I can not but begin by recalling a conversation, I had with the late Mohit Sen, 35 years ago. It was on April 8, 1984, that the ‘Dharma- Sansad’ organised by VHP in New Delhi, passed a resolution for the ‘liberation’ of RamJanam Bhumi. As a young student of Indian literature ( hence sensibility) and history,
I could sense the potential consequences of this, and tired to share my concern with anyone who would care to listen. I had ( and still have) great respect for Mohit Sen, who though marginalised and disgruntled was continuing within the CPI.
I shared my anxiety with him . Mohit babu gave me a tutorial in the class structure of Indian society and state, and assured that the dharma-sansad resolution is nothing but a desperate petty bourgeoise bubble bound to burst sooner than later. I was not as well-versed in intricate theoretical matters (still am not) as to contradict Mohit babu;
I withdrew from the discussion with the hapless comment, “You may be quite right, sir, but let me tell you, if the secular and democratic forces do not act in tandem and in time, the Babri mosque is not going to survive more than ten years.”
Mohit Babu reassured the “sincere, desperate young man” with an indulgent smile…and exactly after eight and half years, the “disputed structure” existed no more!
Mohit Babu’s indifference to my anxiety was typical of the entire secular political class, which took the inclusive and secular (with all its limitations) nature of Indian nationalism born out of anti-colonial struggle for granted.
They chose to forget the Hindutva challenge to the inclusive idea of India, which though dormant in the wake of assassination of Gandhiji, continued to persevere and persist.
Narendra Modi was absolutely right in May, 2014 in acknowledging “five generations of dedicated workers, whose sacrifice made this glorious victory possible”. RSS was established in 1925, and to its credit, has never wavered from its goal in turning India into Hindu Rashtra, and has also been clear that before transforming the formal structures of polity, the ‘structures of feelings’ must be changed.
The RSS ‘project’ flourished slowly and steadily over the time with endorsement and sometimes quite active help from all those who were obsessed with dislodging Congress from power without bothering about the nature and content of the alternative.
Let us not forget that Lohia provided this obsession a theoretical legitimacy in his formulation of ‘anti-congrssism’; and JP went to the extent of saying, ‘if RSS is fascist, I am fascist too’.
Not to be left behind, the VP Singh government was run with the weekly dinner time advice from the top of the left and right. And, only very recently, the great war on ‘corruption’ was directly or indirectly endorsed and even actively supported by the ‘left, democratic and secular’ forces and individuals.
In fact, some of the leading luminaries complaining of authoritarianism these days were the architects of the ‘Anna movement’. Were they not aware of the RSS presence in ‘their’ movement and its organisation?
Of course, they were, but thought themselves to be smarter than Hindutva lot, which sadly was not the case. Ironically enough, it was only Shiv-Sena which bluntly called the Hazare buff.
Those finding only faults with the 9th November SC verdict ( which of course has problems) are in the grip of a category mistake—reducing a hugely complex political issue to mere legal dispute and its nitty-gritty. In fact, the issue is about the very nature of Indian nationalism and the sanctity of its structure.
Is it only for the judiciary to uphold it? Do you realistically expect the present executive to uphold and implement a judgement which is not to its liking? Have we forgotten the response of the ruling party to Shabrimala judgment?
Should SC have been indifferent to all this? One is not a legal expert, but hopes that underlining illegality of placing the idols in 1949 and criminality of demolition in 1992 will have legal implications. Politically speaking, this fact inbuilt in the verdict provides a space for secular politics to do the needful in the realm of politics and culture.
Ideally, a democracy is known by the ‘rule of law.’ This verdict ought to be read as a painful realisation of the ‘helplessness of law.
Those raising objections to this verdict and asking questions like ‘can the court direct a secular state to build a place of worship?’ or ‘can faith have precedence over fact?’ will do better ponder some facts themselves.
The changed political ( more importantly cultural) scenario and mood of the country can be better guessed by going beyond one’s own surroundings, and looking at popular media as well as carefully listening to informal conversations.
As a matter of fact, the media ( particularly the TV channels) have been instrumental in creating an aggressive and irrational mindset. The inroads made by aggressive majoritarianism into popular consciousness can hardly be denied.
Imagine for a while, the ‘popular’ reaction, if the verdict was of the reverse orientation? Also ask yourself, are the secular political forces and individuals equipped and competent to go out to the people and argue their case? Similarly, the objection about ‘faith over fact’, if taken to its logical conclusion opens a Pandora’s box, which our polity is not at all in a position to shut again.
The theoretically and pragmatically sound way for a democratic state is not to allow any practice violative of human rights and dignity in the name of faith. That is all. But, this essential also can be practiced only if the democratic forces constantly work in the realm of culture and try constantly to enlighten people’s mind.
What is the record of our secular and liberal forces on this count? The politics of hurt sentiments has been ‘normalised’ to such an extent that it is enough to gather fifty people to get a book, film or play banned. And, even in such an atmosphere, the Muslim community has shown remarkable maturity not only in the wake of this verdict, but over the years in the face of constant threats and pressures.
Instead of making Muslims a means of their narrow political ends ( by pandering to the regressive elements of the community), the secular and democratic forces, must learn to place the spread of Hindutva appeal in a holistic philosophical and historical perspective.
SC verdict has been delivered in the context of universal retreat of rational, humane values in these so-called post-modern, post-truth times. The only way out of the present world-wide morass is through bringing back the politics of basic issues in place of the ‘political correctness’ of symbolic type.
It is imperative to evolve a genuinely inclusive nationalist program aimed at addressing the issues of exploitation and discrimination in all their forms. This obviously will not be possible without entering into a dialogue with the majority community in an idiom sensitive to pluralistic Indian traditions and culture.
Only the forces equipped with such a programme and competence will be able to ‘talk to the people ( particularly the Hindus) out there’, and will be confident enough to reject politics of hurt sentiments of any kind. After all, the best guarantee against majoritarianism in any society is a broad-minded majority.
Ayodhya verdict, apart from indicating helplessness of law at the present juncture provides both an opportunity and a challenge to reclaim the ‘idea of India.
(The writer is an author and columnist. Views expressed are personal)