The Centre’s plea in the Supreme Court that it be allowed to hand over 67.03 acres of land in the vicinity of the Babri Masjid site in Ayodhya to the Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas is troubling. The request comes in a context — senior government functionaries have complained about the slow pace of the hearings in the Babri case in the apex court and associates of the ruling party, from RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat to VHP sants, are pressing for building a Ram temple at the disputed site at the earliest. The Court must not succumb to this unsubtle attempt to exert pressure on the judges in a sensitive and consequential case.
With the general election round the corner, the Ram temple is rising on the campaign agenda of the BJP, which heads governments in New Delhi and Lucknow. UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has said that “there should be no doubt” that a temple will be built at the disputed site. Last week, the UP CM said, or threatened, that if the Court cannot decide the matter, “we will resolve the Ram temple issue in 24 hours”. Clearly, an attempt is afoot to build a narrative around the temple issue in UP despite the apex court being seized of the matter. It is unfortunate that the Union law ministry seems to be joining in to push this polarising political agenda, instead of taking a cue from Prime Minister Narendra Modi who said in a recent interview that the government would wait for the judicial process to conclude.
The 67.03 acres in contention was acquired by the Centre in the wake of the demolition of the Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992. The government justified the acquisition as “necessary to maintain communal harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst the people of India”. According to the statement of objects and reasons that led to the Acquisition Of Certain Area At Ayodhya Act, 1993, “it was considered necessary to acquire the site of the disputed structure and suitable adjacent land for setting up a complex which could be developed in a planned manner wherein a Ram temple, a mosque, amenities for pilgrims, a library, museum and other suitable facilities can be set up.” When the acquisition was challenged, the Supreme Court ruled the government must not part with the land vested in it and no religious activity of any kind permitted on it until the title suit, then pending in the Allahabad High Court, was settled. The Centre must await closure in the case in the Supreme Court and refrain from making any moves that could be construed as shortcircuiting due process.