Advocacy For A Neutral Verdict – Not In Favor Of Mandir or Masjid

By Zohra Javed,

The two most talked-about things these days are Commonwealth Games and Ramjanmabhoomi issue, which is also called Babri Masjid dispute. CWG is perhaps taking the top TRPs if one is to talk in the television network parlance. Kalmadi is the main villain. He is being profusely abused and disgraced by all and sundry for what he has done. And I agree that the people are absolutely right in hating Kalmadi. I am no different in my views on him.

But as for the Ayodhya issue, the perpetrators of the crime of first destroying a heritage structure (which was our national wealth) and then being responsible for so many riots, loss of property and life, are all people of high repute, enjoying the privileges of the highest offices in the country.

We all unite in demonstrating an impeccable proof of our patriotism when the target is safe (and soft) as everyone knows there is not going to be any controversial fallout of condemning Kalmadi. But we develop cold feet and take refuge in religious values when the actual murderers and the real traitors are to be brought to book. Most of us are relieved to see serious filth (of injustice and corruption) being broomed under the carpet and blaming some weak link for it when it becomes huge and comes back disturbing us with its incessant and unbearable stink.

Of course the mismanagement of Commonwealth Games and the shameless corruption involved therein is unforgivable. But is Kalmadi alone to be blamed? Is he the only one who has swallowed immeasurable public funds?

And while we answer these and such other many more questions related to our national pride, it will be worthwhile to do an honest introspection of the other problem which is more long-standing and has done much more incalculable damage. Also it is still a dormant volcano that can erupt any time.

The High Court verdict on this dispute which was to come on 24th of this month and is now expected possibly later in the month is certainly not going to solve the issue. For the simple reason that one of the parties in the dispute is not ready to obey the court order if it goes against them, and secondly the other party has another higher court, the Supreme Court of the country to look up to if the verdict goes against them. So either way the dispute continues.

Not to mention that no action has been taken against anyone of those terror-mongers who openly say they will not obey the law of the land. They have shown a complete disregard for the Constitution of the country, but the law does not punish them.

Partition of India was also resorted to saying it was a solution to the Hindu-Muslim problem simmering at the time of our Independence struggle. What has it solved is for all to see. And as for the Ayodhya issue (I will repeat myself here that) the only real solution is that the court must surprise the nation with a neutral judgement, if the parties to the dispute are not able to come to an amicable mature solution on their own.

Neither side should be allowed the possession of the site. The ownership should be given to the government of India with specific directions that within a stipulated time frame of say a year or two there would be a structure of public utility, specially benefitting the poor and underprivileged be built there.

I don’t think this will be a difficult job if the court orders thus. Both the warring parties must then be strictly made to give in to this order in the interest of the nation and in keeping with teachings of the faiths or God/Prophet that they so ardently follow.

No religion in its pure and true form has ever endorsed violence and killing. The courts have a duty to not just decide a case this way or that, they have a responsibility to guide the people too, setting examples in justice and ensuring peaceful working of a system.

The Courts must be courageous enough to set exemplary trends in such cases, as this is no ordinary case of a mere title to some property in a remote place. Taking into account the extraordinary nature of this case, our judges can for a change be innovative and intelligent, sending out a message that any religious place over which there comes a debate or conflict would be taken over by the State.

Do we always have to follow a precedent or are we indeed that super-power-in-the-making who can fearlessly set examples for the world to emulate…?

And as for the date of the announcement of court verdict and the beginning of Commonwealth Games being so close on heels, one can hope that the government would not allow any untoward incident as an aftermath of the Ayodhya judgement in view of CWG preparations and Kalmadi having tarnished the Indian Pride enough.

Let Us Live In Honesty And Harmony

By Shobha Shukla,

We Indians have a tendency to delve in the past and then either gloat over it or cry over it. We love to waste time and energy, reminiscing about the yesteryears, with scant thoughts of improving our present and future. We do not let ‘Bygones be Bygones’, but rather cling to them in a sadistic sort of way. It rarely occurs to us to learn lessons from the past mistakes in order to improve upon our present. What’s the point in revelling about India being the land of ‘milk and honey’ in the eras gone by, when the present chaos (compounded by hunger and violence) promises to get worse with every passing day?

It would, perhaps, be more worthwhile to analyze critically and ponder over the mistakes (and not repeat them) which have led to a gradual decline in public/private morality and brought us to abysmal depths of depravity—the ongoing controversies surrounding the (non)preparation of Commonwealth Games, and the Ayodhya tangle being just two of the myriad examples of our moral turpitude.

The sheer gravity of the ongoing Babri Masjid-Ramjanmbhoomi seems to be defying all solutions. As I write this piece, rumours are rife in the city of Lucknow, and elsewhere too, about what may (or may not) happen in the next couple of days. With bated breath, all are waiting for the D Day – the day of judgement (not by God but by the Allahabad High Court). One community is pitched against another; rhetoric is whipping up emotions; and a palpable scare pervades the very air we breathe. A distraught mother of my colleague wants to stockpile groceries lest there be a curfew; parents are wary of sending their wards to schools even at the cost of missing an exam; many shopkeepers feel it is safer to close shop on the day of the verdict; people are trying to refrain from travel and stay within the confines of their home-sweet-home; while others are anxiously waiting and watching, twiddling or biting their thumbs.

And all this frenzy is in the name of Ram/Allah or Khuda/Ishwar.

How does it matter whether the disputed site was the birth place of Lord Ram or housed a mosque?

Probably it was both- in that chronological order. Or, maybe it was not. Even if it were a place of worship of one of the two communities, it needs to be respected by the other. Enough rabble has been roused by Muslims and Hindus, or rather by their political/religious leaders, on this issue. It is time now for the Phoenix to rise from the ashes of what must once have been a prosperous place. Some of our so called leaders have been crying hoarse that they will not tolerate an insult to their God and build a temple/mosque there (irrespective of the court order).

Surely there are better and more constructive ways of showing reverence to our religion. Let us (including our religious leaders) follow the real principles of Lord Ram and/or the true tenets of Prophet Muhammad, rather than squabble over the proprietorship of a piece of land. Let us try to bring back Ram Rajya (a synonym for ideal governance) in our country by becoming morally upright and law abiding citizens who prefer love to hatred. Let us not brush aside our misdemeanours- whether it be passing the buck in the murky dealings of the organizing committee of Commonwealth Games, or in casting aspersions on each other in the Mandir – Masjid (each is a six letter word beginning with an M) fight. It would be in the fitness of things, and for the benefit of all, if we take the responsibility of undoing the harm already perpetrated by us.

As right minded and responsible citizens, let us demand (and work for) the construction of a hospital, at the disputed site in Ajodhya—a hospital which will be free from corrupt practices and provide holistic care to the common patient with love and compassion. I think we can call it the ‘Allaram Hospital’ or the ‘Ramallah Hospital’ or, for that matter, give it any other name. As the Bard said–“What’s in a name”.

This is the only healing touch which will soothe the frayed nerves of the gods and human beings. It is also one of the ways in which we can truly worship our religion—whatsoever it might be.

Let us be truly religious by living honestly and peacefully. (CNS)


The author is the Editor of Citizen News Service (CNS) and also serves as the Director of CNS Gender Initiative and CNS Diabetes Media Initiative (CNS-DMI). She has worked earlier with State Planning Institute, UP, and teaches Physics at India’s prestigious Loreto Convent. Email: shobha@citizen-news.org, website: www.citizen-news.org

History And Nature Of The Ayodhya Dispute

By Irfan Engineer,

The dispute over Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid, it is said, is creation of the colonial rule. It is difficult to be very sure on how far direct is the hand of the colonial rule in inventing and or sustaining the dispute between some elements from both the communities. However, there is little doubt that the colonial rule benefited from the dispute and therefore did not seem to take effective steps to see the dispute resolved. The authorities under the Colonial rule allowed the dispute over title of the land to acquire communal overtones. Whatever the former colonial masters did, or omitted to do, the post-Colonial state fared even worst in the matter. Post-Colonial State allowed the dispute over the land title to almost completely polarise the two communities. Essentially a title suit between the plaintiffs and the defendants over a piece of land was allowed to acquire religious and communal colour with competing all India mobilisations by political leadership belonging to both the communities. Even the most secular Prime Minister of the country – Jawaharlal Nehru found himself unable to resolve the dispute and / or stop it from acquiring communal colour, when he had the opportunity in 1949.

There are no two opinions that in the year 1528 a mosque was built by Mir Baqi by one of the Governors of the Mughal Emperor Babar. The Sangh Parivar maintains that this mosque was built after destroying a Ramjanmabhoomi temple, which existed on the land whereas the Muslim political leaders as well as most reputed historians of integrity insist that there is no credible proof that there was any Ramjanmabhoomi temple.

After the anti-British rebellion in 1857, the crown proclaimed that it would remain aloof and would not interfere in the religious matters of people of the Country. The Colonial power however, was often called upon to mediate disputes between communities. The Colonial State did not prove to be an honest mediator in the disputes. The state had its own axe to grind – legitimising the rule of the intruder being the uppermost. At times, the state even invented and created new disputes so that it was called upon the mediate. Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute appears to one of such disputes created by the Colonial rulers. The District Gazetteer of 1905 notes that till 1855, Hindus and Muslims prayed in the same premises which is now contentious Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid site. After 1857 rebellion, an outer enclosure was put in front of the mosque and the Hindus who were forbidden access to the inner yard raised an outer platform (chabutra). The first signs of the dispute sometime in 1861 appear too close after the 1857 rebellion to warrant such a conclusion. A British officer who was officiating as a Commissioner and Settlement Officer, Faizabad, in 1861 wrote a book A Historical Sketch of Fyzabad Tehsil Including the Former Capital Ayodhya and Fyzabad. The book was based on what he found was “locally affirmed” and his own surmises – Ayodhya must at least have possessed a fine temple in the Janmasthan. The dispute was initially only regarding Chabutra adjoining the Babri Masjid. He further wrote: “It seems that in 1528 Babar visited Ayodhya and under his orders this ancient temple was destroyed”. There is slender evidence to conclude that Babar ever passed Ayodhya.

Hindu priests wanted a temple constructed on the Chabutra to be able to conduct their worship without vagaries of weather, as Chabutra was an open platform. It is not clearly known as to when and how the Chabutra came to be constructed, and whether the Chabutra was raised on a land having legal title or an usurped land adjoining the mosque called Babri Mosque.

In the year 1885, one Mahant Raghubar Dass, claiming himself to be the Mahant of Janam Asthan had filed a suit on 19-1-1885 in the Court of Sub-Judge Faizabad, Pandit Hari Kishan (Suit No. 61/280 of 1885). It was alleged in the said Suit that Chabutra of Janam Asthan was a platform of 21 feet towards East and West and 17 feet towards North and South. It was further alleged in the said Suit that as there was no building over it and the Mahant and other priests had to face grave vagaries of the weather. The Mahant therefore wanted permission to construct a temple over the said Chabutra of 21 X 17 feet, which had been prohibited by the Deputy Commissioner of Faizabad. The Suit 61/280 of 1885 was dismissed on 24-12-1885 by Pandit Hari Kishan, Sub-Judge of Faizabad. Relying upon the site plan prepared by Gopal Sahai, the Learned Sub-Judge observed:

“The entrance to the enclosure is under a gateway on which appears the superscription of “Allah”. Immediately on the left is the platform or chabutra of masonary occupied by the Hindus. On this is a small superstructure of wood in the form of a tent. This chabutra is said to indicate the birthplace of Ram Chander. …

“… in between the mosque and Chabutra, there is a wall…and it is clear that there are separate boundaries between the mosque and Chabutra and this fact is also supported by the fact that there is boundary line built by the Government before the rent dispute”.

It was further observed that if temple was allowed to be constructed on the Chabutra at such a place, then there would be sound of bells of the temple and sankh, when both Hindus and Muslims passed from the same way. If permission was given to Hindus for constructing temple then one day or the other there would be rioting and thousands of people would be killed. Thus, the learned Sub-Judge opined that awarding permission to construct the temple at this juncture is to lay the foundation of riot and murder, hence in view of the policy and also in view of justice the reliefs claimed should not be granted. The Sub-Judge also rejected the reliefs sought on the ground of adverse possession and observed that:

“It is most unfortunate that a masjid should have been built on the land specially held sacred by the Hindus. But as that occurred 356 years ago, it is too late now to remedy the grievance. All that can be done is to maintain the parties in status quo.”

The Appeal of Mahant Raghubar Dass against the judgement of the Learned Sub-Judge before the District Judge of Faizabad and the Judicial Commissioner, W. Young (Civil appeal No. 27 of 1886) was also dismissed. In his judgement dated November 1, 1886 observed:

“This spot is situated within the precinct of the grounds surrounding a mosque erected some 350 years age owing to the bigotry and tyranny of the emperor who purposely chose this holy spot, according to Hindu legend as the site of his mosque. The Hindus seem to have got very limited rights of access to certain spots within the precinct adjoining the mosques and they have for a series of years been persistently trying to increase those rights and to erect buildings on two spots in the enclosure namely (1) Sita ki rasoi (kitchen of Sita) and (2) Ram Chander ki Janmabhoomi (birthplace of Lord Rama)… I am further of the opinion that the civil courts have properly dismissed the plaintiff’s claim.

Two things are to be noted here. The suit as well as the Appeal was rejected on grounds of adverse possession. The dispute was about the Chabutra situated in the precinct on which a building was sought to be erected and never the mosque itself. As set out in the judgement, certain elements from the Hindu community tried to persistently increase their rights – in the second and third round to the entire mosque itself. Even though the reliefs prayed for were not granted, the judgement tried not to antagonise the Hindu Community entirely by mentioning the atrocities of the tyrannical and bigot emperors (from whose tyrannical rule the colonial rulers claim to have “liberated” the sub-continent). It is not clear on what supporting evidence did the judges observe that the tyrannical Mughal Emperor out of bigotry demolished a temple 350 years ago to build a mosque in his name. Thus in spite of the judgements, the Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid controversy remained very much alive.

In 1934 riots, which were triggered off by the slaughter of a cow in the village of Shahjahanpur near Ayodhya, riotous mobs demolished part of the wall surrounding the mosque and damaged the domes. However, the mosque was restored at the cost of the Government.
Interestingly, there was also litigation between Shia Central Board of Waqf and Sunni Central Board of Waqf in the Court of Civil Judge, Faizabad. An inquiry was conducted the Commissioner of waqfs under the UP Muslim Wafqs Act. By judgement dated 23/3/46, it was held that the mosque was found by Babar Shah and used by members of both sects.

Till 22nd December1949, Muslims offered namaz in the Babri Masjid. However, on the night of 22nd December 1949, idols of Bhagwan shri Ramchandra were surreptitiously smuggled and installed inside the mosque. Constable Mata Prasad at Ayodhya Police Station reported the incident next day morning and the District Magistrate K.K. Nayar sent the following message to the Chief Minister and Chief Secretary by radiogram:

“A few Hindus entered Babri Masjid at night when the masjid was deserted and installed a deity there, DM and SP and force at spot. Situation under control, Police picket of 15 persons was on duty at night but did not apparently act.”

K. K. Nayar, who later contested elections on the then Jan Sangh ticket, wrote in his diary:

“The crowd made a most determined attempt to force entry. The lock was broken and policemen rushed off their legs. All of us, officers and men, somehow pushed the crowd back and held the gate. The gate was secured and locked with a powerful lock brought from outside and the police force was strengthened.”

Nayar also wrote to the Chief Secretary that in grave risk of large-scale riots it would not be desirable to attempt the removal of the idols through governmental agency. He also advised against stopping bhog and aarti but advised that the present pujari should be changed. Markandey Singh, Magistrate, First Class, and Additional City Magistrate, Faizabad-cumAyodhya after being “fully satisfied from information received from police sources and from other credible sources that a dispute between Hindus and Muslims of Ayodhya over the question rights of proprietorship and worship in the building claimed variously as Babri Masjid and Janmabhoomi Mandir, Mohalla Ram Kot, within the local limits of my jurisdiction, is likely to lead to a breach of peace,” ordered the attachment of the “said buildings” under Section 145 CrPC and appointed Priya Dutt Ram, Chairman, Municipal Board, Faizabad-cum-Ayodhya, as receiver to arrange for the care of the property in dispute on December 29, 1949.

Then a civil suit number 2 of 1950 was filed on January 16, 1950 by Gopal Singh Visharad in the court of the civil judge, Faizabad, praying for a declaration that he is entitled to worship and visit without obstruction or disturbance Shri Bhagwan Ram Chandra and others installed in the Janmabhoomi and a perpetual injunction restraining the defendants from removing these idols. Amongst the eight defendants were five Muslims and the state of Uttar Pradesh, the Deputy Commissioner and the Police Superintendent of Faizabad.

The civil judge N.N. Chadha, granted an interim injunction on 16/1/1950 allowing puja and darshan though the rights were in dispute. The Order was later modified on 19/1/1950 as follows:

“The parties are hereby restrained by means of the temporary injunction to refrain from removing the idols in question from the site in dispute and from interfering with the puja etc. as at present carried on.”

In addition to the above suit, three more suits relating to disputes over receivership and waqf were filed during the intervening period. The Nirmohi Akhara also staked its claim for ownership of the disputed land.

A lawyer of Ayodhya, Umesh Chandra Pandey quietly moved an application on 25/1/86 in the Court of Sadar Munsif, Hari Shakar Dubey seeking directions restraining the respondents from imposing any sort of restrictions or hurdles in the darshan and puja, etc. of Lord Rama and others in the Janambhoomi offered by him and other members of the Hindu community. The Application was in regular Suit no. 2 of 1950. The Munsif refused to pass orders on the ground that the file of the leading case along with which the above suit was consolidated was requisitioned in the High Court. Umesh Chandra had no locus standi in the above suit, and had not even impleaded all the defendants in the suit as party respondents in the application. Umesh Chandra filed an appeal against the order of the Munsif before the District Judge, Faizabad, K.M. Pandey on 31/1/86. The district judge rejected the application of the Mohammed Hashim to be impleaded as a party in the appeal. The District Judge recorded the statements of District Magistrate, Indu Kumar Pandey and Senior Superintendent of Police, Karma Vir Singh to the effect that:

“…it is not necessary to keep the locks at the gates for the purpose of maintaining law and order or the safety of the idols. This appears to be an unnecessary irritant to the applicant and other members of the community. There does not appear o be any necessity to create an artificial barrier between the idol and the devotees. It appears that the opposite parties have remained a prisoner of indecision for the last 35 years. Somebody in his wisdom thought fit to put locks at the gates at any point of time and nobody since then has seen whether there is any necessity to retain locks or not”.

The District judge then observed:

“after having heard the parties it is clear that the members of the other community, namely the Muslims, are not going to be affected by any stretch of imagination if the locks of the gates were opened and the idols inside the premises are allowed to be seen and worshipped by the pilgrims and devotees. It is undisputed that the premises are presently in the court’s possession and that for the last 35 years Hindus have had an unrestricted right or worship as a result of the court’s order of 1950 and 1951. If the Hindus are offering prayers and worshipping the idols, though in a restricted way for the last 35 years, then the heavens are not going to fall if the locks of the gates are removed. The district magistrate has stated before me today that the members of the Muslim community are not allowed to offer any prayers at the disputed site. They are not allowed to go there. … If this is the state of affairs then there is no occasion for any law and order problem arising as a result of the removal of the locks. It is absolutely an affair inside the premises. There is no justification for retaining locks after the positive statements of the district magistrate and the SSP Faizabad that the law and order situation can be very well kept under control by other means as well and for that end it is not necessary to keep the locks on these gates.”

The appeal allowed and the respondents – district magistrate, the city magistrate and the police superintendent of Faizabad were directed to open the locks forthwith and not to impose any restrictions or cause hurdle in the darshan and puja, etc. of the applicant and other members of the community in general. With the order of the District Judge, the site, which was in the register of waqf as a mosque for over over 400 years as a mosque was converted into a de facto temple. The procedure adopted by the district judge of recording the statement of the District Magistrate and the Senior Superintendent of the Police was very unusual to the say the least. Application of Umesh Chandra Pandey was incompetent as he was not a party in the suit. The suit itself was not pending. Gopal Singh Visharad, the Plaintiff in the Regular Suit No. 2 of 1950 had died years ago and no substitution had been made in his place and as such the suit had automatically abated. Such an order could not be passed altering the situation after 36 years. Also, contrary to the general procedure and practice was the fact that the District Judge rejected the application of the Muslims who were originally party to the suit to be impleaded as a party. The District Judge had no basis to conclude that Muslims would not be adversely affected and that too without hearing the applicants to be impleaded as a party. The District Judge in effect adjudicated the rights of the contending parties without hearing all the parties to the suit on a very narrow and negative ground that there would not be any law and order problem if the locks were removed. The adjudication was not on strength of respective claims and the case of the parties, as all the parties concerned and the strength of their claims were not heard were not heard at all. Law and order problem is never a consideration while adjudicating rights of the party. If the courts adjudicate rights of the parties to litigation on consideration of law and order, what we will have is not rule of law but rule of might. The background in which the judgement was delivered will not be out of place here. The SSP and the DM would not have given the statement about their confidence in being able to maintain law and order, without approval of the State and Central Government. The Rajiv Gandhi Government was on the one hand trying to appease the Muslim Fundamentalists on the issue of Sahabano and intended legislation for denial of maintenance to divorced Muslim women under S. 125 of Cr.P.C. On the other hand, the Government was also trying to appease the Hindu community by getting the locks of Ramjanambhumi-Babri Masjid opened for darshan and puja.

Supreme Court Judgement in Ayodhya case

The decade of 1980 will be remembered as a bloody decade with communal clashes all over the country as the issue of Ramjanambhumi was politicised and nationalised by the Sangh Parivar. The Ramjanambhumi, which had hitherto remained a dispute between some elements from both communities in Ayodhya, was taken to every nook and corner in most cities and even rural areas all over the country. The demand for which the mobilisation was aimed was to open the lock of the Babri Masjid and permit puja and darshan. After the lock was opened, the next demand was handing over the entire site for construction of Ramjanmabhumi Temple and shifting of the mosque outside panchkoshi parikrama. Legally, it was difficult to achieve this fete without the intervention of the courts and the state. The issue of title of the property, which is the main legal issue involved in the dispute pending in the courts operates against the protagonist of Ramjanmabhumi temple. For right to worship cannot be claimed as an easement on somebody else’s property. So far as law is concerned, faith and belief, or even proof of place of birth of Bhagwan Ramchandra is also not a relevant issue to decide the title and / or grant right to worship. Agitational mobilisation by the Sangh Parivar was to pressurise the state and the courts to act and the pressure did work.

First the UP State acquired the place surrounding the place in the name of providing certain facilities to the pilgrims, the site on which Rajiv Gandhi laid foundation stone of the Ramjanmabhumi on in November 1990. Babri Masjid was then demolished on 6.12.92 by mobs mobilised by the Sangh Parivar. The Courts as well as the state allowed the mob to assemble in the naïve belief that the Mosque will not be touched. Then the Union Government issued ordinance named ‘Acquisition of Certain Area at Ayodhya Ordinance’ on 7.1.93 for acquisition of 67.703 acres of land, including the site of Babri Masjid. The Ordinance was later replaced by an Act. The Union Government also made a Special Reference under Article 143(1) of the Constitution of India to the Supreme Court for the opinion of the Court on:

“Whether a Hindu temple or any Hindu religious structure existed prior to the construction of the Ram Janma Bhumi – Babri Masjid (including the premises of the inner and outer courtyards of such structure) in the area on which the structure stood”.

The reference itself was slanted in favour of the majority community. The Court was called upon to give its opinion whether any Hindu religious structure existed prior to construction of Ram Janma Bhumi – Babri Masjid. … The structure that stood was certainly not “Ramjanma Bhumi” but Babri Masjid admittedly constructed by Mir Baqi. The only contention of the protagonist of Ramjanma Bhumi Temple being that the same was after demolition of Janam Asthan Temple. Secondly, no time frame was prescribed for examination of existence of Ram Janma Bhumi – Babri Masjid. If the referendum had been answered in positive, the Union Government would have been compelled to hand over the entire site on which Babri Masjid stood to the Hindu litigants or a trust or association. The Supreme Court however rejected the reference as superfluous.

The five judge Constitutional Bench of the Supreme Court was also called upon adjudicate on the validity of the Acquisition Act in Ismail Faruqui Vs. Union of India (1994 (6) SCC 360). The Judgement delivered by Justice Verma on behalf of the majority held the Act as a whole to be valid, striking down only Section 4 (3) of the Acquisition Act on the ground that extinction of judicial remedy for resolution of the dispute without providing any alternative dispute resolution forum amounts to negation of rule of law. The Section 4 (3) is as follows:

“If, on the commencement of this Act, any suit, appeal or other proceeding in respect of the right, title and interest relating to any property which has vested in the Central Government under Section 3, is pending before any court, tribunal or other authority, the same shall abate.”

Even while holding Section 4 (3) to be void and unconstitutional, the majority Judgement upheld the Constitutional validity of the rest of the provisions of the Act, including that of Section 3 by virtue of which, right title and interest of the 67.703 acres of land area, including the site of Babri Masjid stood transferred and vested in the hands of the Central Government. The minority Judgement delivered by Justice Bharucha delivering judgement on behalf of himself and Justice Ahmedi held that the section 3, 4 and 8 are unconstitutional.

The majority Judgement held that the land of even mosque can be compulsorily acquired by the state and it stood on the same footing as that of other places of worship. While there can be no quarrel with that, the effect of compulsory acquisition could not be lost in the case at hand. The minority judgement held that secularism is absolute and

“the state may not treat religions differently on the ground that public order required it. … When adherents of the religion of the majority of Indian citizens make a claim upon and assail the place of worship of another religion and, by dint of numbers, create conditions that are conducive to public disorder, it is the constitutional obligation of the State to protect that place of worship and to preserve public order, using for the purpose such means and forces of law and order as are required. It is impermissible under the provisions of the Constitution for the State to acquire that place of worship to reserve public order. To condone the acquisition of a place of worship in such circumstances is to efface the principle of secularism from the Constitution…”

Section 7 of the Acquisition Act is slanted in favour of the Hindu community as section 7 (2) required maintenance status-quo as prevailed before 7-1-93, which would mean that idols must be retained where they were before 7-1-93 and puja as carried on as before. Section 7 would entail idol would remain and puja continue for an indefinite period.

The Ayodhya Judgement thus struck down only section 4 (3) of the Acquisition Act as per the majority Judgement and as a result of striking down Section 4 (3) all the Suits pending before the High Court revived and the High Court is now hearing the suit day to day. The minority Judgement, however, held that the Acquisition Act vested a whole bundle of rights in the Central Government, including that of the disputed site. According to Section 6 of the Acquisition Act, the Central Government was enabling provision and the Central Government could further transfer whole bundle of right and property to any authority or a body or a trust on terms and conditions that the Central Government might think fit to impose. Those terms and conditions are not specified in the Act, nor is there any indication in that behalf available. The majority Judgment however held that after the pending dispute was adjudicated, the Central Government would hand over the disputed site in accordance with the adjudication to appropriate authority, trust or body. In the event the adjudication is in favour of litigants from minority community, would the Central Government with any political party in power have the political courage to hand over the disputed site to a body, authority or trust of minority community to reconstruct the demolished mosque? That remains to be seen.

Conclusions

To summarise, admittedly, Babri Masjid was built by Mir Baqi in the year 1528 and is noted in the waqf register of Sunni Central Board of Waqf. In 1885 and 1886, the claim of the Hindu litigants was only on the Chabutra as they wanted to construct a structure to protect the devotees from the vagaries of the weather and no more. On the strength of adverse possession, the courts dealing with the dispute during the colonial period rejected the prayers of the Hindu litigants to construct any structure even on the Chabutra. The prayers were rejected even though the courts held (it is not known on what evidence) that the Masjid was built on land held sacred by the Hindus but that occurred 356 years ago on the same spot. After independence, the Hindu litigants adopted incremental approach, slowly enlarging their rights and claims with combination of surreptitious acts, agitational mobilisation and repeated applications to the court. Surreptitious acts when no legal claim left on their side. Another round of litigation on threat of agitational mobilisation. The claims were based not on the strength of title to the property but on their right to unhindered and unrestricted worship. After the idols were smuggled inside the Mosque, there was another round of litigation, which virtually ignored the title and turned the court into a receiver of the property giving the Hindus increasing access to the property as and by way of right to worship, while the Muslim community was denied the access in spite of the fact that the property was a waqf property. After the locks were opened in 1986 on the ground that there would be no problem maintaining law and order if the locks are open, the Hindu nationalist forces were emboldened even more. As they were mobilising their forces and indulging into hate propaganda, the State remained a mute bystander refusing to act and take preventive measures for maintenance of law and order. Even the courts when they had the opportunity did not act decisively and the hoodlums of Hindu nationalist forces were allowed to assemble in large numbers, ultimately resulting in demolition of Babri Mosque and construction of a make shift temple. The Courts as well as the executive rewarded those who demolished the Mosque by legitimising the “rights” acquired by force in the name of maintaining status – quo and maintaining law and order. The Central Govt. acquired the disputed site and the surrounding areas under the Acquisition Act, thus depriving the Muslim litigants of their defence or claim of adverse possession to the disputed site. The Supreme Court majority Judgement legitimised the acquisition by state in the name of maintaining public order. The litigants from the minority community, we feel, are fighting a losing battle – not because their claim to the title of the disputed site is weak or defective, but because they cannot match the power of the Hindu nationalist forces in creating law and order problem, which is material in influencing the decision making in our country. The Hindu nationalist forces have enlarged their rights and claims from Chabutra to worship on the very disputed site not because of their legitimate claim but by threatening not to obey the orders of the Court in matters of “faith”.

Photo: The Hindu

Batla House Encounter – Justice In Waiting

By Afroz Alam Sahil (translated from Urdu by Rehan Ansari),

Batla House encounter. Two years completed. Important questions are still unanswered and Justice is in waiting. Even after the facts are known now, the so called human right activists and the politicians, who got their political ambitions fulfilled on the body of innocents, are silent.

Why is the government of India, the largest democracy of the world, shying away from a judicial enquiry of Batla House encounter? Right to Information Act, no doubt, is the milestone legislation of UPA government. Why in this case is it at stray?

When I filed an RTI petition with the President of India, Prime Minister, Home Minister and National Human Rights Commission, to know what the requirements for a Judicial Enquiry of any encounter are, and if Batla House encounter does not fulfill those criteria, I got no answer even after months of waiting.

People started questioning the authenticity of Batla House encounter since the day one but the death of Inspector Mohan Chand Sharma covered it up. Delhi Police, now, has prepared the charge-sheet and charged Shehzad Ahmed as “Mastermind” (the designation kept on changing since the encounter that happened 6 days after the Delhi serial blasts) for murdering MC Sharma. Now why Jai Prakash Narayan Apex Trauma Centre of AIIMS, Delhi Police, and other important government departments are trying to hide the fact? Delhi Police has been telling its own story, every time with different angle causing more confusion. Every time new Mastermind is arrested and interestingly Maharashtra Police presented some other Masterminds. Every time Police comes up with misleading stories which end without any conclusion, which clearly indicates that their investigations and beliefs are going in wrong directions deliberately or otherwise and in the process, in fact, Justice is being denied.

Electronic and print media shouted at the strange postmortem report prepared by the government Forensic experts. It was so bizarre that no doctor or Forensic expert can understand or explain it but all their efforts resulted nothing.

Facts digged out through RTI cleared all the confusions and now the picture is very clear. But where are the people who were alleging that Muslims are siding with the terrorists? Why the secular Congress is silent? Where the hell are the NGOs who were siding with the establishment and the Muslim Politicians who are looting the luxuries of power with the Muslim support?
I just don’t want to go complaining but fact of the matter is that encounter theory is as strange as the postmortem report and if the death of encounter specialist Mohan Sharma would not have emotionally charged the issue; it would have been the hell for the Police and the government to answer the people. Even till now Police are shying to answer and earlier were hiding behind the NHRC. With NHRC enquiry report exposed, now they are hiding behind judiciary.

Delhi Police is denying the fact about the postmortem report which is in public domain now, because the court itself denied to handover the postmortem report to the relatives of the victims which should have been provided to them within three days of the encounter.

Muslims are always at the receiving end of Terrorism but are labeled as Terrorists. Although some Hindutva extremists and their organizations have been found in terror activities many times but there is a conspiracy of silence. Questions were raised on the killing of Hemant Karkare and Ashok Kamte by their own wives and they should be answered to their satisfaction but they are ignored and the voices of truth are suppressed. If these questions are answered then the fact about the Batla House encounter will be revealed and then the encounter will never be required.

But this hope seems to be dim because we Indians are getting divided in the name of religions and there are selfish people on both the sides who are getting benefitted out of these differences. Some of them don’t like the paintings of Maqbool Fida Husain; few in Gujarat hate Aamir and Shahrukh Khan. They don’t like Mosque in Ayodhya and the sweetest language of our country. They celebrate the killing of two innocent youngsters but are not ready to find the answer to: why are they becoming terrorists, if at all they are?

Today there is demand of judicial probe in the Batla house encounter from every quarter but it’s up to the UPA government to decide: what does it like? And what will it do? But as far as we are concerned we will always fight for the Truth and Justice and Truth finally wins.
I quote here Kaifi Azmi of Azamgarh

“Aaj ki Raat Bahut Sard hawa chalti hai
Aaj ki raat fursat se neend aayegi
Sab utho main bhi uthoon
Koi khidki is deewar mein khul jaaegi.”

There is coolest wind tonight, Tonight we will sleep well; Wake up all and I will also wake up, A window might get opened in this wall.

What happened at Ayodhya 155 years ago?

By Md. Aziz Haider,

Ayodhya genie is out of the bottle again. BJP President has urged the Muslims to hand over the claim of mosque at Ayodhya to Hindus while All India Babri Masjid Action Committee convenor Zafaryab Jilani has rejected the offer claiming that BJP is yet to change its mindset.The Court is scheduled to give its verdict shortly. With mistrust prevailing between both communities, it is not possible to get to a change. As long as there is sincere will to come to some solution, no solution can be reached.

Looking back in history, we found one particular incident very similar to the Babri Masjid Ram Janambhoomi issue. Let’s look at the issue, how it was flared up and how a solution was reached. It is said, if there is a will, there is a way! Read on.

Year is 1855! The last of the Awadh Nawabs, Wajid Ali Shah is at helm of affairs. Perhaps only for namesake as there is a British Resident staying at a stone’s throw distance from his seat of power. He is not in total command as several thousands of British forces are stationed nearby,being paid salaries by the Nawabs exchequer. Alleged British sponsored intrigues and political murders are common and the infamous policy of divide and rule has shown rich dividends. Now the Resident Commissioner is looking for excuses to annex this most prosperous territory in India Awadh. Politically sidelined, Wajid Ali Shah has taken to patronizing art and culture in a big way. New markets are being developed, fresh incentives to traders being given and artisans encouraged at par with artists. Administration is still largely in the Nawabs hand, being closely watched by the British for their nefarious plans. This is also the time when the famous Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb (culture) is at its peak. Muslims are celebrating Diwali and Holi with élan while Hindus are keeping tazias on Moharram, as a symbol of respect for the martyred at Karbala. At this juncture, Hanumangarhi episode takes place, which could have marred all the good work done by this Nawab during the past 9 years of his rule. Mismanaged, and it threatened to take away his entire kingdom. But what Wajid Ali Shah eventually revealed was that he was a man who had risen above the narrow domestic walls of sectarian beliefs.

Hanumangarhi, not to be confused with the Ram Janambhoomi-Babri Masjid site, is a cluster of temples in Ayodhya. The temples, it is said, were built by the money of Nawab Safdarjung, great grandfather of Wajid Ali Shah. A Muslim living with Hindus in this area (most likely instigated by the British or by those who do not like co-existence between the two communities) came out proclaiming that Hindus have demolished a mosque that was situated in between the temple complex. The matter took a serious turn as about a dozen Hindus and more than 70 Muslims got killed in the communal clash that followed. The Muslims presented a petition to the Nawab and beseeched him to intervene as a Muslim on this plaint. Not to go by what they wanted, Wajid Ali Shah instituted a commission, setting a 3-member committee consisting of a Muslim, a Hindu and a British officer. These three men were Raja Man Singh, Agha Ali Khan- the nazim at Faizabad and Captain Orr of the East India Company.

The Commission reported that there was no mosque within the precincts of Hanumangarhi.These three men went to Ayodhya and succeeded in bringing Hindus and Muslims together.Agreement was arrived and a deed of compromise executed.

The matter would have been settled but some Muslims started an agitation claiming it to be an act of appeasement. A Muslim Maulvi Ameer Ali threatening Jehad vowed to go to Ayodhya and rebuild the mosque. As he with his followers marched to Ayodhya, the Nawab sought the fatwa of the chief cleric Mujtahid Sayyad Muhammad Nasirabad, a scholar of the famous Khandan-e-Ijtihaad family. The chief cleric in consultation with the senior most Ulema from Firangi Mahal (another Muslim institution of repute) ruled that since it was established that there was no mosque, constructing the mosque was not permissible by Islam as it would hurt the sensibilities of the Hindus. Armed with the fatwa, the Nawabs forces confronted Maulvi Ameer Ali and his followers at Rudauli, a little distance away from Faizabad, as he proceeded towards Ayodhya.

In the battle that ensued, Ameer Ali was killed and his followers either killed or made to flee.And the Hanumangarhi episode was resolved once and for all.

The great justice that the erstwhile Nawab of Lucknow may have delivered also left several detractors. It is nearly impossible that each and everybody gets pleased. But a sincere willingness to find a ompromise is the need of the hour without which it will not be possible to do away with widespread discontent.

Acts like those of last Nawab of Awadh laid the foundations of that great Hindu-Muslim unity,which historians never fail to mention. It was due to this that when the Nawab was dethroned by the British about a year later, a general atmosphere of restlessness prevailed all over Awadh,which resulted in several skirmishes even prior to the great fight for independence in 1857.Nearly the entire population of Awadh fought against the British forces in 1857; some of the fiercest battles took place on the banks of Gomti in Lucknow and Ganga in Cawnpore (Kanpur),where Hindus and Muslims fought shoulder to shoulder with their common enemy. And it was not mere co-incidence that Mangal Pandey, who actually started it all at a remote cantonment in Meerut, belonged to a small village near Faizabad, in the very vicinity of Ayodhya itself.

Nearly a century and a half later, a similar story has been enacted. Hindus and Muslims came to loggerheads at the same venue Ayodhya. We have seen that even the intervention of Shankaracharya of Kanchi failed to resolve the problem. Innumerable Jehadis and Kar Sewaks were born out of this conflict, which still threaten to tear the social fabric apart. Still there are some who are talking of building a monument by force, this time a temple over the ruins of a structure revered by the other community as mosque till some time back.

There is one major difference though. Politics of the vote bank has replaced the monarchy,adding new dimensions to the erstwhile divide and rule policy followed by the British. Unity between Hindus and Muslims has been made a martyr at many a sacrificial pyre, by the near fatal blows of fundamentalists and politicians.

And instead of a quick and impartial resolution to the conflict, the matter is simmering since decades, whose most brutal eruptions have lately been seen, time and again.

Is there a silver lining then? Can the politicians be trusted that they won’t dip their loaf of bread in a little more of human blood before eating? Are we to know for sure whether the religious heads of either community are not nursing their own personal ambitions, political or otherwise? And are Indian Hindus and Muslims again going to act as naïve siblings unable to comprehend the ferocious propaganda aimed at them? The truth will be out in some time!

It is time for every right (not rightist) thinking citizen of India to speak now, without reconciling themselves to the decree of the politicians. Perhaps answer lies in Wajid Ali Shah’s words itself as he described the infamous Hanumangarhi episode in poetry:

Hum ishque ke bande hain mazhab se nahin vaqif

Gar Kaaba hua to kya butkhana hua to kya.

(We are the votaries of love and unacquainted with religion;

To us it does not matter, whether it is Kaaba or a temple.)

Time To Implement The Ramazan Training

By A. Faizur Rahman,

The holy month of fasting has come to an end and Eid-ul-Fitr has also been celebrated. On that day (the first day of the month of Shawwal) Muslims gathered in Eidgahs and mosques to thank God for having enabled them to fulfil their Ramazan obligations – the seeking of spiritual proximity to Him through prayers, striving for moral discipline by conquering physical desires and inculcating a sense of social commitment to the cause of the economically deprived. And as an expression of this solidarity an obligatory charity called zakat ul fitr was disbursed to the needy before the thanksgiving congregational prayer.

But once the festivities are over, it has been observed, most Muslims renege on their Ramazan resolutions. The spiritual training undergone during this holy month somehow fails to energise them into sustaining the good work for the next eleven months. The reason for this could be that the statutory requirements of Ramazan such as the thirty day dawn to dusk fasting (soum) are taken as a ritualistic end in themselves sans a higher purpose. And perhaps the only way to remedy this situation is to revisit the idea of Ramazan as proposed by the Quran and expounded by the Prophet.

The instructions regarding Ramazan and fasting during that month form part of a discussion in a section (ruku) of 6 verses (183-188) in the second chapter (surah) of the Quran which begins by saying: “O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that you may learn self-restraint.” As the verse rightly claims the concept of fasting is not peculiar to Islam. The Hindus fast on special festivals such as Maha Shivratri and Navaratri and also on particular days like Ekadasi and Purnima. In Christianity, the Old Testament (Exodus 34:28) talks of a 40-day fast by Moses before receiving the Ten Commandants, and the New Testament mentions Jesus as rebuking his followers saying, “And when you fast, don’t make it obvious, as the hypocrites do, who try to look pale and disheveled so people will admire them for their fasting.” (Mathew 6:16-17).

The most relevant in the above mentioned Quranic verse is its latter part which reveals the purpose behind fasting, that is, to acquire taqwa, which has been variously translated as self-restraint, god-consciousness and guarding of the self against evil. Nevertheless, fasting is just one of the means to achieve the aim of Ramazan as this verse proves. “Ramazan is the month in which was sent down the Quran, as a guide to mankind including clear (signs) for guidance and judgment (between right and wrong). So every one of you who is present during that month should spend it in fasting, but if any one is ill, or on a journey, the prescribed period (should be made up) by days later” (2:185).

This means that the significance of Ramazan stems from the revelation of Divine Guidance to mankind in that month, and the objective of this special month would be fulfilled only when the message of the Quran is internalised during the thirty day period. This is possible only when the core teachings of Islam are identified. And of a surety they do not include the appeasement of a personal god through superstitious rituals as some preachers would have us believe.

To put in a nutshell, Islam means the recognition of a Creator and service to humanity. According to one of the most quoted verses, “It is not righteousness that you turn your faces towards east or west; but it is righteousness-to believe in God and the Last Day, and the angels, and the Book, and the messengers; to spend of your substance, out of love for Him, for your kin, for orphans, for the needy, for the wayfarer, for those who ask, and for the ransom of slaves; to be steadfast in prayer, and practice zakat; to fulfil the contracts which ye have made; and to be firm and patient, in suffering and adversity, and throughout all periods of panic. Such are the people of truth and such are the muttaqoon (people with taqwa).” (2:177).

It may be noted here that if the purpose of fasting is taqwa (as mentioned in 2:183 above), and people with taqwa are those who serve humanity in different ways and also pray and pay zakat (compulsory charity), the seemingly liturgical practices of prayers, fasting, Zakat and Haj can be described as institutional means to establish the humanitarian order of Islam. This is because, the five times prayers and Haj inculcate social equality, fasting sensitises the rich to the pangs of extreme poverty, and zakat helps finance socio-economic development. No wonder the Prophet referred to these institutions as the foundation on which the edifice of Islam rests. Therefore, the Muslims should not allow themselves to be overcome by complacency just by praying and fasting. Just as the Prophet said that God does not stand in need of a person giving up his food and drink if he does not give up lying and acting falsely, fasting and prayer would be of no use if our apathetic attitude towards the deprived sections of the society does not change.

It must be realised that according to The National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganized Sector (NCEUS) report more than 77% of the Indian population and 84% of the Muslims do not have employment and social security and are live on less than Rs. 20 a day, not to mention the conditions of the Muslims as brought out in the Sachar Report. And according to an UNICEF report malnutrition in India is more rampant than sub-Saharan Africa as more than one third of the malnourished children live in our country. But most rich Muslims are oblivious to such sufferings. They continue to spend on non-obligatory pilgrimages and extravagant marriages. It is as if they are yet to understand the symbolism of Ramazan.

The word Ramazan is derived from ramaz which means “intense heat”, and soum means to stop, cease or abstain from an activity. Therefore, when the Quran talks of its message being revealed in the month of intense heat and asks people to fast during this period it is also a reference to the savage conditions that prevailed in Arabia before Islam and how the first Muslims dealt with them. And understood through this symbolism the phrase “every one of you who is present during that month should spend it in fasting” in 2: 185 would mean (apart from regular fasting) that anyone who finds himself in circumstances of ramaz he or she must undergo the training of soum using the Quran as guidance to extricate the community from such situations. In other words, the Quran has been revealed to mankind as a practical remedy for any crisis in life.

When the Prophet started his reform movement armed with the guidance of the Quran, murder, mayhem, fratricidal wars and female infanticide were the order of the day. And during his entire 13-year stay in Mecca, till he was forced to migrate to Medina, the Prophet, in the light of the Quranic teachings, practiced a kind of soum in which he stopped himself and his followers from all forms of physical retaliation against the barbaric Meccans. As a result even when his companions Yasir and his wife Sumaiya were brutally murdered, and a bare-bodied Hazrat Bilal dragged through the rough streets of Mecca under a blazing sun the Prophet advocated patience. It was this non-violent response of tolerance, self-restraint, and perseverance against all odds with the message of truth that endeared Islam to the people of Arabia.

Circumstances today demand that Muslims undertake a similar form of soum in which they commit themselves to abstain from extravagance, ostentation and self-indulgence so as to save their community from the “intense heat” of all round backwardness. Then they would have attained the highest stage of spiritual development which characterises the people of taqwa.

(The author is secretary general of Forum for the Promotion of Moderate Thought among Muslims. He can be reached atemailfaizz@gmail.com)

Lessons From Batla House Encounter: Truth Will Prevail

Mahatma Gandhi started his satyagraha from Champaran district of Bihar. This force of truth is what ultimately led to India’s independence. After independence, India adopted “Satyameva Jayate” [Truth Alone Triumphs] as its motto. A 23 year-old youth from Champaran is testing India’s commitment to its truth and in the process showing the mirror to the Indian republic and asking them the same questions that Gandhi’s followers asked the colonial rulers.

Afroz Alam was born in Champaran district of Bihar in 1987. He is acutely aware of the historical importance of Champaran in India’s freedom struggle. Through Right To Information (RTI) Act, he has started his own “satyagraha” for seeking out the truth. Since 2005, he has filed thousands of RTI applications seeking information on local and national issues but what has made him famous is his unprecedented successes in finding truth of Batla House killings of Sept 19, 2008 that was termed as encounter by Delhi Police and fake by the population living in that area.

RTI activist Afroz Alam Sahil

Two years ago today, in Batla House area of Jamia Nagar, Delhi two civilians Sajid and Atif, and a police officer Mohan Chand Sharma were dead after some gun-shots were heard in the morning. What had happened there in flat number L-18 that day that led to three deaths is not clear. Afroz Alam Sahil, then a student of Mass Communication in Jamia Millia Islamia and an RTI activist, filed around 40 applications seeking more information about this “encounter” but has met by deafening silence from all sides.

Getting information through RTI has never been easy but it has been a special challenge to find out anything about the Batla House encounter case. He has filed appeals after appeals with different departments but without much success. He has filed RTI applications with the Prime Minister’s Office, President of India, Union Home Ministry, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Delhi Police, and Delhi Minority Commission with little or no response from most of these organizations.

But his dogged persistence has paid off when in March this year, NHRC finally released the post-mortem report of Atif Amin and Mohammad Sajid, two youth who were killed in Batla House encounter. The post-mortem report, which AIIMS and Delhi Police still refuses to give, revealed that both Atif and Sajid had injuries on their bodies which occurred before their death. Delhi Police’s version of event had it that no physical interaction happened with the youth and the police but then how would one explain these injuries that AIIMS doctor clearly marked as “ante-mortem” or before death.
[ http://www.twocircles.net/2010mar17/batla_house_post_mortem_report_confi… ]

Just a few days ago, RTI officer at AIIMS again refused to give any information about post-mortem reports of Batla House victims, thought it has been already made public by the NHRC. The reason for refusal, cited by the Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) is RTI act 8 (g) and 8 (h):

8. Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, there shall be no obligation to give any citizen,
(g) information, the disclosure of which would endanger the life or physical safety of any person or identify the source of information or assistance given in confidence for law enforcement or security purposes;
(h) information, which would impede the process of investigation or apprehension or prosecution of offenders.

I would leave it to the readers to figure who will get hurt from the information that is being refused to be given by various government agencies and who benefits from this silence?

Though harassed along the way and humiliated by government officials, Afroz has refused to give in. It was big news when in July 2009, NHRC gave clean-chit to Delhi regarding their action in Batla House. “We are clearly of the opinion that having regard to the material placed before us, it cannot be said that there has been any violation of human rights by action of police,” the commission wrote in a report submitted to the Delhi High Court. But a year later, in June 2010, NHRC finally admitted that it never paid a visit to Batla House flat, where the encounter took place, or talk to anyone involved in the case. In fact, India’s statutory human rights body conducted the enquiry only after they were ordered by the Delhi High Court and relied solely on Delhi Police version and evidence, and that too uncritically. One might ask what is the usefulness of NHRC if they will enquire only when ordered to do so and then believe what police had to say about the incident.

But what Afroz Alam has seen so far leaves no doubt in this mind that Batla House encounter was fake. And he finds it strange that though CBI is enquiring encounters in Gujarat, where BJP is the ruling party but not in Delhi, where Congress is in power.

Another unintended revelation from Afroz’s RTI activism was that Muslim organizations have been totally ineffective in India. Muslim youth in India were hunted down in the name of terrorism since 2001 and Muslim organizations except for issuing statements have not been able to do much in this regard. They were unable to convince the larger population that various encounters were fake or work with the government to get innocents released those that had been arrested and framed on terrorism charges. The story of Afroz Alam Sahil is a matter of inspiration and hope for Muslim youth and organizations- there are many legal means of getting justice in India, though it may be a long and frustrating journey but there is no other way to hard work and the truth will prevail.

My Visit To Riot-Affected Ratlam

By V.K. Tripathi,

A communal conflagration erupted in Ratlam (Madhya Pradesh) on September 3, 2010 on the issue of defacing Danipura mosque by cow dung (gobar) at the time of evening prayer. Few doors in the neighbourhood were damaged, a few vehicles were also damaged but no person was hurt. Few hours later a confrontation erupted between Muslims and police which took a very serious turn. Some people pelted stones on police and the latter resorted to traumatic house to house search in Sheranipura, beating a large number of people and arresting hundreds of them. Even after eight days majority of those arrested were behind the bars. The anguished Muslim community did not celebrate Eid (on September 11) in Ratlam district as well as in the adjoining districts of Mandsor and Neemach. People displayed a black ribbon on their hand as a mark of protest against the police action.
I learnt about the incident on September 8 through an e-mail from Dr. Sujat Vali from Godhra. When I called him, he gave the phone number of his sister Shabana who lives in Ratlam. Shabana apprised me of the tense situation in Ratlam. I called Mr. L.S. Hardenia, a prominent secular activist in Bhopal, he also furnished some details. I decided to go to Ratlam on the day of Eid.

I left Delhi on the night of September 10 by Swaraj Express and reached Ratlam at 7: 45 AM. I informed Shabana and her husband Mr. Munawar Jiva Khan of my arrival and said that I would reach their home after meeting DM and SP and visiting the site where trouble began. I started walking towards the city. On my way I went to a medical store and talked to its owner, a middle aged Sikh. He said that the riot had occurred in Mochipura, Sheranipura, Danipura area. I went to that area. As I entered Mochipura I was struck by the poverty of the area. The city has a population of 3 lakh, of which 1 lakh are Jains/ Baniyas, 60 thousand Muslims and rest others. Mochipura and Danipura are mixed populations. I talked to Muslims standing near a mosque. One of them, a barber, said that there was no quarrel between Hindus and Muslims, only police had tortured and robbed them and put their dear ones in prison. Similar tales I heard from several others. As I proceeded ahead, I saw 5 police men standing on a platform. I talked to them, gave a copy of Sadbhav Mission Patrika and explained the purpose of my visit. I was surprised by their positive response. After I left they read the magazine and informed the Additional Superintendent of Police about the goal of my visit. The ASP expressed his willingness to meet me.

A victim with plastered hand

I walked to the Danipura Mosque. There were signs of cow dung spray on the side wall of the mosque, however, it could not be a cause of a major confrontation. Muslims say cow dung was thrown at the door of the mosque also but there was no one inside the mosque with whom I could confirm. Police later told me that Imam was in prison. I talked to two middle aged Gurjars (there are 15 Gurjar families on two sides of the mosque who have buffalos and sell milk) outside their homes. One of them said that this was the only cow dung on the mosque wall. The other said that he had filed a complaint with Jan Sunwai ten days ago as loudspeaker at the mosque was very loud. On September 3, around 5 PM police came for an enquiry. After the police left, people from the mosque came and said why did he not talk directly to them and thus a quarrel developed. He showed his door and the door of a neighbour that were damaged on that day. Some electrical appliance was also damaged. But it was not something that happens in a riot.

As I was returning from the mosque two policemen came and said that the Additional Superintendent of Police Mr. Vyas wanted to meet me. In a little while he arrived along with Additional District Magistrate Mr. Saluja, Deputy Collector and DSP. I told them the purpose of my visit and what I input I had got from the people. They said that when tension continued police came to the mosque, then several thousand people assembled with swords and other arms. I said that during Ramzan people assemble in large numbers for Taravih prayer but they do not have arms. There might be may be 50 or 100 people with some sort of arms but not more. The ASP agreed with my assessment. Then he said, when police tried to disperse them they resorted to stone pelting. As police chased them, they went into a big mosque and someone went on the mike and started shouting Islam is in danger, then police had to carry the counter offensive and search operation and arrests were made. I argued with them for half an hour about the need for restraint as most people affected by such operations are innocent. I gave them a copy of People Centric Nationalism and copies of Sadbhav Mission Patrika. From there I went to the big mosque. Every one over there was complaining of police excesses. Then I went to Nagar Qazi. There were five members of the family. They greeted me with warmth and openness. Their version of the incident was objective and unbiased. They had praise for DIG Ved Prakash Sharma and advised me to meet him.

At 1 PM I reached Shabana and Jiva Khan’s place. They were immensely warm and offered me lunch. Shaban connected me to Congress President Dr. rajesh Sharma. He was out of town, however, he said he had met the DM in this connection and was in touch with Mr. Kanti Lal Bhuria, MP from Ratlam and Minister of state at the Center. Mr. Bhuria is out the country and would return on the 18th. Mr. Khan later took me to Manav Kalyan organization president Mr. Agarwal. He had all praise for police action and blamed Muslims. I could understand his position when he showered praise on Modi. From there we went to the residence of Ms Yasmin, President Mahila Congress. She was also arrested but was released same day. She was deeply anguished by police atrocities. From there we went to DM’s residence. He was home but busy. Then we went to DIG’s residence. He was warm and said that he was working on how to release hundred or so people who were in prison. It was 6PM by then and Mr. Jivakhan took me to train station.
The incidence has caused deep wound physical as well psychological on the Muslims who are economically hard pressed in Ratlam. The arrested persons must be released without delay, people must be compensated for the damage caused during the search operation (some even allege that money and ornaments were taken away) and it must be investigated why the situation was not handled tactfully and why innocent people in such huge numbers were implicated when there was no injury to anyone.

(The author teaches at Delhi-IIT)

Ayodhya: Waiting for the verdict

The Allahabad High Court is to give its verdict on the Ayodhya issue on 24th September 2010. The case has been in the court for long years. The court is essentially going to touch upon three major issues. Whether there was a temple at the disputed site before 1538, whether the suit filed by the Babri Committee in 1961 is barred by limitation and whether Muslims perfected their title through adverse possession.

While the judgment is awaited there is a lot of tension in the air about the same. The whole issue has been deeply linked to the faith and has been used to whip up communal hysteria. As such Muslim minority has been the major victim of the violence due to communal issue which has used the emotive appeal around Lord Ram. Just to recall, the matter came to surface when some Hindutva forces forcibly entered the Babri mosque on the night of 22 December 1949 and installed the Ram Lalla idols in the mosque. Despite the repeated messages of the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru the local administration let the matter drag. Incidentally, the local District Magistrate K.K. Nayyar who let the issue sow the seeds of discord in times to come, joined Bharatiya Jana Sangh, the previous avatar of BJP, after his retirement. He became the Member of Parliament from the area.

During the decade of 1980s BJP took Babri issue as its main plank. The pressure of VHP and others on political scenario went up and the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, in a thoughtless move got the locks of Masjid opened and Shilanyas for the temple was perfumed. Advani’s Rath Yatras stepped up the temperature; violence followed and prepared the ground for the final assault on the Mosque, the Kar Seva of 6th December 1992. This demolition was coordinated by BJP-VHP-Bajrang Dal under the supervision of their father organization, RSS. The demolition of the mosque was followed by ghastly violence, in Mumbai Surat and Bhopal in particular. This also led to the strengthening of BJP, whose number of MPs went on increasing and it could come to power at the center. Despite its communal rhetoric BJP had to bite the dust during last two general elections, 2004 and 2009.

BJP has been trying to experiment with different emotive issues through its sister organizations but no other issue has been as powerful as to bring it to center of political power again. And now with this forthcoming verdict in offing its sister organizations have stepped up the campaign to demand the building of Ram temple irrespective of the judgment.

In anticipation of the judgment, there are various types of efforts which are on in the society. The local peace groups in Ayodhya, which have played a significant part in maintaining peace in the aftermath of the demolition, are trying to appeal that whatever be the court verdict it should be accepted by both the parties, and that will be a fair way for the social harmony. The Government is trying to put forward a legalistic view and is appealing for calm in the society. Most of the Muslim groups have requested for maintaining law and order. They are also committing to accept the court verdict.

The RSS affiliates on the other hand, claiming to represent ‘all’ the Hindus, are on a different trip. For them the court verdict is immaterial and irrespective of the court verdict they are asserting that Ram temple has to be built at the site as that is the ‘wish ‘ of Hindus. The RSS chief has repeatedly said that Ram Temple has not only to be built but also that Muslims themselves should accept the Ram Temple coming up there to prove that they are’ patriots! In RSS camp BJP at the moment seems to have taken a back seat as it feels that the verdict of last two elections has amply proved that people of India are not in favor such issues coming to political arena. But even if BJP is on the back foot, RSS has no problems as it has its other wings which are doing that job. VHP has launched a multi-pronged effort through meetings, leaflets, booklets and SMS campaigns, exhorting Hindus to call for Ram Temple at the site. Its message is laced in the emotive language aimed to rouse passions. It is also planning to bring in the ‘sadhus’ to restart the campaign and has called a ‘Dharam Sansad’ (Religious Parliament) to react to the court verdict, i.e. to ask for temple irrespective of the judgment.

In this context there is a section amongst thinkers who are calling for establishment of permanent ‘History and Truth Commission’ to investigate and authenticate historical claims of ‘rights and wrongs’. It just shows how much history has been ‘used’ for current political goals. It was British who had introduced ‘communal historiography’ to pursue the policy of ‘divide and rule’. While Muslim League and Hindu Mahsabha-RSS picked up the communal view of History, the National movement led by Gandhi took a different view, which was more in tune with uniting all the people. The likes of Bhagat Singh and Ambedkar saw the history as the history of either class or caste oppression irrespective of the rule of the Kings of one or the other religion. At one level the formation of such a commission is welcome since so much muck has been left behind by the British policy, which continues to shape the ‘social common sense’ even today. History cannot be looked at as just the history of rulers and that too seen through the prism of religion. Other components of society, workers, women, dalits and adivasis also must be given the Historical space, which is due to them.

Today we are at a crucial juncture. The core issues of society, bread, shelter, employment and Human Rights need to be brought to the front stage and the Temple-Masque disputes can be left to the rational historians and the law of the land. All of us need to adopt this attitude and accept the process of law and the values of Indian Constitution.

BJP-Congress Misusing Sohrabuddin Fake Encounter For Political Gains

By Fatima Tanveer,

Ahmedabad: Sohrabuddin Sheikh-Kausar Bi murder at the hands of the Gujarat police in November 2005 has been politically most misused episode in the political history of the country.

The incident that should have been treated as only a crime and investigated in the same spirit with a view to unearth the truth and punish the accused persons behind it was however, exploited by the two major political parties-Congress and BJP-for mobilization of voters and gain political mileage on the eve of 2007 assembly elections as also during April 2009 Lok Sabha elections.

When Congress chief Sonia Gandhi used the incident to refer Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi as “maut ka saudagar” as it were trigger happy cops in Modi’s government who had killed the husband-wife duo and senior Congress leader Digvijay Singh dubbed it as a part of “Hindutva terrorism” during December 2007 assembly poll capmaign, Modi retorted back accusing the Congress of playing vote-bank politics. To keep his constituents in good humour, he allegedly justified saying that alleged gangster Sohrabuddin deserved what was meted out to him by the cops.

But Modi was subsquently issued a notice by the Election Commission of India with regard to his alleged justification of the encounter which his own government had in the Supreme Court confessed as a fake encounter.

However, Modi in his reply stated that he had never justified the fake encounter and what he had stated was a “political response” to Congress leaders describing him as “maut ka saudagar” and his party as bunch of “liars and murderers.”

Sohrabuddin’s brother Rubabuddin also filed a petition in the Supreme Court stating that Modi had violated the Model Code of Conduct. The petition, according to Rubabuddin, is still pending.

Despite the state government’s candid admission of the encounter being a fake one and arrest of as many as 15 cops, including five IPS officials from Gujarat and Rajasthan in this connection, Modi government and the BJP initially managed to cover it up politically on the basis of the claims made by the accused police officials that Sohrabuddin was on a mission to kill Modi, VHP leader Pravin Togadia and senior BJP leader L K Advani. “In fact, cops in as many as 22 cases had the similar arguments to offer,” says senior Congress leader.

Besides boosting political status of Modi, these developments suggested that Modi was the only leader in the country capable of successfully fighting terror that had chosen Gujarat as its new target after 2002 Godhra and post-Godhra incidents. Congress on its part used every available opportunity to target Modi not only in Gujarat but also outside to regain its lost political grounds among minorities particularly in UP and Bihar and to a large extent the party’s strategy succeeded in recovering its vote bank in the two politically most significant states.

But none of the Congress’ strategies could shake Modi politically in Gujarat as he again returned to power in 2007 assembly polls and also managed to win the majority of the Lok Sabha seats in 2009 general elections, suggesting that the voters had stamped the Modi’s stand on the issue.

Modi and BJP made a political issue of the Sohrabuddin killing when Central Bureau of Investigation(CBI) probing the issue on Supreme Court directions arrested Minister of State for Home and Modi’s right hand man Amit Shah and a senior IPS officer Abhay Chudasma in connection with the case. Modi as well as national BJP leaders dubbed the central agency as “Congress Bureau of Investigation” and levelled allegations against the Congress of misusing CBI to target their political adversaries. BJP raised the issue in each and every state by organizing sit-in agitations against alleged misuse of CBI against Modi’s government apparently to bring pressure on the agency not to touch the political leadership. A delegation of central BJP leaders submitted a memorandum to the President Pratibha Patil over alleged misuse of CBI in Sohrabuddin case and against leaders facing disproportionate assets case like Mayawati and Mulayam Singh Yadav. A Vadodara-based outfit Jan Adhikar Samiti also inserted advertisements, that was described as highly provocative, in Gujarati language dailies across the state. But, luckily, it generated no response from among the people.

But the strategy seems to have succeeded as no political leader after Amit Shah was questioned or arrested in the case though names of several other BJP politicians from even outside the state having been involved in the incident had been reported by the media quoting CBI sources.

Now, BJP is reported to have supported the UPA government in the parliament on nuclear bill issue as a part of the bargain with the Congress for sparing Modi from the ambit of investigations in the fake encounter case. The report carries some credence because the newspapers during the same period were doled out informations that none of the persons interrogated in the fake encounter case had leveled allegations against Modi and hence, there was no ground for interrogating him in the case.

But what now seems to have become a political nemesis for Modi nurturing ambitions to lead the party at the national level is the recent admission of his own sleuths-CID(crime)-that the encounter killing of Tulsiram Prajapati, an associate of Sohrabuddin, was also fake, and the revelations by CBI investigations that Gujarat cops, particularly IPS official Abhay Chudasma, was running an extortion racket in association with Sohrabuddin in which Amit Shah was also a partner. The situation has become more complicated for Modi with Dashrath Patel and Bharat Patel-owners of Popular Builders Limited having deposed that Amit Shah had extorted Rs. 80 lakh from him by threatening to implicated them in a false case.

Human rights activist Imran Mansoori says : “Having failed in its bid to cover up the case, the BJP is now trying to run a campaign against CBI, alleging that CBI is an extension of the Congress party”

“This is a two-pronged strategy of BJP-strengthening its vote bank prior to civic polls and zilla panchayat elections due to be held in mid-October, and at the same time bringing pressure on CBI to avoid action against politicians if found linked with the case,” explains Mansoori.