Ayodhya dispute hearing: Ram Lalla's lawyer cites European historians to prove Ram Temple's existence; SC asks for clarification on Sunni Muslims' stance

FP Staff

Hearing of the Ayodhya dispute case in the Supreme Court entered day six with the counsel for petitioner 'Ram Lalla Virajman' making submissions based on the accounts of various historians, travellers, and scholars, including English merchant William Finch, and Joseph Tiefenthaler, among others.

Counsel for Ram Lalla Virajman, senior advocate CS Vaidyanathan, advancing his arguments before a five-judge Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, reportedly told the apex court to not look for the rationality behind the belief of Hindus that Ayodhya is the birthplace of Lord Ram.

The bench also comprised Justice SA Bobde, Justice DY Chandrachud, Justice Ashok Bhushan and Justice SA Nazeer.

Counsel for Ram Lalla Virajman cites Skanda Purana and works of European historians, says birthplace is deity in itself

Vaidyanathan told the five-judge bench that he will use "historical facts" and "archaeological evidence" to back his argument to prove the existence of a temple at the disputed site in Ayodhya.

Starting with the Skanda Purana, Vaidyanathan quoted the religious text stating that it has been the "perennial belief" that pilgrims should take a darshan of the Ram Janmabhoomi after bathing in the Saryu river. Vaidyanathan also used the text, believed to be written by Ved Vyas during the Mahabharata, to underline his argument that the purported birthplace is the deity itself.

In response to the lawyer's arguments around the Skanda Purana, Justice Chandrachud noted that the religious text spoke about the Janmabhoomi and not the deity, to which Vaidyanath said, "Because Janmasthana is the deity itself."

Justice Chandrachud further said, "The extract you read refers to the darshan of Ram Janmabhoomi and does not refer to any diety." Vaidyanathan then replied that he would refer to the "more recent" writings of Finch, to support his argument that the place "is the deity".

Confusion prevailed over which country Finch belonged to, but one of the advocates for the opposing parties clarified that he was an English merchant. Referring to Finch's 'Travelogue of William Finch', Vaidyanathan said that he had travelled to India between 1608 and 1611, which is also when he visited Ayodhya."This is the earliest reference to Ayodhya," Vaidyanathan submitted.

He said, "Finch's travelogue 'Early Travels to India' mentioned that Hindus believed Ayodhya was the 'Janmasthan' of Lord Ram. Finch also mentioned a fort-castle in Ayodhya where Hindus believed Lord Ram was born."

According to The Leaflet, Vaidyanathan referred to an account by Joseph Tiefenthaler, which, he said, referred to "various buildings on the south bank of the river built by nobles in memory of Ram". The text also refers to a temple of Ram that was demolished by Aurangzeb, Vaidyanathan argued. However, he also said that some voices in the text claimed that the temple structure was demolished by Mughal emperor Babur.

"The account further reads that though the house where Ram was born was demolished by Aurangzeb or Babur, there still was a ritual of praying to the place by performing parikrama," Vaidyanath was quoted by The Leaflet as saying.

Vaidyanath also admitted that Tiefenthaler had not witnessed any of what he had written in his book, but had noted various accounts. "However, the book is of sufficient antiquity that it has credibility," the lawyer argued.

"Though there is a difference of opinion on who demolished it, it is clear it was demolished before 1786," Vaidyanathan was quoted as saying by Bar and Bench. "Tiefenthaler refers to two accounts, one of demolition by Aurangzeb and second by Babur. For us, it wouldn't matter since anyway it proves that the temple existed," he added.

'Baburnama is completely silent on demolition of temple?' SC asks counsel for Ram Lalla Virajman

The Constitution Bench hearing the Ayodhya case questioned Vaidyanathan after his submission on the writings of European historians. After he referred to texts that mentioned Mughal emperors Aurangzeb and Babur having demolished the Ram temple in Ayodhya, the bench asked whether the 'Baburnama' was "completely silent" on the events of the period.

Justice Bobde, who also asked when the first mention of the Babri Masjid is made, said, "Baburnama is silent on the whole thing?" To which Vaidyanathan replied that the "relevant pages of the period of Babur's conquest in Ayodhya are missing from Baburnama". The lawyer also said that the first mention of the Babri Masjid was in the nineteenth century.

However, advocate for one of the Muslim parties, Rajeev Dhavan interjected and said, "The pages are missing. It is not that the Baburnama is silent on that, we know he (Babar) went to Ayodhya but the pages after that are missing."

Vaidyanathan then referred to texts by British surveyor Montgomery Martin, written in 1838. Asserting that his purpose behind using the historians' texts in his argument was to prove the people's belief that the disputed site was Lord Ram's birthplace, he added, "This (Martin's text) is the first where a reference of construction by Babur has been mentioned."

Counsel quotes 1854 Gazetteer of Territory, CJI objects

Vaidyanathan then moved on to citing from the 1854 Gazetteer of Territory written by the East India Company, however, Gogoi objected to accepting arguments based on the document, due to its "disputed contents".

CJI Gogoi, asking about the document's authenticity, said that it had been denied by the court. "You must be aware that all these documents are disputed and therefore will be taken in that light and legal effect," Gogoi said to Vaidyanathan, after the lawyer argued that the document was "part of court records or was mentioned elsewhere in relevant sets of documents".

"The fact that there is a Gazetteer may not be disputed but the content of it could be a matter of dispute," Justice Chandrachud added.

Vaidyanathan then referred to reports of the Archaeological Survey of India, written by AE Cunningham who conducted the first survey in Ayodhya in 1862-63, reports said. He also quoted the Encyclopedia of India written by P Carnegy, as saying, "Ayodhya is to Hindus what Mecca is to Muslims."

Ram Janmabhoomi is also a deity, says counsel, adds 'court should not look for rationality'

"It is the belief of Hindus that Lord Ram's birthplace is at the Ram Janmabhoomi site in Ayodhya, and the court should not go beyond to see how rational it is," PTI quoted Vaidyanath as saying to the bench.

"It is the belief of Hindus that Lord Ram's birthplace is at the Ram Janmabhoomi site in Ayodhya, and the court should not go beyond to see how rational it is," PTI quoted Vaidyanath as saying to the bench.

The senior advocate representing Ram Lalla Virajman said the claim to the disputed site cannot be bifurcated or trifurcated since it is based on people's faith. In response to Justice DY Chandrachud's comment that matters of religion seemed fluid at the site, given the presence of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Islam, Vaidyanathan talked about the revival of Hindusim by assimilating Buddhist and Jain principles.

Justice SA Bobde asked the counsel of the Muslim party Rajeev Dhavan regarding the stance of the Sunnis in the dispute. He referred to the Allahabad High Court's judgement to clarify the Sunnis' stance on the matter. Dhavan also said, "The Shia position is that mosque was built by Mir Baqi and not upon destruction of a temple and that absence of a minaret or mosque being surrounded by temples doesn't affect sanctity of mosque. Whether it was built on ruins or not is another issue but the entire stand of Shias has to be seen together and cannot be disintegrated."

The next hearing will be held on Friday.

On Tuesday, Vaidyanathan submitted that the birthplace of Lord Ram is also a deity and Muslims cannot claim right over the 2.77-acre disputed land in Ayodhya as any division of the property would amount to "destruction" and "mutilation" of the deity itself.

The submissions came while responding to a query posed by the bench that if Hindus and Muslims were jointly possessing the disputed Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid site then how Muslims can be ousted.

Fourteen appeals have been filed in the apex court against the 2010 Allahabad High Court judgment, delivered in four civil suits, demanding that the 2.77-acre land in Ayodhya be partitioned equally among the three parties €" the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla Virajman.

Read Supreme Court hearing Ayodhya case Day 1 here

Read Ayodhya hearing Day 2 here

Read Ayodhya hearing Day 3 here

Read Ayodhya hearing Day 4 here

Read Ayodhya hearing Day 5 here

With inputs from agencies

Also See: Ayodhya case in Supreme Court: Muslim petitioner calls daily hearings 'torture', cites lack of time to prepare case; CJI rejects objection

Ayodhya case in Supreme Court: Nirmohi Akhara says no Muslim entered Ram temple since 1934; CJI says prove temple's existence

Ayodhya case in Supreme Court: Nirmohi Akhara draws CJI's anger as it fails to produce evidence, claims property documents were 'robbed' in 1982

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