Notwithstanding several flaws, the
judgment of the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court on the
six-decade-old Ayodhya dispute does have a positive side.
But, first, the defects. A major one is the acceptance of the
presence of the Ram idols in the now demolished Babri Masjid as
genuine proof of the right of ownership by the deity.
In the process, the verdict legitimises the clandestine manner in
which the idols were smuggled into the mosque under the cover of
darkness in December 1949 by a Hindu outfit, which obviously
represented the ultra-right elements in the community. As such,
they cannot be accepted as true, law-abiding representatives of
the Hindus. They were, in fact, mischievous pranksters bent on
If such a secretive and provocative act is sanctioned by law, then
all property-owners will have to live in fear of being suddenly
upstaged by prowlers in the night.
It isn't surprising, therefore, that the illegal intrusion into a
private domain led to the destruction of the mosque itself four
decades later by a violent mob. Needless to say, one act of
lawlessness was bound to be followed by another, which was clearly
the purpose of the original kar sevaks although this term, which
earned notoriety during the demolition in 1992 (also in December),
was hardly known in the earlier period.
From the acceptance of the Ram idols as the rightful proprietors
of at least a portion of the disputed site - the case was fought
by the fundamentalist Hindus in the name of the god - it was
inevitable that the court would also rule in favour of the claim
that the mosque was built on the birthplace of Ram although the
assertion that it was constructed after destroying an existing
temple was not accepted.
Since Ram is not a historical, but a mythical, figure, the strange
nature of the claim is obvious. It has also to be remembered that
Ram is not regarded with the same degree of reverence all over
India. In south India, for instance, his arch-enemy Ravan in the
epic Ramayan has more admirers.
As is obvious, these are not fanciful interpretations but
political ones. The Ram-Ravan enmity is seen in the south to
represent the Aryan-Dravidian divide. This view explains why there
are no objections in the south, as there are in the north, to the
breaching of the so-called Ram Sethu between India and Sri Lanka
for the sake of a navigation channel.
The point is that the claim about the disputed site in Ayodhya
being Ram's birthplace was - and still is - a political gambit of
the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which used it in the 1990s to
boost its sagging fortunes. Religion has nothing to do with it.
By ignoring the political angle, the judgment has seemingly turned
a blind eye to the destruction of the mosque by the latter-day kar
sevaks, which was also intended to spark off Hindu-Muslim riots in
the hope of mobilising the Hindu voters for the BJP. Considering
that virtually the entire country was shocked and shamed by the
vandalism, the judgment has passed over a vital part of the story
and given an unexpected reprieve to the BJP.
It is doubtful, however, whether the latter will be able to make
use of it. As the absence of any overt tension in the aftermath of
the long-awaited verdict shows, India today is very different from
what it was in the '90s. Now, it has a large, voluble and
confident middle class which is more interested in the Rupee than
in Ram. Its market-driven lifestyle has no time for riots.
It is possible that L.K. Advani, the rath yatri or chariot-rider
of the '90s tried to ascertain whether the communal game can again
be played by visiting Somnath from where he had set out on his
Toyota 'rath' (chariot) for Ayodhya in 1990. But he must have
realised by now that the temple card no longer has any value for
Ironically, although the judgment has allowed the party and the
Hindutva brotherhood to build their cherished temple at
Ramjanmabhoomi, neither the BJP nor the Sangh Parivar led by the
Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) is gloating over it. Instead,
the RSS chief, Mohan Bhagwat, has said that the verdict should not
be seen in terms of victory or defeat.
Who would have thought that two decades after the saffronites
raised the slogan 'mandir wohin banayenge' (we'll build the temple
there), the legal sanction has brought them no joy.
This is where the judgment has a positive side because, by
declining to probe too deeply into the past, it has created an
atmosphere where the two communities can live in peace - as they
once prayed together in the Babri Masjid before 1949, as the
verdict has pointed out.
If the judgment can really defuse communal tension, it will be a
blow against the fundamentalists on both sides and help India to
continue with its success story.
is a political analyst.
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