avimuktswaranand Saraswati and those of the witnesses produced by Muslim parties in this, and thereafter dismissed the 1991 report as unrepresentative of the truth.

What is very interesting in the entire proceedings is the manner in which the Court looked at the textual evidence, from the writings of travellers to Ayodhya, over the centuries. For one, it looked at the words of William Finch, the English merchant who visited India in 1608-1611, and who recorded in his travelogue that there was a fort in Ayodhya where Hindus believed Sri Ram was born. We can also have a look at Thornton’s Gazetteer 1854-58:

that the heaps of bricks, although much seems to have been carried away by the river, extend a great way; that is, more than a mile in length, and more than half a mile in width; and that, although vast quantities of materials have been removed to build the Mahomedan Ayodha or Fyzabad, yet the ruins in many parts retain a very considerable elevation; nor is there any reason to doubt that the structure to which they belonged has been very great, when we consider that it has been ruined for above 2,000 years. The ruins still bear the name of Ramgurh, or Fort of Rama; the most remarkable spot in which is that from which, according to the legend, Rama took his flight to heaven, carrying with him the people of his city; in consequence of which it remained desolate until repeopled by Vikramaditya, king of Oojein, half a century before the Christian era, and by him embellished with 360 temples.

Not the smallest traces of these temples, however, now remain; and according to native tradition, they were demolished by Aurungzebe, who built a mosque on part of the site. The falsehood of the tradition is, however, proved by an inscription on the wall of the mosque, attributing the work to the conqueror Baber, from whom Aurungzebe was fifth in descent. The mosque is embellished with fourteen columns of only five or six feet in height, but of very elaborate and tasteful workmanship, said to have been taken from the ruins of the Hindoo fanes, to which they had been given by the monkey-general Hanuman, who had brought them from Lanka or Ceylon. Altogether, however, the remains of antiquity in the vicinity of this renowned capital must give very low idea of the state of arts and civilisation of the Hindoos at a remote period. A quadrangular coffer of stone, whitewashed, five ells long, four broad, and protruding five or six inches above ground, is pointed out as the cradle in which Rama was born, as the seventh avatar of Vishnu; and is accordingly abundantly honoured by the pilgrimages and devotions of the Hindoos.

Another interesting account comes from P. Carnegy, who was an assistant Commissioner of the district of Faizabad (he called it ‘Fyzabad’), where Ayodhya is located, in the 1860s, said

Ajudhia is to the Hindu what Macca is to the Mahomedan and Jerusalem to the Jews. The ancient city of Ajudhia covered an area of 48 kos (96 miles). After the fall of the last of Rama’s line, Ajudhia and the royal race became a wilderness and it was converted into a jungle of sweet smelling keorah. Vikramajit restored the neglected and forest-concealed Ajudhia. Thereafter, it is mentioned that the most remarkable place was Ramkot “the strong hold of Ramchandar” which covered a large extent of ground and according to ancient manuscript it was surrounded by 20 bastions. The Janmasthan and other temples — It is locally affirmed that at the Mahomedan conquest there were three important Hindu shrines, with but few devotees attached, at Ajudhia, which was then little other than a wilderness.

These were the “Janmasthan,” the Sargadwar mandir” also known as “Ram Darbar” and the “Tareta-ke-Thakur”. On the first of these the Emperor Babar built the mosque which still bears his name, A.D. 1528. On the second Aurangzeb did the same A.D. 1658-1707; and on the third that sovereign, or his predecessor, built a mosque, according to the well-known Mahomedan principle of enforcing their religion on all those whom they conquered. The Janmasthan marks the place where Ram Chandr was born. The Sargadwar is the gate through which he passed into Paradise, possibly the spot where his body was burned. The Tareta-ka-Thakur was famous as the place where Rama performed a great sacrifice, and which he commemorated by setting up there images of himself and Sita.

Babar’s mosque – According to Leyden’s memoirs of Babar that Emperor encamped at the junction of the Serwa and Gogra rivers two or three kos east from Ajudhia, on the 28th March 1528, and there he halted 7 or 8 days settling the surrounding country. A well known hunting ground is spoken of in that work, 7 or 8 kos above Oudh, on the banks of the Surju. It is remarkable that in all the copies of Babar’s life now known, the pages that relate to his doings at Ajudhia are wanting. In two places in the Babari mosque the year in which it was built 935 H., corresponding with 1528 A.D. is carved in stone, along with inscriptions dedicated to the glory of that Emperor. If Ajudhia was then little other than a wild, it must at least have possessed a fine temple in the Janmasthan; for many of its columns are still in existence and in good preservation, having been used by the Musalmans in the construction of the Babari Mosque.

These are of strong close-grained dark slate-coloured or black stone, called by the natives Kasoti (literally touch-stone), and carved with different devices. To my thinking these strongly resemble Budhist pillars that I have seen at Benares and elsewhere. They are from seven to eight feet long, square at the base, centre and capital, and round or octagonal intermediately. The Janmasthan is within a few hundred paces of the Hanuman Garhi. In 1855 when a great rupture took place between the Hindus and Mahomedans, the former occupied the Hanuman Garhi in force, while the Musalmans took possession of the Janmasthan. The Mahomedans on that occasion actually charged up the steps of the Hanuman Garhi, but were driven back with considerable loss.

The Hindus then followed up this success, and at the third attempt, took the Janmasthan, at the gate of which 75 Mahomedans are buried in the “Martyrs’ grave” (Ganj-shahid.) Several of the King’s Regiments were looking on all the time, but their orders were not to interfere. It is said that up to that time the Hindus and Mahomedans alike used to worship in the mosque-temple. Since British rule a railing has been put up to prevent disputes, within which in the mosque the Mahomedans pray, while outside the fence the Hindus have raised a platform on which they make their offerings.

The interesting part about this account is the fact that this establishes that the complex was being used by both Muslims and Hindus in what Carnegy defines as a ‘mosque-temple’. A point to note here is that this is way before 1949 where the Babri Masjid was desecrated by the placement of idols of Sri Ram inside. Last but not the least is the writing of Joseph Tiefenthaler, a Jesuit missionary, who wrote on Ayodhya:

A spot particularly famous is known as Sita Rassoi, i.e. table of Sita, Rama’s wife… Emperor Aurangzeb demolished the fortress called Ramcot, and erected on the same place a Mohammedan temple with three cupolas. Others say that it was constructed by Babor… Fourteen pilllars of black stone.. are located in the fortress.. The other two (pillars) are in the tomb of an unknown Maure (Muslim)… On the left one can see a square box… Hindus call it Bedi (i.e. the cradle) because formerly it was the house where Beschan (Vishnu) and his three brothers were born under the form of Ram… Subsequently Aurangzeb and some say Babar destroyed the place in order to prevent the heathens from practising their ceremonies. However, they have continued to practice their religious ceremonies in both the places knowing this to have been the birth place of Rama by going around it three times and prostrating on the ground.. On 24th of Chaitrra a large number of people gather here to celebrate the birth of Rama extremely popular throughout India…

This raises the intriguing possibility that the Babri Masjid may have been built by Aurangzeb, not Babur. Besides these travellers, even Guru Nanak wrote about his visit to Ayodhya in 1510-11, when he visited the Ram Janmabhoomi temple before it was purportedly broken in 1528. The Supreme Court had taken into account the Janma Sakhies, ancient religious texts of Sikhism, to show that Guru Nanak had indeed visited Ayodhya.

What Clinched It For The Hindus?

It was neither rhetoric nor faith that clinched it for the Hindus in the recent Supreme Court verdict. It was purely facts. This was a title suit for the 2.77 acres of land under dispute between three bodies: Muslim Sunni Wakf board, Ram Lalla Virajman and Nirmohi Akhada.

Nirmohi Akhara was seeking ‘Shebait’ and management rights over the complex, as per a suit filed in 1950. However, due to being barred by limitation and time, its claim was rejected. However, using the powers vested in it by Article 142 of the Indian Constitution to do complete justice, the Supreme Court asked the central government to have a fair representation of the Akhara in the trust created to build a Ram Temple.

But what resolved the case between the Wakf Board and Ram Lalla Virajman?

Evidence of possession and activities in the complex, over the centuries. This has been a long dispute with the first case filed on this 134 years back, in 1885! The Supreme Court highlighted that the acts of desecration in 1949 and demolition in 1992 of the Babri Masjid were illegal, and there is a separate case that is ongoing on the same. I would have personally liked to see those responsible for the demolition brought to book since the demolition sparked a fire that resulted in the loss of around 2000 lives! The title suit itself was based purely on the consideration of the legality of possession and ownership by both the sides, in a case that was ongoing long before the demolition happened in 1992.

For the resolution of the case at hand, the court considered three phases of time and the reality of the site having two distinct areas: the inner courtyard (where the Masjid was) and the outer courtyard. The first phase from the creation of the Masjid to 1859, after the first Hindu-Muslim tussle happened in a major way, over the Ram Janmabhoomi site, leading to the British placing a barrier between the two courtyards. In this first phase, unfortunately for the Muslim side there was very little documentation or evidences (be it revenue papers, ownership papers or other miscellaneous documents) of ownership and activities, even the conduction of Namaz. On the other hand, there was unhindered Hindu activities that took place not only in the outer courtyard (which was consistently the centre of Hindu activities) but even the inner courtyard, as per writings (some of which are mentioned above). Once the British government had placed the separation between the courtyards in 1859, though the outer courtyard remained within the control of the Hindus, the inner courtyard was still not exclusively owned by the Muslims. There were times when the inner courtyard had usage by Hindus and even others.

Though the first legal case was filed in the 1880s, the first recorded legal history in Ayodhya dispute dates back to 1858. An FIR was filed on November 30, 1858, by a certain individual by the name of Syed Mohammad Khatib against a group of Nihang Sikhs, led by Sant Nihang Singh Fakir Khalsa, who had installed their nishan (triangular flag) and written “Ram” inside the Babri mosque. They apparently also performed havan and puja. Sheetal Dubey, the thanedar (the station house officer) of Avadh, in the official report on December 1, 1858, verified the complaint and even said that a chabutra (platform) had been constructed by the Sikhs. Not going into the details of how truly representative of Sikhism this is, due to the stand against idol worship in the Sikh faith, but this does represent the truth that the inner courtyard was not exclusive to Muslims at this time.

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Copy of FIR filed and report of Thanedar Sheetal Dubey after the occupation of Babri Masjid by Nihang Sikhs

Some say that the worship of the Hindus in the Masjid complex began during the time of Girdhar Singh in the 1720s, when as Governor of Avadh, he seemed to have allowed the worship of Hindus there. He is said to have been so powerful that three administrative posts of Subedari, Faujdari and Dewani were united in him by Mughal authorities. He was instrumental in getting the Mughal Emperor Muhammad Shah to abolish Jiziya (religious tax on Hindus). The Hindus may have been allowed liberties in the Masjid at this period, including allowing the circumambulation of the central bedi under the Masjid mosque, as per Hindu customs, according to Kishore Kunal (mediator between the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Babri Masjid Action Committee on the Ayodhya dispute) in his book ‘Ayodhya Revisited’, on page 361. This practice was stopped by the British, particularly after the Hindu-Muslim tussle in the late 1850s.

When in 1902, the Prince of Wales’ trip to Faizabad was cancelled, the money collected in preparation was instead used to establish markers for important religious sites and places, and this is when markers where placed on the disputed site, with ‘No. 1, Rama Janma-bhumi’ placed in front of the eastern entrance of the erstwhile Babri Masjid, besides another marker some distance away for ‘No. 5, Ram Janmasthan’. Interestingly around this time, Maulvi Shuaib of the Archaeological Survey India (ASI) wrote in the ‘Annual Report of the Office of the Archeological Surveyor’ in 1906 that three inscriptions existed in the disputed site. It is the third inscription which is of immense interest, where he writes that it was said: ‘the erection of the mosque which was built on the same spot where old temple of Janmasthana of Ramchandar was’. These edicts and reports however need to be taken with a pinch of salt since the placement and presence/absence of some of these edicts had undergone changes, as reported in various reports and writings.

In 1934 there was a riot and a part of the Masjid was damaged, and many of these edicts were found missing thereafter. After the desecration of the Masjid with idols in 1949, the Masjid was out of bounds for Muslims, as per the Magistrate’s order, though within a short time the place was opened to Hindus! And then in 1992, the demolition took place, followed by the setting up of a makeshift temple within hours. I have to admit that radical fringe elements on the Hindu side have done things in a bit I find slightly crass, aggressive and, at times, even illegal, over the years. However, when it comes to documentation and records of possession and ownership, the Muslim Wakf Board could not produce this and thereby did not have a strong case. It was on the ‘preponderence of probabilities’ that the land was given to the Hindu side. Since it was not a partition suit but a title suit, the land could not divided as done by the High Court decision in 2010 either. It was also not a case of adverse possession by the Masjid for centuries, since the Hindus themselves did not have strong evidence in modern terms of possession before 1528, except for artefacts and elements of a ‘non-Muslim’ structure, as found in the ASI project of 2003. Since either side could not produce strong evidence of exclusive possession of the entire site, the Court had to rely on records (such as Surveyor’s Reports, legal reports, FIRs and Gazetters) and writings of people, and that is where the Hindus won. What is amazing is that the:

Hindus didn’t allow the destruction of their temple deter them from worshipping Sri Ram. For them, the temple may have been destroyed but their faith was so exemplary that they built an invisible temple, built from the bricks and mortar of faith and unflinching devotion. Such was the power, such was the resilience of their faith!

When various writers described the site as a temple-mosque, they truly did justice to the reality of the structure, which was a mosque but as much a temple in its own right. One could almost envision both a Mandir (temple) and a Masjid (mosque) juxtaposed, and I will say this that had there not been the demolition of 1992, it may have been a case of the title suit with the Masjid in place. It would have been an entirely different trajectory and I would just reiterate my strongest condemnation for the demolition of the Masjid.

Since both sides worshipped their God over the centuries, the Court had to a two has the better claim, as per evidence. And that is where the Hindus clinched it, based on usage and possession of various sections of the disputed site. Though it was not optimum, I am happy that the Court used its extraordinary powers under Article 142 to implement complete justice by asking the government to provide the Muslim side almost double the land in the disputed site – 5 acres. It is being seen as eviction and tokenism simply because the visible structure (of the Masjid) is taken as the end in itself, whereas what the Court has said is that the usage and possession are what was being argued in a civil title suit.

The Supreme Court has acknowledged the illegality of the 1992 demolition in no uncertain terms and has made it clear that the land allocation to Muslims is not tokenistic but for restitution. It has also made sure that other similar cases do not arise by calling upon state governments to give  primacy to the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act 1991, if and when litigation is initiated over other disputed sites of worship. The  Act  prevents the conversion of religious  places of worship from the shape and form they were in at the time of Independence of India. I feel this is good since the Vedantin in me says that this superficial politicking over places of worship is absurd and must be prevented. And we all must embark upon safeguarding and building on the only invisible temple that truly matters: you. God resides in us all and Sri Ram embodies the superlative on so many fronts. He inspires, he loves and he cares for duties and people. He indeed is Maryada Purushottam, but yet he always really is a man. This is a lesson not many see that Sri Ram lives as a man and yet transcends that.

The final place of faith is within! तत्त्वमसि

Let us all claim this, each living day, even as we respect the judgement of the Supreme Court of India on the Ayodha Verdict. I hope to see Hindus and Muslims come together in harmony in India moving forward. Sri Ram is for all, not just Hindus, and in his optimised humanity lies the secret of all secrets: The final conquest, claim and frontier are within! It is time for the invisible Hindu to stand up for this, for themselves and for Dharma.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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