Jag Venugopal's Blog

October 5, 2010

The Verdict on the Ram Janmabhoomi Issue

Filed under: India — Jag @ 12:34 am

For my American readers: The Ram Janmabhoomi issue refers to a conflict over a piece of land. Until about 1992 or so, a mosque stood on it, purportedly built by the first Mughal emperor, Babur. It was also claimed by Hindus as the birthplace of Lord Ram, one of the incarnations of Vishnu, a member of the holy trinity in Hinduism. In 1992, a group of Hindu zealots razed the mosque to the ground. In its place now stands a makeshift temple to Lord Ram. The case was litigated in the courts for close to sixty years, and finally, the justices of the Allahabad high court handed down their judgment: The land was to be divided between Hindus and Muslims in the ratio of 2/3 to 1/3 respectively.

I’m going to upset a lot of people with my take on the issue, most of all my own family members. But when coming to issues of legal judgment vs. issues of faith, one must go only by the evidence. Ergo, here’s my opinion in purely legal terms:

  1. There was a mosque on the site until 1992
  2. It is rumored that the mosque was built either by demolishing an existing temple sometime in the 16th century or on the ruins of a temple at the same time. Regardless, justices today cannot and ought not to right any perceived wrongs that occurred in the 16th century. Using the courts to right historical wrongs will lead us down a very slippery slope (just imagine if all the inhabitants of Southern India wanted Northern India vacated on the argument that their land was usurped by invading Aryans from Central Asia many thousands of years ago; or if all the low caste inhabitants of India sought reparations from every high-caste person in India, on the theory that they were oppressed for centuries).
  3. Lord Ram is a mythological character, and held in the faith of all Hindus. He is not a historical character. There is no historical record of his existence, much less his birth. Therefore, when seen in dispassionately legal terms, it could not have been the birthplace of Lord Ram, because there was, historically speaking, no Lord Ram. Even discounting the absence of the historical record, there is no mention in any scripture as to his actual place of birth. Thus, even if Ram were historical, his place of birth is unknown from any records.

Accordingly, when we objectively look at the evidence that exists, it cannot be proved that there ever was a Ram Janmabhoomi or a Ram. It can be proved that there was a mosque until 1992, built by whomever. The state failed to protect the mosque from a mob. Therefore, justice demands only one thing… that the mosque be restored to status quo ante.

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