The Supreme Court gave its verdict yesterday on the longstanding Ayodhya dispute. The court gave the disputed site to the Hindus on which a mosque stood till 1992 before it was demolished by a Hindutva mob. In essence, it paved the way for a Ram temple to be built there. It also stated that the government must acquire an alternative plot of land (5 acres) on which a new mosque would be built.
Here’s looking at how some major Hindi and English newspapers covered the issue today morning.
Jagran is among the most read dailies in India and has acted as the steady voice of the Ram temple movement. A piece in Newslaundry details how the newspaper has been consistent in its call for the construction of a Ram temple, making it the centre of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement.
On its very first page today, it has a giant cutout of the deity Ram with the simple headline: “Sri Ram”.
The next page quotes the architect Chandrakant Sompura, who had readied the design for the Ram Temple some three decades ago: “A grand temple will be built by 2022”. Following the two pages that detail the Ram Temple movement, the front-page has the headline of the day: “Wahin Banega Mandir” (A temple will be built there). The slogan harks back to the 90s where Kar Sewaks heading to Ayodhya chanted “Mandir Wahin Banega”, to imply that a temple will be built on the ground where the mosque stood.
An editorial by Sanjay Gupta, Editor in Chief, Dainik Jagran, notes that Supreme Court’s judgement has relied on facts and not faith, and that Hindus have not exhibited any triumphalism with this victory.
The front-page headline states: “Ram Lalla Hi Virajman” to imply that the idol of baby Ram has found its seat. The anchor story talks about the importance of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) report that dug out pillars of an ancient structure and affirmed that there had been a Hindu temple-like structure underneath the mosque.
However, the Bhaskar report does not go into the fact that the ASI didn’t provide any proof on the issue that a temple had been demolished to build the 16th century mosque. In fact, the Court chose not to award the title suit on the basis of the ASI report since there was no concrete link between the destruction of the ancient temple (dated 12th century) and the construction of the mosque in 16th century. Many media reports have chosen not to elaborate on this aspect.
The headline states: “Ayodhya Sabki, Sakal Bhoomi Ram Ki” (The city of Ayodhya belongs to everyone, all the disputed land belongs to Ram). The front-page notes various aspects of the judgement, including the fact that the placement of an idol inside the mosque and the demolition of the mosque were both illegal. It also notes that the judgement was based on facts and not faith.
The Times of India
The Times of India on the front-page elaborates on the reasoning for the Hindu side winning possession of the disputed site. The key point, it notes, is that the Hindus were able to provide better evidence of their continuous worship at the disputed site. The Opinion page has a piece by journalist Omar Ahmad headlined: “Violence has been rewarded, and we should all worry“. Two other pieces on the issue are by columnists Shobhaa De and Aakar Patel.
De touches on why there was no female representation on the Constitution Bench: “And please, next time we constitute a bench for something as significant as the Ayodhya verdict, let’s get women on board. The outcome is bound to amaze!”
Patel meanwhile states that he is confused with the judgement: “That desecration and vandalism must be rewarded because India is a secular country? Or am I getting it wrong? I am unable to figure out the logic and the jurisprudence that links the findings of the court and its conclusions.”
The Express front-page explains well how the scales tilted in favour of the temple parties. The report notes that the Supreme Court treated the outer and inner courtyard of the disputed structure as one unit in a significant departure from the Allahabad High Court verdict. It states: “Since the Muslim side claimed adverse possession of the disputed site, the court held them accountable to prove uninterrupted, continuous and exclusive possession even before 1856. However, the Hindu side was not required to prove exclusive possession since the burden of proof lies on the party making the claim in a civil suit.”
The Kolkata-based daily dubs the land awarded to the temple side as “Hindu Sthan”, a play on the word Hindustan to state that the land belongs to the Hindus. The newspaper’s editorial notes: “The Ayodhya case and, arguably, the verdict exhibit certain singular features. A tiny patch of land in the course of its contentious history inflicted serious damage to the inclusive fabric of the country. Much of the credit for this dubious accomplishment must go to the majoritarian political project that had chosen to ride piggyback on the Ayodhya movement that inflamed public sentiments.”
HT used the headline “Temple Set in Stone”. The newspaper stated that: “The construction of the temple at the place several Hindus believe is the birthplace of Ram also ticks off another item on the checklist of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Many people believe the ruling is the beginning of the end of the festering dispute, if not the end itself.”
It also carried a report on what Prime Minister Narendra Modi said after the verdict, asking Indians to “shun negativity and bitterness” for the sake of a new India.