As the Supreme Court pronounced its verdict on the Babri Masjid land title dispute on Saturday, Muslim scholars and political leaders said it must be accepted. The court reserved the disputed land for a trust to be set up and managed by the Centre, which would supervise the construction of a Ram temple. It also directed that separate land be allotted for the construction of a mosque.
“The judgment given by the Supreme Court should be taken as final,” said Khader Moideen, president of the Kerala-based Indian Union Muslim League. “That has been our position since 1989.” In 1989, the Allahabad High Court had clubbed dispute petitions together for hearing and Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi had allowed the Vishwa Hindu Parishad to lay foundation stones for the construction of a Ram temple.
Moideen added it was important that the decision of the five-member constitutional bench was unanimous. “Every aspect of the verdict may not be acceptable to everybody, but that is not the point” he said. “It is the duty of every Indian citizen to accept the judgment. All communities should work for peace and harmony. They should work for national unity.”
‘Minorities shown their place’
Despite acceptance, there was dismay. “The court, in the details of its pronouncement, said something, in the operational part of the judgment, said something else,” said Mohammad Sajjad, who teaches at Aligarh Muslim University. “There is an institutional stamp to it, but in the institutional stamp, minorities have been shown their place. I, as an individual and an Indian citizen, would not advise anyone to go for a review. This has to be accepted.”
Allotting alternative land for a mosque, Sajjad said, was “unnecessary”. “Nobody asked for it,” he said.
The judgment also tacitly endorsed the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992, he felt. “What about the crime of demolition?” Sajjad asked. “It will no longer be accepted. Without crime, there is no punishment. I personally would not have insisted on punishment but now there is no crime.”
To Mohammed Reyaz, who teaches at the department of journalism and mass communication in Aliah University in Kolkata, the judgment did not come as a surprise. “Muslims, in a way, knew that they were not going to get the land,” he said. “For some days, ministers and the government have been saying don’t celebrate or hold marches. Universities like Jamia Millia had been told not to protest.”
But he had mixed feelings about the judgment. “We relieved that we don’t have to face the ire of the [majority] community,” he said. “Muslims have far bigger worries.” He flagged discrimination in jobs, the National Register of Citizens in Assam that has left 19 lakh people facing statelessness, and Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s comments on so-called illegal immigrants, which signalled to him that all but Muslims would be accepted in the country.
But the judgment gave him some cause for disquiet. “What is worrying for me in the judgment is that this makes it a precedent for other places of worship,” he said. Decades later, makeshift temples at mosques in Hyderabad or Varanasi could be used to make claims to the land, he felt.
‘Namaaz can be said anywhere’
For Aminul Islam, a Congress leader from Assam’s Dhubri district, the court decision brought much needed closure. “This was a long-pending issue in the judicial system,” he said. “The dispute is basically between people’s sentiments. It has done a lot of harm to a lot of people. Now it is resolved, it will not continue to cause harm. People have to live with it.”
The Congress leader was not perturbed that land for the mosque had been allotted elsewhere. “Mandir or masjid, it’s a place of worship,” he said. “A masjid is for reading namaaz. Namaaz can be read anywhere. It is not like you go to heaven if you read it at that particular spot. Same with a mandir.”
He would have preferred other uses for the land, however. “I personally think the land could have been used for an educational institution where there would be no difference between Sikhs, Jains, Hindus and Muslims,” he said. “But the court decided the title suit based on evidence. It has taken the right decision.”