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Sunday, September 26, 2010

Talks, not courts, can solve Ayodhya tangle

By Swapan Dasgupta

Last week, the Supreme Court offered a generous lifeline to the litigants in the Ayodhya dispute to make a last ditch effort to secure a negotiated, out-of-court settlement. The offer, in my view, had precious little to do with the diversion of security from the Commonwealth Games or, for that matter, the Bihar election. If courts had to consult the Home Ministry before delivering sensitive judgments, the work of the courts would come to a complete standstill and contentious issue would remain pending permanently. The subtext of the order to stay the Allahabad High Court judgment till September 28 at least was the tacit acknowledgment that what was at stake wasn't just a property title suit and that a compromise solution was the ideal way forward.

It is tragic that the two sides of the divide have refused to admit the wisdom of the Supreme Court advice. As of now, both are unanimous that they want the judgment delivered and both have blamed the Congress for manipulating a delay. If this intransigence persists, the Supreme Court may be left with no alternative other than vacating the stay and allowing the Allahabad High Court judgment.

The stubbornness of the two sides arises from different compulsions. For the Sunni Waqf Board and the Babri Masjid Action Committee, the judgment is worth the gamble precisely because they have nothing to lose: the Babri structure was demolished 18 years ago and the site, although nominally acquired by the Centre, hosts a Ram temple, as it has done since 1949. The Muslim leadership is aware that since possession of the site gives the Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas a distinct upper hand in any negotiations, it should await the judgment in the title suit. A victory in that matter won't lead to the removal of the Ram temple but it will establish a new benchmark for the future. More to the point, it will give moral legitimacy to the claim that the Hindu activists took over "inalienable" Waqf property illegaly. This in turn will allow the Muslim side to widen its political appeal and rope in Hindu liberals who, in any case, have an aesthetic abhorrence of the BJP, VHP and the sadhu samaj.

If the Muslim intransigence is centred on a calculated gamble, Hindu obstinacy is based on adventurist bravado. There are definite indications that the RSS leadership which exercises control over the VHP doesn't believe that the Allahabad High Court will rule against it under any circumstances. Whether this conviction is based on the inputs provided by over-zealous lawyers or something more profound is unknown. But it is a fact that the RSS and VHP have discounted the possibility of adverse judgments. Alternatively, they may even believe—and at least one BJP leader was indiscreet enough to admit this "off the record" to a media gathering—that political victory lies in legal defeat.

The assumption that an adverse verdict in the title suit will also suit the Hindu cause is based on the belief that it will trigger a wave of Hindu outrage which, in turn, will influence both politics and the ruling of the Supreme Court after the matter goes for appeal. This faith in the power of Hindu outrage may well explain why the gathering of Hindu religious figures decided last Friday to up the ante and advocate a maximalist position. The meeting apparently decided that the proposed Ram temple would cover the entire 70 acres acquired by the Centre and that "there could be no place for another mosque in Ayodhya, even outside the disputed place." Predictably, such posturing doesn't leave even any space for negotiations with the other side.

The problem with the VHP and the religious figures who endorsed such a position on the eve of a delicate judicial verdict is that they interact exclusively with the committed. This leads to imagining that their little ghettos constitute the whole world, a phenomenon common to political and religious extremists. The VHP appears to have overlooked the fact that while the Ram temple issue is possibly dear to huge numbers of Hindus, the consequences of faith are very complex. Without necessarily endorsing the facile and self-serving India-has-moved-on theory of pop sociologists, it is nevertheless true that any renewed Ram temple agitation won't have the same impact it did in the 1990s. If there is Hindu outrage it will be expressed with greater dignity than rioting. More to the point, it may result in widespread questioning of the claim of the likes of Ashok Singhal and Praveen Togadia to mirror Hindu sentiments.

At the colossal risk of being proved utterly wrong, it seems to me that both sides in the Ayodhya dispute have made a Himalayan blunder by shunning the Supreme Court's offer of last-minute salvage. True, no negotiations can yield results in just five days. Yet what was achievable was the recognition that neither side can achieve total victory or inflict total defeat. If the Home Minister's cautionary statement last week was any accurate indication, the High Court may throw up an ambiguous verdict—victory for one side in the title suit and for the other side in the archaeological scrutiny—which could throw up a fresh set of intractable issues. India could do with a settlement where there are no obvious losers, something beyond the scope of law.

Sunday Pioneer, September 26, 2010


Anonymous said...

In the entire world , it is only in India that we Hindus are asking for restoration of our Temples. What is wrong in that and why should hindus feel apologetic about it ?

I repeat hindus should NOT offer to repair or build a single mosque in return within India. The very idea smacks of guilt which is totally unnecessary.

There are plenty of ancient Temples in India in serious need of facelift. A lot of Hindu Priests get some paltry pittance by way of earnings. Hindus' money & Temples collections ought to be ploughed back there not in further appeasements by way of mosques / mosque building.

This is the right opportunity for Hindus to crack the whip on Indian crypto christians & Indian evangelicals who have consistently been looting our Temples. Thirupathi being one of them.

Bottomline is never trust Indian politicians. Today Chandrababu Naidu makes some noises about "missing gold & money " in Thirupathi. As a chief minister he was also abusing & misusing his power.

All the rules get violated when aishwaryas & amitabh bachhans plan to pay a visit to the Lord. Recently Ambani family threw their arrogant weight around ordering the Temple Doors to be flung open as they allegedly " donate a lot ".

Anonymous said...

Excerpts from TR Jawahar's Editorial :-

" ... Hindu’s famed tolerance.... Tolerance pre-supposes knowledge of the thing tolerated. Now India is one of the few countries that have withstood the onslaught of proselytising faiths and retained its civilisational Hindu character. At 80% majority, Hindus still share space with those ‘tormentor’ faiths which however are seeking to expand their girth at the former’s expense. Now, does this tolerance stem from awareness of these motives and methods? Or from ignorance of them? Or is it sheer indifference? Why does a Hindu still put up with an intruding faith that incites his own kith and kin to ‘cross’ over? Or blow them up to satisfy an angry God? What is the tolerance limit? The answer lies in seeing how those faiths react if their flock is lured or otherwise targetted!

What is the Hindu’s understanding of secularism? Apart from the obvious universal inference that the State has no religion, a Hindu imputes an added codicil of equi-distance from all religions including his own to the point of even deprecating it. But what is the world-wide reality? Britain, the self-appointed civiliser of humanity, is proudly protestant. So is the US, the torchbearer of modernity and freedom. Europe is divided between Roman Catholic and Protestant, but is Christendom, all the same. Islamic nations are just that, oozing religion in every pore. Industrious Japan is Buddhist to boot and so is tiny Lanka. Yet most of these countries profess secularism. So what’s the difference? These nations talk of secularism with a firm footing on their religious identity. The moment that foundation is sought to be shaken, their secularism scoots. The Pope and his parivaar have made it a point to rue over secularism wherever he goes. The Ground zero controversy in New York is another proof of the pudding. Now is something wrong with secularism or a Hindu’s understanding of it?

Anonymous said...

Excerts cont'd:-

" A Hindu prides himself on being peace-loving and non-violent. But this has always been a violent world with history itself being written in blood. Much of this strife has been wrought by expansionist and exclusivist religions out to conquer the rest of humanity for the sake of their sole ‘true’ God. Such violence is a continuing phenomenon with terror and proxy wars replacing pitched battles. Whither non-violence in the face of such onslaught? Now, if non-aggression is non-violence, and I think that is the true meaning, Hindu India can be truly proud, for it has never invaded another land to spread Hinduism. But is impotence in the face of blatant aggression non-violence? Or is it just cowardice? Do the Saviour’s children show the other cheek in deference to their mentor? Do the mullahs and their minions take even imagined slights lying down?

The freedom struggle was not a civilisational uprising though Jinnah made it one for his co-religionists. The Ayodhya movement was perhaps the only such mobilisation, but its momentum too could not be sustained. That’s probably because those who rode the rath to Ayodhya for the sake of Rama soon rode on the road to Delhi for their own coronations leaving Rama in exile. But is it not also because Rama’s subjects feel their Lord can take care of Himself just as they are all busy taking care of themselves? Well, suffice to say that this is in sharp contrast to many nations with far lesser antiquity, which all still sought out their civilisational roots upon gaining political freedom!

...A Hindu cherishes colonial vestiges in all glee. Is it because he is forgiving or just forgetful? He indulges imperial impositions which were actually intended as insults. Is it owing to supreme sanguineness or servile stupidity? He swallows without a hiccup the history written by his conquerors. Is it because he has lost the faculty of inquiry or is just not interested? He pats himself for pluralism; But does this plurality actually refer to the many streams within Hinduism or should it be extended to non-inclusive faiths?

He is always the pacifist, rarely the activist, even when his all is at stake; ever the spectator, never the player, even when his own motherland becomes the playground. Has this mute-mode made Hindus morally superior or more miserable? "

ravinder said...

Swapan da,
How do you do this. How are you so adept at intentifying and characterising all the sides in the Indian political circus. I may not agree with your prescription but I do agree with your diagnosis. Are you so distant from the Organised Hindu Right because you are just too familiar with them. I admire your ability to stand your ground. Also looks like I have admired and agreed with you a tad too much so plese dont let all this go to your head. We need people who can voice the needs of the Unorganised Hindu Right.

Re. Swapan - "the High Court may throw up an ambiguous verdict—victory for one side in the title suit and for the other side in the archaeological scrutiny—which could throw up a fresh set of intractable issues."

- I dont understand this. See even I am expecting such a verdict and I think it is not a bad verdict. Babri bullshit had to be pulled down that much I agree. It was a historical need.

Whatever mosque comes up, if it purports to be a symbol of Islamist victory then it will always carry with it the possibility of being destroyed again. If it purports to be a symbol of victory for the legal system of India and of its ability to evolve then it certainly will be. The historical case is certainly Hindu and the current case is also Hindu but much much weaker since the temple is supposed to be a beakon not of our politics but of our spirit.

Also any Temple that comes up will always carry with it a stigma of being Rajas instead of Satva. The temple that does not comes up, can easily be used to preserve the dynamic tension that Hinduism and Islam must maintain in order for both to avoid having to kill each other without first evolving properly. In fact the temple that does not comes up can be used to promote the true Hinduism that of nationalist Hinduism which I believe would be a logical outcome of rajas tatva in hinduism. I mean wasnt it because of the inability of the rajas tatva in Hinduism that so many were converted in the first place. It would be right as well that the rajas tatav hindus gets back to the business handed over to them by history.

I admit I may sound a bit confuse and would be willing to be educated.

or am I just out of my mind... :D:D:D:D

Anonymous said...

Any person, any religion, works 8 hours a day, and meditates 1/2 hour a day.

To solve the Ayodhya tangle, it is more important to give the jobless jobs. Unfortunately economic growth in India is defined by number of billionaires, not by number living below the poverty line.

Bhanu Prasad said...

Great Analysis Swapan.

Any ruling in opposition to hindu camp will be a great boost for BJP.