The Central government has approached the Supreme Court to allow it to handover the undisputed land around the disputed site – where the 16th century Babri Masjid (mosque) once stood – to the Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas,an organisation formed as a trust to promote and oversee the construction of a temple at Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh.
The apex court had earlier ordered status quo on the entire land where the Babri mosque stood before it was razed to the ground in 1992 by Hindutva activists who believed it was built on the ruins of a temple marking the birthplace of Lord Ram.
Interestingly, Hindu parties have always maintained that Lord Ram was born exactly where the central dome of Babri mosque once stood and that the Janmabhoomi (birth place) cannot be changed. Therefore, Ram temple cannot be built even an inch away from that exact location. So, what is the point in now handing over the land which is acres away from the Ram Janmabhoomi? Is it a face-saving exercise ahead of the upcoming general elections?
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Let’s take a look at the background of the undisputed land around the Babri mosque.
A total of 67.703 acres of land around the mosque was acquired by the Central government in 1993. While the disputed land is just 2.77 acres where the mosque once stood. The land was acquired so that it can be given to the winning party/parties so that they can have easy access to the disputed site. Out of the 67 acres, the Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas claims that 42 acres belongs to the Nyas.
The much talked about Ismail Farooqui judgement of the Supreme Court in 1994 said the Central government may give the undisputed land after the decision is taken on the disputed site.
The Aslam Bhure v. Union of India Case
The top court in its judgement in the Aslam Bhure Vs Union of India case in March 2003 had said that disputed and undisputed land cannot be segregated as it is incidental to the disputed land. The excess land may be given to the original owners only after the final decision is taken on the disputed site. But to get that excess land, the original owner will have to move court.
The Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas approached the Central government to handover the undisputed land of 42 acres to it as it is the original owner. The government in August 1996 rejected the application filed by the Nyas, which later moved the Allahabad High Court, whereby the writ petition was rejected in July 1997.
Aslam Bhure had moved the Supreme Court in 2002 after puja (worship) started at the undisputed but acquired land during the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led National Democratic Alliance government.
Also Read: Ayodhya Hearing – A Legal Timeline of the Dispute
The 2003 judgement in this case gave clarification that the entire 67 acres of land around will have status quo. It cannot be touched unless the main dispute is settled.
Now, the Centre has moved the apex court urging that the Nyas had approached it to handover the undisputed land. The Centre also wants to handover the undisputed land to the original owner. However, the present application did not say whether the Nyas has approached it fresh or, if it is reviving the old application.
Reacting to the development, senior BJP leader Ram Madhav said, “It is a much awaited decision (of the government) because the land in question was acquired by the Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas in 1993 and has nothing to do with the central dispute as it is only in the vicinity of main disputed area. The SC had previously ordered status quo for the said land and that is why the government has approached the court.”
Welcoming the Centre’s decision, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP)’s International Working President Alok Kumar said, “This land belongs to the Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas and is not under any litigation. This is a step in the right direction and we welcome it.”
BJP leader Subramanian Swamy tweeted, “Already a Ram Mandir standing on the Ram Janmabhoomi but it is in a tent. Till the title suit is decided, all other parts of the temple can be built. Then thereafter we will construct the sanctum sanctorum.”