Temple Activists Rejoice Over Ayodhya Decision in India
On 6 December 1992 the Babri Masjid Mosque was destroyed in a political rally in Ayodhya, India. Since then the case has been steadily passing through the Indian court system. The court proceedings focused on the Hindu origins of the site against the Islamic Mosque destroyed in the rally. According to the Hindu faith, the god Rama was born at this location and so it is a very important pilgrimage place in addition to the Hindu temple that they claim existed at the site prior to the building of the mosque in 1528.
On 9 November 2019 the Supreme Court determined that the Islamic organisations headed by the UP Central Sunni Wakf Board could not prove religious exclusivity of the holy site and that Hindus had consistent religious connection to the site. The Supreme Court relied on archaeological evidence of a Hindu temple that predated the mosque that was unearthed in 2003 at the request of the court.
The court ruled that the entire area of the mosque be transferred to custodianship of the Hindu groups to build a new temple to Rama. Additionally, they ruled that the initial destruction of the mosque in 1992 was itself illegal and so ruled that the Babri Masjid Mosque be relocated and rebuilt in another plot of land given to the Muslim groups.
Eran Zedekiahu and Shimon Lev of The Forum for Regional Thinking have written that there are potentially powerful precedents set in this case to international law relevant in Al-Aksa Mosque. They argue that the parallels between the two situations point to a new legal precedent of removing religious sites built on top of older sites. I will call attention to the fact that historically across the world conquering nations would build new religious sites on top of older ones - a reality that was largely taken for granted in modern states as legal status quo.
Zedekiahu and Lev write that India and Israel are both moving toward national-religious identities and policies. This tendency brings out tensions in both societies where the Jewish and Hindu majorities are met with a Muslim minority - especially in places that are seen to have national and religious importance for both the majority and minority. They warn of potential escalations due to the political and legal climate that this decision can create.
The Temple activists in Jerusalem, however, are elated. The Joint Administration of the Temple Organizations has released an official statement saying, "The Supreme Court ruling in India has paved the way for us to build a Temple on the Temple Mount." Asaf Fried, the organization's spokesperson has stated, "We cannot allow the perpetual theft and robbery of the place of our temple and the building of a mosque on its ruins."
Whatever this new precedent leads to and how the Israeli court system will consider future cases in light of shifting international law is yet to be seen. For now, suffice it to say that the similarities are uncanny and even the activists sound similar.