Archives  >  2019  >  November  >  8th

The Case About Ayodhya

1. What’s the story?

The much-anticipated Ayodhya verdict is due any day now. With current Chief Justice, Ranjan Gogoi, set to end his term on 17th November — and the verdict due before the end of his tenure — all fingers are crossed for the next few days. India has witnessed a long and bloody dispute to get to this point in history. (Quick recap: The Ayodhya dispute is essentially now a political and sociological dispute in India, centred on a plot of land in the city of Ayodhya — believed by some Hindus to be the birthplace of deity Rama. The Babri Masjid, which stood on the disputed land, was destroyed during a political rally which turned into a riot on 6th December 1992.)
Tell me more.

It might be important to remember that the legal disputes over this piece of land are centuries-old, and did not start with the destruction of the mosque in 1992. In fact, the first one was filed in 1885 by Mahant Raghubar Das, who was refused permission to build a temple alongside the existing mosque — and took his case to court. Ironically enough, the court rejected his appeal in 1886. 

 “In 1934, fresh communal riots took place in Ayodhya over the killing of a cow, leading to a mob of Hindus breaking into the area and damaging the Babri Masjid. While they eventually helped pay for repairs to the site, the Nirmohi Akhara bases on of its key legal claims — of possession over the site, from this year.

On the night of 22-23 December 1949, the next major development in the case took place, when idols of Ram, Sita and Laxman were placed inside the mosque. Local authorities disobeyed orders by the government to remove the idols on the pretext that this would cause communal riots.

In 1959, the first proper title suit was filed by the Nirmohi Akhara, who claimed ownership over the land and challenged the decision of the district court in 1949 to place the land under receivership. 

In 1961, the Sunni Central Board of Waqfs, UP, filed its own title suit, along with several Muslim residents of Ayodhya. The Sunni Waqf Board challenged the receivership granted to the administration, and also challenged the suits filed by Visharad and the Nirmohi Akhara.

They asked for a declaration that the Babri Masjid was a mosque that was part of the waqf property, and that the area around it was a Muslim graveyard. 

Then, on 1st July 1989, a new title suit was filed by Bhagwan Sri Ram Virajman (the god’s idol, also known as Ram Lalla Virajman) and Sri Ram Janmabhoomi (the birthplace). These deities were represented by their ‘next friend’, retired judge Deoki Nandan Agarwala, who was associated with the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP).”

On 30 September 2010, the Allahabad High Court delivered a verdict on this case, dividing the land between these three above-mentioned parties. This verdict disappointed all parties, and they all eventually filed Supreme Court petitions. Now, the Supreme Court is all set to pass its judgement in the next few days. 

Ahead of the historic verdict, though, authorities have been taking strong measures to ensure security in sensitive areas

“Ahead of the Supreme Court verdict on the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute case, the Ministry of Home Affairs told states to remain alert and ensure security in sensitive areas.

The MHA has also dispatched around 4,000 paramilitary personnel for deployment in Uttar Pradesh, particularly in Ayodhya.

According to PTI, a general advisory has been sent to all states and Union territories asking them to deploy adequate security personnel in all sensitive places and ensure that no untoward incident takes place anywhere in the country, a home ministry official said.

The ministry has rushed 40 companies of paramilitary forces to Uttar Pradesh to assist the state government in maintaining law and order. A company of paramilitary forces comprises about 100 personnel.

According to PTI, the Railway Protection Force (RPF) has issued a seven-page advisory to all zones on security preparedness ahead of the Supreme Court verdict in Ayodhya case asking them to keep a close watch on religious structures near and within railways stations as they may be “flashpoints” of violence.”

So, what now?

As the judgement day draws nearer, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has also asked the public and all his Cabinet colleagues to help maintain calm during these trying times

““Accept the verdict in all humility,” Modi is learnt to have advised his council of ministers, asking them to refrain from making unnecessary statements on the issue and maintain an atmosphere of amity and harmony.

He also emphasised that the verdict should not be seen through the prism of victory and defeat, added the sources.”

Keep your eyes on this space. We’ll keep you updated.

2. Where else should I be keeping an eye on?

Meghalaya, that’s where. In Meghalaya, a “colonial-era permit regime discriminated against North Eastern tribes. Now, many of the same tribes think it will restrict the flow of immigrants.” But at what cost?

“The Inner Line Permit, a document that outsiders need before travelling to places defined as “protected areas”, is a long-standing demand of tribal groups in Meghalaya. In the North East, it currently applies to Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh and most of Nagaland. In 2013, protests demanding that the permit be made applicable to Meghalaya turned violent, killing four.

Of late, pressure outfits have upped the ante again, citing the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, which the Centre proposes to introduce soon. The bill, which seeks to grant citizenship to undocumented non-Muslim migrants, has reignited an old fear among tribal communities in the North East – “outsiders” flooding tribal lands, threatening the existence of communities defined as indigenous to the region.

The permit system has a curious history in the states of the North East. Many of the communities which now demand it resented and actively violated it when it was first introduced.

The Inner Line Permit, which flows from the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, was put in place in 1873 by the colonial government. It was not meant to protect vulnerable tribal communities but to exclude them.

The colonial administration drew the Inner Line primarily to insulate the plains and valleys of the North East, replete with commercial potential, from the hills inhabited by tribes whom the British deemed ungovernable and “savage”. The Inner Line supposed to discourage the hill tribes from entering these commercial spaces. Conversely, no “British subject or foreigner” could also cross the inner line without permission. Hill communities made periodic incursions into tea gardens and other commercial areas within the inner line and pillaged them as an act of defiance.”

3. What more?

The Kartarpur Gurdwara in Pakistan is all set for its historic opening to mark the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak. However, “conflicting messages from Pakistan over whether Indian pilgrims will require passport to visit the religious site and a  caution from New Delhi that Islamabad needs to desist from anti-India propaganda marked the run-up to Saturday’s inauguration of the much awaited corridor.”

“Briefing reporters, MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said Pakistan has not reverted over the list of the 550 delegates given by India that will be part of the inaugural jatha. 

India has also lodged a strong protest with Pakistan after a video released by it on the Kartarpur corridor featured photos of three Khalistani separatist leaders, including Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, Kumar said. 

“We condemn Pakistan’s attempt to undermine the spirit under which the pilgrimage is supposed to be undertaken,” Kumar said, adding India has demanded that they remove the objectionable video and also some printed material which is being circulated promoting anti-India propaganda. 

The MEA spokesperson also asked Pakistan to ensure adequate security to Indian dignitaries attending the event.”

In the meantime, here are some stunning photos of the Gurdwara complex, all ready for its first set of visitors. 

4. Anything else?

As Kashmir enters in fourth month of sporadic communication, incessant curfews, and lockdowns, here’s a look at the invisible sufferings of the Kashmiri woman

“A mother unable to get updates from the hospital about her premature newborn. A bride who couldn’t have the wedding of her dreams. The photojournalist who risks double harassment by security forces due to her profession and her gender.

Ever since Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government stripped Kashmir of its semi-autonomous powers in August and placed the region under a massive security lockdown, life has been a struggle for ordinary Kashmiris.

Indian soldiers from outside the region flooded the streets and thousands were arrested. A curfew was put in place. The government cut off most of the region’s communications with the outside world, shut off the internet and telephone services. Even public transportation services were stopped.

Authorities have eased some restrictions, lifting the curfew, removing roadblocks and restoring landlines and some mobile phone services, but the other measures remain in place. India says they’re needed to prevent the violent street protests that are common in the region.

While men historically make up most protesters and insurgents in the region and are often the first arrested or physically abused in security crackdowns, experts say Kashmiri women are suffering from the lockdown in their own less visible way.”

5. Is that all?

WeWork — that incredible, unattainable unicorn of a startup is failing. And “employees look back on a wild ride in Unicornland”. 

“I was in a wine bar the other day, having drinks with a couple of WeWork employees, when a waiter arrived to take our order. He’d overheard some of our conversation. “Are you talking about Adam Neumann?” he asked. “I know that dude! I grew up with his nephew. He used to smoke weed with us.” Somehow, this felt natural. Everyone in New York seemed to be talking about Neumann, the barefooted prophet of the unicorn era, and about WeWork, the freelancer’s desk-sharing concern that he somehow transformed into the city’s biggest private office tenant, with outposts in thirty-two countries and a private-market valuation bigger than the GDP of Serbia. It all crumpled in September, after WeWork’s IPO failed. Neumann was pushed out — in a deal that made him a billionaire — and the company was taken over by the Japanese conglomerate SoftBank, its largest investor, at a valuation well below the thirteen billion dollars that the firm has now put into it. We obsessed over the story, I suppose, because it was a train wreck — and a relatively harmless one … WeWork’s chief victims were SoftBank and the Saudi sovereign wealth fund, one of SoftBank’s biggest backers — and, of course, the company’s twelve thousand employees. But they didn’t want your pity.”

6. Before you leave…

Take a fascinating look at what happens when a whale dies

“What happens after a whale dies? Most fall.

Their carcasses — known as “whale falls” — become an energy-rich habitat, drawing a wide variety of organisms from across the deep sea to feast. Whale falls become ecosystems unto themselves. Even cooler?

Whale falls are places of evolutionary novelty, sheltering species first discovered on the bones of dead whales. These species have adapted to live in the extreme environment of the deep sea: a cold region of immense pressure and intense darkness.”

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