The Gods, Ram and Rahim have had their way, say and come out trumps. The Ayodhya dispute which had became synonymous with Hindu-Muslim tensions and repeatedly frayed India’s secular fabric is finally settled. The nation has moved on. Serenading the triumph of the rule of law and judiciary. ‘Ishwar Allah tero naam, sabko sanmati de bhagawan.’
India’s ‘temple of justice’ Supreme Court delivered a historic unanimous 1045-pages judicial judgment after 69 long years of political and court battles on Saturday. The 5 judge Bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said the rights of the 2.77 acre disputed plot in Ayodhya where the Babri Masjid stood before it was razed in 1992 was indeed the birthplace of Lord Ram and will be handed over to the deity Ram Lalla who is one of the three litigants in the case. The possession of the land, however, will remain with the Central Government which will set up a trust within three months to oversee construction of the temple.
The Muslims will get “alternate land” a five-acre plot of land elsewhere for a mosque, thereby putting to rest the Sunni Waif Board claims that as the disputed structure was built by Babar they alone had lien on the land. Happily, the Board has negated the idea of filing a review petition.
Importantly, the Court has rubbished the Allahabad High Court’s legally tenuous attempted compromise of dividing the disputed site into three parts among the Hindus, Nirmohi Akhara and the Sunni Waif Board. Succinctly, the Court has put a closure on an issue that has been on the agenda of a moderately modernist, forward-looking nation since the late 1980s.
Certainly, this is music to the Ram Bhakts led by the Sangh Parivar’s fountainhead RSS and its affiliates. For the BJP it is a validation and culmination of it decades long fight for construction of a temple for Lord Ram on the site of the Babri Masjid. The Party obviously hopes to derive political mileage out of the judgment, despite its muted mature response.
Remember it all began with then BJP President Advani’s Rath Yatra from Gujarat’s Somnath temple on 25 September which culminated in Ayodhya October 1990. The Yatra caused an outpouring of both religious and militant sentiments among Hindus, and became one of India’s biggest mass movements.
But it also triggered religious violence with riots across North India. As a result, Advani was arrested by the Bihar Government following which the BJP withdrew support to VP Singh’s National Front Government. The demolition of the Masjid on 6 December 1992 altered the political landscape, strained communal ties and is still combustible enough to re-ignite temperatures.
Predictably, the Yatra propelled the BJP on the back of religious polarisation and over the years its Ram strategy paid rich dividends and it made significant electoral gains in every election and since 2014 occupies India’s Raj gaddi.
In a sense, the Ayodhya dispute with its political undertones, underscores the nemesis of depending wholly and pathetically on the judicial process to tackle an issue of faith. It is to the Court’s credit that it pierced the veil of the politicization of the Ayodhya demolition, overtly by BJP and covertly by Congressand others, and is treating it as a property dispute.
Significantly, there are five lessons to be learnt from the Ayodhya battle. One, the people have shown their inherent maturity. There were no untoward incidents, fiery and inciting speeches, celebration or despondency. Asserted Prime Minister Modi, “this verdict shouldn’t be seen as a win or loss for anybody….It is imperative that we strengthen the spirit of Rashtra Bhakti.” The Congress welcomed the verdict and though disagreeing with it, the Sunni Board accepted it.
Two, the judgment will go a long way in becoming a catalytic agent to integrate India and make it a cohesive whole. Three, least, it will strengthen the basic features of the Constitution and the confidence of the people, especially of the minorities, on the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law. The judgment underscore that the judiciary is competent, not influenced by any considerations and has the courage to decide each and every sort of dispute, other than those which are recognised by the law of the land.
Four, the issue has lost its potency as a new generation considers it a non-issue and eagerly embraces the dawn of a resurgent vibrant emerging nation. Last but not the least, 26 years is a long time to heal wounds of hurt religious zeal. The protagonists of the Ram Janambhoomi movement have faded away and a brimming new Gen Next clueless about the religious portents now awaits a big push towards economic development.
The moot point: Does the Court’s expedience contain the potential for subversion of democracy and the equality of faiths guaranteed by the Constitution? Even as the verdict has given the land to Ram Lalla, it has not legitimized the movement to demolish the mosque. Thereby, reiterating the principle of equality that informs the Constitution.
Will the judgment be a soul cleanser for out netagan? Will they stop using religion as a hand maiden to serve their petty, parochial political ends? Importantly, it has driven the final nail in the coffin of our polity who has mastered the deceitful art of using religion per se as their vote-bank excelsior. Wherein the secularists, pseudo-secularists and communalists are all rolled into one.
Neither should we strain our secular credibility. Being secular does not negate religion or beliefs. Mahatma Gandhi prefaced his daily prayer meetings with Ram Dhun and repeatedly talked of bringing about Ram Rajya as the ultimate in good Government. He understood the dominant sentiment of India better than anyone else.
It is now time for the political Parties to close their ranks and re-dedicate themselves to a truly secular nation. There can be no two opinions that the developments at Ayodhya will alter the course of contemporary politics from which both the BJP and the Congress stand to gain as well as lose.
Clearly, the verdict allows both the State and its citizens to now focus on other matters pertaining to governance, development, social and economic prosperity, and the keeping of law and order. In fact, the temple can become a symbol of national unity if all castes and communities are involved in rebuilding it. After all, it was none other than Mohammad Iqbal who hailed Ram as Imam e Hind.
We need to remember that India is a pluralistic society where Hindus and Muslims have to live and die together. Those at the helm of governance must desist from showing a bias towards any faith as it could seriously strain inter-religious relations. People across all castes and communities are now craving for progress and development.
Undoubtedly, our polity has to desist from playing ducks and drakes with the aam aadmi’s religious beliefs, be it Ram Bhakti or Rahim Bhakti. It is only through sheer force of political will and authority that a Government can bring about communal harmony for the betterment of a future India. Can it deliver?