Decoding the Ayodhya Judgement- Part 2
In 1856-7, a communal riot took place. Historical accounts indicate that the conflagration had its focus at Hanumangarhi and the Babri mosque. Some of those accounts indicate that prior to the incident, Muslims and Hindus alike had access to the area of the mosque for the purpose of worship. The incident was proximate in time with the transfer of power to the colonial government.
The incident led to the setting up of a railing made of a grill-brick wall outside the mosque. The object of this would have been to maintain peace and due order at the site. The railing provided the genesis of the bifurcation of the inner courtyard (in which the structure of the mosque was situated) and the outer courtyard comprising the remaining area.
The setting up of the railing was not a determination of proprietary rights over the inner and outer courtyards, the measure having been adopted to maintain peace between the two communities.
Timeline of Events
(i) On 28 November 1858 a report was submitted by Sheetal Dubey who was the Thanedar, Oudh. The report spoke of an incident during which Hawan and Puja was organised inside the mosque by a Nihang Sikh who had erected a religious symbol. The report states:
“Today Mr. Nihang Singh Faqir Khalsa resident of Punjab, organized Hawan and Puja of Guru Gobind Singh and erected a symbol of Sri Bhagwan, within the premises of the Masjid. At the time of pitching the symbol, 25 sikhs were posted there for security. Deemed necessary so requested. May your regime progress. Pleasure.”
(ii) An application was submitted by Syed Mohammad Khateeb, Muazzim of the Masjid. The subject of the application was the report of the Thanedar Oudh. The application stated that “Mahant Nihang Singh Faqir” was creating a riot on “Janam Sthan Masjid situated in Oudh”.
The application stated:
“Near Mehrab and Mimber, he has constructed, inside the case, an earth Chabutra measuring about four fingers by filling it with Kankars (concrete). Lighting arrangement has been made…and after raising the height of Chabutra about 1 1/4 yards a picture of idol has been placed and after digging a pit near it, the Munder wall has been made Pucca. Fire has been lit there for light and Puja and Hom is continuing there.
In whole of this Masjid “Ram Ram” has been written with coal. Kindly, do justice. It is an open tyranny and high handedness of the Hindus on Muslims and not that of Hindus. Previously the symbol of Janamsthan had been there for hundreds of years and Hindus did Puja. Because of conspiracy of Shiv Ghulam Thandedar Oudh Government, the Bairagis constructed overnight a Chabutra up to height of one “Balisht” until the orders of injunction were issued. At that time the Deputy Commissioner suspended the Thanedar and fine was imposed on Bairagis.
Now the Chabootra has been raised to about 11/4 yards. Thus sheer high-handedness has been proved. Therefore, it is requested that Murtaza Khan Kotwal City may be ordered that he himself visit the spot and inspect the new constructions and get them demolished (sic) and oust the Hindus from there; the symbol and the idol may be removed from there and writing on the walls be washed.”
The contents of the application indicate that by this time a platform had been constructed inside the mosque in which an idol had been placed. A fire had been lit and arrangements were made for puja. Evidently, the railing did not prevent access to the inner courtyard or to the precincts of the mosque.
(iii) A report was submitted by the Thanedar on 1 December 1858 for summoning Nihang Singh Faqir who is residing within the Masjid Janam Sthan. The report stated that he had taken a summons to the said Faqir and he was admonished, in spite of which he continued to insist that every place belonged to Nirankar;
(iv) A report was submitted by the Thanedar on 6 December 1858 indicating service of the summons;
(v) There was an application dated 9 April 1860 of Mohammadi Shah, resident of Mohalla Ramkot seeking a postponement of the grant of a lease in respect of village Ramkot until a decision was taken on whether the land is Nazul land;
(vi) On 5 November 1860, an application was made to the Deputy Commissioner for the removal of the Chabutra which had been constructed within Babri Masjid Oudh. The grievance in the application and the relief sought is indicated in this extract:
“Besides, when the Moazzin recites Azaan, the opposite party begins to blow conch (Shankh/Naqoos). This has never happened before. I would pray that your honour is the Judge for both the parties. The opposite party should be restrained from his unlawful act and after proper inquiry the newly constructed Chabootra which had never existed, may kindly be demolished and a bond be got executed from the opposite party to the effect that he will not unlawfully and illegally interfere in the Masjid property and will not blow conch (Shankh/Naqoos) at the time of Azaan.”
(vii) The application would indicate that the namaz was at the stage being performed in the mosque. The Azaan of the Moazzin was met with the blowing of conch shells by the Hindus. A contentious situation was arising. Eventually, the Nihang Sikh was evicted from the site and a record was maintained;
(viii) In or about 1877, another door to the outer courtyard was allowed to be opened by the administration on the northern site, in addition to the existing door on the east. The Deputy Commissioner declined to entertain a complaint against the opening made in the wall of the Janmasthan. The order of the Deputy Commissioner records:
“A doorway has recently been opened in the wall of the Janum-Asthan not at all in Baber‘s mosque, but in the wall which in front is divided from the mosque by a railing. This opening was necessary to give a separate route on fair days to visitors to the Janum-Asthan. There was one opening only, so the crush (sic rush) was very great and life was endangered.
I marked out the spot for the opening myself so there is no need to depute any Europe officer. This petition is merely an attempt to annoy the Hindu by making it dependent on the pleasure of the mosque people to open or close the 2nd door in which the Mohammedans can have no interest.”
This was accepted by the Commissioner while dismissing an appeal on 13 December 1877 holding: “As the door in question has opened by the Deputy Commissioner in the interests of the public safety, I decline to interfere. Appeal dismissed.”
(ix) The application of the Moazzin dated 30 November 1858– The application complained of the construction of a Chabutra near the mihrab and mimbar on which a picture of an idol had been placed. The complaint refers to the worship which was being conducted by lighting a fire and conducting a puja. The letter notes that previously the symbol of the Janmasthan was in existence for hundreds of years and Hindus had performed puja.
(x) Mohd Asghar instituted Suit 374/943 of 188223 against Raghubar Das, Mahant, Nirmohi Akhara claiming rent for use of the Chabutra and Takht near the door of Babri Masjid and for organizing the Kartik Mela on the occasion of Ram Navami in 1288 Fasli. The Sub-Judge, Faizabad dismissed the suit on 18 June 1883;
(xi) The construction of a railing in 1856-7 to provide a measure of separation between the inner and outer courtyards led to the construction of a platform by the Hindus in close proximity to the railing, in the outer courtyard. The platform, called Ramchabutra, became a place of worship for the Hindus;
(xii) On 29 January 1885, a suit was instituted in the court of the Munsif, Faizabad by Mahant Raghubar Das, describing himself as “Mahant Janmasthan at Ayodhya”. The sole defendant was the Secretary of State for India in Council. The relief which was sought in the suit was an injunction restraining the defendant from obstructing the construction of a temple over the Chabutra admeasuring 17×21 feet.
The plaint stated that the Janmasthan at Ayodhya is a place of religious importance and the plaintiff is a Mahant of the place. Charan Paduka was affixed on the Chabutra and a small temple built next to it was worshipped. The plaintiff stated that in April 1883, the Deputy Commissioner, Faizabad acting on the objection of the Muslims, obstructed the construction of a temple.
A map was appended with the plaint showing the three domed structure described as Masjid within a boundary railing. The map appended to the plaint indicated two entrances to the outer courtyard on the Northern and Eastern sides. Mohd Asghar as Mutawalli of the mosque was impleaded as second defendant to the suit. He filed a written statement on 22 December 1885 stating that Babur had created a waqf by constructing a Masjid and above the door, the word “Allah” was inscribed. Babur was also stated to have declared a grant for its maintenance.
Mohd Asghar pleaded that no permission had been granted for the use of the land in the compound of the mosque. It was averred that there was no Chabutra from the date of the construction of the mosque until 1856 and it was only constructed in 1857. The prayer for the construction of a temple was opposed; and the above suit was dismissed by the Sub-Judge on 24 December 1885. The Trial Court held that:
(a) The Chabutra was in possession of the plaintiff, which had not been disputed by the second defendant;
(b) The area was divided by a railing wall separating the domed structure from the outer courtyard where the Chabutra existed to prevent any dispute between Hindus and Muslims;
(c) The erection of a railing was necessitated due to the riot in 1885 between Hindus and Muslims;
(d) The divide was made to so that Muslims could offer prayers inside and the Hindus outside;
(e) Since the area to visit the mosque and the temple was the same but the place where the Hindus offered worship was in their possession, there could be no dispute about their ownership; and
(f) Though the person who was the owner and in possession is entitled to make construction, grant of permission to construct a temple in such close proximity to a mosque may lead to a serious dispute between Hindus and Muslims and create a law and order problem. The suit was dismissed on this ground.
Against the decree of the Trial Court, an appeal was filed by Mahant Raghubar Das while cross-objections were filed by Mohd Asghar. The District Judge by a judgment dated 18/26 March 1886 dismissed the appeal of the plaintiff. The District Judge held that it was “most unfortunate” that the Masjid should have been built on the land especially held sacred by the Hindus but since the construction had been made 358 years earlier, it was too late in the day to reverse the process.
The suit was dismissed on the ground that there was no injury which could give a right of action to the plaintiff. On the cross-objections of Mohd Asghar, the District Judge held that the finding of the Trial Court that the plaintiff was the owner of the land in dispute was redundant and should be expunged.
The second appeal was dismissed by the Judicial Commissioner of Oudh on 1 November 1886 on the ground that
(i) there was nothing on record to show that the plaintiff was the proprietor of the land in question; and
(ii) it was inappropriate to allow the parties to disturb the status quo especially when a mosque had been in existence for nearly 350 years. The Judicial Commissioner held:
“The matter is simply that the Hindus of Ajodhya want to create a new temple or marble baldacchino over the supposed holy spot in Ajodhya said to be the birthplace of Shri Ram Chandar. Now this spot is situated within the precinct of the grounds surrounding a mosque erected some 350 years ago owing to the bigotry and tyranny of the Emperor Babur, 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 precincts adjoining the mosque 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:
(a) Sita ki Rasoi
(b) Ram Chandar ki Janam Bhumi.
The Executive authorities have persistently refused these encroachments and absolutely forbid any alteration of the “status quo”. I think this is a very wise and proper procedure on their part and I am further of opinion that the Civil Courts have properly dismissed the Plaintiff‘s claim.”
The conflagration which took place in 1855-56 resulted in a brick wall and railing being put up outside the mosque. This divided the courtyard into an inner portion which lay within the railing and the outer portion beyond it. Situated in the outer portion were places worshipped by the Hindus, among them being Ramchabutra and Sita Rasoi. Two entrance gates (on the north and east) provided access to the outer courtyard. Entry to the mosque was through the access points to the outer courtyard.
Excerpt from the Judgment ‘M Siddiq (D) Lrs v. Mahant Suresh Das & Ors. (2019)