Exactly two hundred years ago, the British termed Jama Masjid of ‘Sita Rasoi’ as Babri Masjid, with the intention of turning Ayodhya into a battleground. Very few Indians are aware of the fact that the seeds of the Mandir-Masjid dispute were sown in 1819, with the tampering in revenue records, by the then British Resident. The apex court is likely to deliver the much-awaited judgment, over the legal tussle, in the bicentenary year of the trick played by ‘Gora Sahab’.
The first battle between Hindu and Muslims was fought in 1853 and 1854. It was not over Babri Majid but Hanuman Garhi, the headquarters of saints built with the financial assistance and land grants by Nawabs of Awadh in order to promote harmony. It is a little known fact of history, that the last ruler of the Awadh dynasty – Nawab Wajid Ali Shah was dethroned in 1856, but the British had managed to occupy administrative authority over revenue matters, via the Treaty of 1819.
Until the early nineteenth century, it was unknown to the people that Babar had built a mosque over a temple. In the mid-19th century, it was the Bairagis of Hanuman Garhi who coined the idea that Lord Rama was born at the site where the mosque stood. They came to know from the revenue records, that the spot was registered as Jama Masjid, Sita Rasoi and Janamsthan Masjid. The Bairagis also floated the theory that the site of the birthplace of Lord Rama had vanished into the mists of time, but was discovered by King Vikramaditya through a miracle. Later on, the king built a grand temple at the site and subscribed a theory by the British, that the mosque had been built over the ruins of the temple, erected by Vikramaditya.
After the clash of Hanuman Garhi, the British kept on changing the titles of the site in revenue records and used the clashes between Hindus and Muslims to justify the annexation of Awadh. They blamed Wajid Ali Shah, calling him an incompetent ruler, with no guts, to ensure peaceful coexistence of the occupiers of Hanuman Garhi and Muslims longing for the fortress-like headquarters, under religious zeal of Maulvi Ahmedullah Shah.
After the ‘revolt of 1857,’ it was the British who ruled that the respective places of the two communities at loggerheads should be demarcated, to permanently leave Hindus and Muslims of Ayodhya in dispute; after realising that cordial relations between the two communities had posed a threat to their imperialism.
The tampering in revenue records followed a well-calculated move to allow Mahants to raise a platform in front of the mosque, known as Ram Chabootra. They installed a grilled fence between the mosque and Chabootra. Post-1857 India witnessed clashes between Hindus and Muslims as the British had anticipated. The interfaith understanding between the two communities nose-dived, with the rise of nationalism among the followers of the two religions, by the early 1900s. The worst ever communal violence rocked Ayodhya in 1912-13 followed by bloody clashes in 1934 on the occasion of ‘Bakrid’, in which Muslims were accused of sacrificing a cow to mark the festival.
The Bairagis of Hanuman Garhi had captured the mosque and destroyed its two domes. The ‘timely’ prevention by the police maintained the demarcation intact, and also ensured reconstruction of the demolished parts of the mosque, but the tension between the two communities continued to simmer.
The partition of India encouraged the Hindu Mahasabha leaders to pin down their hopes on an illiterate Sadhu Abhiram Das and his associates, to place idols in the mosque in 1949. This resulted in a long legal battle, to be decided anytime, with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) likely to gain formidably, in whatever way the decision goes. The verdict in favour of Ram Lalla will certainly be perceived as an outcome of the ruling party’s ally Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s (VHP) campaign, to revive the issue that had remained unknown for almost three decades, from 1949 to 1980. If otherwise, the majority community is bound to consider that they have been denied what they deserve, and may go to the extent of putting the country’s secular fabric in jeopardy, by resorting to yet another movement for declaration of India as a ‘Hindu Rashtra’.