The people’s struggle over Sri Ram Janmabhoomi and reinstating the Sri Ram Mandir on the site has a long history.
-Aabhas K Maldahiyar
All the versions of Ramayana irrespective of origin state that the capital of Sri Ram was Ayodhya. For crores of Hindus, Ayodhya has always been the place where Sri Ram was born. The alleged Mosque is believed to have been constructed during 1528-29 by ‘Mir Baqi,’ the commander of the Mughal emperor Babur. Interestingly there is scant evidence for the fact regarding Mir Baqi and construction of Mosque. Even Baburnama doesn’t find a mention of same.
Ram Janmabhoomi, Ayodhya
In 1611, an English traveller William Finch visited Ayodhya and recorded the Ruins of the Ranichand [Ramachand] castle and houses but made no mention of any mosque. In 1634, Thomas Herbert described a “pretty old castle of Ranichand [Ramachand]” which he described as an antique monument. However, by 1672, the appearance of a mosque at the site can be inferred because Lal Das’s Awadh-Vilasa describes the location of birthplace without mentioning a temple. In 1717, the Moghul Rajput noble Jai Singh-II purchased land surrounding the site and his documents showed a mosque. The Jesuit missionary Joseph T visited the site during 1766-71, wrote that either Aurangzeb or Babur had demolished the Ramkot fortress, including a house. The house was considered birthplace of Rama.
Ram Lalla Virajman, the presiding deity of the temporary temple in Ayodhya
Joseph T further stated that a mosque was constructed in its place, but the Hindus continued to offer prayers at a mud platform that marked the birthplace of Rama. In 1810, Francis B visited the site, and stated that the structure destroyed was a temple dedicated to Rama, not a house. Many subsequent sources state that the same (Robert L & Julian T, Destruction and Conservation of Cultural Property, Routledge. pp. 2–9).
Police officer and writer Kishore Kunal states that all the claimed inscriptions about date on the Babri Mosque were fake & very recent. They were affixed sometime around 1813 (almost 285 years after the supposed construction of the mosque in 1528 CE. Till 1940s, the Disputed Structure was called Masjid-i-Janmasthan including in the official documents such as revenue records. Shykh MD Azamat Ali Kakorawi Nami (1811–1893) wrote: “the Babari Mosque was built up in 923 AH”
Pillars and construction material kept at the site of Sri Ram Mandir
Azamat Ali attributes construction to have happened under the patronage of Sayyid Musa Ashiqan in the Janmasthan temple in Faizabad-Avadh, which was a great place of (worship) and capital of Rama’s father. H.R. Neville, the editor of the Faizabad Dist Gazetteer (1870), wrote that the Janmasthan temple “was destroyed by Babur & replaced by a Mosque. “He also wrote, “The Janmasthan was in Ramkot and marked the birthplace of Rama. In 1528 Babur came to Ayodhya and halted here for a week.” Neville goes on mention, “Babur destroyed the ancient temple and on its site built a mosque, still known as Babur’s mosque. The materials of the old structure (i.e., the temple) were largely employed especially temple columns. 1853, a group of armed Hindu ascetics belonging to the Nirmohi Akhara occupied the Babri Masjid site, and claimed ownership of the structure.
Issue under the Colonial State
Subsequently, the civil admin stepped in & in 1855 divided the mosque premises into two parts: one for Hindus & the other for Muslims. A Muslim party claimed that the Hanumangarhi temple had been built over a mosque and organised a raid in 1855 to occupy its premises. The raiders were beaten back, some killed, and others chased to the Babri Masjid where they took refuge. However, the victorious Hindus did not make claims to the Babri Masjid. This suggests that the mosque had not yet become contentious in Ayodhya’s local memory. The Nawab of Oudh instituted a committee of inquiry into the conflict of 1855. The inquiry concluded that the Hanumangarhi temple hadn’t been built over a Mosque. However, to placate Muslims the Nawab toyed with the idea of constructing a mosque adjacent to the Hanumangarhi temple. It perhaps prompted the construction of a parallel story around the Babri. Few years after the revolt of 1857, the Mahant of Hanumangarhi built a chabutra or near the Disputed Structure. A complaint regarding the appropriation was made to the magistrate by the then muezzin.
Kar sevaks atop the disputed structure on December 6, 1992
In 1861, the administration built a wall to separate the mosque from the chabutra. In 1883, the Hindus launched an effort to construct a temple on the platform. When the administration denied them the permission to do this, they took the matter to court. In 1885, the Hindu Sub Judge Pandit Hari Kishan Singh dismissed the lawsuit. Subsequently Court also dismissed the lawsuit in 1886, in favour of status quo. In December 1949, some Hindus placed idols of Rama and Sita in the mosque, and claimed that they had miraculously appeared there. As thousands of Hindu devotees started visiting the place Government declared the ‘so called mosque’ a disputed area & locked its gates. Subsequently came lawsuits from Hindus, asking for permission to convert the site into a place of worship. In the 1980s, the VHP etc. launched a campaign to construct the Ram Temple at the site. The Rajiv Gandhi Government allowed Hindus to access the site for prayers in late 80s.
It was well understood that it happened in order to appease Hindus post the damage while appeasing Muslims through Shah Bano case. Few also say that it happened to hide off Gumnami Baba issue which was causing red flag for the INC. Extensive works by Anuj Dhar clearly proves that Gumnami Baba living in Faizabad was none other than Netaji and INC holistically wanted to divert countries attention when Gumnami Baba was turning into pop wind of time. On December 6, 1992 the disputed structure was razed off. Though lakhs of people had actually congregated for Bhajan & Puja, few took law in hand. It followed with communal violence nationwide leaving at least 2000 dead. On January 7, 1993, the Rao Government issued an ordinance taking over 66.7 acres of land in Ayodhya, including the 2.77 acres, the site of disputed Structure.
The ordinance was turned into the Acquisition of Certain Area at Ayodhya Act, 1993. The Act prescribed maintenance of status quo that prevailed just before the acquisition. It meant that the makeshift temple was to remain and puja was to be continued. The Act also abated court proceedings on disputes over ownership rights to all properties in the acquired land. In other words, the Ayodhya title suits pending in the High Court too abated. Either the Government was willing to let the mosque become a temple or planned to use the prevailing status quo to negotiate a deal between Hindus and Muslims.
A 5-member bench heard a challenge to the Act in what is known as Ismail Faruqui vs Union of India (1993-94) and also debated over the Presidential Reference. The reference asked SC to give its opinion on “whether a Hindu temple or any Hindu religious structure existed prior.” The SC refused to give its opinion on the Presidential Reference as it didn’t involve a point of law. As former CJI AM Ahmadi pointed out “We were being asked to give an opinion on structure, not whether a Rama temple existed.” CJI further said, “However, the cause of the dispute was that a Rama Temple had been demolished to build the Babri Masjid in 1528. It was akin to shifting the goalpost, so to speak.”
Distortion by the Marxists
What the Marxist gang did not have was solid evidence on their side or the scholarship to refute the pro Ram Janmabhumi evidences. The court observed them as non-qualified. Counter questioning kept bursting the bubble of their knowledge and also nullified all false claims and opinions. Judgment from Honorable Justice Sudhir Agarwal is the longest, 21 volume, 5000 pages—and is a gold mine of interesting information.
The most important discovery from the demolition of the disputed structure was a Gahadavala inscription. Ideally this stone slab that fell from the wall of the disputed structure should have settled the controversy once and for all. It was the proof that a temple lay beneath the masjid. Prof Ajay Mitra Shastri, specialist in Epigraphy and Numismatics stated:
Inscription is in chaste and classical Nagari script Dated to 11th or 12th century recorded beautiful temple of Vishnu Hari, unparalleled by any other temple built earlier. “Constructed in temple city of Ayodhya, situated in Saketa mandala. Described God Vishnu destroying King Bali (in Vamana avatar) & Dashanana (Ravana).”
But Sr Irfan Habib made baseless remark that the found inscription was the one stolen from Lucknow Museum in 1953 and further complicate the mater.
Home ministry and Allahabad High court quizzed Dr KV Ramesh, former Director of Epigraphy, ASI in this regards. Lucknow inscription was ‘fragmentary’ while Ayodhya inscription was 5 feet by 2 feet. The dates didn’t match as alleged by Irfan Habib—to have been stolen in 1953 and to be kept hidden till 1992.
(The writer is a columnist and an architect)