Babri Masjid Verdict
A view of participants
New Delhi, October 24: For Muslims, going to the Supreme Court in appeal against the Ayodhya verdict is the only sensible option, a number of legal luminaries, politicians and intellectuals said here last night. They were speaking at a discussion on “Ayodhya Verdict: A Civil Society Response” at India Islamic Cultural Centre.
The meet was organised by the Institute of Objective Studies (IOS). In his welcome address, IOS Chairman Dr Mohammad Manzoor Alam said that the Ayodhya judgment had stunned many Muslims and rendered them speechless. Like other groups Muslims had lost faith in the Executive and the Legislature, but relied upon the judiciary to be impartial. The Ayodhya judgment, that relied on the belief of the stronger party rather than on law and evidence, had changed everything.
Dr Alam said it was no longer an issue of whether Muslims would get justice, but whether the supremacy of Constitution and rule of law would endure. He said it was the duty of all concerned citizens to ensure that rule of law prevailed.
In his presentation, economist Dr Abusaleh Shariff argued that the judgment had affected the young generation of Muslims so deeply that they had developed a sense of victimhood. “This is the third generation of Muslims since Independence”. The generation of Muslims that had seen India’s Independence from Britain and the generation that was born soon after Independence were less deeply affected by the judgment. “It will affect the integration of Muslim youth in the larger society”, Dr Shariff warned.
Lawyer M M Kashyap, who had pleaded the Babri Masjid case in the Supreme Court, pointed out legal anomalies in the verdict. He said Babri Masjid, built in 1528, was a mosque and nothing else. The fact that idols were placed in it in 1949 did not change its character as “my placing a shirt in the neighbour’s house will not make me the owner of that house”.
Mr Kashyap explained that the rule of delimitation made all claims of the Babri Masjid being a Hindu temple irrelevant. If it was a mosque for over four centuries, the Babri Masjid remained a mosque till it was demolished, he said.
Allahabad High Court lawyer SM Kazmi said the judgment was “disappointing”. However, more ominous was its echo as it had emboldened the people who had unleashed an orgy of violence against Muslims and also destroyed the mosque.
The legal and political fallout would be no less bothersome as the leader of the lumpen bands that destroyed the mosque, LK Advani, was already saying that the judgment was an endorsement of faith, that is, the faith of the vandals, as against the faith of victims.
Such a situation would undermine the credibility and impartiality of courts and subvert democracy. Hence, the only sensible way out of it would be an appeal in the Supreme Court by Muslims.
Shabi Ahmad of the Indian Council of Historical Research said that the verdict had ignored facts of history, to which historians had pointed out.
Former Chief Justice of India Justice AM Ahmadi said that he was “taken aback” by the judgment which looked like a panchayat settlement rather than a proper judicial verdict. Crucial elements of a judicial pronouncement were missing in it. The judges had foisted a formula for settlement on them even though the parties had not sought it.
He remembered how the then Attorney General Milon Banerjee had asked the Supreme Court on December 6, 1992 to pass an order making the Central government the receiver in the Babri Masjid case. He had made the appeal when kar sevaks had demolished one of the domes and were busy demolishing the rest of the mosque. Had the Supreme Court done that, Central forces stationed right outside Ayodhya would have moved in and dispersed the lumpens breaking the mosque in no time. That would have saved the mosque.
Instead, another order was passed allowing “symbolic kar seva” without defining what a symbolic kar seva was, and the result was there for all of us to see. Also, a crucial actor in the demolition, the then UP chief minister Kalyan Singh, was awarded merely a day’s simple imprisonment till the rising of the court.
All things considered, at the present moment an appeal against the judgment in the Supreme Court was the only sensible option available for Muslims, he said.
Former MP and diplomat Syed Shahabuddin said Muslim individuals and organisations should file several PIL cases and also seek interventions in the appeal.
Prof. Sudip Jain observed that Ayodhya was a Jain heritage and a large number of Jain temples were demolished and Hindu temples built upon them. “One of our Trithankars was born there, but the Archaeological Survey of India has not bothered about these things”, Prof. Jain said. In fact, ASI could not prove anything, he added. The programme was compered by Mushtaque Ahmad advocate.
The following resolution was adopted at the end of the meet:
1. This meeting expresses its discomfort with the Allahabad High Court decision and supports the proposal of challenging it in the apex court with full sincerity and commitment. However, it is not averse to continue with the effort to find a resolution to the Ayodhya dispute that has serious implications for the cohesion of our society.
2. Seeking legal course in the apex court would not hinder the move to find common ground with different segments of Indian society in the common cause of fair-play and rule of law. On the contrary, it would pave way for more respectable and dignified solution for an out-of-court settlement.
3. Within the constitutional framework we would coordinate with civil society organisations, academics, jurists, media, religious leaders and other groups to find an equitable solution at the appropriate stage.
4. We believe that this is not an issue between Hindus and Muslims, but an issue of rule of law. The Ayodhya judgment has ominous implications for the future of the country and secular ethos of our Constitution. Hence, it has to be challenged to save the Constitution.