By T S Sudhir
What he was denied by his stepmother Rani Kaikeyi, the Allahabad High court has granted Lord Ram. A place in Ayodhya. By law. The disputed structure is now legitimately 1/3rd Ram’s property. Where, going by this order, a temple can be built for him and prayers offered at what the devout believe is Lord Ram’s `birthplace’.
This Diwali in that sense, will be special. After all, people in north India celebrate the festival of lights to mark the triumphant return of Ram after 14 years in exile and after slaying Ravana in Lanka. This exile was much longer, close to 500 years, given that the Babri Masjid was, according to the Archaelogical Survey of India, built on what was reportedly a Hindu religious structure in questionable condition, sometime in 1528.
It is a triumphant return for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as well. The smiles on the faces of their leaders after the verdict, gave away their `I told you so’ smugness. Saffron leader Uma Bharti interpreted the judgement as a vindication of their `struggle to build a temple’.
Indeed, the talk of building a “grand temple” at the very spot has resurfaced. Ram has emerged like a phoenix from the electoral ashes the BJP had been consigned to, in the last two elections. The judgement will give BJP hope and courage to travel from Ayodhya 2010 to Delhi 2014 via Lucknow 2012. With the blessings of `Jai Shri Ram’.
The judgment, certainly one of the most keenly awaited, feared and discussed in recent history, has left many confused, bewildered, some happy, even overjoyed and some angry and seething with rage. A variety of emotions depending on which side you are, what faith you practise and what you think is good for India@2010.
Lawyers I spoke to, rubbished parts of the judgement, suggesting the court seemed to be only interested in somehow conjuring up a compromise peace formula than legally arriving at a conclusion. How else, they argued, could they gloss over the fact that a mosque existed there for over 400 years. How could they hand over the garba griha to Ram Lalla and the Hindu community even when they admit the idols were placed under the middle dome of the mosque on the intervening night of December 22-23 in 1949.
Eminent lawyer Rajeev Dhawan called it a “patchy job”. And, when none of the litigants asked for the property to be divided thus, why did the court divide the heart of the Hindu-Muslim dispute.
Yes, admittedly the judgement can be faulted on many legal counts but what it does for me, as an Indian, is that it provides a balm to a wound that has festered for two decades now. Political parties, for their own vested interests, have not allowed medical attention.
In many ways, the judgement is like a balance of equities. It wouldn’t have helped if the court had handed over the entire area to either community. This division of property actually is the most non-controversial way of handling the tricky property dispute and perhaps the best way to move towards closure of the case. Exactly what India needs.
But India won’t get that lucky. Our netas won’t let that happen. BJP leaders are already suggesting that in the spirit of reconciliation, the Muslim community should give up its claim even on the 1/3rd that it has been granted by the court and allow the construction of a “bhavya mandir” at the “Ram Janmasthan”. The Muslims, they say, can build a “grand mosque” at another spot.
The Muslims bristle at the suggestion terming these as “subtle threats”. They say it is galling that Hindus, even after committing the “criminal act of desecrating a mosque, is rewarded with a share of the property”. Clearly the flashback still clouds the present and the future. Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi said the Muslim community has lost the battle but the war can still be won.
For the non-BJP parties, it serves as an excellent opportunity to indulge in minorityism. The Congress lost heavily because PV Narasimha Rao as prime minister fiddled helplessly as Babri Masjid was brought down. It took the party more than a decade to regain some of the angry Muslim votebank. As an aggressive BJP looks to ride once again on Lord Ram’s chariot, the Congress will look to return to the pre-1992 connect with the minorites. Politicians know it better than anyone else that polarisation always fetches rich electoral dividends. This would be tested in the lab of UP elections, less than two years from now.
Commentators have suggested the easy solution. That why not build a temple and a mosque, side by side. Like it is in different parts of India. Like a Sabarimala, where Lord Ayyappa devotees visit the shrine of Vavar, said to be Ayyappa’s Muslim commander, before trekking uphill to the main temple. Or like Ayodhya pre-1857, where at this same place, Hindus and Muslims used to pray together.
My colleague Nazir Shaik says when no one bothers about the hundreds of temples and mosques lying in decrepit condition, where no one prays, why should Indians fight to pray only at the 2.77 acre plot. But in the cacophony of political loudspeakers, such common sensical reasoning is unlikely to find volume. Because when religions `compete’, it is usually a case of `my temple’s gopuram has to be bigger than your minaret or the other way round’.
It is absolutely certain that most parties will go to the Supreme Court and perhaps in a way, it will help India. Voices today have shown political India hasn’t moved much beyond 1992. It will do no harm if the apex court takes its own time to study the case. This country needs another generation or two to pass before 6th December becomes just another date in the winter calender.
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