Saturday, 26 September 2020

A Win-Win Solution

Updated: October 16, 2010 5:47 pm

Nearly after 60 years, the Indian judiciary, through Lucknow bench of the Allahbad High Court, has delivered a judgment on the vexed Ayodhya issue. It has said that the disputed site of 2.7 acres should be split between the Hindus and Muslims. The most sensitive portion of the disputed site, housing the make-shift Ram Temple, will remain with the Hindus; the other parts will be controlled by Muslims and a Hindu sect, Nirmohi Akhara. I am not going into its details since this issue of our publication has devoted considerable space on the matter. Many consider it more of a political verdict rather than a legal judgment. I think it is a pragmatic judgment. The judgment provides enormous scope for a reconciliation between the Hindus and Muslims. Fortunately, that seems to be the majority impression all over the country. However, and that is unfortunate, some obstinate leaders of the Muslims and Hindus, “secular-fundamentalist” intelligentsia and hyperactive journalists want to further confound the issue and fight it out in the Supreme Court so that the matter keeps lingering, strengthening the “vote bank politics” in the process. And the worst in this school of thought is the approach of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. His comment after the verdict has been really pathetic, unbecoming of the chief executive of a country whose principal job should have been uniting the communities based on the High Court verdict rather than instigating a section to carry on fighting.

                Let us have no pretension that those who criticise the judgment on legal grounds want a solution that favours only the Muslims. They are extremely sensitive to matters pertaining to the faith of the Muslims but utterly contemptuous of what the Hindus consider to be sacred. They argue that any reverence to Lord Ram defies “reason” since he is a mythological figure. Obviously they are not reconciling to that part of the judgment which vindicates the Hindu sentiment that the disputed place was associated with Lord Ram and that the mosque was built on a place, which once was a Hindu structure. Though Justice Khan of the three Judge-bench has differed by noting that the mosque was not built by demolishing a temple, he, nevertheless, has observed that it was “constructed over the ruins of temples lying there”.

                Strictly speaking, those who want a temple have a valid legal point in arguing that a mosque was built forcibly (it is immaterial whether it was built by Mogul emperor Babur or not—in fact, the Judges have said that it is not exactly clear who had built the mosque). The dispute between the Hindus and Muslims over the ownership of the site dates back to the mid-19th century. In fact, I remember vividly in this context what late Prof. B R Grover, the then Chairman of Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR), had told me when I was a “National Fellow” there. Based on his pain-staking research of the land records in Ayodhya, mainly written in Persian, he was emphatic that the Hindus had better legal claims over the disputed property, something that had not gone well with the Left-dominated ICHR. In fact, it was on his suggestion that that the Archeological Survey of India (ASI) dug the site to find out whether there ever existed a temple. Prof. Grover now stands vindicated.

                It is also a fact that Hindus had been worshipping inside the mosque prior to its destruction in 1992, (since 1850s) irrespective of whether idol of Lord Ram was there or not. In such a situation—Hindus worshipping inside the place despite it, in the form of a Mosque, being under the apparent control of Muslims—to expect the judiciary giving a clear verdict in favour of one party is little too much. Rather, by treading where the politicians and the government did not dare, the High Court has done the best. It has provided both the Hindus and Muslims a win-win solution. The Hindus could construct their temple and the Muslims their mosque in a spirit of give and take, making India proud of its plurality and democracy.

                In fact, by showing their broadmindedness, the Muslims, in the light of the just delivered judgment of the High Court, could turn the Ayodhya dispute into a great opportunity for Hindu-Muslim bonhomie and solidarity. After all, the disputed site is not a practicing mosque. There are about 103 mosques in the city of Ayodhya of 1.5 lakh population with Muslims constituting 6 per cent. Of these, 35 mosques are alive where 5-time prayer is offered; at 10-15 mosques, Juma Prayer is also offered. The rest are deserted for lack of presence of Muslims in the locality. Tehri Bazar Mosque is the nearest live mosque from the disputed site, in Tehri Qaziana mohalla. Given all this, the Muslims can always join the Hindus in respecting their faith through a Ram temple and could even build another magnificent mosque in a nearby place. It is just the case of respecting one single temple involving Hindus’ supreme God and this will be assuaging like nothing else the Hindu grudge that thousands of their temples had been destroyed or defaced by the Muslims throughout the history.

                I am sure that ordinary Muslims, who have always been taken for granted by their leaders, will never mind such a grand gesture. Just see the reaction of 90-year-old Mohammad Hashim Ansari, the lone surviving litigant in the Ayodhya title suits. “For me, this is a closed chapter. Hindus should now be allowed to build the Ram temple in Ayodhya. I will appeal to the Muslim leadership to end the dispute and not pursue the matter in Supreme Court,” said Ansari after the ruling. He is right in saying that both Babri Masjid and Ram Janmabhoomi were places of “ibaadat (worship)” but political parties had turned them into battlefields of “siyasat (politics)”. In fact, Ansari has won over many a heart by urging: “Muslims not to be disappointed by the High Court judgment as the court, after all, has recognised their right and given one portion of the disputed land to Muslims…”

                Unfortunately, the Muslim leaders with vested interests will never listen to the sane counsel of Ansari and will go to the Supreme court, particularly when none other than the Prime Minister of the country openly advises to maintain the status quo “until the cases are taken by the Supreme Court”. But then I am not surprised because it is the same Prime Minister who once had said that “Muslims have the first right” over the cake of national development. Notwithstanding his undoubted academic knowledge and impeccable personal integrity, I am sad to say that Manmohan Singh is just like any other typical practitioner of vote-bank politics, despite knowing it pretty well that such politics, detached form ground-level sincerity, does more harm than good to the Muslims, as has been seen in the states like West Bengal Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.

                On the other hand, apart from some fringe elements, the Hindu community has shown better maturity in its response to the High Court verdict, though some senior BJP leaders, particularly LK Advani, could have been little more judicious like RSS supremo Mohan Bhagwat by avoiding the interpretation that the verdict is a vindication of the movement for the construction of temple. It would have been great had he said that he would also support the simultaneous construction of a mosque.

                In my opinion, the best reaction to the judgment has come from the noted film personality Javed Akhtar. Despite repeated attempts on the part of an evil-minded but leading television anchor to provoke him to speak otherwise, he thought that the High Court gave a wonderful opportunity to both Hindus and Muslims to join hands to build a resurgent India by not talking of judicial victory or defeat. He was emphatic that if the matter went to the Supreme Court and it pronounced eventually only one party as victor, that would create more animosities between the two rather than uniting them.

                Well said Javed Ji. I am proud of you.

By Prakash Nanda

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