Saturday, 7 December 2019

‘Hail the Lord’- Rama

By Nilabh Krishna
Updated: November 18, 2019 12:06 pm

Muddai lakh bura chahe to kya hota hai, wahi hota hai jo manjooe-e- khuda hota hai, these lines were once again proved true with the Supreme Court delivering the verdict in Ramjanmbhoomi case. The verdict not only paved the way for the  temple to be made, but it also clarified what the lakh and crores of people of this country had said and believed that Lord Rama is real and Ayodhya was/is his birthplace. The verdict which was waited upon  for last 491 years was finally delivered by the Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi led five bench Constitutional Bench of the Supreme Court. This is one historic verdict which has paved the way for creation of new India, India which will now move forward with new vigour and new hopes.

The Apex Court pronounced in ahistoric judgement on 9th day of November 2019 that a temple be constructed for Hindus on a 2.77-acre site in Uttar Pradesh’s Ayodhya town, which has been the epicentre of independent India’s biggest religio-political battle, while Muslims should get an alternative land to build a potential mosque.

The five-judge Constitution bench, headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, ruled unanimously that the spot, where lakhs of Kar-sevaks spent their blood and sweat for the construction of temple, should be handed over to a trust that the Centre must constitute in three months to oversee the construction of a temple, subject to conditions. In the judgement  of 1045 pages, the apex court said a report by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) gave enough evidence of a building “that was not Islamic” beneath the Babri Masjid that was demolished in 1992. The bench, also comprising Justices SA Bobde, DY Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S Abdul Nazeer, noted that the faith of Hindus that Ram was born at the site of the now-razed masjid is undisputed, and the existence of structures like Sita Rasoi, Ram Chabutra and Bhandar Grih are testimony to the religious fact of the place. However, the title cannot be established on the ground of faith and belief and they are only indicators for deciding the dispute, the five judges also said.

CJI Gogoi, who is set to retire on November 17, read out the judgement to a packed courtroom, while outside some lawyers and Hindu activists chanted “Jai Sri Ram” and blew conches as a mark of celebration.

On September 30, 2010, the Allahabad High Court had ruled that the disputed land be split into three parts: the site of the Ram Lalla idol would go to the party representing Ram Lalla Virajman (the installed infant Ram deity), Hindu ascetics’ outfit Nirmohi Akhara to get Sita Rasoi and Ram Chabutara, and the Sunni Waqf Board to get the rest. All three parties then filed a review petition citing dissatisfaction from the judgement, in the Supreme Court. On October 16, the apex court concluded hearing 40 days of arguments on the pleas, after an earlier attempt for an out-of-court settlement through mediation was unsuccessful.

In the judgement, the court said “On the balance of probabilities, there is clear evidence to indicate that the worship by the Hindus in the outer courtyard continued unimpeded in spite of the setting up of a grill-brick wall in 1857. Their possession of the outer courtyard stands established together with the incidents attaching to their control over it,” said the top court in its ruling on the historic day.

“As regards the inner courtyard, there is evidence on a preponderance of probabilities to establish worship by the Hindus prior to the annexation of Oudh by the British in 1857. The Muslims have offered no evidence to indicate that they were in exclusive possession of the inner structure prior to 1857 since the date of the construction in the sixteenth century,” it said.

According to the judgment, five acres of land will also be allotted in Ayodhya to the Muslim community. “Justice would not prevail if the court were to overlook the entitlement of the Muslims who have been deprived of the structure of the mosque through means which should not have been employed in a secular nation committed to the rule of law,” the court said.

“Having weighed the nature of the relief which should be granted to the Muslims, we direct that land measuring five acres be allotted to the Sunni Central Waqf Board either by the Central Government out of the acquired land or by the Government of Uttar Pradesh within the city of Ayodhya,” it said.

Historical blunder set right

It is said that when religion and politics ride in the same cart, a whirlwind follows. And, that’s precisely what happened in post-Independence India. Right from 1528, when Mir Baqi, a general in Baburs army constructed Babri Masjid at the disputed site to the restoration of the land to Sri Ram on 9 November 2019 by a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court headed by the Chief Justice of India, Ayodhya has remained witness to  wrestling between both religion and politics and thus impacting the nation as a whole.

Jawaharlal Nehru had once said that he was Hindu by the accident of birth and Muslim by culture (contested though) and correspondingly opposed the reconstruction of the Somnath Temple — sacked, looted, disfigured  — arguing that it would lead to “Hindu revivalism”. Sardar Patel had ignored him and, backed by President Rajendra Prasad, had gone ahead with the reconstruction project. When an attempt was made to force the Government’s hand on Ayodhya, Nehru had his way as Patel was no longer around.

Ironically, Nehru’s grandson Rajiv Gandhi was Prime Minister when the locks that had been placed on the disputed site following a court order to maintain status quo after an idol of Ram Lalla (or baby Ram) appeared under the main dome of the mosque, were opened and worship by Hindus was allowed. That was in 1986 and the politics of the time determined the Government’s response which was primarily aimed at mitigating the Hindu backlash to parliamentary subversion of the Shah Bano judgement. Arun Nehru, a close friend of Rajiv Gandhi and Minister for Internal Security in his government, is believed to have advised Rajiv Gandhi to play the ‘Ayodhya Card’ as a balancing act. Rajiv Gandhi was to later launch the Congress’s 1989 election campaign from Ayodhya, though that did not fetch the expected result.

The unlocking of the disputed site also unlocked pent up emotions of the people and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) took up the issue of Ram Janmabhoomi. As the revived battle for Ram intensified, L.K. Advani moved a presidential resolution at the Bhartiya Janta Party’s (BJP) national executive meeting at Palampur in 1989, adopting the Ayodhya Movement as the party’s political project. Advani’s Somnath to Ayodhya Rathyatra, conceived as a counter to V.P. Singh’s divisive Mandal politics, and the fallout over his arrest in Bihar, in a sense marked the shift from Hindu revivalism to Hindu resurgence in the country.

With decades of fighting, both in court and otherwise,  the Apex Court has finally ruled that the Government will set up a trust which will oversee the use of the disputed land, and Muslims, represented by the Sunni Waqf Board, will be given land to build a mosque. With this, the chapter of Ayodhya’s history initiated by Mir Baqi building a mosque above a non-Islamic structure, as determined by the Archaeological Survey of India, came to an end.

Implications

While kudos should be given to not only government- both at centre and state- but also people of India for maintaining peace and harmony after the judgement, there are many takeaways from the judgement which needs to be seen in wider context. Kanchan Gupta, a senior scholar from Observer Research Foundation, sums up the takeaways very correctly. He says “ there are many aspects of the judgement that merit comment. First,the BJP can now claim that two of the three issues that formed its ‘core agenda’ have been settled with the abrogation of Article 370 and the Ayodhya verdict. The third, Uniform Civil Code, is a work in progress. If a UCC were to be put in place in the coming months, then the BJP would have implemented its ‘core agenda’. That would open up space for a shift in its politics from identity to issues of contemporary relevance, for instance, the national economy. While triumphalism would be misplaced, the BJP would make the most of the popular perception that strong leadership and an overwhelming parliamentary majority are sine qua non for delivery. The possible rough edges of policy in the offing would be smoothened by success on the core agenda front.

Second, the Congress has been once again left holding the proverbial can although the process of liberating Ram Janmabhoomi in our times was initiated when the party was in power with a humongous parliamentary majority. As the Congress’s strength steadily declined, that of the BJP grew exponentially through the closing decade of the 20th century and the opening decades of the 21st century. The space that the Congress occupied has since been ceded to the BJP, potentially irrevocably.

Third, the Supreme Court has reasserted the primacy of ownership of property, either by individuals or legal entities (in this case Sri Ram) underscoring the fact that this remains an inalienable Fundamental Right in our constitutional scheme. The deletion of Right to Property from the list of Fundamental Rights by the post-Emergency ragtag regime of conflicting ideologies was a monumental blunder which continues to erode freedom and restrict liberty. The BJP would do well to reconsider this exclusion and restore Right to Property where it belongs. If this right were to be once again made inalienable, fractious disputes like what has been witnessed in Ayodhya would dissipate even if they do not disappear entirely.

Fourth, the much-touted ‘Idea of India’ as a utopian and idyllic state where secularism is a one-way street of limitless concessions needs to be discarded, if only for the damage it has inflicted on both polity and society. Faith, as the Supreme Court’s judgment tells us, cannot be subject to judicial scrutiny, nor should theology concern the state in a republic. The state must act in the best interest of the largest possible number of citizens without seeking to balance its decisions by conceding ground to one community or the other. That never works. India is what it is, a civilisational nation whose people are deeply religious. There is little or no scope to enforce borrowed ideas that are intrinsically antithetical to Hindu faith and belief.

Fifth, seven decades after declaring itself a republic, India must come to terms with its history. There is no percentage in whitewashing the past, as has been done by historians guided by state patronage and party ideology. That has only contributed to what a commentator had described during the height of the Ayodhya movement as the “past imperfect, future tense” syndrome. Soviet-style airbrushing of unsavoury bits and pieces of history has never worked, including in the country from where this fad to remould the truth to suit a state’s ideology travelled to India. It has long been argued that India must discontinue the practice of state writing of history. The time has come to dismantle India’s history project of Soviet era vintage. Mature democracies confront their past and move on to the future without allowing the present to be an undue hindrance. Nanny states feed their citizens with doctored history, a lot of which was iterated in the Allahabad High Court as well as the Supreme Court.

Last, though not the least, while the Supreme Court has instructed the Government of India to form a Trust to monitor the use of the land that has now been declared free of encumbrance and encroachment, this is a task that should really be community-driven. The state cannot and must not assume ownership of places of worship, either through trusts or boards, as that spawns problems of a different nature.”

The All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) has said it was not satisfied with the Supreme Court judgment on the Ram Janmabhoomi title suit. The board added that it would evaluate legal options, like filing a review petition. But given that the verdict is a unanimous one, the chances of it getting reversed are slim. Well judicial options are open but the verdict indeed was a historic one, and as the Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said there is no space for negativity, bitterness and fear in new India and this verdict shouldn’t be seen as a win or loss for anybody. As he rightly says “Be it Ram Bhakti or Rahim Bhakti, it is imperative that we strengthen the spirit of Rashtra Bhakti. “ Jai Shree Ram

 

By Nilabh Krishna

 

 

 

 

 

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