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Friday, October 1, 2010

Not the time for bigotry

The verdict should end a troubled chapter

By Swapan Dasgupta

At its simplistic best, the most significant feature of the much-awaited Allahabad High Court verdict is that it has overturned the only other judgment of the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute: a Faizabad district court verdict of 1886. At that time, confronted by litigation that arose from Hindu-Muslim tension over the issue, district judge FEA Chamier ruled in March 1886: "It is most unfortunate that a Masjid should have been built on land specially held sacred by the Hindus, but as that occurred 356 years ago, it is too late to remedy the grievance."

On Thursday afternoon, a majority decision of a the three-bench court disagreed with the fundamental premise of Chamier. It held that because the Babri structure was built after demolishing a pre-existing Hindu temple in 1528, it couldn't really be regarded as a legitimate mosque, at least theologically. As such, it had absolutely no hesitation in endorsing the belief among large numbers of Hindus in the Awadh region that the disputed site was indeed the rightful inheritance of Ram bhakts. The High Court said that, ideally, the 70 acres of so of disputed property should be split three ways but that the Ram lalla (child Ram) idol should be allowed to remain at the site of what was earlier the central dome of the Babri Masjid.

The unambiguous verdict of the High Court was, to say the least, unexpected. Till Wednesday evening, the so-called secular forces and the Muslim leadership were insisting that the verdict would establish the majesty of the Constitution and the highlight the non-negotiable nature of the rule of law.

After the verdict, their enthusiasm is distinctly less pronounced. It has been suggested that the verdict is a tacit legitimization of both the installation of the idols inside the Babri Masjid in December 1949 and its dramatic demolition 43 years later. If the Babri structure was a non-mosque since its construction in 1528, the crime of the kar sevaks was the desecration of a medieval monument and not a place of worship.

Undoubtedly, this interpretation of the dispute is going to be contested in the Supreme Court. That a section of the Muslim community is unhappy with the judgment is obvious. But far more significant than that is the fury with which the judgment has been greeted by the secular modernists. Apart from contesting everything that the "eminent historians" have been suggesting about Ram being born in Afghanistan or somewhere else and about the Babri structure having been built on vacant rock, the judges have attached greater weight to the Archaeological Survey of India report and to the weight of local tradition.

This approach is certain to send the secular establishment into a complete tizzy. Without exaggerating the importance of this minusculity, it can safely be said that this lobby will be desperate to have their reputations salvaged by the Supreme Court. Therefore, even if a section of the Muslim community decides that there is little point persisting with the dispute and to settle for an honourable way out, there will be a powerful secularist e4stablishment urging the minorities to fight to the last.

The fight would have been worth it if there was a real danger that the Ayodhya verdict will open the floodgates of uninhibited majoritarianism and perhaps, even a Hindu Rashtra. Such fears are grossly exaggerated. One of the features of the organised Hindu camp to the verdict is the conscious show of restraint. The Hindutvavadis may have been pleased as punch that their central arguments were upheld by the court, but they have been very careful to not show it. This is on account of the realisation that India is not in a mood for confrontational politics and that, unlike the 1990s, belligerence will be politically counter-productive. The RSS, for example, is elated that the whole Ayodhya episode has elevated it to the status of being Hindu India's most visible face. It would not like to compromise on that.

There are no doubt maximalists on both sides who seek total victory for themselves and a total defeat for their adversaries. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad has many such elements in its leadership. Its demand, made only a few days before the verdict, that Hindus must have unhindered possession of all 70 acres of the disputed site and that no mosque should be located within the municipal limits of Ayodhya, suggest an astonishing degree of narrow mindedness which is dangerous for the country. If these bigoted elements start interpreting the verdict according to their convenience, it will be only a matter of time before the whole atmosphere of India is vitiated and the Hindus lose the moral advantage they have at present.

Persisting with the dispute and taking it to the Supreme Court may well be inevitable but there is considerable merit in treating the High Court judgment as a parallel plea for a compromise. The suggested partition of the 70 acres in three may seem a piece of legal innovation but its implications are more profound: a honourable settlement for both the Hindus and Muslims. If the local Hindus can retain possession of the garva griha—the epicentre of the dispute—there should be no objections to giving a share of the property to the Muslim community to either build a mosque or for any other purpose of its choosing. An open offer by the Hindu religious leadership to the Muslim community to bury the hatchet and come to an out-of-court settlement would be gesture of magnanimity, which is bound to be welcomed by a large section of the minorities.

It is important that quick steps are taken to allay all the misgivings of those who see themselves as the defeated side. There will be enough politicians and general busybodies who will suggest that the High Court verdict has menacing implications for all minorities—quite forgetting that the Places of Worship Act of 1991 make it impossible for an Ayodhya-type dispute to emerge in the future. There will be appeals to Muslim victimhood and the sinister suggestion that the community can never expect justice from a biased Hindu-dominated judiciary.

These are dangerous arguments but it is important to recognise that such whispers will resonate through the ghettos and will be fuelled by irresponsible websites. Minority egos are fragile and can easily be bruised. This makes it incumbent for Hindus to desist from triumphalism and instead show magnanimity and generosity. A unilateral Hindu offer to accommodate a mosque in the vicinity of the Ram temple will have a salutary effect. So far a section of the Hindu leadership has become captive to the proposed architecture of Prabhashankar Sompura, the man who designed the reconstructed Somnath temple in Gujarat, and whose son has designed the VHP version of the grand Ram temple. It would be better if some of the design is modified to factor in a larger sense of nationhood.

For the Hindus, the High Court verdict was a significant victory. Statesmanship demands that it shouldn't also be translated as a landmark Muslim defeat. The High Court verdict on Ayodhya should end a very troubled chapter of India's history and not initiate a new discord.

The Telegraph, October 1, 2010


Nirguna said...

Excellent analysis. Regarding Indian historians and their scholarship about Indian subaltern history, the less said the better. I remember reading an essay on subaltern history titled: "The Decline of the Subaltern in Subaltern Studies" by Sumit Sarkar, where he tries to analyse the reasons behind the inability of the historians of India to match popularity and effectiveness of the Ramjanmabhoomi activist's propaganda about the history of Ram. What he argues in the essay is that the pamphlets cited extensive historical facts about which the 'modern secular historians' of India had neither clue nor any counter argument. So much so, that their denial, of such propaganda, were based on plain ideology rather than scholarship and fact. It is but sad that academic exercises like citing or writing history too are politically and ideologically influenced. The marginalization of ASI by the Indian historians is also another matter which needs to be brought into the debate. I think that in an attempt to counter the nationalist historians or propaganda, what the academic historians in India have failed to do is good and sound history!

Being a practicing Hindu it gives me immense consolation that the 500 years of struggle has at least been able to legally prove an otherwise widely accepted and known fact. I bow before all those who have tirelessly worked hard to prove the point and to those who have laid down their lives for it.

Sridhar said...

Title-Kashmiri stone throwers and the Kar Sevaks who broke the Babri mosque:
How come it is Ok for Congress and the pseudo Secularists media and intellectuals to understand the angst and anger of the Kashmiri Stone throwers , reach out to them and understand their rebellion –Congress shamelessly prioritized reaching out to separatists ,traitors and openly anti national elements BUT failed to understand the anger of the Hindus for an issue which is close to their religious roots – If a court case does not deliver justice for 40 years - Can Congress or the pseudo secularists suggest an alternate method for Hindus to seek bonafides of the Ram Janmbhoomi? Assuming hypothetically – Ram lalla was not placed inside the mosque in 1949 and subsequent court cases not being filed and assuming Dec 1992 had not taken place at all- Is it ok for India and the pseudo secularists to live happily ,knowing that injustice to Hindus will be carried on in perpetuity (in the form of Hindus being denied a vital potion of their religious history).If Hindus hadn’t forcibly staked claim – would the media have pro bono taken up the cause and highlighted the plight of Hindus religious sentiments being snuffed out by a Muslim encroachment (which by the way, as we discovered yesterday, does not even have title rights on the land)? How are Kar sevaks different from the Kashmiri Stone throwers - both attracted attention to their cause - by creating and indulging in civil unrest , arson and vandalism. When an all-party delegation can travel to Kashmir to understand the issues of the minorities - But can’t/won’t make an effort to understand the issues of its own majority? It is even more bizarre that Congress and the pseudo secularists take massive efforts to understand motivations and sentiments of the anti nationals and separatists but brand devout patriotic Hindus who want their core religious identity preserved in the heart of India as Anti nationals who want to break the unity of India? How cruel is that? According to the secular fundamentalists media and the congress -BJP and RSS are a worse lot than Geelani and Hurriyat leaders?? What justice is that? How patriotic is that? Also, what is this shit about "India has moved on"- Is Ramayan not being taught in schools anymore, are Hindus born after 1992 natural born atheists? Are they not supposed to have religious sentiments of any sort? Rahul Gandhi's statement that Young India is bothered more about education and employment and not about the temple-is it even a mature statement as it is being heralded by the pseudo secular media – I think it is quite childish and quite basic in form and content? As if People born before 1992 were not worried about education or employment and only worried about the Ram temple? We seem to have done admirably well in spite of being a “Hindu” majority nation. Why is progress and Religious sentiment (only Hindu) mutually exclusive? Will Rahul Gandhi go to the tribal’s and advice them on employment, education and progress and be condescending of their religious sentiments- he will be the first to protect their rights to worship the tree, the boulder on their land or the river which flows through their land? But he is freewheeling about what is important or unimportant to the “Hindu youth” of this country? Will Mecca’s title deeds ever be questioned, will the title deeds of Jesus ‘s birthplace ever be questioned ?Will China or USA have dialogues with anybody wanting to cleave their country? In the name of democracy – this happens only in a Congress led India or is it a Congress bled India?

Vikas said...

The court has also said that the Mosque was constructed against the tenets of Islam.

I do not understand that how you and other secularists read endorsement of a Mosque on the disputed site in the HC judgment?

Hindus should help construct a mosque for national harmony but outside Ayodhya.

Avinash said...

Quite interesting to note that Justice SU Khan quoted Mr. Dasgupta's interesting phrase:'Ayodhya is a turning point where history refused to turn'. Just a fact.

JayKumar said...

Down fall for Nehruvian secularism and socialist ideology has started since yesterday noon from our country.

Historians (Romila Thapar, Ramchandra Guha)from JNU-Delhi are still struggling to identify whether the debris found beneath the mosque is Hindu temple or so what? So called historian from JNU tried they best to divert the whole topic from existence of temple to secular ideology of our country as they do it most of the time even they maligned the yesterdays verdict with secular credential which is practically not possible in any country in the world.

Answer to their curiosity will be answered even small child in our country how a temple can go beneath the mosque that too by Muslims invaders. This how we are been taught in our school days in our social science subject.

When Muslim country like Indonesia can have Hindu deities printed on their currency then why cant we preserve our identity?

Secularism is not our identity and it is not going to be in near by future as well.

To avoid confusion in SC better would be that litigants ask 1 bench judge to hear the whole case rather than having more than 1 as it was in HC or else once again all judges will have difference of opinion.

BJP_supporter said...

Well written, after a long time if I shall say so

You have touched all relevant points. The only absolutely defeated party after the verdict are the professional chest-beating secularists surviving on Nehruvian secularism and grants from that era. Some of them came on TV yesterday, but they do look old :-)

You have left out Congress in the analysis - a shah bano type reaction should not happen.

Anonymous said...

Excellent Article

What the Hindu Mahasabha can now do is propose a carving of the land and a package of compromise and put it in public domain.

Not one, but maybe two or three alternatives

This will either be have to be accepted by the other community or they will face the danger of being branded what the BJP was branded with for 18 years.

Bhairab said...

Let us not be so quick to denounce the Mahasabha appeal as a "maximalist", ergo, irrational position.

I suspect there will be many takers for this even amongst the Muslims who, if they lose, would rather part with the 1/3 land and walk away with their heads held high, than settle for a token. Many of them are contesting the idea that this was considered the birthplace of Sri Rama, and if that idea is upheld, they may be more than willing to give up the entire land. Let us encourage those elements rather than force a fait accompli of a partition.

Many oppose the building of the mosque (with the customary azaan) nearby on the grounds of aesthetics, rather than with the intention to cock a snook at Muslims. I hope you would appreciate that. But I agree that some sort of magnanimity needs to be shown if indeed this happens.

Finally, I have an idea which I hope you can popularise.. that the original artifacts mentioned in the ASI report -the pillars of the 11th century temple and the inscriptions - all be housed in a grand museum next to the Rama temple. Let the point of view of the eminent historians (DN Jha, etc.) also be placed in front of visitors. Let people be allowed to see the truth for themselves, and not be deceived by biased pseudo-liberals who keep hyphenating the word "controversial" whenever they refer to the ASI report.
I would name it the Satyameva Jayate Museum.

aniketvishwarupe said...

This is a very good article and I completely agree with the author. But do secularist forces want to challenge the verdict? Why would they risk hindu votes by saying that this verdict is anti muslim? I think both parties are sufficiently happy and RSS also says that they are glad that this chapter is over. If there are secular forces who want challenge the verdict then they are anti nationals. Thank you for nice article Mr. Swapan Dasgupta.

Nipun Jain said...

This period is no less than an acid test for BJP leadership. BJP will never get such a wonderful opportunity of winning back middle class Indians who were never anti-Muslim but always welcomed construction of Ram Mandir and Hindu identity. On the other hand, we will get to see the naked face of the appeasement politics in not so distant future. Biharis beware!

Amit Verma said...

A well written article based on unbiased view of judgement. I think it is time now that Muslims should accept the formation of Ram temple and bury the dispute.

One thing I fail to understand is how come so many people(politicians, journalist etc) have escaped the contempt of court accusations while they are discussing/dissecting the High Court Judgement.

Ashwin said...

Hi Swapan,

I might not be correct to say this, but it's quite disappointing to see the way anchors/intellectuals/journalists expressed their views on TV.

It's a court verdict and it should be followed in letter and spirit of the law by each Indian. If people on TV, are treating judgment as some kind of Panchayati Raj one, then they are more or less suggesting that India is nothing but a "Banana Republic". I would request people to be more restrained when they criticize a judgment, "even before reading it".

What happened in 1992 is not correct, but do we scratch old wounds is the question.

I would end it by mentioning the following

"Hayat Leka Chalo.. Kaayenat Leke Chalo....Chalo toh Saare Zamaane Ko Saat Lekar Chalo"

BJP_supporter said...

After proclaiming for several days that 'India has moved on', and screaming at 'Hindoos' to move on, the left liberals are revealing now that they are the ones who can not move on after the high court verdict!

Even among them, it is particularly NDTV that is still stuck, exhuming progressive liberal skeletons to come back and scream their crap.

The congress is asking for an appeal to supreme court and openly anticipating a quick stay of the high court verdict. In this, they are taking the position of the 'maximalists' on both sides. This, after the RSS welcomed the verdict with 'no side is winner or loser'.

Let us hope, if there is any 'Middle India' that has allegedly moved on, that this middle India is watching the congress now. But we all know this middle India that moved on is just a bunch of secular bull shit, like so much of their other bull shit.

subashwsrishti said...

I endorse Swapan's views. Just check out my blogs.

Rajiv said...

You're absolutely right. The hypocrisy of (pseudo) secularists were exposed to the core when they conveniently & quite clearly changed their stance after the verdict.

Till 4 PM that day all intellectuals on TV were saying that the high-court verdict should unconditionally be respected by everyone. Those same people, after seeing the verdict against the convenience & interests of their masters, are now criticizing the verdict by playing around with words and essentially tring to suggest that the judges have somehow misinterpreted the law of the land.

BTW you were truly brillient on all TV discussions throughout these two days.

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with Sridhar's comments above.

Why this unwarranted exhortation to hindus asking them to be "magnanimous" enough in "building a mosque "??

That way lots of our Hindu Temples have been destroyed by the marauders with mosques raised with the same broken materials of our Temples.

Moreover for us hindus Temples are meant for worshipping , holding Pravachans ( discourses ), Vedic Chantings , learning of Upanishads and so forth. Our grandparents & their ancestors though denied formal westoxicating education in Indian schools were far more knowledgeable about unabridged Ramayana , Mahabharatha , Lives of various Sages of India only by dint of listening to Discourses in Temples.

Their entire lifestyle was woven around Temples. Birthdays of our Hindu Gods & Sages alone were celebrated with fervour thus binding all together. The potter , weaver , farmer , singer , dancer all were as important as the Vedic Priests. Annadhanam always has been an integral part. Knowledge i.e., pursuit of Vedanta for Salvation was accessible to one and all.

Hence no caste prejudices really could take hold as they have done now owing to vested interests. There was no necessity for tax exempt dubious charities & donations industries. Equally important , us Hindus don't make bombs hatching nefarious plots of destruction in our Temples.

Anonymous said...

This is the right time for BJP to make the right moves. And redeem itself from being a congress clone. Never should it compromise entering into coalition with opportunists , leftists & the corrupt. It should come out with an unambiguous manifesto , undertaking to release our Temples from government interference.

Anonymous said...

Response to the verdict has vividly demonstrated that actually that are three parties to Ayodhya dispute: Hindus, Muslims, and Secular Modernists. While the latter have always castigated the former for creating atmosphere of hatred and animosity, they are themselves equally fanatical in their faith and belief. Proof: read Ram Guha and Siddharth Varadrajan's articles. One wonders what the reaction of VHP's equivalent of secular modernists like Arundhati Roy and Mani Aiyyar would be.
Also Left intellectuals defense of 'Reason' baffles me. I am witness to Prabhat Patnaik's boasts in a public meeting: 'This is what I believe in and I believe what believe is true'. Their jump from post-modernism in their respective subjects somehow to 'Reason' in a dispute involving religious sensibilities is a classic case of sheer 'doublespeak', to use the memorable phrase of Orwell.

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