Options After the Ayodhya Verdict

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Options After the Ayodhya Verdict

Babri Masjid that was pulled down in Ayodhya in Dec 1992

New Delhi (Syndicate Features): The judgment delivered by the special bench of the Allahabad High Court at Lucknow was received by many within the country—politicians, intellectuals and the intelligentsia–as one that provides an opportunity to end the bitter dispute over the ownership of the temple-mosque complex in Ayodhya.

The Bharatiya Janata Party had surprised many by not over-reacting to the judgement, at least in the public comments of its leaders and appealing for calm. Equally surprising was the sobering tone with which the Muslim litigant groups reacted even though they clearly hinted that they would take the matter to the apex court. Even some of the Hindu groups have said they would approach the Supreme Court. The important thing is that the two rival parties to the dispute reaffirmed their faith in the judicial process and reiterated their desire to abide by the judicial verdict whatever it is.

Many Muslim intellectuals, while obviously disappointed, were quick to appeal to their religious leaders not to fritter the chance for arriving at a settlement of the dispute through the process of ‘reconciliation.’ Both Hindu and Muslim leaders pointed out that it will serve nobody’s purpose if the gaze continued to be fixed on a matter nearly two decades old when India has changed a lot since the early 1990s.

The country is brimming with confidence and optimism and well on way to greater things. A new generation has come up that looks to the world around it in a different way than the older one. The young Indians of all religions are more interested in looking ahead and move on. It looked that a sincere effort was on at various levels, including political, to thrash out the differences and look for a solution for establishing a more enduring communal harmony in India.

A ‘reconciliation’ exercise need not begin by first talking to the clergy and the old and crafty politicians.

The BJP could be in a better position to help start the ‘reconciliation’ process since it has been saying all along that an out-of-court settlement of the Babri mosque would be the best way of ending that controversy. But BJP too is long on talk and short on deliverables

It was perhaps too good to be true. Sure enough after the initial moment of equanimity certain politicians and intellectuals have begun to harp on the ‘miscarriage’ of justice in the high court judgement on the Babri dispute. Says this class, “The Muslims are hurt, they have been ‘cheated’; the court judgement is based not on law but myths and so on”.

The enfant terrible of social activism in India, Arundhati Roy, only lived up to her reputation as she tore into the judgement with her predictable verbal diatribe. She may have to compete with souls less endowed with intellect than hers in whipping up public sentiments against the high court judgement.

Sure, the judgement did not please the Muslims. No judgement in a civil suit can leave both the parties happy; it will leave one party angry and upset. The question is where is the need to drum up public opinion, rather Muslim opinion, against the judgement when many who belong to the ‘aggrieved’ party in the dispute are ready to explore a new path for ‘reconciliation’?

The self-styled champions of Muslims like Mulayam Singh Yadav and Ram Vilas Paswan woke up to the judgement days after it was delivered, presumably after gauging the degree of dissent it had caused in the Muslim community. Mulayam led the first full-scale attack on the judgement, alleging that it had ‘cheated’ the community.

It must have shocked him to see that some articulate sections in the Muslim community were not amused by his hyperbole against the judgement. Having considerably eroded his following among the Muslim community, it is not difficult to understand that Mulayam is desperate to regain his foothold in the Muslim community. But he does not seem to understand that since the demolition of the Babri mosque India has seen a lot of changes that have an impact on the thinking of the young citizens of all communities.

Not all the young are indifferent to religion; maybe the contrary is still true. But what the young Indians no longer understand is the tendency among the leaders of the elder generation to keep playing the religious card that is designed to win votes but in actual fact only exacerbates religious differences and disrupts communal harmony.

If he still has any hold over the Muslim community, Mulayam should have jumped at the opportunity to help them in their ‘reconciliation’ efforts. The first step towards ‘reconciliation’ should have been taken by the government of India after listening to the views of the Muslim intellectuals. But the present government has become so indecisive that nothing much can be expected from it if the matter requires urgent attention.

The BJP could be in a better position to help start the ‘reconciliation’ process given the fact that it is an indirect party to the dispute and has been saying all along that an out-of-court settlement of the Babri mosque would be the best way of ending that controversy. The BJP too is long on talk and short on deliverables.

Therefore, it is left to the other political forces, call them the ‘third party’ or the ‘third force’, to grab the initiative and start a process of intense dialogue with the Muslim community leadership as also the Hindu right groups. A ‘reconciliation’ exercise need not begin by first talking to the clergy and the old and crafty politicians.

Some of the ‘third party’ politicians have actually worked with the BJP in alliances, present and past, and their overt ‘pro-minority’ stance obviously makes them acceptable to the Muslim leadership.

There is, of course, no guarantee that such an effort by the ‘third party’ will quickly bring the curtain down on a dispute that goes back centuries. But it does look like the better option or the one that has a better chance of success provided leaders like Mulayam Singh do not create impediments in a fit of overzealous display of their vote-oriented secular card. (Syndicate Features)