ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Ayodhya: The Redefining of India

How this dispute over a place of worship has redefined much of India.

The Babri Masjid-Ramjanmabhoomi dispute has been one of the biggest influences in the shaping of independent India. It appears almost unreal to remember that this is, in legal terms, a mere dispute over the title to a small plot of land in a nondescript historical town of north India. The land in question, on which stood a medieval mosque, belongs to the Sunni Wakf Board, while the Ramananda sect of Ayodhya claims that it is the site of the birth of the Hindu god Rama, and so it should be given to them to build a temple. This is not exceptional in India where many sites are claimed by different religious traditions as their own, sometimes competing but often coexisting.

In 1949, during the troubled period after Partition when the Muslim minority of Uttar Pradesh was particularly vulnerable, idols of Ram and his consort Sita were installed inside the Babri Masjid. The district collector, who later contested the parliamentary elections on a Bharatiya Jan Sangh ticket, pointedly refused orders from Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and UP Chief Minister, G B Pant, to remove the idols from the mosque. He also attached the Wakf property where the Babri Masjid stood and barred Muslims from coming within 300 yards of the monument, while allowing Hindus to enter the mosque and continue their prayers. This set the stage for the legal battle between the Sunni Wakf Board which claims it was illegally deprived of the land and building it owned and those who wanted to make a temple on this land. It is this legal dispute on which the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court will deliver a judgment on 24 September 2010, almost 61 years after the idols were smuggled inside the mosque. Although it is difficult to predict what the verdict will be, it is fairly obvious that one, or both, parties to the dispute will go on to the Supreme Court against the high court’s order.

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