29th May 2019
A principles based pathway to resolve the Babri Masjid issue
I sent this to a few places for publication. I suppose all newspapers/ portals are afraid of the liberal view, so finally to avoid further waste of time and to ensure my view is noted for posterity, I’m publishing here:
In 2010 the Allahabad High Court divided the 2.77 acres of the Babri land in Ayodhya between the Nirmohi Akhara, the Sunni Wakf Board and the representative of Ram Lalla. This set a precedent for future extra-Constitutional seizures of private land: first bring in mobs to encroach and seize land, then go to court with a god-story that no human can verify and demand that the court hand over that land to you.
Note that there was nothing and there remains nothing to prevent the Muslim owners of the Babri Masjid land from gifting it to those who believe (without proof) that Ram was born on that exact spot, but there is no obligation upon them to do so. And they have full rights to appeal this proposal to coercively transfer of their land to those who broke down their mosque.
The Supreme Court has not addressed the fundamental legal question: can private land be forcibly seized by other private people in independent India? Instead, it has appointed a three-member panel in March 2019 for mediation, a method that implicitly supports the intent of the Allahabad High Court to give away people’s land to others.
While our party will accept any conclusive solution (if achieved in this case) in the interest of peace, I believe the Supreme Court has gone down the completely wrong path and that such mediation with forcible encroachers is inconsistent with the Constitution.
The Supreme Court seems to think there is a property dispute here, but there is none. This is a plain and simple case of encroachment of private property and demolition of that property through medieval mob violence in an attempt to get it for free. Only rowdy countries allow that, not Constitutional republics.
The only way this could have become a property dispute is if there was an unbroken chain of ownership of that land by Ram and his successors in authentic official land records. But even if there was such proof of ownership prior to the Masjid’s construction, it would not mean much now given the law of limitations which would limit even such claims.
The courts of India are a creature of the Indian Constitution and must recognise private property ownership as at 15 August 1947. We know for sure that at independence, the said property was owned and actively used by the Muslims of Ayodhya as a mosque. The land in question had also been duly registered in 1936 under the Waqf Act, which created an inalienable right on that land.
We note in this regard that the British did a very good job of governance (unlike the independent Indian governments) and vigorously prevented attempts to encroach upon this property. But the moment India became independent, the concept of laws and the rule of law was thrown into the wind. We now know that members of the district administration of Faizabad themselves became criminals by encroaching upon this land and placing a Ram idol (Ram Lalla) inside the mosque in 1949. Nehru immediately asked that the idol be removed but Indian administrators were full-fledged criminals by then and did not follow even their own PM’s directive which was based on the laws.
In 1992, the government actively participated in the criminal destruction of the mosque: the masjid was destroyed in the presence (or rather, under the protection) of the police. Today, things are so deplorable that the BJP has given a ticket in these Lok Sabha elections to one of the self-proclaimed breakers of the masjid.
The government’s “Raj Dharma” is to protect private property. That is what is known as Ram Rajya. That dharma was actively violated by all governments of independent India. I have first-hand reliable testimony from an IAS officer who worked closely with Narasimha Rao in 1992 about how Mr Rao was supportive of the demolition.
What bothers me personally is that the groups who claim to “represent Hindus” have used the same uncivilised and uncouth methods that they claim Muslim rulers used in the past. It is alleged that Muslim rulers used force. But the Hindu groups have used both subterfuge and force. Ram would have been aghast.
The bargaining (mediation) underway is all about twisting the arms of the Muslims. We know the rabid views of the Hindu “spiritual” guru who is part of the mediation team. Muslims are being taught that India is now a de facto Hindu Rashtra, where the government actively supports the encroachment and demolition of their property. And a rabid “guru” has now been deputed by the highest court of the land to lecture them. Muslims must know by now that India’s Constitution is not worth the paper it is written on. India is not a Ram Rajya but a rowdy republic where the law of the jungle prevails.
The liberals, on the other hand, insist on the rule of law and protection of private property. We believe that a principles-based approach can be applied even now to defend the rule of law and protect the self-respect of our fellow citizen Muslims.
First, the government must complete the acquisition of land and heavily compensate the Muslim owners of the mosque, well more than the market price of the land and property. The masjid should be valued as an ancient heritage monument, not just an ordinary building. That will enable the Muslims to build an alternative Masjid. Once compensation is provided, the land should be put out to auction to the highest bidder.
A civilised society works on the basis of money, not force. If someone values something more than another person, he should put his money where his mouth is.
If this land was so precious to Hindus the civilised thing would have been to collect vast amounts of money and offer it to the Muslims. Instead, these people are also cheap and want that land for free. That is the real issue.
Our party would not ordinarily support acquisition of private property for matters unrelated to the provision of infrastructure. But in this case, acquisition can be justified since the ancient building has already been destroyed and the government can make a significant profit that can then be put to public use, including for poor Muslims.
Before the auction, the land should be cleared entirely. Thereafter, an independent auctioneer should accept sealed bids from any citizen or group of citizens for this land in a well-structured and transparent process. If the auction is conducted properly, the government will achieve huge profits, enough to support the education and health for millions of poor people. But what if some bidders want to build hospitals or educational institutions on this land? That should not matter to the government. If Hindus care so much for this precise spot, let them put their money where their mouth is.
The way the Supreme Court is approaching it I would be VERY upset if I was a Muslim. They’re asking Muslims to give their land away for free because a Ram lalla statue was sneaked into the masjid (and their masjid broken, later), they are asking them to talk to the detestable “guru” Ravishankar (whom I won’t spit on, leave alone meet). Why in heaven’s name can’t India follow the rule of law?