Kicking off a series of talks and interviews on the Ayodhya Ram Mandir issue, Srijan Foundation organised a Srijan Talk titled, “Case For Ram Mandir At Ayodhya” by Dr. Meenakshi Jain at INTACH, New Delhi.
The esteemed speaker, Dr. Meenakshi Jain holds a Ph.D from Delhi University and specialises in Cultural Studies. She is presently a member of the Governing Council, Indian Council of Historical Research.
Here is a snippet of Dr. Jain’s Srijan Talk, where she elaborates on the proceedings of the Ayodhya Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid case in the Allahabad District Court.
The dispute at Ayodhya has been recorded in the judicial records in the Faizabad District Court, with the earliest evidence being recorded in 1822 by a Court official Hafizullah, who submits a note stating that “the mosque constructed by Babur was situated at the birthplace of Ram, son of Raja Dashrath, and was adjacent to the kitchen of Sita, wife of Ram (i.e. Sita ki Rasoi)” (Grover 2015: 236). The first armed conflict between Hindus and Muslims takes place in 1855 when the latter try to forcefully enter Hanumangarhi which is in possession of the Hindus, and over 70 Muslims die in the skirmish. Patrick Carnegy, the first British Commissioner and Settlement Officer in Faizabad notes in his writings in 1870 that, “… upto that time the Hindus and Mahomedans alike used to worship in the mosque-temple. Since British rule a railing has been put up to prevent disputes, within which in the mosque the Mahomedans pray, while outside the fence the Hindus have raised a platform on which they make their offerings” (Carnegy 1870: 20-21). While hearing the case, the Allahabad High Court takes cognizance of this fact that till 1855, Hindus had free access to the Masjid and that they could pray inside the Masjid and they could pray outside the Masjid within the complex where they had Ram Chabutara and Sita ki Rasoi.
Coming to the actual conflict over the Ram Janmabhoomi and Babri Masjid site that arose after 1855, every stage of the conflict and the contest between the Mahants of the Janam Sthan and the Superintendent of Babri Masjid has been recorded in meticulous detail in the Faizabad District Court, and all these documents were handed over to the Allahabad High Court during the hearing of the case. The first record of the actual conflict is a First Information Report (FIR) filed by Sheetal Dubey, the Thanedar of Awadh on 28 November 1858. It states that 25 Nihang Sikhs had entered Babri Masjid and had started conducted Havan and Puja there.
Two days later, on 30 November 1858, the Superintendent of Babri Masjid, Mohammad Asghar makes a representation to the British Government, stating that Nihang Sikhs have entered inside Babri Masjid and have started Havan and Puja. His complaint states that “a Nihang Sikh had constructed ‘an earth Chabutara’ near the Mehrab and Mimber and placed the picture of an idol. Fire has been lit there for light and Puja and Home is continuing there. In whole of this Masjid ‘Ram Ram’ has been written with coal.” He complains that Hindus have been coming for a very long time and worshipping at the Janam Sthan outside the Masjid but within the Masjid Complex, but now they have entered inside the Masjid and are worshipping there.
Once again, the Allahabad High Court takes cognizance of this document, regarding it as very important documentary evidence as it is the first individual voice that is being heard from Ayodhya on the conflict. This voice of the Thanedar of Awadh is saying that the Hindus were inside the Masjid, and it is saying that the Hindus were outside the Masjid but within the complex anyways. So, at one point in time, the Hindus had free run of Babri Masjid. It is some weeks before the Thanedar is able to throw out the Bairagi Sikhs from inside the Babri Masjid.
On 5 November 1860, the Khattib of Babri Masjid, Mir Rajib Ali files an application in the Court of the Deputy Commissioner, requesting that the Chabutara that has been constructed inside the Babri Masjid should be demolished. He complains that “when the Muezzin recites Azaan, the opposite party starts to blow conch shells.” This clearly indicates that the Hindus and Sikhs were freely constructing and expanding their hold slowly inside Babri Masjid. This document also exposes the lies of the Left Historians who have been trying to mislead the Ayodhya Case proceedings by claiming that the Hindu-Muslim tensions at the time were engineered by the British as part of their policy of ‘Divide and Rule’. On the contrary, the complaint regarding blowing conch shells at the time of Azaan shows that the tensions between Hindus and Muslims at the time were very real and palpable, as demonstrated by the voices of conflict between the Babri Masjid Superintendents and the Mahants. The Hindus were so conscious of the desire to get the Ram Janmabhoomi site back, that they protested and expressed their voice by doing whatever little they could, in this case blowing conch shells to drown the call of the Azaan.
Six years later, on 25 September 1866, Muhammad Afzal, Mutawalli of Babri Masjid files another complaint that the Bairagis and Mahants had constructed a Kothri “in an illegal manner within a few hours inside the compound of the mosque” and that they intended to put idols in the Kothri for worship. He requests the British to dismantle the Kothri and to protect the Masjid “from the fury of the Bairagis.” He further states that “… There had always been a tussle with Hindus who have ever been expressing their interests in the affairs of the Masjid… It was only due to the ‘wisdom and justice of the Court,’ that the Masjid could remain.”
In 1877, Muhammad Asghar, Khattib and Muezzin of Babri Masjid makes an appeal requesting implementation of the Court Order passed on 7 November 1873, against his complaint, for removal of the Charan Paduka which was created in the disputed building. He affirms that as the defendant, Mahant Baldeo Dass Bairagi, “had gone underground, the order of 7th Novermber 1873 could not be served on him. So the idol had not been removed as per Court orders.” He laments that since the Charan Paduka had not been removed, Mahant Baldeo Dass, “… has made a Chulha within the said compound which has never been done before. There was a small Chulah for puja which he has got extended.” The Allahabad High Court notes this document as evidence that there existed a Chulha in the Babri Masjid premises in 1877. In fact, this document clearly indicates that there was a small Chulha for worship which was extended to a big Chulha.
The next documentary evidence comes soon after in 1877, from the Deputy Commissioner of Faizabad. He submits an undated report in response to an Order passed on 14 May 1877 by the Faizabad Commissioner against an appeal by Mohammad Asghar. The Commissioner had asked for a report regarding a doorway in the mosque wall which was opened to provide a separate passage to visitors to the site on days of fairs and festivals. The Deputy Commissioner states in his report that, “A doorway had recently been opened in the wall of the Janam 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 Janam Asthan.” Earlier there was only one door in the boundary wall towards the east. The Deputy Commissioner decided to open another door towards the north in 1877 to allow passage to a large number of Hindus who gathered at the Chabutara for worship on festival days. The appeal of the Babri Masjid Superintendent against the opening of this second door is dismissed by the Commissioner as the door had been opened in the interest of public safety. This once again indicates that the Hindus were not willing to relinquish their right to pray at the Janam Sthan and were willing to risk going to the site and doing worship and Parikrama there.
Another interesting complaint is filed once again by Mohammad Asghar, Superintendent of Babri Masjid, in October 1882 against Mahant Raghubar Das claiming rent for use of the Chabutara and courtyard near the gate of the Masjid on festival days. He states that every year during Ram Navami and Kartik Mela, shops are allowed to be set up inside the premises selling “flowers and Batasha” and there is an agreement that the proceeds of the sale will be divided 50-50 between the Mahants and the Superintendent of Babri Masjid at a specific cost. He accuses Mahant Raghubar Das of making the 50-50 share at a reduced cost and requests that a decree with costs be passed. The suit is dismissed by the Court. Sub Judge, Faizabad states that while claiming rent for the Chabutara and courtyard, Mohammad Asghar has, by his own admission agreed that the same are in possession of Mahant Raghubar Das and so, he has failed to validate his claim for rent as these areas are not in his possession.
During the proceedings of the Ayodhya case, the Allahabad High Court makes an important observation that Mohammad Asghar’s application claiming rent proves that continuous Namaz was not being offered by the Muslims at Babri Masjid as the premises were being allowed to set up shops by Hindus during festival days and rental income was being shared by Superintendents of Babri Masjid and the Mahants who were in possession of the Chabutara and other structures in the outer courtyard of the Masjid.
Some years later, on 29 January 1885, Mahant Raghubar Das files a plaint asking for permission to construct a small temple at the site. He states that the Chabutara, which measures 21 feet by 17 feet, has no shed over it and is exposed to the weather in all seasons. He states that he and other Mahants face great difficulty on account of excessive heat in summers, rains in rainy season and harsh cold in winters. He requests for permission to construct a small temple in the area in his possession stating, “if the temple is constructed the plaintiff and other faqirs and pilgrims will get facilities of every sort.” His appeal is heard by three levels of British Judiciary viz. by Pandit Hari Kishan, Sub Judge Faizabad, by Col. F.E.A. Chamier, District Judge, Faizabad and by W. Young, Officiating Judicial Commissioner. While all of them agree that the Mahant has a strong case as he and others are exposed to the elements at all times, and the area is in his possession, yet they express their inability to allow construction of any structure at the site because of its sensitive nature and because they do not want to disturb the status quo. Col F.E.A. Chamier, District judge, Faizabad states in his judgement, “It is most unfortunate that a masjid should have been built on land especially held sacred by the Hindus, but as that event 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 Officiating Judicial Commissioner, W. Young notes in his judgement that the Hindus wanted to construct a temple over the Chabutara which was situated in the precinct of the grounds of the mosque erected some 350 years ago, “owing to the bigotry and tyranny of Emperor Babur, who purposely chose this holy spot according to Hindu legend as the site of the mosque.” He also observes that the Hindus had very limited rights of access to specific locations inside the mosque compound viz. Sita ki Rasoi and Janam Sthan and that, “they have for a series of years been persistently trying to increase those rights and to erect buildings on two spots in the enclosure.” W. Young too is against any change in the status quo (Noorani I 2003: 186-88).
When Mahant Raghubar Das filed his suit for permission to construct a temple over the Chabutara, he attached a map along with his complaint. Pursuant to the appeal, Sub Judge, Faizabad, Pandit Hari Kishan sets up a commission, directing the Court’s Commissioner Gopal Sahai Amin to prepare a detailed map of the complete Babri Masjid complex. The map submitted by the Amin Commission on 6 December 1885 is nearly identical to the one submitted by Mahant Raghubar Das. It shows the inner courtyard and mosque in possession of the Muslims and the outer courtyard which include Sita ki Rasoi and Ram Chabutara in possession of the Hindus. Interestingly, the Amin Commission Report shows that “Sita ki Rasoi, Chabutara, Janmasthan, and Chappar (enclosurement) of the disciple (Chela) of the Mahant were all situated within the boundary wall of the site where the Masjid stood. Beyond the boundary wall and just adjacent to it was a deep depression pathway on all the four sides (parikrama) of the pilgrims (khai parikrama har chahar taraf). In other words, the entire area site enclosed by the parikrama was the sacred Janmasthan” (Grover 2015:288).
During the Ayodhya case, the Allahabad High Court takes cognizance of the Amin Commission Report and notes that although the date for the construction of Sita ki Rasoi was not known, it was certainly before 1885 as Sita ki Rasoi is clearly shown in the map. The Court states, “It is beyond comprehension that Mir Baqi or anyone else, while constructing a mosque at the disputed place could have spared some Hindu structure(s) to continue, … in the precincts of the mosque so as to be worshipped by Hindus inside the premises of the mosque. We put this question to Sri Jilani also and he frankly stated that no Muslim would allow idol worship in the precinct of a mosque.” The Court infers that when the Masjid was constructed, no Hindu structure would have been allowed to remain within the premises. However, it appears that the Masjid was abandoned soon after construction and the Hindus took the opportunity and raised a small symbolic structure at this deserted site and resumed worship at the site held sacred by them as the birthplace of Ram. That would explain the existence of the Vedi (Cradle) within the courtyard of the Masjid, when Joseph Tieffenthaler saw it on his travel to Ayodhya between 1766 – 1771.
All of the above references are irrefutable documentary evidences of Hindu presence and occupation of the Ram Janmabhoomi site throughout the conflict. There are evidences of a Chabutara, Charan Paduka, a Kothri, a Chulha, Sita Ki Rasoi and deep depressions in the ground along the boundary wall of the complex due to centuries of Parikrama, that show that worship continued uninterrupted at the Janmabhoomi site. These documents also point to a constant tussle between the two parties and to the fact that there was never a moment of peace at the disputed site. There were determined sections of Hindu society that were not willing to surrender their claims to their sacred site. It is indeed regrettable that none of these evidences find mention in the mainstream electronic and print media, which is interested in only putting up a one-sided discourse on the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid issue.
- The Battle For Rama: Case Of The Temple At Ayodhya – Dr. Meenakshi Jain
Featured Image: – Wikipedia.