RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s statement that only the temple will be built at the disputed site in Ayodhya comes 11 days before the Supreme Court starts final hearings in the Ram Janmabhoomi case from December 5, exactly 25 years after Babri Masjid was demolished on December 6, 1992. The court will hear appeals against the Allahabad High Court verdict dividing the 2.77-acre disputed land in Ayodhya between the main deity Ram Lalla, Sunni Wakf Board and Nirmohi Akhara.
The case had come up before a three-judge bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra on August 11 and was adjourned for three months as relevant documents had not been translated into English.
There are nearly 90,000 pages of oral evidence and 533 documentary exhibits in eight different languages in the matter including in Sanskrit and Persian.
BJP leader Subramanian Swamy filed an interlocutory application in the matter to enforce his right to worship in Ayodhya but the court said it will hear all such applications only after the main matter had been heard.
While litigants await hearing in the Supreme Court, the change of government in Uttar Pradesh saw a new cast of characters jumping in. First, there was the Shia Wakf Board of Uttar Pradesh, its chairman proclaiming that a mosque at the disputed site made no sense. Then came a glittering Diwali celebration in Ayodhya in the presence of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and, subsequently, the abrupt entry of spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravishankar as a mediator.
Bhagwat’s assertion also comes in the run-up to a host of elections — including in Gujarat that votes next month and Karnataka that votes next year. Before the general elections in 2019, Madhya Pradesh, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Rajasthan and Tripura go to the polls next year.
Incidentally, Bhagwat had made a similar statement in 2013, in the run-up to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections in which he described Ram Janmabhoomi as a question of “India’s identity”.
Zafryab Jilani, convenor of the Babri Masjid Action Committee and lawyer for the UP Sunni Wakf Board, described Bhagwat’s statement as a “challenge” to the Supreme Court and the Constitution of India. “As per the Constitution, the Supreme Court is the highest authority and it is that authority which is adjudicating on whether there can be construction there or not.The country runs by rule of law and we are all awaiting the verdict of the SC. This statement amounts to a challenge to both the SC and Constitution,” he said.
Member of All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) executive committee Asaduddin Owaisi said: “This is obnoxious, a deliberate ploy to vitiate the atmosphere. How can such a statement be made when the matter is in the Supreme Court? This is a title suit and the RSS is saying it is a matter of faith. I hope the SC takes note of it. This is dangerous.”
The government is doing its own meetings on Ram Janmabhoomi too. Home minister Rajnath Singh met a delegation of Sufi clerics earlier this month kicking off another controversy — on top of an existing one about the Art of Living founder’s locus standi in the case — when the identity of the man who led the delegation was questioned by the Ajmer Sharif Dargah with which he claimed to be associated.