Babri Masjid
India Islamophobia

India’s troubled history- The Babri Masjid case

Right wing Hindu activists demolishing the Babri masjid in 1992.
Hindutva groups demolish the Babri Masjid in 1992

The Babri Masjid case exposed the communal fault lines in India and its troubled history.  India has historically been home to multiple religions. But it also had an issue with religious conflict. This article looks at the impact of the Babri Masjid case in India.

Babri Masjid Steeped in History

First, let us look at the history of the Babri Masjid. This mosque is located in Ayodhya, a city in Uttar Pradesh, India. The Mughal ruler Babur built this mosque in 1528. Babur was the founder of the Mughal dynasty in India.

Centuries later in the winter of 1949, certain individuals placed idols inside the mosque. They then asked permission to conduct prayer services in the mosque. In 1950 litigation started. Consequently, the mosque’s interior was locked. Muslims lost access to their mosque.

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Subsequently, in 1984 right-wing parties took out processions in major cities in India. These processions often provoked riots. Later in 1986, the trial court granted Hindus permission to worship in the mosque. The situation in Ayodhya was tense. Police forces were deployed to protect the mosque.

But in 1992, a Hindu mob stormed the mosque and destroyed it. Following this event, the mob attacked the houses and businesses of Muslims in Ayodhya. The destruction of the Babri Masjid is one of the darkest days in Indian history.

Allahabad High Court’s Judgment

In the 2000s, the litigation is still ongoing. The Allahabad High Court took up this case due to its importance. The High ordered that the Archaeological Survey of India excavate the Babri Masjid site. The court wanted to determine if a temple lay underneath the remains of the mosque.

The Archaeological Survey released a controversial report stating there were remains of an ancient 12th-century temple. However, historians and archaeologists in India and around the world refuted this report.

Later on, in 2010, the Allahabad High Court delivered its judgment. The court divided the mosque and adjoining land into three parts. Two-thirds would go to the Hindu litigants and one-third to the Muslim litigants.

None of the litigants was happy with this outcome. All of the litigants in the Babri Masjid case approached the Indian Supreme Court.

Indian Supreme Court’s Babri Masjid Judgment  

Let us now look at how the Indian Supreme Court handled the Babri Masjid judgment.

Firstly there is the archaeological survey. This survey stated a mosque was built after demolishing a temple. The court rejected this part of the survey. The court found that the temple described in the report dated to the 12th century. However, the Babri Masjid was built 400 years later.

Secondly, there was nothing to show this 12th-century temple had anything to do with the mosque. The report didn’t conclusively say that portions of a temple were used to build the Babri Masjid.

So the Court concluded that there was no proof that a temple was destroyed. But this is where the table turns.

The Court then stated that the Muslim community was unable to show they had continuous possession of the mosque. So basically, the Muslim plaintiff was not able to show they had possession of the Babri Masjid from 1528 onwards. This is where logic and reason disappear.

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The Court didn’t consider that the mosque was built by a Muslim ruler. Therefore, the Muslim community would use it for prayers.

How does one show that a mosque was used for worship in 1600, 1700, or 1800? Documents from that era are sparse and literacy rates in India were abysmal during that time period. Asking the Muslim plaintiffs to produce proof was an impossible task. Curiously, the Hindu plaintiffs were not subject to the same standard.

Verdict in the Babri Masjid case

The Indian Supreme Court came to the conclusion that the Hindu parties would get the entire land including the Babri Masjid. Whereas, the Muslims were awarded 5 acres in a separate location.

But, the issue is that this judgment was influenced by beliefs and faith rather than the law. The judgment comes to the conclusion that the site of the Babri Masjid was where Lord Rama was born. How the court comes to such a broad conclusion is mysterious. At best one can say some Hindus believe in this statement. But does it include every Indian?

Another question would be – why do the beliefs of Hindus hold greater merit than the beliefs of Muslims? The Muslim litigants in the case argued that their community was using the Babri Masjid as a mosque for centuries. This argument was based on their strongly held belief.

Now we need to remember how the dispute started. Initially, Hindu plaintiffs sought permission to worship within the premises of the mosque. Hindu mobs demolished the mosque in 1992. By 2019, the Muslim litigants lost their rights over the entire land.  

Conclusion

One thread connects these events. A BJP government was in power in the State of Uttar Pradesh in 1992. And the mosque was demolished in 1992. The controversial report of the Archaeological Survey came out when the BJP was in power in the centre. Later, the Supreme Court’s decision also occurred during the time of the present BJP government. The present agitations for demolishing mosques are also in states where the BJP is in power.

Normally in India, bureaucracy and the government tend to move at a snail’s pace. Yet within weeks of the judgment, the foundation stone for a new temple was laid. This ceremony at the site of the Babri Masjid was attended by the Prime Minister of India.

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We cannot ignore this link. A political party that is governing a diverse nation like India needs to look after everyone’s well-being. It cannot be only in the interests of one community. Even within the Hindu community. Most Hindus don’t care about these issues. It is only fringe elements that push these communal narratives.

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So one has to wonder, why a narrow and divisive approach is becoming the norm in India. Why is the country moving away from pluralism? Every Indian citizen has equal rights and deserves the same protection. The same principle should apply to religions as well.