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Mainstream, VOL LVI No 45 New Delhi October 27, 2018

Need for Reconciliation with Justice: Babri Demolition and aftermath

Sunday 28 October 2018


by Ram Puniyani

In a recent judgment, the Supreme Court by a 2-1 majority verdict refused to refer the Dr Faruqui verdict to the Constitution Bench. This verdict had stated that the mosque was not an essential part of Islamic practice. In the recent judgment the dissenter judge felt that the matter needs to be referred to a seven-judge Consti-tution Bench. There was a feeling that “the mosque not being a part of essential Islamic practice” might have had an impact on the 2010 Allahabad Court verdict which had divided the Babri mosque land into three parts, belonging to the Sunni Waqf Board, Ram Lalla Virajman and Nirmohi Akhada. The argument in favour of the Faruqui case was that Namaz can be offered in an open place as well; so mosque was not an essential part of Islamic practice. On the other side the argument is: worldwide there are so many mosques, why are mosques there if this is not a part of Islamic practice? Surely this point did deserve a deeper consideration as it has larger implication on society.

Now the path is paved for the hearing of the land dispute related to the Ayodhya case. Though the Allahabad High Court had divided the land into three parts, the basis of that were not the land records but the faith of a large number of Hindus that Lord Ram was born there. How do we solve land disputes; through land records or through the faith of the people? This faith has been an outcome of the political campaign for the Ram temple orchestrated by the RSS combine, led initially by the VHP and later by the BJP. Can this faith determine the direction of or the judicial system?

As far as claims of the Ram temple having been destroyed there over five centuries ago are concerned, this is very doubtful. One recalls that the time when the Ram temple was supposed to have been demolished, one of the biggest devotees of Lord Ram, Goswami Tulsi Das, was living in Ayodhya. He never recorded it in any of his writings. On the contrary, Tulsi Das, in one of his couplets writes: that he has and can very well live in a mosque. The faith that Lord Ram was born there has been constructed over a period of time, intensified during the last few decades.

One of the great documentary film-makers of our times, Anand Patwardhan, in his classic documentary Ram ke Naam (In the name of Ram), shows as to how so many Pujaris (Priests) of so many Ram temples in Ayodhya claim that Lord Ram was born in their temple. The period of mythology cannot easily be deciphered into the narrations of history.

Now we are confronted with other problems. One is the crime of installing Ram Lalla idols into the mosque, which is very well recorded. We know of the historical circumstances leading to the failure to remove the idols immediately. This was thwarted by the local magistrate K.K. Nayyar, who after his retirement joined the BJP’s predecessor, Bharatiya Jana Sangh. The second crime, the one of demolition of the mosque in broad daylight, despite the undertaking by the UP Chief Minister to the Supreme Court, is very well known. The Liberhan Commission, which went into the issue, tells us that it was a conspiracy. BJP leaders Lal Krishna Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Uma Bharati, who were on the stage from where kar sevaks were being incited, did enjoy the rewards of the crime as they were made Ministers in the Central Government. What is happening to the dictum ‘punish the guilty’?

The nation witnessed journalists being beaten and their cameras being broken when they were recording the act of the crime. Surely, those who committed the crime of demolition must be punished. Second, the land dispute needs to be sorted out on the basis of land records. The land has been in possession of the Sunni Waqf Board for centuries. In 1885, the Court did not permit the Hindus for construction of a chabutara (platform), in the land adjoining the mosque. Even now the land records should be clear on the issue. There are attempts by some to bring in ‘peaceful solution’ ‘through out of court settlement’ of the issue. Some of these initiatives are totally articulating what the RSS combine wants. They are asking Muslims to forego their claim on the land to let the temple come up there. In lieu of that they will be given land to build the mosque somewhere else. There are also threats that through a legislation of Parliament a temple will be constructed there, when the BJP gets suitable majority.

Reconciliation is a process where both parties are listened to and with some ‘give and take’ the issue is undertaken for resolution. This formula to give up all the land for temple construction is a very high-handed attempt to browbeat the Muslims into total submission. What we need is an honest attempt to punish the guilty and abide by the law to solve the problem. There can’t be peace without justice. The crime of the Babri demolition is being presented as a ‘Hindu Shaurya Divas’ (Hindu Bravery Day) by the RSS combine. As such it is a shame for our democracy! It is an outcome of the divisive communal politics, throwing our society into the dark abyss of stagnation and diversion. Our core issues relate to bread, butter, shelter and employment. The RSS combine has built its social and political strength around emotive issues like the Ram temple and Holy Cow at the cost of the genuine issues of society. We do need to build hospitals and schools; we do need to build industries for giving employment. The Ayodhya issue coming up at the time of the forthcoming elections is so unfortunate. Rather than discussing the core issues of society, what will be at the centre-stage will be the question of temple and mosque! How we as a nation can bring back the people’s agenda should be the central concern for all those committed to march towards a society with equality as the central focus.

The author, a retired Professor at the IIT-Bombay, is currently associated with the Centre for the Study of Secularism and Society, Mumbai.

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