Ayodhya-Babri dispute: Who will get the disputed land even if Hindu parties win?

While originally there was just one plaintiff claiming the disputed land, the number of so-called Hindu parties claiming ownership now exceeds 12. Who will eventually win the title?

PTI photo
PTI photo

Ashlin Mathew

The Supreme Court has been hearing the Ayodhya-Babri Masjid title suit for 38 days now. On Tuesday, October 14, Rajeev Dhavan, representing the Sunni Waqf Board, underscored that the Muslim side remained a constant, while the Hindu parties have now increased to more than 12 from the initial plaintiff being Nirmohi Akhara.

Dhavan alluded to the fact that since there are so many parties on the Hindu side, he questioned which party would claim the possession of the title and which would build the temple? It was suggested in Court that Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas (RJN), a trust formed by Vishwa Hindu Parishad and RSS members, has been claiming ownership of the entire land even though they are only a defendant in one of the cases which was filed much later.

Four suits are being heard currently at the Supreme Court. Suit No. one was filed by Gopal Singh Visharad, a member of Hindu Mahasabha, on January 16, 1950, demanding that he be allowed to worship the deities installed at "Asthan Janma Bhoomi".

The second title suit was filed by Paramhans Ram Chandra Das on Dec 5, 1950, again seeking permission to worship. This suit is no longer being heard as he died. He was a member of the Digambar Akhara. He counted LK Advani among his allies.

The third suit was filed by Mahant Raghunath of Nirmohi Akhara seeking to remove Priya Dutt Ram, who was the chairman of the municipal board, from the management of the "temple" and take charge himself. The Nirmohi Akhara is not aligned with the Nyas, RSS or VHP and they have been against the inclusion of the Nyas as one of the defendants in the case.

Realising that the Hindus were filing one title suit after another, Sunni Central Board of Waqfs, UP, and others filed the title suit number four against Visharad for possession of the mosque and graveyard by removal of the idols. So, the two suits by Hindus and one filed by the Waqf Board have become the main case in the dispute.

Until this stage there was no RSS or VHP involvement in the case. Then in 1989, retired high court judge DN Agarwal, who was vice president of VHP, filed Suit number five claiming ownership of the disputed land and sought sanction to build a new building in place of the old structure. This is how RSS and VHP wriggled themselves into the case.

DN Agarwal was one of the founders of RJN, which was created in 1985 with the sole aim of building the temple. In fact, Agarwal’s petition sought that he would appear as the friend of the deity (Ram Lalla) and its birthplace (Ram Janmasthan). In this way, the Sangh Parivar attempted to convert what was essentially a title suit into a question of faith.

RJN has claimed that they owned the land adjacent to the site of the demolished Babri mosque. But, their lease deed is of March 1992, much after the case was filed in court.

The claim of Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas over the land where the Babri mosque stood has been questioned by the other Hindu parties in the case – Nirmohi Akhara and Hindu Mahasabha. But there is division among all the Hindu parties in the case.

Nirmohi Akhara claims to be the original owners of the land. They claim to have filed their first case in 1885 to build a temple in the outer courtyard of the Babri Masjid, but it was rejected. The case stated that Nirmohi Akhara had been conducting prayers on the Ram Chabutra in the outer courtyard. They were never in the inner courtyard.

But now, the Nirmohi Akhara is also claiming rights over the inner courtyard. In fact, there was a criminal case against Nirmohi Akhara for having placed idols “illegally” within the central dome of the mosque in 1949. A case was filed on December 22, 1949, and the District Magistrate placed the site under the custody of the state.

But, there are two sections within Nirmohi Akhara, which claim to be the original descendants. The Panch Ramanandi Nirmohi Akhara Ayodhya, which organised prayers at Ram Chabutra and Nirmohi Nirwani, which has the possession of Hanuman Gaddi, a temple in Ayodhya.

The Nirmohi Akhara, Ayodhya, which is headed by Dinendra Das, states categorically that they are the original litigants in the case.

Nirmohi Nirwani, which is headed by Dharam Das, was accused of stealing documents from the disputed site in 1982. But, they too have joined the case through suit number five and in fact, Dhavan has argued against him being a defendant in suit number five.

There are a few who claim Digambar Akhara to be the third section fighting for leadership within Nirmohi Akhara, but that was dismissed by Nirmohi Akhara. There is no one representing the Digambar Akhara in Court.

There is a succession battle raging within the Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha and some of it has been stoked by RSS so that their claim of Ram Janmabhoomi stays intact. There are six factions which claim to be heading Hindu Mahasabha, but only four of them are petitioners in the Ayodhya title suit.

First of the petitioners is Rajshree Choudhury, the great granddaughter of Subhash Chandra Bose, who is represented by Ravi Ranjan Singh, and claims to represent the original Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha. They say that they have nothing to do with RSS.

Then there is Chandra Prakash Kaushik, who also claims to be national president of Hindu Mahasabha, He is representing himself in the case and is known to be an RSS ally.

The third of the HMS petitioners is Swami Chakrapani, who is known to be friendly with both BJP and Congress. The fourth of the petitioners in the same title suit is Baba Nand Kishore Mishra, who also claims to be the chief of Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha, is a supporter of BJP and has in the past supported Baba Ramdev.

A case was filed in the Delhi High Court to settle the presidentship of Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha. During the hearing of the case, Nand Kishore Mishra was unable to submit documents to prove that he was an office bearer. Due to several counter claims, the court decided that neither Chakrapani nor Kaushik would be recognised as authorised office bearers.

This is not all. Nirmohi Akhara had opposed the plea of deity Ram Lalla in the Supreme Court stating that being the custodian of the temple, they are the caretakers of Ram Lalla and not Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas.

The Allahabad High Court, in its judgment of 2010 on four civil lawsuits, had partitioned the 2.77-acre disputed land equally among the three parties — Sunni Waqf Board, Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla.

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Published: 15 Oct 2019, 12:19 PM