The Supreme Court on Saturday ordered the Centre to hand over the disputed Ayodhya site within three months to a trust that will oversee the construction of a Ram temple there. The top court also ruled that a separate five-acre plot be allotted to the Sunni Waqf Board in Ayodhya for the construction of a new mosque as relief for the “unlawful destruction” of the Babri Masjid in 1992.
The Times of India ran with the headline “Ram Mandir Within Site”. The newspaper said the five-acre plot allotted to Muslims for a mosque was a balancing act. The daily focused on selected portions of the unanimous judgement. It highlighted how the court observed that the demolition of the 16th-century Babri Masjid at the site by Hindutva activists in 1992 was a serious violation of the rule of law and “must be remedied”. The demolition had led to communal riots in many parts of the country.
The Hindustan Times used the headline “Temple Set in Stone”. The daily said the Ayodhya verdict was significant “because it is related directly to three fundamental shifts underway in India: the nature of state institutions and its changing relationship with faith; the nature of identity-based political mobilisation; and the nature of inter-community dynamics”. The newspaper carried what Prime Minister Narendra Modi said after the verdict. Addressing the nation hours after the verdict, Narendra Modi asked Indians to “shun negativity and bitterness” for the sake of a new India.
Dainik Bhaskar’s front page said ‘Ram Lalla hi Virajman’ – Ram Lalla is seated – punning on the name of the deity, Ram Lalla Virajman, that became a party to the Ayodhya dispute in 1989. “In Ayodha, the path has been cleared for a Ram temple to be rebuilt after 491 years,” the report said, contradicting the Supreme Court judgement which did not uphold the claim that a Ram temple had been demolished to build a mosque in the 16th century. It also claimed that the temple can be built within two years if 2,000 workers were employed at the site, showing a representative image of a temple.
‘Shri Ram’, was the front page headline in Dainik Jagran, the newspaper with the largest circulation in India. The page was dominated by illustrations of the Hindu god and a temple. “The Supreme Court verdict has cleared the path for the construction of a grand temple for Bhagwan Ram at his birthplace,” it said. “It is unprecedented the way the Supreme Court unanimously corrected a historical wrong and awarded a separate five-acre plot to build the mosque that had been demolished.”
Marathi newspaper Saamna, which is the mouthpiece of the Shiv Sena party, carried two headlines on its front page. One proclaimed “mandir wahi banega” – the Hindutva chant asserting that the Ram temple will be built in Ayodhya itself – and the other said, “Ayodhya is Lord Ram’s”. The report had a celebratory tone, stating that the nation is celebrating Diwali. A smaller report on the front page carried a statement by Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, in which he announced that he would go to Ayodhya again to celebrate.
The Telegraph punned with the word “Hindusthan”. It ran with the headline “In the name of Ram, the site is now” with a picture of a man flashing the victory sign. The daily highlighted six major takeaways from the historic verdict. In the lower half of its front page, the newspaper carried five columns on what the judges said and how the Muslim bodies reacted. In one of those five columns, the daily also mentioned what retired Supreme Court justice Ashok Kumar Ganguly said. “As a student of the Constitution, it is little difficult for me to accept it [the verdict,” he told the newspaper.
“Temple gets site, mosque a plot” was the front page headline of The Indian Express. Apart from highlighting Modi’s speech after the verdict and what the judges said in the judgement, the daily also explained how the case went in favour of the Hindus. “Reliance on records of European travellers, lack of evidence from the Muslim side to prove continuous, uninterrupted and exclusive possession prior to 1856, treating the outer and inner courtyard of the disputed structure as one unit in a significant departure from the Allahabad High Court verdict — a combination of these factors tilted the Constitution Bench verdict in the Ayodhya title dispute against the Muslim side,” said the daily.
Gujarati newspaper Divya Bhaskar carried the chant “Victory to Ramchandra” as a celebratory proclamation in its lead headline, adding that “a centuries’ old dispute between two religions is finally over”. Above the paper’s masthead, it also carried a Braj bhasha couplet in praise of Ram. A sub-headline stated that a five-judge Supreme Court bench pronounced a unanimous verdict, which the country accepted with restraint.
Tamil newspaper Dinakaran had a simple headline that said, “Permission granted to build a Ram temple in Ayodhya”. It added that the “controversial” land had now become Hindus’, and below the headline stated that the court’s was a unanimous decision to give alternative land to the Muslims, and three months’ time to form a trust for the temple at Ayodhya. Dinakaran’s tone was straight and carried an image of petitioners and lawyers celebrating the verdict.
Another leading Tamil daily Dinamani featured the same image on its front page as Dinamalar, and the headline stated “Ram temple in Ayodhya”. Below the headline, the newspaper added that a separate plot of 5 acres would be allotted to the Hindus. It also featured statements of political leaders such as Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP veteran LK Advani, as well as Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat’s remarks and those made by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad.