The Supreme Court's Ram Temple verdict gives an upper hand to the BJP and Hindutva parivar as it marks the fulfilment of an agenda that had figured prominently in its manifesto over the decades. The Congress has taken a U-turn and instead of talking of rebuilding a mosque at the site the party is now backing the SC-mandated plan to build a Ram Temple.
Reinforcing the values of a united India, the Supreme Court has paved the way for building a Ram Temple at the once-disputed site in Ayodhya where the 1528 Babri Masjid stood before being demolished in 1992. A five-judge apex court bench allotted the entire 2.77-acre disputed land to deity Ram Lalla who was one of the three claimants in the case in a verdict whose impact on the country's political history would be visible for many years to come.
The decision came exactly 30 years after November 9, 1989 when the foundation for Ram Janmabhoomi was laid by a Dalit youth Kamlesh Choupal. For 27-years, Ram Lalla has been under a tent. As the news about the top court’s go-ahead for Ram Temple’s construction in Ayodhya spread, there was jubilation in the holy town whose resident celebrated the day as a ‘Second Diwali’.
The peace that was maintained in the country, despite the delivery of the sensitive judgment, presented an ideal face of a multi-faith and diverse society that has moved on from the bitterness of the divisive politics based on this thorny issue. The large-heartedness shown by both the Sunni and Shia boards by deciding not to file review pleas against the SC verdict also re-established the secular ethos of the country. The court also took care that despite allotting the entire disputed land to Hindus its verdict should not look like as an endorsement of the demolition of the mosque. The five judges deliberately did not dilute the criminality involved in the “unlawful” razing of the 16th century Babri mosque by Hindu activists. To reduce the possibility of politics over temple construction, the court mandated that a trust or board run by the government should be formed within three months for the building of a temple.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for peace and said that the verdict shouldn’t be seen as a win or loss for anybody. It is imperative to strengthen the spirit of rashtra bhakti (devotion for the country), alongwith Ram Bhakti (devotion for Ram) and Rahim Bhakti (worship of Rahim).”
The Prime Minister also said that the legal disposal of the vexed issue showed that solutions to the most difficult issues lies within the ambit of the Constitution.
The end of one of the most sensitive and old dispute – almost 491 years - came to an end in a 1,045 landmark judgment that marked the end of 134 year old legal case. Such was the complexity of the matter that even the top court took eight years.
Though the dispute was resolved by the court, the verdict was hailed by international media, including the Washington Post, as a development that would be viewed as a personal victory for the Narendra Modi government as facilitating the construction of a Ram Temple in Ayodhya, based on the verdict of the Supreme Court, was one of the key highlights of the BJP’s manifesto for the Lok Sabha polls in May.
The Ram Mandir verdict holds great political significance for the ruling BJP which may want to continue its Hindutva agenda. Modi 2.0 is expected to go full-steam ahead on issues that may be perceived as thorny for Muslims and settle matters ranging from a uniform civil code, new population control policy and anti-conversion law.
While Hindutva organisations have a strong agenda on construction of temples in Mathura and Kashi, there are signs that the BJP or the RSS may discourage such ambitions in keeping with a law that mandates maintenance of the 1947's status quo at all disputed religious sites.
Former Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani, who was at the forefront of the temple movement, hailed the SC verdict and said, “Today’s judgement is the culmination of a long and contentious process that played itself out in various forums – both judicial and non-judicial.”
In a unanimous verdict, which bore no names of the five judges that even included a Muslim judge S Abdul Nazeer, the Supreme Court gave the deity Ram Lalla, or infant Ram, the ownership of the 2.77-acre disputed land, roughly the size of two football fields. With an eye on maintaining peace and avoiding riots, CJI Ranjan Gogoi-led apex court bench said "the right of Ram Lalla to the disputed property is subject to the maintenance of peace and law and order and tranquillity."
The judgment noted that the faith of Hindus that Lord Ram was born at the site of the demolished structure is undisputed.The court said the existence of Sita Rasoi, Ram Chabutra and Bhandar grih are testimony to the religious fact of the place. The court summed up in its verdict that ASI’s findings had confirmed that there was a non-Islamic structure under the Babri Masjid.
Keeping the Muslim sides’ priorities in mind, the court ruled that a "prominent site" in the holy town in Uttar Pradesh will be allotted for a new mosque. There is intense speculation that the proposed mosque could be built in Ayodhya’s Kusmaha area where the tomb of Mir Baqi, a general of Muqhal emperor who built the now-demolished Babri Masjid. Kusmaha is about five kilometres away from the disputed site.
The five-judge constitution bench heard the case for 40 days and it was the second longest hearing of the top court in its history. Apart from CJI Gogoi, Justices SA Bobde, DY Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S Abdul Nazeer, have undertaken a hearing second only to the 68-day hearing in the Keshavananda Bharti vs State of Kerala case, also known as the fundamental right case, that said that the basic structure of the constitution cannot be amended by Parliament even if political parties unite in both Houses.
Meanwhile, an architect from Gujarat, Chandrakant Sompura, is ready with his model for the proposed Ram Temple in the Nagar style that is popular in north India. In India, temples are built in three styles – Nagar, Dravid and Baisar. Sompura, whose family has been designing temples for several generations, said that he has proposed that no steel would be used for the construction of the temple which can be built within two-and-a-half years if 2,000 workers are employed. The total cost may touch around Rs 100 crore. The two storey structure is proposed to have the Ram Temple on the ground floor and Ram Darbar on the first floor. The entire complex is also likely to include a residential complex for seers, a research centre, a residential complex for staff and a cafeteria.
No doubt that the peace that prevailed following the verdict has shown India’s strength of peaceful coexistence but Modi and his trusted Home Minister Amit Shah cannot be denied the credit for handling the sensitive situation with confidence and extensive preparation. Shah said that the verdict would strengthen unity and integrity of India.
TheSC judgment in the Ram Temple case is also politically significant as it provides a resolution and a sense of finality to the vexed issue. The BJP may look to cement its Hindu vote further – especially in the Hindi heartland – while the Congress has been forced to change its stance of opposing the construction of a temple at the site – a major shift from times when it favoured reconstruction of the mosque at the site. While welcoming the verdict on secular lines, the Congress also said the culmination of the matter would ensure that nobody can use the temple issue in future for political motives.
It remains to be seen if in the coming days, the BJP government manages to follow the SC order in the right spirit and heal the decades-old wounds and address the fears of the minority community of being dominated by the majority community. For Modi, the expected construction of Ram Temple in Ayodhya ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls would add to the perception that even the most visibly impossible tasks are possible under him – a claim showcased by BJP’s poll campaign “Modi hai to mumkin hai” (Everything is possible under Modi).