The Muslim side in the legal battle of Babri Mosque case possessed all the evidence under the law that the site belongs to the masjid, said a lawyer fighting the case.
The historic mosque, widely known as Babri Masjid, was built in 1528 during the reign of the first Mughal emperor Zahir ud-Din Muhammad Babur in today’s Ayodhya in the central Indian province of Uttar Pradesh (UP) and there was no claim of any Hindu deity having been born at the site, said lawyer Zafaryab Jilani.
“Never were Muslims stopped from offering prayers inside the Babri Masjid as there was no such claim of any idol being at the site where the Masjid was built,” Jilani told Anadolu Agency in a telephone interview from New Delhi.
Jilani, a senior advocate, has been representing the Sunni Central Waqf Board and other Muslim litigants in the Babri Masjid case for the last 45 years since 1975.
The case, fought by All India Muslim Personal Law Board representing Muslims, is that of title suit. “Our plea is that the site has been used as a Masjid since 1528 so the ownership of the site be granted to Wakf [which runs the affairs of the mosque].”
“It was in December 1949 that there were some restrictions put on Muslims,” he said. “It was in this month that idols [of Hindu gods] were found inside the Masjid. So, under Indian law, to defuse any communal tensions, some kind of restrictions were imposed.”
Jilani said restrictions were imposed on Muslims from offering prayers inside the Masjid. “Besides, few Hindu saints were appointed to offer prayers and take care of idols according to Hindu customs. But Masjid was out of bounds for common people now," he added.
Jilani, who emerged as the “eyes and ears” to the Babri Masjid case said the then-central government pressed the provincial government to remove idols from the mosque.
“The District Magistrate of the district [where the mosque is located] did not get ready [to implement the order]; and under a conspiracy, a case was filed in the court that idols should not be removed,” Jilani recalled the various cases filed in the title case of the Babri Mosque.
Jilani said the case shifted to Lucknow High Court in 1987 from the lower court. “There was tension after the locks of the Masjid were opened at the order of the court,” he said.
This was the time when the Indian National Congress party lost general elections “because angry Muslims voted against it,” he said.
“In 1990, BJP [Bharatiya Janata Party] President [LK] Advani started a Yatra [March] towards Babri Masjid to allow Hindus to build a gate near the Masjid but government disallowed it and a curfew was imposed for 90 days,” he said.
In 1991, the BJP formed the provincial government in the state where the mosque is located.
“The government acquired land around the Masjid and we [Muslims] challenged it in court … however, under a conspiracy and a decision was given against us. And on Dec. 6, 1992, Masjid was brought down.”
Attack on Babri Mosque triggered tensions, crisis, riots across India
According to Jilani, the cases against the land acquisition were withdrawn. “[In 1990s] Prime Minister Narasimha Rao first promised that the Masjid will be rebuilt and thus cases were canceled but we challenged it in Supreme Court and asked it to revive the cases and our plea was accepted,” he said.
Trial started in 1995
Jilani said that report of an excavation of the land around the mosque first came in 2003. Arguments were filed against the report in Allahabad High Court which finally gave its verdict in 2010.
“The court said: ‘because Muslims and Hindus are offering prayers jointly at the site, so the land be distributed on 1/3 measurement’,” he quoted the Allahabad court's judgment.
Jilani, however, said the Muslim side challenged the judgment in Supreme Court that that only Muslims prayed inside the mosque. “The court verdict was baseless and was not based on any evidence that Hindus also offered prayers at the same site,” Jilani claimed.
“Muslims had furnished all evidences that they have been praying at the site since 1528,” he said.
The Muslim side went to the Supreme Court of India and appealed against the verdict that was filed in 2011. The trial in the case started in August same year.
Jilani said that the main argument by the Muslim side is “why the site has been accepted as a joint place of worship for Hindus as well”.
“There is no evidence that Hindus also prayed at the site of the contention,” he said.
“Under Evidence Act [of Indian law], there is a requirement of either paper or verbal evidence for such a claim,” he added. “In this case, the verbal witness is not possible because the case is historic. Muslims have submitted paper evidence.”
To support the claim of Muslims that the temple was not at the site of the mosque, Jilani said Hindus had earlier specified two places, also found in revenue records, that in 1862 a place outside the mosque was considered as the birthsite of Hindu god Ram.
It is also mentioned in a report filed by the then-British government (1862-65). “We submitted these documents to court as well.”
But in 1885 Hindus again claimed that another place near the mosque called Chabootra was the birthplace of Ram.
“Though this second claim of Hindus was not accepted but it was added to records which showed the Masjid was located in west of the Chabootra,” Jilani said.
Then in 1941, Jilani said, Hindus again said Masjid was in the west of the Chabootra. “The records show that in 1950, the government of UP and police also accepted that it was just a Masjid, not a temple.”
In all documents, Jilani asserted, the place is shown as mosque. “Babri Masjid would even get grants of [Indian currency] Rs 302 before the British came to India. There are documents for it, too.”
Besides, he said that there is an inscription inside the mosque that it was built on the orders of Mughal emperor Babur.
“Our plea is simple: when documents never showed it was a temple before 1949, how is acceptable after that year. How is it acceptable that in 1989, Hindus started saying it was birthplace of Ram? What is the documentary evidence?”
“There is no evidence nor witness for it [that there was a temple],” he said.
“According to us, this claim [of temple] was developed only after 1949,” he said.
Jilani said that evidence of Muslims “is very strong”. “They [Hindus] do not have any evidence… We believe decision will come in our favor under the Indian constitution.”
Whether or not to remove the idols which were found in the mosque after 1949, Jilani said: “It could be the consequences of the Supreme Court decision … It depends on the judgment.”/aa