No doubt, there has been peace and
tranquillity in India after the judgment on the Babri masjid-Ram
janambhoomi dispute. No untoward incident has taken place in the
country. But the credit for this must go to the Muslims who,
although generally sullen, have abided by their earlier
declaration that they would accept the court's decision and go to
the Supreme Court if they felt aggrieved. And they have declared
that they will go in for an appeal.
Imagine if the verdict had gone against the Hindutva elements.
Would they have kept quiet? Even when the verdict is not wholly in
their favour, their posture is that of being the victor. There is
nothing to suggest that they have taken the judgment in humility
and in the spirit that may lessen fears of the Muslims. The
difference between the approaches of the two is markedly clear.
All the Muslims organisations have said that they will accept the
Supreme Court judgment as final. But none of the Hindu contestants
has made such a commitment, not even a vague assurance that if
they lose in the Supreme Court, they will accept the verdict as it
comes. This is, in fact, the nub of the matter. One community, the
minority, says that it will abide by the rule of law and the
other, the majority, holds out no such promise.
It was the violation of rule of law when the Babri masjid was
destroyed in 1992. Even the Supreme Court's directive to maintain
status quo was mocked at. The UP state government, then headed by
the BJP, had no hesitation in conspiring to pull down the mosque,
to the glee of top BJP leaders who watched it till the last stone
of the masjid was removed. The then Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha
Rao did little to stop the destruction, even if the charge that he
connived at the vandalism is brushed aside.
Understandably, the Allahabad High Court judgment was only
deciding a title suit and was not concerned about the demolition.
Yet, the fact remains that those responsible for the demolition
are nowhere near punishment even after the court wrangling for the
last eight years. The CBI has been going slow as if there are
orders from above. Had the government pursued the demolition case
vigorously, the cynicism among those who believe that the present
judgment is "a balancing act" would have looked out of place.
The judgment does not in any way lessen the crime of masjid's
demolition. I am glad to find L.K. Advani repeating that it was "a
shame." But he is responsible for another shame; politicising a
religious dispute. He is the one who led a rath from Somnath
temple to Ayodhya, where the mosque stood. How many innocent
people who died in the wake of his yatra should be on his
conscience. But he still says that his stand on Ayodhya has been
Advani and the entire Sangh Parivar should offer apologies to the
Muslims for the rath yatra on the one hand, and the masjid's
demolition on the other. This may help restore part of the
community's confidence because the Muslims increasingly believe
that they do not get an equal treatment in a country which
established a democratic, secular polity after winning
independence 63 years ago.
The judgment has accepted the plea that a matter of belief can
develop into a legal proof if it persists for a long time. The
place where the idols were stealthily placed in 1949 has been
declared as the birthplace of Lord Rama. The makeshift temple
after the masjid's demolition has also been recognised and
allotted to the Hindutva forces. True, the judges have their own
Still, the verdict has legitimised a new thesis whereby faith or
belief becomes a fact without evidence. The mere antiquity is
enough. In a way, theology has taken precedence over legal
jurisprudence. It could have opened a Pandora's Box of claims and
counter-claims. But Parliament probably foresaw the danger. It did
well to enact a law in 1993 to forbid the reopening of any dispute
or claim over religious places that existed in India as on August
15, 1947, the Independence Day.
In spite of this law, some Hindu extremists want to re-open the
arrangements at Mathura and Varanasi. At both places, the mandir
and the masjid stand side by side with even the aarti and azan
taking place at the same time. In a way, the judges have provided
for a similar type of opportunity at Ayodhya. Settling the title
suit, they have given one-third of the 2.7-acre site to the Sunni
Waqf Board, one-third to Nirmohi Akhara and one-third to the Ram
Janambhoomi supporters. The division is to take place in the next
three months unless the Supreme Court decides on a stay if and
when any party approaches it.
It would have been ideal if the masjid were built on one-third of
the site on one side, extending the premises to the opposite side
of the Ram Janambhooomi, where the makeshift temple stands.
Similarly, the temple could be built on one-third of the site, as
allowed by the court, but spreading to the opposite side of the
proposed masjid. Between the two, the akhara (wrestling ground),
also given one-third of the site, would be located.
But unfortunately, this is not acceptable to the Sangh Parivar.
The BJP, their political wing, has led the demand for the rest of
the two-thirds of the site. But this is not possible if its
supporters continue to ride the high horse. They will have to
persuade the Muslims for such a proposition.
I personally think that the entire site should be cleared and left
as a vacant ground. At Hiroshima, the place where the atom bomb
fell during the World War II, one patch of land has been kept
vacant. People go there as pilgrims and weep over the killing of
The vacant site of Ayodhya would become a hallowed site where
people would go and cry over the demise of secularism -- put to
death on December 6, 1992.
The judgment gives a pause to the ever-raging differences between
the Hindus and the Muslims. It gives them time to introspect. Do
they take the same road, which they have traversed since
independence? How do they face the future, which is that of
science, technology and economic development?
They cannot remain prisoners of bias and prejudice just because
they follow different religions. This is another opportunity to
strengthen our secular ethos and face the question squarely. Why
have we, as a nation, failed to establish secularism to which we
swore after winning freedom?
Senior journalist and
columnist, Kuldip Nayer,
is former Indian
Ambassador to UK.