National Healing through Ram Temple
In a unanimous decision, the five-judge constitutional bench led by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi has delivered a historic judgment that should end a legal dispute dating back to the 19th century. The dispute is that of the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land title case in Ayodhya. The SC has allotted the entire 2.77-acre disputed land for the Ram temple construction. It has ordered the Central government to set up a trust to build a temple, while allotting alternative five acres of land for constructing a mosque in Ayodhya.
The historic judgment runs into 1045 pages, 805 paragraphs and 3.03 lakh words, detailing every aspect of the case. We are carrying its main excerpts separately as well as analyses there of. I would like to highlight that the case was legal suit over the property rights – who owns the disputed land; it has nothing to do with any religious faith. Since it was a civil suit, as per Indian jurisprudence, emphasis was on which party’s arguments had “more probable” validity (in contrast to a criminal case where the judges eliminate every probable doubt). Accordingly, the Hindus (broadly speaking) cited better claims through their lawyers (uninterrupted worship of Ram Lala at the disputed structure) than their Muslim counterparts. So the Court awarded the Ram-Janmasthan and the adjoining areas to the Hindus; but since the disputed Babri Masjid structure was “illegally demolished” in 1992, the Court resorted to Article 142 to render justice to the Muslim-parties and provided them 5 acres of plot in the town to build a mosque (the size is almost double the space the Masjid occupied).
The judgment has been widely accepted. Overwhelming majorities of the Hindu and Muslim communities and their respective representatives have declared to obey the verdict of the country’s apex court. There have been no celebrations, no jubilant processions, no condemnatory or mournful declarations. And, above all, there has been no riots and violence as apprehended by a group of habitual critics, who declare themselves to be liberals and secularists.
In fact, it is these so-called liberals and secularists and their foreign-patrons and friends who have not accepted the verdict, terming it as “majoritarian”. Their argument is that if India has to remain a democracy, then one has to ensure that the minorities are always right and all their claims and demands have to be met, irrespective whether these are right and wrong. In fact, they go the extent of saying that minorities in India are always right and majorities are all the time wrong. And they further argue that since electoral outcomes are determined by the majority Hindus, constituting nearly 80 percent of the population, the survival of the democracy in India is dependent only on the judiciary and therefore the Courts must favour the minorities (Muslims in the case of Ayodhya). That it has not happened is highly disappointing for them.
For the “secularists” in India, secularism implies different treatment for different religions on different occasions. There is no consistency here. As a result, we see “communal politicians” becoming “secular” overnight and vice versa, with everything depending on the political convenience of the parties and their supporters, something we are witnessing in Maharashtra these days. Secondly, the way it has been practiced in India, secularism has been reduced to be essentially anti-Hindu but pro-minorities viewpoints or measures. And this has been systematically promoted by what is known as Nehruism, the Left-Liberal framework that dominates Indian public discourse.
It is instructive here to note that in 1949, Nehru had said that “to talk of Hindu culture would injure India’s interests”. He had admitted more than once that by education he was an Englishman, by views an internationalist, by culture a Muslim, and a Hindu only by accidental birth. In 1953, Nehru had written to Kailash Nath Katju: “In practice, the individual Hindu is more intolerant and more narrow-minded than almost any person in any other country.”
Of course, Nehru did the right thing by trying to remove some degraded practices within Hinduism, but the problem with him was that he was not bothered about the similar reforms in other religions. Nehru codified the Hindu personnel laws (concerning Hindus’ diverse customs, rituals and practices) in 1956, but he backtracked on doing so towards Muslim personal law. No wonder why J. B. Kriplani, a veteran socialist, opposed the Hindu Code Bill on the ground that the Nehru government was “communal”. Kriplani had told Nehru, “If you want to have a divorce for Hindu community, have it; but have it for Catholic community also. I tell you this is the democratic way, the other is the communal way. It is not the Mahasabhites who alone are communal, it is the government also that is communal, whatever it may say. I charge you with communalism because you are bringing forward a law about monogamy only for the Hindu community. You must bring it to the Muslim community. Take it from me that the Muslim community is prepared to have it but you are not brave enough to do it.”
It is under Nehruvian secularism that the Government appoints trustees to manages Hindu temples (and maths) of Viswanath, Tirupati, Puri, Nathdwara and Guruvayur. But the same Government considers it “communal” to do likewise in the case of masjids, churches and gurudwaras. Secularism of the Nehruvian variety says that it is “progressive” to denounce a Hindu swami for trying to influence his or her followers, but it is “communal” to raise finger at those who issue fatwas and hukamnamas.
As Arun Shourie has pointed out in his book Religion in Politics, “during the freedom struggle, if you looked upon a Muslim as being someone apart, as being someone other than just a human being like yourself, the ‘progressive’ was bound to brand you ‘communal’. Today, unless you look upon the Muslim as separate, that is, unless you see him as a Muslim rather than as just a human being like yourself, the ‘progressive’ brands you ‘communal’. When a Hindu scholar by his deep study perceived and wrote about The Essential Unity of All Religions—the title of Bhagwan Das’ famous work—that was looked upon as humanist scholarship at its best. Today when a scholar points to the identity of what is taught in Granth Sahib and what is taught in say, the Hindu Bhakti tradition, it is taken as proof positive of a deep conspiracy to swallow Sikhism”.
In fact, India today is much more divided than what it was at the time of partition in 1947, thanks to the perverse manner in which secularism or for that matter “the identity politics” is being practiced in the country. The victims of any crime or injustice these days are being seen in terms of their religions and castes, not as normal human beings who are all equal under Indian laws. What is worse, depending on their identities, both the victims and the guilty must get “different” treatments, if we go by the demands of the so-called secularists.
Against this background, if majority of Indian Muslims have reconciled with the Ayodhya- verdict, despite the “secularists” and All India Muslim Personal Law Board ( I am not counting politicians like Asaduddin Owaisi of All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen) trying everything to accentuate the Hindu-Muslim divides in the country (This Board, incidentally, has no legitimacy ; it in reality does not represent the Indian Muslims as whole), it is a heartening feature in Indian politics and society. The Muslims in India are not going to be fooled by the “secularists”. In fact, it is the reflection of the mood of the changing times that almost all the principal political parties have appealed to respect the verdict, in the hope that it will bring closure to one of the most contentious issues that divided the Hindus and Muslims.
True to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call for Sab ka Sath, Sab ka Vikas and Sab ka Vishwas, the Ayodhya verdict can start a process of national healing, indeed!
By Prakash Nanda