Photograph of the disputed shrine published in P. Carnegy’s book A Historical sketch of Fyzabad Tehsil, including the former Capitals of Ajudhia and Fyzabad in 1870.
Kishore Kunal is a former I.P.S. officer who was instrumental in mutual negotiations between the Hindus and the Muslims during the days of three Prime Ministers – V.P. Singh, Chandra Shekhar and P.V. Narasimha Rao. He is author of two very authentic books on Ayodhya: Ayodhya Revisited and Ayodhya : Beyond Adduced Evidence. The first book has the Foreword from the former Chief Justice of India. Justice G. B. Patnaik, whereas another former Chief Justice of India Justice M. N. Veakatachaliah has written Foreword to the second book. Kunal suggested suitable suggestions to all the Prime Ministers in accordance with the situations prevailing at relevant times.
Though, after the demolition of the disputed shrine and enactment of ‘Place of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991 the solution has become very difficult at present, yet he is suggesting an effective solution which will satisfy all saner elements. According to Kunal the key to the solution of this dispute is hidden in the Place of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991.
The background of this Act is that when Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar was convinced that there existed a temple at the disputed site, he decided in 1991 that the most acceptable solution to the contentious issue was to make Ayodhya shrine an exception and bring a legislation to bar the conversion of any other place of worship in future. For this purpose the legislation was to incorporate the provision that no person shall convert any place of worship of a different religious denomination. It was to be declared that the religious character of a place of worship existing on 15th august, 1947 would continue to be the same except ancient and historical sites protected by A.S.I. Besides, any suit finally decided by the Court or settled with mutual agreement or any conversion having taken place by acquiescence was not to be kept within the ambit of the Act.
A Cabinet Minister and an Advocate of the Apex Court, who is now an M.P., were asked to draft the Ordinance within 3 days. But they were under the influence of a tantric godman who advised the Minister to wait for a month, so that the godman could propagate at Ayodhya, Kashi, Prayag, Hardwar, etc. that it was he who was instrumental in bringing the legislation to hand over Ayodhya’s disputed shrine to the Hindus. Therefore, the Minister could not submit the draft legislation to the Prime Minister in time. Meanwhile Chandra Shekharji resigned on the trivial issue of intelligence by Haryana police at the residence of Rajiv Gandhi.
However, what transpired during the last days of Chandra Shekhar’s reign was incorporated in a Bill during the initial rule of P. V. Narsimha Rao. The Places of Worship (Special provisions) Act, 1991 came into existence on 18th September, 1991 within three months of his ascendancy to the post of the Prime Minister. All the provisions of this Bill were, by and large, similar to those which were to come during Chandra Shekhar’s regime except the provision that Ayodhya shrine, which was to be made an exception and handed over to the Hindus, was omitted in the new Act. Instead, the following diluted provision was inserted in section 5 of the Act:
“Act not to apply to Ram Janma Bhuni-Babri Masjid. – Nothing contained in this Act shall apply to the place or place of worship commonly known as Ram janma bhumi-Babari Masjid situated in Ayodhya in the State of Uttar Pradesh and to any suit, appeal or other proceeding relating to the said place or place of worship.”
Here, Ayodhya was made an exception but the crucial clause of handing over the Ayodhya shrine to the Hindus was missing, although in the Statement of Objects and Reasons it was accepted:
“However, since the case relating to the place commonly called Ram Janma Bhumi-Babri Masjid forms a class by itself, it has become necessary to exempt it entirely from the operation of this Act.”
What Chandra Shekharji had contemplated was a balancing act. Hand over the Ayodhya shrine to the Hindus as their sentiments were attached with it and provide security to the mosques and other religious places by enacting the Law, as the Muslims apprehended conversion of some more mosques. But in the Places of Worship ( Special Provisions ) Act, 1991 the Hindus got nought and the Muslims were offered what they had demanded. Thus, the key to the solution was lost without achieving anything. It should have been enacted simultaneously, while solving the Ayodhya dispute.
The decision to hand over the Ayodhya shrine to the Hindus was taken by the Prime Minister Chandra Shekharji when he was convinced that there existed a temple on the disputed site after many rounds of negotiation between the two communities and his interaction with elite Muslim leaders who had suggested that the community was in a mood to hand it over to the Hindus, provided other mosques were protected by legislation. Prof. B.B. Lal’s report further confirmed the existence of a temple on the disputed site.
But, by this enactment of 1991 Ayodhya dispute was not resolved; it was only postponed. Nevertheless, had the provision under section 5 not been included in the Act, the Ayodhya’s disputed shrine would have been declared a mosque in the light of the Act because on 15th August, 1947 it was a mosque but the clause of exception allowed it to continue as a temple until the final adjudication of the case.
However, when the Act came into existence, the Muslims were happy. But they must realize that it can be amended or repealed by any Government having majority in the Parliament. Therefore, if its main provisions are incorporated in the Constitution of India and these provisions are declared the basic structure of the Constitution by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the light of the fact that India is a secular State, no Government in future can tamper with the provisions of the said Act. Along with the handing over Ayodhya’s disputed land (now there is no shrine) to a representative body of the Hindus, it should be accepted that no claim for conversion of the shrines at Mathura and Kashi would be made in future. For Mathura there is a registered agreement between the eminent citizens of the Hindus and Muslim communities. Kashi Corridor is going to assuage the hurt feelings and pain of the Hindus, when the whole area between the temple and Ganga gets grandeur.
Section 3 of the Act, mutatis mutandis, has to be incorporated in the Constitution. It reads as follows:
“3. Bar of conversion of places of worship : No person shall convert any place of worship of any religious denomination or any section thereto into a place of worship of a different section of the same religious denomination or of a different religious denomination or any section thereof.”
Besides, certain provisions under section 4 of the may be added:
This formula should satisfy the sentiments of the saner elements of both communities. The leaders, who have tasted the blood, would never agree to any formula because they have to run their business in the name of religion. But as Chandra Shekharji used to say that even they would accept it at heart but oppose it from mouth. But it will be accepted by the masses.
The fact that Ayodhya enjoys the special status is best illustrated in following official report of Lt. Governor General of India James Meston sent to the Government of India on October 1915. Three excerpts from the reports are quoted below:
"The whole area of Ajodhya is wrapped up in their scriptures and earliest traditions with the history of Rama, probably the most revered of all the incarnations of the godhead; and the story of Rama and Sita is the most familiar and the most sacred episode in their literature. It is very difficult therefore for any one who is not Hindu to appreciate the reverence which they feel for the holy ground of Ajodhya;..."
* * *
"The Muhammadan population of Ajodhya is extremely small and comprises practically nobody of any importance. The Hindu population is large, influential, and swollen to gigantic numbers from time to time by the influx of pious pilgrims For a mere handful of ignorant Muhammadans to flout the strongest sentiments of the Hindus in such circumstances is sheer provocation."
* * *
"In the first place Government cannot, whatever the High Court may rule, recognize qurbani; as standing institution in Ajodhya; the sacredness of the place is against it .”
* * *
Meston’s report was accepted by the ultimate authority of the British India and got the official stamp. Even an alien Government ignored the Judgment of the High Court on Ayodhya and made the arrangement keeping the religious sentiments of the Hindus. The content in official letter approving Meston’s recommendation is quoted below:
“I am directed to acknowledge the receipt of your letter no. 1926, dated the 13th September 1915, on the subject of the dissensions between Hindus and Muham-madans arising out of the performance of qurbani at Ajodhya during the “Bakr Id” festival and to state that the Government of India desire to express appreciation of the efforts made by His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor to secure peace and good will between the two communities. They trust that His Honour’s efforts will be attended with the success they deserve.” (vide letter no. 3422 dated. 8 Oct. 1915)
This is the best and most acceptable formula in the present context. It satisfies the Hindu sentiments and provides unalterable security to all mosques and other shrines in the country. Therefore, the Union Government may, suo moto, incorporate the main provisions of the Act in the Constitution of India or the Apex Court, during the next hearing, should issue necessary direction to the Government to incorporate it in the Constitution. Once it is incorporated in the Constitution the Apex Court may declare it to be the essential part of the secular fabric of the Indian Constitution and hence a basic structure of the Constitution. Once it is done, no temple or mosque or any religious shrine will ever be converted in future, even when any Government may have a brute majority. It will put all communal conflicts to quietus. Now, it is concluded in the words of Edmund Burke:
“In full confidence of this unalterable truth, I now, quod felix faustumque sit, lay the first stone in the temple of peace.”
“The Latin expression “quod felix faustumque sit” means “may this propitious, lucky and successful.”