Ram Janam Bhoomi-babri Masjid dispute is a dispute for long standing. It revolves round a building in Ayodhya in the Babri style of architecture. It consists of three rooms and a platform (Chabutra) in front of one of the rooms which was considered to be a Ram Temple, but which had no idols in it. The middle room is used by the Poojari of the Temple. He lives in it, and also acts as the Chowkidar. It is also he who recites hymns and Bhajans at fixed times on the platform, which is supposed to be the exact spot where Lord Ram was born. As regards the third room, it is used as a mosque but it was only rarely that anybody offered Namaz in it. Both Hindus and Muslims claim the entire structure as their own. The dispute was referred to the U.P. High Court, but the suit remains lying there with so many other “dead suits” which are “dead” as no one cares to peruse them.
Then suddenly one night idols of Lord Ram and Sita appeared in the temple room and the whole dispute was activated. The high Court ordered that the doors of the temple-room be opened to all those who want to offer prayers there. The status quo was to be maintained i.e., there was to be no new construction or alteration of the existing structure till the suit was finally decided. The Muslims re-acted sharply by claiming the entire structure as their own. A Babri-Masjid Committee was formed to pressure the matter and secures the structure for the Muslims as it rightfully belonged to them.
Passions continued to rise and there were communal riots in different parts of the country. Communal frenzy seemed to have gripped the people of both communities. With the blessing of the four Shankracharyas, purification ceremony of bricks through ‘havan’ was performed in different parts of the country. Then these purified and consecrated bricks were carried in “Rathams” to Ayodhya from the four corners of the country. Large procession of devotees followed each “Ratham” shouting slogans. Communal frenzy reached its peak and for sometime it seemed that the country was on the verge of the blood bath. Lakhs of consecrated bricks were thus dumped in Ayodha and the stage was thus set for the construction of the Lord Rama Temple.
The government did its best to persuade Vishwa Hindu Parishad and other like minded Hindu parties to postpone the “Silaniyas” or the foundation stone laying ceremony till the Court delivered its judgment. Alternatively it was suggested that the leaders of the Babri-Masjid Committee and the Hindu leaders should sit together and work out a compromise formula. Various ways were suggested but to no avail. The Hindus said that the birth place of a person cannot be changed and so Lord Rama Temple must be constructed on the exact spot of the Lord’s birth. Muslims were given the option of a plot of land away from the disputed territory and the government agreed to provide the necessary fiancés. If they so desired, the structure could removed physically to another place of their choice. This too was not acceptable. The “Silaniyas” was duly performed at a distance from the disputed territory with a clear and firm declaration that Shri Ram Temple when constructed would cover the disputed territory and structure also.
However, good sense prevailed at the eleventh hour. The “Silaniyas” was performed, but the date on which the construction of the temple would begin was changed to 30th October, 1990. It was decided that it would be constructed through “Kar Seva” and Jathas of volunteers for the purpose would begin reaching Ayodhya well before 30th October, 1990. The position of the three parties to the dispute at present is (1) the government is firm that either a compromise solution be reached or the judgment of the High Court would be enforced at all cost, (2) the Muslims claim the entire structure as their own but are willing to abide by Court-judgment, and (3) VHP and other members of the ‘Sangh Parivar’ remained adamant on beginning construction of the temple on 30th October, without waiting for the Court verdict.
As the date of the Kar Seva approached, Shri L.K. Advani, the President of the BJP, began his Rath Yatra from Sommnath to Ayodhya. Thousands followed him and communal passions were roused to the highest possible pitch. L.K. Advani was arrested in Samastipur, Bihar, and the Rath Yatra was stopped. However, by this time thousands of Kar Sevaks had reached Ayodhya and communal passions reached historical frenzy. There was a spate of communal riots. On the 30th of October and the days following, the government had to resort to firing to prevent damage to the structure. It is said that hundreds were killed. However, soon the Kar Sevaks dispersed and facilities were provided to them to return to their homes. The Kar Seva, thus assumed the form of Satyagrah. Large numbers courted arrest despite the best efforts of the government and frequent meetings of the religious heads of the two communities, the problem could not be solved and the communal situation remained tense.
After prolonged conflict and tensions and the assurance of P.V. Narasimah Rao, the then Prime Minster of the country, the different parties to the dispute returned to the negotiation table. Four months were allowed to the Prime Minister to settle the dispute. Negotiation commenced and each part presented its point of view. Documents in supports of their respective claim were exchanged. Such documents had also been exchanged earlier. A number of petitions were also pending before the Supreme Court and the Allahabad High Court. The Prime Minister issued instructions that all such cases should be consolidated and then passed on the apex Court for its judgment, though there were differences of opinion on this matter.
The negotiations continued peacefully, and then, suddenly and without any rational cause, the V.H.P. withdraw from the negotiations and announced that the Kar Seva would commence on the 6th December 1992 and the temple would be constructed on the 2.77 acres of land which had already bee acquired by the BJP government of UP towards the end of the November Kar Sawaks began to pour into Ayodhya in their thousands from different parts of the country. Communal tensions and frenzy began to build up and increase in intensity. The Chief Minister of UP field an affidavit in Supreme Court that the Kar Sewa would only be a symbolic one and that disputed structure would not be harmed in any way. Written assurances to this effect were also given to the Prime Minister and the Parliament. No request was made for central security forces to deal with the tense situation. However, large contingents of such forces were stationed near Ayodhya to be deployed at the request of the U.P. Government.
However, on the 6th December, instead of doing some construction work the Kar Sewaks demolished the entire disputed structure, quickly and secretly. The media men who tried to take photographs were manhandled and their instruments were seized and broken. In deep anguish, the then Prime Minister addressed the nation and called it, “the greatest national tragedy since the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi.”
Those who are seeking to put up a temple at why they consider to be Lord Rama’s birthplace, and those who are seeking to restore the old dilapidated mosque, should just pause to consider whether their respective stands are really so irreconcilable or contrary as is popularly assumed. Whey can’t we have both the temple and the mosque back to back in a sprit of accommodation and harmony? After all, they are both houses for worship, if one does not make a distinction between Hindus and Muslims. The shrine that marks the birth place of Lord Krishna at Mathura stands back to back with a mosque. Those who pray in the mosque do not feel bothered by those who are performing Puja at the Krishna temple and vice-versa. Can’t there be a similar co-existence between the renovated Babri mosque and the newly constructed Ram temple even if they have a common wall?
How can there be a fight over the right to worship God? After all those who pray to Allah, the Merciful, and those who worship Rama as the incarnation of God, are addressing themselves to the same God. They could have a code of conduct under which the prayer and the Puja will be in silence and not accompanied by loud musical instruments nor broadcast through lord-speakers and so none would disturb the concentration of other paying homage to God.
The U.P. Government was dismissed and a number of communal parties were banned. After a few days the BJP government of M.P., Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh were also dismissed and prominent BJP leaders arrested. The Prime Minister promised to rebuild the mosque and also a grand Ram Temple. With this end in view over 60 acres of land including the site of the disputed structure have already been acquired. A single point reference has also been made by the President of India to the Supreme Court under article 143 of the constitution to seek its opinion as to whether some other prior construction existed at the site of the disputed structure. There has been a communal halo cast all over the country, thousands have lost their lives. But communal frenzy has now subsided. Let us hope for the best.
Those who worship Rama should not mind the cry of Allah-ho-Akbar which only means God is great. Similarly, those who are performing the prayer at the mosques should not take exception to others in the neighborhood worshipping Ram.
Once this is realized there will be no quarrel at all. The two-Hindus and Muslims-would rather join together and build a composite house of worship of universal faith which will be open not only to Muslims and Hindus but others also to come and pray. That will indeed be the fulfillment of Kind Akbar’s dream of a Common House of God or Vivekananda’s dream of an India that combines an Islamic classless body and Vedantic should.
There is really no ground for any conflict or difference of opinion, if we rightly think of it.