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Mainstream, Vol XLVIII, No 43, October 16, 2010

Vindicating Faith, Undermining Law : New Socialist Initiative On the Ayodhya Judgement

Tuesday 19 October 2010

While welcoming the restraint shown by the people from different communities in recent times and their desire to turn a new page of life, the New Socialist Initiative (NSI) is of the strong opinion of the need to judge whether this peace has come with honour or been achieved under coercion. The NSI, a collective aimed at regeneration of revolutionary socialist politics, feels deeply concerned about the recent develop-ments on the legal front around Ayodhya which has the possibility of putting all constitutional provisions centring around secularism, democracy in jeopardy.

Ayodhya, which has been a long-time symbol of our composite heritage, was besmirched 18 years ago when a five hundred-year-old mosque was demolished by vandals belonging to the communal fascist formations, stands besmirched once again. The recent judicial verdict looking into the title suit of the land where once the five hundred-year-old Babri mosque stood demons-trates this.

The verdict given by the three-member Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court has effectively turned the suit of the ownership of land into a property dispute between three parties and emphasised people’s beliefs and sentiments as opposed to actual facts to be clinching factors in deciding a case. This celebration of faith as opposed to law or theology as opposed to hard scientific evidence could be considered a new low in the judicial history of independent India. Interestingly the Court on the one hand has dismissed the petition by the Sunni Waqf Board, which had the full possession of the land earlier, and in the final judgement decided to give it a third portion of the said land.

It appears that the judgement delivered is not based on sound legal principles and was driven by the point of settling the long simmering dispute between the two communities at any cost. It is being rightly called a ‘Panchayati’ judgement where the word of the arbitrator/mediator is supposed to be final. It is a bit surprising that the honourable judges did not take into consideration previous important cases to deliberate on the issue. The historic Shahidganj Gurudwara (Lahore) case was one such case during the pre-partition days wherein ultimately the Privy Council decided (1940) in favour of the actual possessors of the land, namely, the Sikhs and dismissed claims by the Muslims that the said Gurudwara was a mosque sometime ago.

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With this judgement the jubilation in the camp of the Hindutva brigade is understandable. The verdict has vindicated their long standing demand that matters of faith are above any law and jurisprudence. With near victory in sight, they have even started raising other contentious issues between the two communities and even demanded that Muslims should similarly rescind their claims on Mathura and Varanasi and thousands of other similar cases. Thus it is disturbing to note that the judgment has given a new lease of life to the politics of Hindutva which had of late faced tremendous reverses.

Much on the lines of the Supreme Court judgement in the late nineties which called Hinduism a way of life and provided a new legitimacy to the exclusivist project of Hindutva, this judgement by the Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court which upholds majoritarian claims and disregards justice would be discussed for a long time to come.

The New Socialist Initiative is of the opinion that looking at the tremendous import this judgement is going to have on the future trajectory of independent India and the sine qua non of the Indian Constitution, namely, secularism and democracy, it is high time that the matter be referred to a larger Bench of the Supreme Court and it be asked to deliberate on the issue at the earliest. We understand the underlying concern exhibited by a section of people from the anti-communal front to ‘seize the moment’ so that inter-communal relations reach a new level of amity and cooperation but also want to caution them about the real designs of the majoritarian forces. We appeal to every peace, justice loving and forward looking person in this part of the earth to continue to raise the voice of sanity and gear up unitedly for a protracted struggle in defence of secularism and democracy.

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