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All eyes on Judgment Day

delhi Updated: Sep 01, 2010 22:51 IST
Zia Haq
Zia Haq
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

Footage of mobs pulling down the disputed Babri mosque in 1992 have suddenly bobbed up in shops of Ayodhya, weeks before the Allahabad High Court is to give its verdict in the 60-year-old original "title suit" of the Babri Masjid/Ram Janmabhoomi case.

Dogged dispute

1528: A mosque is built
1853: First recorded violence at the site
1859: British erect fences to separate Hindu and Muslim areas of worship,
allowing the inner area to be used by Muslims and the outer area by Hindus
1949: Idols of Ram appear inside mosque. Muslims protest and both parties file title suits. Government takes over the premises
1994: The Supreme Court orders status quo on all suits until title suit is settled
1992: The mosque is razed by a Hindu mob, prompting widespread clashes between Hindus and Muslims in which more than 2,000 people die
2002: Arson attack on Ayodhya pilgrims in Godhra leave 58 dead, spark clashes in Gujarat
April 2002: Allahabad High Court bench begins hearings on title suit
July 2010: High Court wraps up title suit hearing, verdict awaited

The site where the 16th-century mosque stood has been a flashpoint for Hindu-Muslim violence. Only this 120-foot-by-10-foot piece of land in Ayodhya could have so much significance for Hindus and Muslims alike, each vying for theological upper hand in court.

The Centre and Uttar Pradesh government remain wary of attempts to ratchet up a communal frenzy again.

The state has cancelled leave of its policemen, deployed 168 companies of its Provincial Armed Constabulary throughout the state and asked for more, while Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has conferred with his top ministers on how to handle the verdict.

While in the title case the high court will decide who owns the disputed land, the case relating to the destruction of the mosque itself is being adjudicated by a special CBI court in Lucknow.

The verdict on the title suit hinges on two critical issues: Was Ram born at the site where the disputed mosque stood? Was there a temple before the mosque was built by the first Mughal emperor, Babar? The main rivals in this case are the Uttar Pradesh Wakf Board and the Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas.

The verdict will be a testing one. The RSS and VHP have appealed to the Centre to pass a law to enable a temple dedicated to Ram, part of its strategy to build pressure on the government.

On August 27, the VHP's Ashok Singhal kicked off a Hanuman Shakti Jagran Abhiyan (campaign to awaken Hanuman's prowess) to fulfill the "dream" of a Ram temple.

The only "realistic" solution would be to pass a law in Parliament to pass the land to Hindus, he said.

Muslim organisations, however, say they would accept the court's verdict. "We will honour the court's verdict and decide what legal course to adopt depending on the verdict," All-India Babri Masjid Coordination Committee chief Zafaryab Jilani said.

Former diplomat and key figure in the Muslims' campaign, Syed Shahabuddin, goes a step further: "If court says temple (has to be built), then temple. If mosque, then mosque."

At an iftar hosted by Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar recently, leading Muslim MPs nervously discussed the issue over steaming kebabs. "We have decided to jointly appeal for calm," said Mohammed Adeeb, a lawmaker.

Many religious leaders know how easily things could spin out of control.

"In case the verdict favours a mosque, we will ask Muslims not to celebrate," said Mahmood Madani, an influential Muslim MP.

Regardless of what the verdict is, the next step would be to appeal at a higher court. Shahabuddin, however, warned that if the verdict was not acceptable to all, then there could be potential trouble. That means both parties could go round in circles again, as the UPA government nervously looks on.