Indian Supreme Court Clears the Way for Ram Temple at Ayodhya’s Disputed Site

30 years since November 9, 1989, the day when the foundation of Ram Temple movement was laid, a bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi put an end to the century-old Ram JanmabhoomiBabri Masjid land dispute case. This caused a rift among the Muslim and Hindu communities in India on November 9, 2019. The age-old question of faith, a political issue, and a legal dispute dating back to the 19th century that shaped the Indian politics for three decades were all addressed by the Supreme Court on Saturday, November 9, when it passed the historic verdict on the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid issue.

The bench, comprising CJI-designate S A Bobde and Justices Ashok Bhushan, D Y Chandrachud, and S Abdul Nazeer, ruled in favour of a temple at Ayodhya, where many people believe Hindu God Ram was born. The bench directed handing over possession of the disputed 2.77-acre land rights to the deity Ram Lalla, who is also one of the three litigants in the case. The site hosted the 16th-century Babri mosque, which was destroyed by Hindu Kar Sevaks on December 6, 1992. The Supreme Court of India has directed the Central government to allot a 5-acre plot to the Sunni Waqf Board for building a mosque in Ayodhya.

It may be recalled that the Ayodhya dispute began in 1885 with the litigation of Mahant Raghubar Das over a chabutra (courtyard) that was constructed outside the Babri Masjid. When the British prevented him from building a canopy over the chabutra, Das litigated his cause in three judicial forums. Each time, the courts ruled the status quo, that is, the Muslims would pray inside the Babri Masjid, while the Hindus were granted rights to pray at the chabutra. Communal riots and the mutiny in 1856-57 forced the British to erect iron railings to separate the places of worship between Muslims and Hindus. Muslims got the inner courtyard of the mosque, and the Hindus got the outer courtyard. Hindus set up Ram chabutra close to the iron railings and continued to worship the area under the central dome as Ram’s birthplace.

The history of the disputed site has witnessed deep divisions between Hindus and Muslims, and the legal case over the ownership of the disputed site has seen many twists and turns. The movement to build a temple has had violent turns, including the demolition of the mosque, and the nationwide riots that followed.

The Ram temple was the single issue that helped revive the fortune of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) after it was reduced to two Lok Sabha seats in the 1984 parliamentary elections. Former President of BJP, L. K. Advani launched the famous Ram-Rath-Yatra, a political and religious rally that lasted from September to October in 1990 to revive the fortune of the party. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the BJP’s ideological parent, has, directly, and through its affiliates, been the torch-bearer of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement to construct the Ram temple at the disputative Ayodhya site. Construction of a Ram temple at Ayodhya was one of the central promises of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in its 2019 election manifesto.

Most analysts think that the court’s ruling addresses one of the stickiest issues in the country and attempts to strike a balance between the Hindu and Muslim communities. The verdict marks the end of the temple issue; moreover, the decision has national, political, and social impact.

As it will take a few years to build the temple, which is just the right timing for the next Lok Sabha polls, the BJP might enchase it in the 2024 elections. 2019 has been a milestone year for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) with achievements of two significant political issues – one is the abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu & Kashmir and the second is the Ram JanmabhoomiBabri Masjid land dispute. Both are likely to shape the course of Indian politics over the coming years. With passion running high among Hindu and Muslim communities over the Ayodhya dispute, the Supreme Court’s decision is being hailed as a unifying move that is likely to pave the way for a harmonious relationship between the communities in India.