Future hangs in balance - Kuldip Nayar - October 8, 2010

Source : www.dawn.com

NO doubt there has been peace and tranquillity in India after the judgment on the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi dispute. But the credit for this must go to the Muslims.

|Although generally sullen, the Muslims have abided by their earlier declaration that they would accept the court’s decision and go to the Supreme Court if they felt aggrieved, which they have once again said they would do.
magine if the verdict had gone against Hindutva elements. Would they have kept quiet? Even when the verdict is not wholly in their favour, their posture is that of victors. There is nothing to suggest that they have taken the judgment in humility and in the spirit that may lessen the fears of Muslims. The difference between the approaches of the two is markedly clear.

Muslim organisations have said that they would accept the Supreme Court judgment as final. But no Hindu contestant has
made such a commitment, nor given even a vague assurance. This is, in fact, the nub of the matter. One community, the minority, says that it would abide by the rule of law and the other, the majority, gives no such promise.

It was a violation of the rule of law when Babri Masjid was destroyed in 1992. Even the Supreme Court’s directive to maintain the status quo was mocked. The UP state government, then headed by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), had no hesitation in conspiring to pull down the mosque. The then Prime Minister Narasimha Rao did little to stop the destruction.

Understandably, the Allahabad High Court judgment was deciding only a title suit and was not concerned with the demolition. Yet the fact remains that those responsible for the demolition are nowhere near punishment. The Central Bureau of Investigation has been going slow, as though there were orders from above. Had the government pursued the demolition case vigorously, the cynicism of those who believe that the present judgment is “a balancing act” would have looked out of place.
The judgment does not in any way lessen the crime of the mosque’s demolition. I am glad to find L.K. Advani repeating that it was “a shame”. But he is responsible for another matter of shame: politicising a religious dispute. He is the one who led a rath from Somnath temple to Ayodhya. The many innocents that died in the wake of his yatra should be on his conscience. Yet he still says that his stand on Ayodhya has been vindicated.

Advani and the entire Sangh Parivar should offer apologies to the Muslims for the rath yatra on the one hand, and the demolition on the other. This may help restore part of the community’s confidence, because Muslims increasingly believe that they do not get equal treatment in a country which established a democratic, secular polity after winning independence 63 years ago.

The judgment has accepted the plea that a matter of belief can develop into legal proof if it persists for a long time. The place where idols were stealthily placed in 1949 has been declared the birth place of Lord Rama. The makeshift temple established after the mosque’s demolition has also been recognised and allotted to Hindutva forces.

The judges have their own arguments. Still, the verdict has legitimised a new thesis whereby faith or belief becomes fact without evidence. Mere antiquity is enough. In a way, theology has taken precedence over legal jurisprudence. It could have opened a Pandora’s box of claims and counter-claims but parliament probably foresaw the danger. It did well to enact a law in 1993 to forbid the reopening of any dispute or claim over religious places that existed in India on Aug 15, 1947.

In spite of this law, some Hindu extremists want to reopen the arrangements at Mathura and Varanasi. At both places, the temple and the mosque stand side by side with even the aarti and azan taking place at the same time.

In a way, the judges have provided for a similar type of opportunity at Ayodhya. They have given one-third of the 2.7-acre site to the Sunni Waqf Board, Nirmohi Akhara and the Ram Janmabhoomi supporters. The division is to take place in the next three months unless the Supreme Court decides on a stay if and when any party approaches it.

It would have been ideal if the mosque were built on one-third of the site on one side, extending the premises to the opposite side of the Ram Janmabhoomi, where the makeshift temple stands. Similarly, the temple could be built on one-third of the area, as allowed by the court, but spreading to the opposite side of the proposed mosque. Between the two, the ‘wrestling ground’ also given one-third of the site could have been located.

But, unfortunately, this is not acceptable to the Sangh Parivar. The BJP has led the demand for the remaining portion of the site. But this is not possible if the BJP and its supporters continue to ride on their high horse. They would have to persuade the Muslims for such a proposition.

The entire site should be cleared and left vacant. At Hiroshima, one patch of land has been kept vacant. People go there as pilgrims and weep over the killing of thousands. The vacant site of Ayodhya would become a hallowed site where people could go and cry over the demise of secularism on Dec 6, 1992.

The judgment gives pause to the raging differences between Hindus and Muslims; it gives them time to introspect. Do they take the same road which they traversed since independence? How do they face the future which is that of science, technology and economic development?

They cannot remain prisoners of prejudices because they follow different religions. This is another opportunity to strengthen our secular ethos and face the question of why Indians as a nation have failed to establish the secularism to which they swore after winning freedom.

The writer is a senior journalist based in Delhi.

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