The Babri Mosque verdict poses some exceptionally interesting legal propositions, which might interest to the people of Lahore, as they surely would the people of Ayodhia. Let us stick to history, and let us stick to the facts of the case. Religion has no place in the argument. [Writes Majid Sheikh, Dawn Sunday, 03 Oct, 2010]
First, the facts of the case:
In the verdict of the Allahabad High Court, Mr. Justice Sibghatullah Khan, known in Lucknow as an outstanding intellectual and also a very good cook, has lucidly described the events. Let me quote verbatim:
(a) that the disputed structure was constructed on the orders of Babar;
(b) that no direct evidence that the premises in dispute included a mosque;
(c) that no temple was ever demolished;
(d) that some material of ruins of nearby temples was used in mosque construction;
(e) that there is a belief that Lord Ram was born within a much wider area which includes the area where the mosque was constructed;
(f) that after some time a belief arose that Lord Ram was born exactly where the mosque was constructed.” Mr. Justice S.U. Khan then further lists his ‘case facts’:
(g) that even before 1855, a ‘Ram Chabbutra’ and a ‘Sita Rasoi’ existed within the mosque premises, and that in a “very very very unique and unprecedented situation” both Hindus and Muslims prayed within the same premises;
(h) that both Hindus and Muslims have totally failed to prove any commencement of their title, hence Section 110 of the Evidence Act leads to both being joint titleholders on the basis of joint possession;
(i) that from 1949 Hindus started believing that Lord Ram’s exact birthplace was beneath the central dome of the mosque; and
(j) that on December 23, 1949 the Deity idol was placed beneath the central dome.
Given these facts of the case, irrefutable as they seem, what followed is known to one and all.
We also know that the Allahabad High Court has decided to split into three equal portions the premises under question, with the proviso that the area under the central dome will remain with the Deity idol and not given to the Muslims. Thus the three parties to the dispute: the Hindus, the Muslims and the Nirmhoi Akhara, a Hindu religious organisation whose members are ‘sadhus’ who believe that nothing ‘ever existed’ and that humans are on an infinite journey and that life on earth is finite, each get an equal share of the premises.
The point of “fact” – if one can claim it to be a fact – on which there is disagreement between Mr. Justice S.U. Khan and Mr. Justice Sharma is whether the mosque was constructed on the ruins of a temple or not. Khan says there is no direct or indirect evidence of this assertion, and is, therefore, not a fact. Mr. Justice Sharma relies on The Archaeological Survey of India opinion that a massive temple did once exist, probably in a state of ruin, at the site.
Now let us return to the realm of belief and fantasy. Like the classic epic ‘Iliad’ by Homer, the subcontinent has two such epics, one being the ‘Ramayana’ and the other is the ‘Mahabharata’. Our attention is focused on the ‘Ramayana’, for it is in this epic that we have the tale of Rama and Sita, and their twin sons Kas and Lah. From ‘Kas’, or ‘Kusha’ came the name of the city of Kasur, and from Lah, or ‘Lava’ came the name of the city of Lahore. Hindu tradition places the time period as 3102 BC, almost 5,000 years ago.
However, scholars using scientific reasoning place the time period at about 1,000 BC. This is the finding of Prof Rapson of Cambridge, while Latif sticks to the Hindu tradition time period. The Hindu tradition that places the time period at 3,150 BC matches the era when Harappa existed, as did Lahore as a small mud brick fortified city. UNESCO archeological digs inside the Lahore Fort point in this direction, though no conclusive evidence exists.
There is no doubt that the verbal tradition of poetic epics is the one that sustained the story of the mythical Lord Ram, and that Brahmin scholars continued to, through the ages, provide various vernacular translations, as well as popular editions of the Ramayana. Written versions, in the period Hindu ‘sutras’ were being codified in 600-200 BC, of the epic then came about. The most popular version was the one by the hermit Valmiki, who lived somewhere near Lahore, have him narrate the epic of ‘Rama and Sita’ in seven books comprising 48,000 lines of verse. In these verses we see Rama as the son of the King of Ayodhia, and we see him being expelled for marrying Sita for a 14-year period.
Let us leave this track for a while and come to the present age. If you happen to visit the Lahore Fort and enter the curving road that takes you to the Diwan-e-Aam, to the right is a small temple structure. This is the Temple of Lah, or ‘Lava’, after whom Lahore is named. Legend has it that at this place, the highest mound in the Ravi plain, is where Sita gave birth to her twin sons. History tells us that Ramachandra was the ruler of the area from Sialkot to Lahore. Could he have been born where today stands the Lahore Fort? It is not beyond a logical possibility especially since Hindu tradition states clearly, and Valmiki’s version states so too, that Rama’s father had several wives, each living in different areas of his domain. Could Rama’s mother belong to Lahore? The historical evidence certainly point in this direction.
From the facts and the possibilities, we know from modern carbon-testing that the cities of Harappa and Mohenjodaro existed in the 3250-2750 BC era, and that to the east, in modern India, no such ancient city has been found. Thus the possibility that the Rama is the incarnation of The Deity – the man-god and “saviour of mankind”, is really the edited version of the story edited over the ages by Brahmins, and consecrated to The Deity in the form of Vishnu. From this flows the saying ‘Ram, Ram’, which Latif claims means: “May you be Happy”.
The question that we have been trying to bring forth is that how can Rama and Sita, who definitely lived where today is the Lahore Fort, and whose twin sons ‘Lah’ and ‘Kas’ were born in Lahore, and who, as history informs us, ruled over Lahore, and whose mother, most probably belonged to Lahore, have been born in Ayodhia? I have immense respect for the Hindu tradition, but as a neutral secular journalist, I have to claim my man: the Rama who ruled Lahore.
The honourable judges of the Allahabad High Court have clearly stated in their observations that ‘a belief arose’ that Lord Ram was born in Ayodhia. Justice Sharma, a Hindu, while agreeing to the facts as narrated by Mr. Justice Sibghatullah Khan, states that exactly under the central dome was born the Lord Ram. Well, beliefs cannot be a ‘factual conclusion’. But then just where Rama was born is an open question. I have put the case for Lahore. The Babri Mosque verdict does not seek to answer this, but solves the question of possession, using judicial space to determine a matter of faith.
But all said and done how all people living in the same subcontinent can bring this matter to a happy conclusion? If we want to live in peace, which will be of immense help to both Muslims and Hindus and all other faiths, it is about time that this communal flashpoint be converted into an ‘opportunity’. The question of joint possession has been solved. Rama, to me, is a Lahori, whose father probably belonged to Ayodhia. But let us move beyond this verdict, even though most Indians would like it to remain an Indian issue only, and they have a valid point in that.
It will be an excellent solution if one massive superstructure be designed and built to the very highest specification, which caters to all faiths of the subcontinent. Let everyone worship the Almighty in any way they feel appropriate. The Babri Mosque verdict holds the promise of peace – that is if we open our minds and hearts to each other.
By By Majid Sheikh, Dawn Sunday, 03 Oct, 2010