‘Should the Babri Masjid have been built ?’

published on December 9, 2012

On the twentieth anniversary of the demolition of the Babri Masjid (built by the barbarian invader Babur in 1527over a Hindu temple in ) on December 6 1992 by Hindu kar sevaks, many of the mainstream English electronic media in India served up some interesting programs on the demolition and what impact it had on Indian politics etc. None of them, however, raised the question which the Allahabad High Court Bench had raised in 2010. The Bench had pointed out that Babur who built the Babri Masjid after destroying the Hindu temple in Ayodhya was a conqueror but had no rights over the land. This is their  argument in dismissing the suit filed by the Sunni Central Board of Waqfs claiming ownership :

“. . . . Babar, after winning battles in Bharat, had the authority to collect revenue, but he was never the owner of the soil.
  It was clear and telling in this case that the disputed site was not the property of Babar or Mir Baqi. . . . “

(See the account in ‘Sri Ramajanmabhumi : The Suits, the Verdict and the Facts of the Case’ Champat Rai, reprinted in Bharata Bharati.com, Jan.19,2011).

Babur believed he had the right both to destroy the temple of the infidel and build a mosque over it, since this was the traditional right of the Islamic Caliphate since the time of Mohammed. During Mohammed’s own time the surrounding regions of Mecca and Medina and the Arabian peninsula had been conquered and Islam had been established. The idols of the kabah were destroyed and the indigenous religions of the region were also destroyed. After his death the four caliphs (Islamic rulers) carried the expansion of their empire into the various lands The first Caliph(ruler of the Islamic world) was Abu Bakr followed by Umar (both were close companions of Mohammed). Abu Bakr’s caliphate lasted from 632-634. Umer was the second caliph (634-44) and it was during his reign that the Islamic Empire expanded rapidly. In less than two years most of the Sassanaid Persian Empire was annexed to the Islamic Empire and before his death in 644 his rule extended from Libya, Egypt and as far north as Central Asia. All these countries were conquered and Islamised. Very little was left of the indigenous religions there. Islamic law (Sharia) prevailed).

Both from a Hindu perspective and a modern legal perspective  a conqueror does not have the right to either destroy an existing religious building or build one over it without the consent of the community concerned. In the case of the Ramajanmabhoomi this consent was not sought. One need not labour the point that the site of the birthplace of Lord Rama was and is sacred to Hindus. Their consent had never been obtained. Curiously, the Indian Constitution has carried on the legacy of the right of  interference of the state into matters concerning the Hindu religion.  The Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment Act gives the government  the right to run the affairs of the Hindu religious institutions. This right does not exist vis a vis the religious institutions of the minorities.

To return to the question of whether Babur had a right, the answer clearly is no, unless the contemporary world recognises the Islamic Caliphate right.

The question then is not only (as one commentator put it) about  whether communal harmony is the first pillar of  Indian democracy. It must be emphasised  also  whether one community, the Hindu community, had been grievously injured and continues to be grievously injured until there is redress. This would require that the demolition of the Babri be completed legally and permission given to the Hindus to build a Ram temple at the site of the Ramajanmabhoomi. As has been observed by many commentators, this can be achieved with the goodwill of the Muslim community. In Saudi Arabia and other Islamic countries mosques have been demolished to make way for development . The mosque is mainly a place where the faithful congregate to worship, whereas  the Hindu temple, once the deity has been installed (prana prathista)  becomes a sacred place. Its destruction by the barbarian invaders was not only to show their power over the conquered but also to demonstrate their contempt for the indigenous religion. In Indian law the deity is said to be the owner of the place and cannot be displaced. To the extent that Indian Muslims refuse to negotiate with Hindus on this question to that extent they are engaging in the continued hurt of their fellow citizens. And unless and until liberal commentators also do not consider the hurt of the Hindu psyche they too will be complicit in encouraging communal hostilities.

After 800 years of Islamic rule and 200 years of colonial rule, Hinduism, unlike other  religions of the world where the barbarians invaded, has remained intact. Hindus have not given up on their temples and religious sites. They have not, and will not give up on their devas and devatas(gods and goddesses) that inhabit the Indian subcontinent and whom the Vedic seers sighted in their immortal verses, the Rig Veda, and whom the Agama has paid deep devotion to. Hindus, said one astute observer, never forget their temples.

This alone should be a signal to historians, scholars, sociologists and observers that their generalisations about the aam admi Hindu are not accurate.

Hence, however much liberal commentators may hold their noses at the thought of a Ram temple coming up at Ayodhya, they have been in a sense hoisted by their own petard. They may continue to distract our attention by seizing upon various side issues or by writing hagiographies of Babur but the fact that stares one in the face is that Babur was a conqueror (a barbarian descendant of Genghiz Khan ) and Hindus cannot accept the absence of their Ram temple at Ayodhya. Liberals can fulminate as they will but  the Ramajanmabhoomi is very much part of the Hindu ethos. Indeed, while commiserating about the demolition of the Babri it would have been helpful if they also expressed commiseration not only for the sentiments of the Hindu population but also (if they are Hindu) a genuine regret that the Ramajanmabhoomi had been desecrated in 1525 (The work of Archeological Survey of India is evidence that a Hindu temple once existed at the site of the Babri). One foolish commentator went so far as to say that there were animal bones found at the site and therefore it could not have been a Hindu temple. The obvious answer to such an imbecility is to say that the Mughal soldiers camped there and they obviously were not vegetarians !

One familiar journalist with tight lipped  sphinx like utterance even went so far as to say that it SEEMS as if the Ramajanmabhoomi issue has gone away but it will happen only when the victims’ grievances have been redressed. It was not indicated whether this included ALL victims of the 1992 event and also the ongoing victimisation of  Hindu religious sentiment.

The Ramajanmabhoomi is not likely to fade away from Hindu consciousness. Generations have come and gone and generations will so come and go but the sanctity of the Ramajanmabhoomi will remain in the minds of Hindus. This might be hard for the Indian liberal to digest but it is very much the reality on the ground. No doubt the British administrators of a bygone era would also similarly have predicted (falsely it would seem in hindsight) that Hindus of the modern era will have forgotten the Ramajanmabhoomi issue. History has proved them wrong. And the hope of Indian liberals is sure to be proved wrong also.

The first suit filed in independent India in  1950 expresses the Hindu sentiment very well . In 1950 Gopal Singh Visharad as Plaintiff filed a suit against five Muslim residents of Ayodhya and the state of Uttar Pradesh and the Adminsitrative Officers of Faizabal District. He claimed that he had gone for worship and darshan of Ramlalla inside the Masjid , where the idol had been installed previously. He was prevented by the government officials of the day at the insistence of the Muslim defendants.

Political parties or politicians are not going to be instrumental in  reviving the Ramajanmabhoomi movement, as the Indian liberals believe. It has always been there since the first defence of the site by Hindus in the early years of the Christian era and has continued to the present. Except for Indian liberals and non Hindus the Ramjanmabhoomi is too deeply entrenched in the Hindu psyche and will keep surfacing in each and every generation.

(The writer is a Political Philosopher who taught at a Canadian university)

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