The Ram Janmabhoomi Temple Case

The big news in town is the verdict by the Supreme Court of India on the matter of the Ram Janmabhoomi site. It appears that the land has been “awarded” to those who want to have a temple dedicated to the birthplace of Bhagwan Ram. There’s much jubilation among Hindus. But why?

Fact is that that site was a temple in the first place. Islamic invaders destroyed that temple as is their religious duty, and they built a mosque at that site to demonstrate their supremacy. In a polity that rejects Islamic supremacy, it’s easy to conclude that building mosques on temple property is immoral, unethical, uncivilized and just plain wrong. Why did it take decades for the Supreme Court to decide this case? Is the court merely incompetent or just lazy or stupid or what?

I also think that all sites that used to be temples — they number in the thousand if the records are to be believed — should revert to the community that built them, not just this Ram Janmabhoomi site. It does not matter if there were five temples that were destroyed and mosques built on them or there were 50,000 temples. As a matter of principle, every one of them must be given back. The descendants of the destroyers do not and cannot have any claim to stolen property.

I don’t celebrate this decision of the Supreme Court of India. It is what it should be but it is not enough. The court should have decided the larger issue — namely restitution. That contemporary Indian Muslims (converts or descendants of Islamic invaders) must relinquish all their claim to all stolen temple property. If they or their ancestors rightfully acquired temple property (by sale, for example) it’s theirs. But if it was acquired by force and conquest, then it must be returned to the descendants of those who were the rightful owners.

Let me state the principle: property rights. Property is alienable only through voluntary trade. All property acquired through rape, pillage, murder, etc., is illegitimate, immoral and uncivilized. The inheritors of property acquired through violence have the moral obligation to relinquish all claims to the property.

I think a disclaimer is appropriate at this point. I am a Hindu. It does matter to me that my ancestors suffered what one historian, Will Durant, termed as “the bloodiest story in human history”:

The Islamic conquest of India is probably the bloodiest story in history. It is a discouraging tale, for its evident moral is that civilization is a precious good, whose delicate complex of order and freedom, culture and peace, can at any moment be overthrown by barbarians invading from without or multiplying within.

Multiplying within. That’s important. Not just invading barbarians but those that multiply within.

I am a Hindu and it matters to me even though I don’t live in India and I am not a citizen of India. It matters me as a matter of principle. Everything that has to do with justice and morality matters to me. I oppose injustice and tyranny. It’s not conditional; it’s absolute. Like every human, I am not an island. I am part of the whole of the human enterprise. The vasudeva kutumbukam, as the Hindu dharma proclaims.

This is an universal principle. John Dunne, the English poet and cleric, born 1572, wrote —

No man is an Island, intire of it selfe; every man is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine; … any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.

It does not matter to me that Dunne belonged to the Church of England. What matters is that he belonged to the same family as I — the human family. I am as much his inheritor as some contemporary English fellow. The entire human family is the main, and I am a part of that main. That’s why it matters to me what happens in India.

Alright, so a mosque was built in 1528 CE by one Mir Baqi, commander of an Islamic invader of India named Babur. It has been nearly five centuries but one bit of wrong has been corrected. That’s not enough.

Every bloody (I use the word bloody advisedly) temple which has been destroyed and mosques built on it — whether three hundred years ago or just last year — must be turned over to those who worship in temples. Not just this one Ram Janmabhoomi temple but every single one of them. There must not be any compromise. It’s immoral to compromise on matters of principle.

And the temples must be rebuilt. Who should pay for them? The Hindus for sure because they are the inheritors of the temples. But also those who claim to be the descendants of those who destroyed the temples. They need to own up to their responsibility and denounce what their ancestors did.

Restitution. It’s the only way to build not just temples but civilization. And those who refuse to pay restitution must be declared outside the circle of the civilized.

Author: Atanu Dey


16 thoughts on “The Ram Janmabhoomi Temple Case”

  1. Hey, I respect your opinions. However, when you judge the history through a bigoted angle of restitution, who do you think will be spared? I am sure you have read numerous instances in history where Hindu temples were destroyed by rival Hindu kingdoms. It was a matter of stating supremacy, as these temples were symbolic of the king’s prestige and power.
    You have read it, and I am reasonably sure of this. But why do you chose to ignore such nuances of history?
    I am genuinely trying to understand this phenomenon.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The matter I was addressing here relates to Islamic invasion of India and the destruction of temples motivated by their religion. If you cannot distinguish between that and the rivalry between kingdoms in India, I really don’t know what I can say to make you understand. But since you took the trouble to comment on my blog, allow me to provide you with an analogy.

      Imagine that someone says Hitler killed a ton of Jews. And another responds, “Oh yeah? So what about the Protestants and Catholics? Didn’t they kill each other? So what’s so damned special about Hitler, eh? Why didn’t you mention the fact that Christians killed many Christians? Why do you ignore that, eh? You are just biased against Hitler. Shame on you.”

      {I have edited this comment because the original version of this comment was really mean and I am sorry that I wrote it.}

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Basically, the whatabouterry is more than maddening. “Oh so, you are pointing out this particular outrage. But what about that other outrage? You did not mention that, did you? And there are thousands of outrages you did not mention. So clearly you are completely full of shit.”

        The point of my previous comment is this: people who provide cover for any specific horrific act of violence by deflecting attention to some other acts of violence are either stupid or maliciously motivated. Restitution of property that were taken by Islamic invaders is the point of this piece. That other people violently grabbed property at some time does not justify what the Islamic invaders did. Dragging irrelevancies into the discussion reveals at best an inability to follow arguments, and at worst that one is carrying water for criminals.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. I am sure you have read numerous instances in history where Hindu temples were destroyed by rival Hindu kingdoms. It was a matter of stating supremacy, as these temples were symbolic of the king’s prestige and power.

      Requesting you to cite 5 (not numerous but just 5) such instances where a Hindu king destroyed another temple (of course not for the purpose of building another bigger temple to honor the same god). If you can not then please accept that you are a liar.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. The court’s reasoning was the following:
    “This Court cannot entertain claims that stem from the actions of the Mughal rulers against Hindu places of worship in a court of law today. For any person who seeks solace or recourse against the actions of any number of ancient rulers, the law is not the answer. Our history is replete with actions that have been judged to be morally incorrect and even today are liable to trigger vociferous ideological debate. However, the adoption of the Constitution marks a watershed moment where we, the people of India, departed from the determination of rights and liabilities on the basis of our ideology, our religion, the colour of our skin, or the century when our ancestors arrived at these lands, and submitted to the rule of law. Under our rule of law, this court can adjudicate upon private property claims that were expressly or impliedly recognised by the British
    sovereign and subsequently not interfered with upon Indian independence. With respect to the disputed property, it is evident that the British Sovereign recognised and permitted the existence of both Hindu and Muslim communities at the disputed property upon the annexation of Oudh in 1856. ”

    And seeing pop Hindu Right celebrating the judgement shows that they haven’t even read analysis of the judgement.
    The court has rejected most claims of Hindu parties.
    Court held the following:

    First, that the ASI report only proves that the site on which Masjid was built was not vacant. Even if there was some Hindu structure, ASI doesn’t prove that it was a Ram Temple.
    Second, as observed above the court has held that it cannot go into which invader demolished what in a distant history.
    Third, the placing of idols under Mosque in 1949 was illegal and trespass.
    Fourth, the court came down heavily on those who demolished the mosque.
    Fifth, its by recognizing that Muslim parties have suffered injury that court has offered them DOUBLE the amount of disputed land(2.77 acres), which is 5 acres. So they have been vindicated.

    Why were they offered ALTERNATE land then?

    Because of the argument that Hindus have faith in the place since a long time, that it was birth place of Ram. And law, when dealing with faith, doesn’t go into the question whether faith is just or unjust, rational or irrational.
    Therefore, respecting right to practise religion, Hindus have been offered land!


  3. Why in India its always “Hindu rightwing” … how is it that rabid communal people belonging to other faiths never referred to as “right wing” ?? What is the definition of right wing?? (BTW, I personally am an a-religious theist)

    This whole thing was such a farce… Anyone with an iota of intelligence and sense of history knew that Babar and other barbarians who invaded India destroyed temples and built mosques on top. Yet the whole society had to do this dog and pony show of legal bullshit to “prove” that this place had religious significance for Hindus. It shows that India’s society cares so much about western approval and is in some sort of Stockholm syndrome with respect to the Mughal rule … its pathetic

    Until Yogi Adityanath renamed the place of religious significance to Hindus was named Allahabad …. referring to the Koranic God. How will it be taken if tomorrow Medina is named “Rampur” !!!
    V S Naipaul was right all along …. Thank god the tide is turning and a process of normalizing has began… This is important because 15% of humanity is involved here


    1. It is a strange world. Indians/Hindus were sensitive to Western names of cities and changed Bombay, Madras, Calcutta, and Bangalore (a nuanced change). But too slow to change an important religious city name like Prayag. And how many towns are still named Aurangabad?


      1. Thats what I am referring to. This isnt about Hindu-Muslim nonsense. Why are people so offended by Madras that it must be changed to Chennai, Bombay is so offensive that it must be changed to Mumbai …. but Allahabad going back to its centuries old name of Prayagraj is resisted ….
        Prayagraj was Prayag when there was NO Bombay !!!!!
        People have no sense of history or proportion … mainly because they are suffering from <a href="; Stockholm Syndrom with respect to the Mughal rule. Its truly pathetic …


        1. Changing cities’ English names to their vernacular is idiotic. Madras, Calcutta, Bangalore and Bombay were always called Chennai/Kolkata/Bengaluru/Mumbai in their respective native languages. For that matter you don’t see petitions to rename Moscow, Vienna, Rome to Muskva, Wien or Roma as they are called in Russian/German/Italian respectively.

          I also don’t buy the idea that it is okay to erase history by claiming the ‘the British named it’ as a reason to change. It won’t change the fact that they ruled us for close to 200 years and that these cities grew and flourished under their rule. Other former colonies aren’t so anal retentive about renaming places from their colonial history, they accept it as a part of their heritage.


  4. This whole temple thing was such an incredible farce that only Indians can indulge in it. If the government truly cared for Muslims, and the Muslims truly cared about their well being, the whole cow nonsense would have been addressed and an old defunct mosque would have been a non issue … but in the great Indian farce everyone plays their part ….
    The stray cows are a security threat for normal people yet no one addresses it – not at least in Gujarat and north India which is what I am a bit familiar with


  5. Who should pay for them? The Hindus for sure because they are the inheritors of the temples. But also those who claim to be the descendants of those who destroyed the temples. They need to own up to their responsibility and denounce what their ancestors did.

    I’m amazed that as a self proclaimed libertarian, you would subscribe to the notion of collective guilt. Why should Muslims of today be held responsible for what a co-religionist did centuries ago, let alone pay for rebuilding it? It is of course another story that they won’t ever express regret over what happened and continue to protest the court’s decision.

    Babar followed the standard Islamic practice of marking territory over conquered infidels by building a mosque over the desecrated remains of their places of worship. There is no geographical significance of any place other than Mecca/Medina under Islam, whereas this place is of deep significance to Hindus. Therefore any Muslim clamoring to have the mosque rebuilt only wants to revert to the symbol of conquest that it originally was.


    1. Rex:

      The cornerstones of libertarian philosophy are the notions of not initiating force or coercion, the not-taking of private property by force, and restitution of damage caused. My position is not grounded on “collective guilt.” It’s simply the application of the school yard principles of returning what one has taken by force, and making good any damage caused to another.

      The Muslims of India today are holding property that was acquired by force. They have a moral obligation — collectively and individually — to foresweare those mosques that were built on existent temples. Would you be happy to continue occupying property that your ancestors had killed the original owners to acquire and bequeathed to you? If yes, then you reside in a different moral universe than I do.

      See here for a list of major temples that were destroyed by Islamic invaders and mosques built on them. Are you suggesting that there be no restitution?


      1. I was referring to your statement that they should pay for the reconstruction – that becomes a can of worms with regard to who should pay and why. Of course the disputed site should be returned.


  6. Restitution of property rights is a slippery slope considering human history is one of conquest. The Brits of today owe no restitution to the Indians of today. Neither do descendents of slaves require to get any reparations.
    Your arguments are weak from a property rights pov as well. I have no right to any temple. The owner of the temple/descendents of some dead king who owned it might have. Why do you, as a Hindu have any right in a temple my forefather built?


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