The Big Story: Sentiment versus law

In 1885, a religious body called the Nirmohai Akhara filed a petition in a court in Faizabad asking for permission to construct a Ram temple in the courtyard of the Babri Masjid. They claimed that the mosque had been built on the very site on which the god Ram had been born. This was the beginning of the Ayodhya dispute that is still ongoing. On Tuesday, the Supreme Court asked all concerned parties in the case to drop legal proceedings and work towards an amicable negotiated settlement instead.

This suggestion was rejected by the Muslim Babri Masjid Action Committee, even as the Bharatiya Janata Party welcomed it. The newly appointed BJP chief minister of Uttar Pradesh and key driver of the Ram temple movement, Adityanath supported the court’s suggestion.

A negotiated settlement – with the current imbalance of power between the two sides – would help in the establishment of a Ram temple. This explains the BJP’s support for this strategy.

This latest suggestion by the Supreme Court no less, then is part of a continuing saga of injustice in the case of the disputed site in Ayodhya. In 1949, the Babri Masjid was forcefully taken over and an idol of the infant Lord Ram installed inside. More than four decades later, a violent mass movement led by senior BJP leaders ensured that the mosque was torn down altogether. This act of destroying a 16th century mosque led to the worst riots India had seen since Partition, leaving thousands dead.

In all this, India’s institutions played a depressing role. Neither the Union government nor the Uttar Pradesh administration could afford a minority place of worship the protection of the law, allowing majoritarian religious sentiment to overrule reason.

The judiciary played its own role, when in 2010, a judgement of the Allahabad High Court all but justified the demolition by awarding only a third of the original plot for the purposes of a mosque. Quite startlingly, the court based its judgement on faith not law, assuming that religious sentiment automatically means the area under the dome of the Babri Masjid was the exact birthplace of Lord Ram.

Moreover, no major convictions have been handed out in the case of the demolition of the mosque. The court has taken so long to deliver its judgement that the delay itself has, in practice, decided the matter in favour of the defendants. Moreover, even as the case crawls along, the Central Bureau of Investigation has diluted the case against the accused.

After this long train of injustice, for the Supreme Court now to try and wash it hands off the matter and hand over the dispute for arbitration is unjust and illogical. At the core of the issue lies a dispute over land ownership. This needs to be solved by the court with reference to the law. Religious sentiment, no matter how strong, cannot override the law.

The Big Scroll

  1. Krishna Jha and Dhirendra K Jha recount how Rama appeared inside the Babri Masjid in 1949.
  2. Ayodhya’s vulnerable Muslims once again face pressure to “compromise” – just as they did in 1950, writes Dhirendra K Jha.
  3. In 1930s Lahore, a court rejected Muslim claims to a Sikh gurdwara. This template, of law overruling majoritarian religious sentiment, should applied to the resolution of the Ayodhya dispute, argues Shoaib Daniyal.

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Political Picks

  1. Uttar Pradesh will be free of riots, promised the state’s chief minister, Adityanath in a bid to counter his hardline image.
  2. The Supreme Court dismissed the West Bengal government’s plea to stay the Central Bureau of Investigation prove into the Narada sting.
  3. Aadhaar may now be made compulsory to file income tax returns and PAN card applications.
  4. The Shiv Sena and the Bharatiya Janata Party ditch each other in the Zilla Parishad president polls in Maharashtra.


  1. In the Economic Times, TK Arun explains what Congress needs to do to stop the Modi wave (and strengthen democracy).
  2. Re-thinking the relationship between privileged universities and the rest is essential, argues Sanjay Srivastava in the Indian Express.
  3. Government formation in Goa and Manipur shows that no one is an untouchable for the Bharatiya Janata Party, says Siddharth Bhatia in the Hindustan Times.


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