India’s top court ends Babri Mosque case hearings

Hindu fundamentalists attack the wall of the 16th century Babri Masjid Mosque with iron rods on December 06, 1992. (File/AFP)
Updated 17 October 2019

India’s top court ends Babri Mosque case hearings

NEW DELHI: India’s Supreme Court on Tuesday concluded the hearing of the Babri Mosque case, which is built on land claimed by Muslims and Hindus.

The case is to settle a land title dispute between Muslims and Hindus over plans to build a temple on the site. A five-judge bench, led by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, is expected to issue a verdict next month.

It is more than 25 years since a Hindu mob demolished the 16th-century mosque, located in the town of Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh. Nationalists claim Mughal emperor Babur demolished an ancient temple in order to construct a mosque. Once the mosque was pulled down, rioting and violence broke out across India and thousands were killed.

The primary agitator behind the riots, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), emerged from the bloodshed with its reputation enhanced and proceeded to expand its political footprint across the country. 

“The matter is to be decided on three grounds. One count is the legal battle, that is, whose land is this,” Delhi-based political analyst Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay told Arab News. “The second ground is the matter of faith from the Hindu side. Regardless of the legality of the land, it is a matter of faith, which cannot be proven in a court of law and belief cannot be disputed. The third is a matter of tradition. Now the court has to decide which side of the argument it is going to rest its matter on.” 

The case was also a test for the Indian judiciary, he said, adding: “Besides, the BJP will exploit the situation either way. If the verdict goes in their favor they will claim victory, if not then they will exploit the Hindu sentiment for a new mobilization.”

In 2010, the Allahabad High Court ruled that the site of the razed mosque would be divided between Hindus and Muslims, with two-thirds being allocated to Hindus, who would be allowed to keep a makeshift temple they had constructed there. Both sides, however, challenged the order and the ruling was suspended.

In March this year, Gogoi set up a three-member mediation panel to resolve the contentious issue. The panel failed in its mission to reconcile the warring parties.

In August, he decided to hold daily hearings of the case and, on Monday, wound up all the hearings from 14 petitioners.

Gogoi retires from his post next month and has expedited the process so he can deliver the verdict before he steps down. 

The Hindu petitioners pleaded on the grounds of faith. They argued that the dispute concerned the faith of the majority community and that the matter could not be treated as a normal civil dispute. Muslim petitioners said they were the original titleholders of the land and therefore it belonged to them.

Kosovo declares Nobel laureate Handke ‘persona non grata’

Updated 38 min 17 sec ago

Kosovo declares Nobel laureate Handke ‘persona non grata’

  • The Swedish Academy’s pick for the 2019 prize has reopened old wounds in the Balkans, where many see Handke as an apologist for Serb atrocities
  • Tuesday’s award ceremony was boycotted by representatives of the embassies of Albania, Bosnia, Croatia, Kosovo, North Macedonia and Turkey

PRISTINA: Kosovo declared Peter Handke a ‘persona non grata’ on Wednesday in the latest protest against his induction as a Nobel literature laureate, barring the Austrian writer from a place he has visited numerous times.
The Swedish Academy’s pick for the 2019 prize has reopened old wounds in the Balkans, where many see Handke as an apologist for Serb atrocities during Yugoslavia’s bloody collapse.
One Nobel committee member resigned over the choice, while Tuesday’s award ceremony was boycotted by representatives of the embassies of Albania, Bosnia, Croatia, Kosovo, North Macedonia and Turkey.
“Today I have decided to declare Peter Handke as not welcome in Kosovo. He is a non-grata person... Denying crimes and supporting criminals is a terrible crime,” Kosovo’s Foreign Minister Behgjet Pacolli wrote on Facebook.
The writer is not popular among Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian-majority, who fought Belgrade for independence in a 1998-99 war that claimed 13,000 lives.
But he was a frequent guest in the tiny Serb enclave of Velika Hoca, one of several small ethnic Serb communities scattered around the former Serbian province.
Handke has visited Velika Hoca at least five times and donated nearly €100,000 ($110,000) to the community of 500 people, whose village is nestled among the rolling hills of southern Kosovo.
“Even if there are big problems, I think life has a good rhythm here,” the writer said during a 2014 visit.
“I can be alone here. I can hide. I can walk very hidden behind the hills,” he added.
Handke’s elevation to Nobel laureate has also been painful for many Bosnian Muslims, as he is accused of questioning the genocide in Srebrenica, where Bosnian Serbs slaughtered 8,000 Muslim men and boys in 1995.
On Wednesday he was formally barred from Bosnia’s capital Sarajevo, where the regional government said his appearance would “provoke the anger and humiliation” of war victims.
Yet he is still welcome to visit the Serb-run zone that spans nearly half of Bosnia’s territory — a legacy of the war that left the country carved up along ethnic lines.
On Tuesday Handke told RTRS, the public broadcaster in Bosnia’s Serb-run region that he would like to visit “in the spring.”
Handke has defended his work and denied any allegiance to the late Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic.
Critics say Handke made his loyalties clear by speaking at the funeral of Milosevic, who died in 2006 while on trial in The Hague for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Handke’s 1997 book “A Journey to the Rivers: Justice for Serbia” was also accused of minimizing Serb war crimes.
But among Serb fans, Handke is still celebrated for taking note of their suffering during the conflicts and challenging the narrative that Serbs were the sole aggressors in the wars.
In Belgrade, one politician suggested creating a human rights prize in Handke’s name on Wednesday.
Handke was one of “very few who searched for the truth during the 1990s,” said MP Mirjana Dragas, describing the author as a “brave, but above all great, novelist.”