Ayodhya dispute: Hope the SC gives a verdict which respects minority rights as well

The wedge between Shias and Sunnis is being promoted deliberately. While it was a Shia mosque, the Sunni Board has been the litigant

Photo courtesy: Twitter
Photo courtesy: Twitter

Ram Puniyani

The dispute around Babri Mosque seems to be unending. Just weeks ago we saw Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the well known founder of Art of Living, stepping in to settle it ‘out of Court’. Now RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat has made a statement that only the temple will come up in Ayodhya. His assertion is just the repetition of the RSS stand on the topic, notwithstanding the Allahabad High Court judgment. As far as Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is concerned, he is regarded as a spiritual person but at times he jumps into political issues. His intervention at the time of Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption 'movement’ is still fresh in memory.

This time around, Sri Sri is back on the political chessboard. He has already met the UP Chief Minister and plans to meet many local religious leaders from Hindu side. As such the Ayodhya matter is pending in the Supreme Court following the appeal by disputants. The Allahabad judgment had divided the land, where Babri mosque was standing into three parts. One part to Sunni Waqf Board, one to Ram Lala Nyas and one to Nirmohi Akhada. The judgment primarily resorted to the fact that it is the ‘faith of Hindus’ that Lord Ram was born at the spot, so those two thirds were given to those representing the Hindu side, while Sunni Waqf Board has been given one third of the land. Now both Hindus and Muslims are claiming that whole land belongs to them.

When the country got Independence, the land was under the possession of the Sunni Waqf Board. On the night of December 22, 1949, some miscreants, belonging to pro-Hindu groups, entered the mosque illegally and installed the Ram Lala idols in the mosque. Pandit Nehru, the then Prime Minister of the country, wrote to the Chief Minister of UP, Govind Vallabh Pant, to get the idols removed immediately. The local Magistrate, KK Nayyar, who later contested elections for MP on BJP’s predecessor Bharatiya Jan Sangh’s ticket, did not get the idols removed. The gates of the mosque were locked. Under the pressure of rising Ram Temple movement, the locks were removed and Shilanyas was performed when Rajiv Gandhi was the Prime Minister. This was in the aftermath of Shah Bano judgment reversal by the Act of Parliament. In the aftermath of this, the RSS combine intensified its campaign of ‘appeasement of Muslims’ and got support from sections of the society.

It is around this time that BJP’s Lal Krishna Advani made Ram Temple the central part of his political campaign. In the aftermath of implementation of Mandal Commission report by VP Singh, BJP intensified its campaign for Ram Temple and Advani’s Rath Yatra left a trail of communal violence and led to deep polarisation of the society. This polarisation and later attempts by the RSS combine led to demolition of the Babri mosque on December 6, 1992. The installation of the Ram Lala idols was a crime and the guilty went unpunished. The demolition of the mosque was a crime and its culprits went on to become politically more powerful. Advani became Deputy Prime Minister, Murli Manohar Joshi and Uma Bharati occupied high political offices. The Liberhan Commission report highlighted some of the factors leading to the demolition. Advani and company is facing the charges of criminal conspiracy in the courts till date.

In the past, criminal acts related to Babri Mosque have paid rich political dividends to those who took part in the illegal acts. The basic dictum is that reconciliation is always good; it is welcome all the time. Despite the nature of the past, out of court settlement is the best option to be sure. But who can do that sort of reconciliation? Can one begin the process of reconciliation without respecting the legal verdict? While many Hindu leaders are welcoming Sri Sri, the Sunni Waqf Board has asked for the solution he has in mind before they can meet him. Also they want to wait for the meeting of All India Muslim Personal Law Board, before they venture to meet Sri Sri. The Hindutva brigade has been harping that Muslims should give up their claim on this land and they will be given land at another place to build a mosque. This becomes clear from the statement of the RSS chief.

The Shia Waqf Board, though not a party to the legal dispute, has shown willingness to yield to the demands of the Hindutva brigade. Can a large section of Muslims go along with the present efforts of the like of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and the statement of Bhagwat? The answer to this question is difficult as Sri Sri does not seem to be a neutral person. He comes from the category of modern Hindu gurus. On most of the matters of social reform, he is closer to conservative views. He has never condemned the crime of demolition of Babri mosque; neither did he grieve the massive violence unleashed in the aftermath of Babri demolition. He seems to be partisan to the ideology of Hindu nationalism while posing to be neutral about it. RSS is adamant on the Hindu temple alone at the site as it is part of its political agenda.

In these circumstances, what should the Muslims do? The wedge between Shias and Sunnis is being promoted deliberately. While it was a Shia mosque, the Sunni Board has been the litigant. During the last three decades, the Muslim community is being relegated to the margins of the society due to massive communalisation. In these circumstances, sticking to legal recourse seems to be the best option for most of them. The likes of Sri Sri, in the name of reconciliation, will try to promote the solution acceptable to those who have been at the forefront of installing Ram Lala and demolishing the mosque, both crimes in a democratic society. Irrespective of the awaited Supreme Court judgment, RSS is already rooting for Ram Mandir alone. Hope the highest court gives a verdict which respects minority rights as well.

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