The legal battle and dispute over the Ram Janmabhoomi site in Ayodhya has got further complicated with a new twist in the tale. A writ petition filed by Vineet Kumar Maurya, an Ayodhya resident, was admitted and tagged along with the 13 other appeals pending against a 2010 verdict of the Allahabad High Court. A three judge bench of the Allahabad High Court had divided the 2.7-acre disputed Ram Janmabhoomi site between the three main parties- the Nirmohi Akhara, the Sunni Waqf Board and the deity, Shri Ram Lalla Virajmaan. A flurry of appeals was made to the Supreme Court following this High Court verdict. Finally, in December 2017 the Supreme Court began the final hearing on the dispute. All the intervention applications were dismissed by the apex court, however, this petition has been accepted and tagged along with the other appeals. Maurya’s lawyer has stated that, “I was very sure that our petition will be admitted because we have not asked for anything for ourselves.” This is the first Buddhist petition to be admitted in this dispute and it urges the apex court to direct the government “to declare disputed land in question as Ayodhya Buddha Vihar” under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958.
Buddhist presence in Ayodhya has been a contentious issue and the ASI reports confirm the Buddhist link to Ayodhya but whether Ayodhya is the same Buddhist Saket remains to be proven conclusively. Two other applications staking Buddhist claim on the disputed site had also been filed but were dismissed on the ground that there was no merit in their contention that the Babri Masjid was raised either by force or demolition on any Buddhist religious structure, which belongs to the Buddhist society. It is absurd as to why another petition has been made when the issue has already been settled conclusively by the apex court.
This petition is being seen with suspicion and as a politically motivated move. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad questioned the timing of this petition and Sharad Sharma, VHP spokesperson in Ayodhya, said that Maurya’s petition is motivated and should not have been admitted by the Supreme Court. He further added that, “This is a very serious matter. Already more than six decades have passed, and the admission of this petition will only cause further delay. Even if Buddha lived here, Ayodhya remains Ram’s town, it is only His birthplace.” Mahant Ram Das of Nirmohi Akhara, the oldest Hindu litigant in the case also expressed shock about this petition and stated that, “Where were they all these years? Moreover, it is a property dispute, they should have filed their plea in the Faizabad Civil Court, this seems to be another effort to scuttle resolution of the dispute and garner cheap publicity.”
The apprehension that this petition has been made only with the object of diluting Hindu claim and delaying Hindu interest in the disputed site is corroborated by the fact that certain Muslim parties in the case are relieved that the Supreme Court has admitted Maurya’s plea. Khalik Khan, a nominee of Maulana Mehfooz-ur-Rahman, a party in the title suit stated that the BJP and the VHP have been attacking Muslims for destroying a Hindu temple at the disputed site for construction of Babri Masjid but “now, that debate stands widened as Maurya’s plea argues that the mosque came up on a Buddhist site, and used artefacts like pillars that could be of Buddhist origin.” It is thus clear that this is a frivolous petition filed only with a political intention of diluting Hindu claim on the disputed land and bringing in a Buddhist claim.