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Ayodhya Judgment: Flawed, but has positive sides

Friday, October 01, 2010 12:12:49 PM, Amulya Ganguli, IANS

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Notwithstanding several flaws, the judgment of the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court on the six-decade-old Ayodhya dispute does have a positive side.

But, first, the defects. A major one is the acceptance of the presence of the Ram idols in the now demolished Babri Masjid as genuine proof of the right of ownership by the deity.

In the process, the verdict legitimises the clandestine manner in which the idols were smuggled into the mosque under the cover of darkness in December 1949 by a Hindu outfit, which obviously represented the ultra-right elements in the community. As such, they cannot be accepted as true, law-abiding representatives of the Hindus. They were, in fact, mischievous pranksters bent on creating trouble.

If such a secretive and provocative act is sanctioned by law, then all property-owners will have to live in fear of being suddenly upstaged by prowlers in the night.

It isn't surprising, therefore, that the illegal intrusion into a private domain led to the destruction of the mosque itself four decades later by a violent mob. Needless to say, one act of lawlessness was bound to be followed by another, which was clearly the purpose of the original kar sevaks although this term, which earned notoriety during the demolition in 1992 (also in December), was hardly known in the earlier period.

From the acceptance of the Ram idols as the rightful proprietors of at least a portion of the disputed site - the case was fought by the fundamentalist Hindus in the name of the god - it was inevitable that the court would also rule in favour of the claim that the mosque was built on the birthplace of Ram although the assertion that it was constructed after destroying an existing temple was not accepted.

Since Ram is not a historical, but a mythical, figure, the strange nature of the claim is obvious. It has also to be remembered that Ram is not regarded with the same degree of reverence all over India. In south India, for instance, his arch-enemy Ravan in the epic Ramayan has more admirers.

As is obvious, these are not fanciful interpretations but political ones. The Ram-Ravan enmity is seen in the south to represent the Aryan-Dravidian divide. This view explains why there are no objections in the south, as there are in the north, to the breaching of the so-called Ram Sethu between India and Sri Lanka for the sake of a navigation channel.

The point is that the claim about the disputed site in Ayodhya being Ram's birthplace was - and still is - a political gambit of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which used it in the 1990s to boost its sagging fortunes. Religion has nothing to do with it.

By ignoring the political angle, the judgment has seemingly turned a blind eye to the destruction of the mosque by the latter-day kar sevaks, which was also intended to spark off Hindu-Muslim riots in the hope of mobilising the Hindu voters for the BJP. Considering that virtually the entire country was shocked and shamed by the vandalism, the judgment has passed over a vital part of the story and given an unexpected reprieve to the BJP.

It is doubtful, however, whether the latter will be able to make use of it. As the absence of any overt tension in the aftermath of the long-awaited verdict shows, India today is very different from what it was in the '90s. Now, it has a large, voluble and confident middle class which is more interested in the Rupee than in Ram. Its market-driven lifestyle has no time for riots.

It is possible that L.K. Advani, the rath yatri or chariot-rider of the '90s tried to ascertain whether the communal game can again be played by visiting Somnath from where he had set out on his Toyota 'rath' (chariot) for Ayodhya in 1990. But he must have realised by now that the temple card no longer has any value for the BJP.

Ironically, although the judgment has allowed the party and the Hindutva brotherhood to build their cherished temple at Ramjanmabhoomi, neither the BJP nor the Sangh Parivar led by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) is gloating over it. Instead, the RSS chief, Mohan Bhagwat, has said that the verdict should not be seen in terms of victory or defeat.

Who would have thought that two decades after the saffronites raised the slogan 'mandir wohin banayenge' (we'll build the temple there), the legal sanction has brought them no joy.

This is where the judgment has a positive side because, by declining to probe too deeply into the past, it has created an atmosphere where the two communities can live in peace - as they once prayed together in the Babri Masjid before 1949, as the verdict has pointed out.

If the judgment can really defuse communal tension, it will be a blow against the fundamentalists on both sides and help India to continue with its success story.



(Amulya Ganguli is a political analyst.

He can be reached at aganguli@mail.com)


 

 

 

 

 

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