The Allahabad High Court (HC) took the first step on Thursday towards the resolution of the 60-year-old Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi ownership dispute — by including all the warring parties in the process.
The HC gave its stamp of judicial approval to the Hindu belief that Lord Ram was indeed born there. The court also ruled by a majority verdict that the disputed 120 feet by 90 feet plot land be divided into three equal parts among three petitioners — Sunni Wakf Board, Nirmohi Akhara and the party representing Ram Lalla.
This also means that the court’s three-way split of the plot to the petitioners — even after dismissing their cases — has kept the window open for further talks.
That the judgment is inclusive has been reflected in the reactions of political opponents. There was political acceptance of the verdict by the mainstream parties. Muslim leaders, however, made it clear the next stop was the Supreme Court even as they called it a “step forward”.
Congress spokesman Janardhan Dwivedi said: “The court has given the verdict. We should all welcome it.” Justice DV Sharma, member of the three-judge Lucknow bench of the high court, ruled in a separate judgment that the disputed site was indeed the birthplace of Lord Ram and the mosque was built by Mughal emperor Babar against the tenets of Islam. “Thus, it cannot have the character of a mosque,” he said in the order.
The court said the area under the central dome of the three-domed structure, where Lord Ram’s idol existed [and is presently kept in a makeshift temple at the same place], belonged to Ram Lala Virajman (the Ram deity).
Justices SU Khan and Sudhir Agarwal also ruled status quo be maintained at the disputed place for three months.
The Sunni Waqf Board and the Hindu Mahasabha indicated they were “partly disappointed" as their cases had been dismissed, but also added that the verdict was a step forward.
The victory dance of the lawyers representing the Hindu camp began cheering for their side even before the judgment came.
"We have won it," declared Ranjana Agnihotri, counsel for one of the defendants, Swami Swaroopanand Saraswati, Shankaracharya of Dwarka.
Reactions from the Muslim side, especially the Wakf Board, were mildly negative. But though the board announced it would go to the apex court, it mentioned categorically that it was open to talks.
The Congress and the Hindu right — the RSS, the BJP and the VHP — welcomed the judgment.
RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat said it’s not a victory or loss for any party but made it clear the verdict paved the way for building the promised Ram Temple.
BJP leader LK Advani also said, “The verdict is a significant step towards building of a grand temple.”
Nritya Gopal Das, president of Ramjanmbhoomi Nyas, went a step further: “We will go into the appeal that if the court has accepted it as the Ram Janmabhoomi, the entire land should be given for the temple.”