By Sanjay Jha
The clamor to share the news of victory spoils of a six-decade long religious dispute by irrationally exuberant lawyers typified the chaotic, raging passions behind the centuries-old subject. Since the historical narration of events in chronological order since the days of Emperor Babar has already been thoroughly documented in several media essays, it is pertinent to immediately come to the critical question following the controversial Allahabad High Court verdict of September 30’th 2010 : Does India truly believe that it can move on and ahead ?
My personal views :
1) 3 out of 10 Muslims in India lives below the poverty line, and one third earn below Rs 550 a month, thus we miss the woods for the trees if we are naïve enough to delude ourselves that the India of 2010 is really very different from that of 1992. Poverty has perpetuated itself, income disparities rule. Ironically enough, yesterday there were several news- scrolls talking about Mukesh Ambani’s latest top billionaire ranking. A booming Sensex and GDP growth of 9% is meaningless in the absence of fair distribution; it does not detract from the germane, irrefutable fact, has the economic lot of the Muslims truly changed even as India accelerates heavily on the foot-pedal of world commerce ? And remember, religion becomes a comforting cocoon of the vulnerable dispossessed.
2) Was not the contemptible act of December 1949, when through blatant mischief ( courtesy a communal bureaucrat) a Ram Lalla statue was suddenly placed inside the Babri mosque ( claiming the miraculous appearance of the Hindu legendary god-king ) , the triggering point of the whole Babri Masjid –Ram Janambhoomi problem in post-Independent India ? How can the Indian courts quietly condone that flagrant violation of mutual respect for each other’s religious abode? Are not all political parties guilty of willful negligence ? Why did the Allahabad High Court ignore such damning transgressions?
3) Once again in February 1986 there was a surprisingly swift verdict given by the local district judge allowing worship to happen in the Babri Masjid ( otherwise locked for several decades) which was in synchronicity with fast-changing political dynamics of the country. Was that not a motivated parochial decision , and thus have we not made Muslims a sacrificial pawn on our political chessboard?
4) The Shilanayas performed in 1989 , even if on an undisputed location was a tacit endorsement of Hindu territorial claims, and ended up encouraging belligerent nationalism over the Ram Janambhoomi issue. Did not all mainstream parties play the communal card all along? Can we really blame the Muslim community from believing that they are truly part of India’s “ Minority Report? ”.
5) We are all aware of the fact that it was the Congress party’s knee-jerk over-reaction to the Shah Bano verdict that encouraged the BJP to rouse sentiments on the Ram Janambhoomi issue. The whole rath-yatra , the subsequent communal riots and senseless bloodshed that followed was a political strategy that exploited religious vulnerabilities. Thus, does the High Court judgment end up unwittingly perhaps playing into a political minefield by legitimizing the communal designs of our devious national leaders ? Is that fair? If god forbid, there is an eventual backlash, should we be surprised?
6) The fully orchestrated destruction of Babri Masjid in December 1992 via a militant mob of 200, 0000 led by the senior patriarchs of the Sangh Parivaar was universally condemned. But tell me, where does tolerant Hinduism unequivocally or nebulously state that we Hindus should practise our religious chores after destroying a sacred place of worship of another religion? Does not that stand against the very principles of a religion that has several gods, besides Lord Ram ? Is not yesterday’s “ triumph” specious?
7) The quiet burial given to the much-delayed Liberhan Commission’s findings is symptomatic of how India’s political parties have played havoc with minority sentiments in India. Can you genuinely blame the Muslims for being so callously short-charged as even those who have been severely indicted have faced no real criminal prosecution? That the political master-minds of the Babri rubble- plot are now making grandiose plans of a Ram temple must be surely disquieting. Incidentally, what about the Sri Krishna Commission’s report on the Mumbai riots? Are we not living in a fool’s paradise to believe that all that can be just conveniently forgotten?
8) Please do not take the immediate peaceful aftermath of the Ayodhya verdict to mean “ all is well”; that will be profusely myopic. What such arbitrary judgments ( I refer to the emphatic conclusions on some matters highly subjective and faith-related such as Lord Rama’s birth-place) can do is to gradually convert the large mass of borderline Muslim youth into instant hardliners. The damage inflicted is usually imperceptible, and worse, incalculable. We might end up paying a huge price in the long-run.
9) For any minority community, the ultimate last resort of fair justice is the land’s judicial system. It is still early days to utter such spontaneous blandishments as “ judicial statesmanship”. Is the split 1/3 rd verdict finally just a crude mathematical formulae for an amicable solution? Is it any surprise that both the Sunni Waqf Board and the Nirmohi Akhara are all pleading to the Supreme Court , each believing that they have been unduly done in , even if the Hindus seem to have stolen the initial advantage ? Expect hardening of positions, and a more acrimonious exchange.
10) There are a lot of seasoned analysts , social commentators and other intellectuals who seem to believe that with the Supreme Court likely to take years to resolve the complex intractable imbroglio , the Ayodhya issue will die a natural death or at least lose its popular mass-base. I think it is a rather superficial presumption for three reasons; firstly, as we all discovered on September 30’th , the nation came to a virtual standstill on the subject even 18 years after its disturbing planned demolition. Expect the same or higher intensity of followers as a whole new generation has now been re-educated on that history lesson in a frenzied world of several media platforms, besides television. Secondly, the Supreme Court may not take that long to come to a final decision. In fact, it might take as early as a mere two years. Thirdly, economic emancipation, social amelioration and material success is not directly related to religious tolerance. Terry Jones, the US pastor is not the only religious fanatic in the Unites States, which corners 27% of the world’s economic output.
Bottomline: India does not possess the political leadership with the apposite moral fiber or the necessary will-power amongst its key battling constituents to create a national reconciliation. Frankly, all that talk is total humbug , wishful thinking and vastly impractical ( I would love to be surprised though). The judicial process, irrespective of its risky assessments on matters as sensitive as religious faith, is therefore by pure fait accompli , our only logical recourse. Even if Lord Ram Lalla himself has to become a legal claimant! Or we ending up creating perennial holy structures side by side , a symbol of either our strong secularism or an unhappy property –dispute resolution. The Supreme Court it is then!
Over to you , My Lord ( pun intended) !