SEEMA MUSTAFA | 10 NOVEMBER, 2019
Ayodhya - The Outcome Was Known Even Before 1992
Something so simple has been made so complicated by politics. And not just complicated but divisive. And not just divisive but violent. With lives destroyed and communal divisions sharpened. Now the honourable Supreme Court has heard the Ayodhya issue, and ruled as expected. Semantics and the fine print apart the disputed land has been handed over for the construction of the Ram temple, that no doubt will begin very soon amidst much fanfare.
The Muslims have been given five acres of land at some alternative site. Probably as the days go on the bickering Muslim parties twill start a new fight on one, whether to accept the insulting offer or not; and two, on the possible alternative site. Crumbs too will invite acrimony.
It all began after the Supreme Court ruling on the Shahbano case. Wherein the court allowed a sum of Rs 500 per month to be paid to a destitute divorced Muslim woman. The Congress party led by Rajiv Gandhi at the time lost its shaky moorings and first defended the ruling, and then trashed it under pressure from Muslim conservatives. To cut a long story short Parliament voted to bring in a law which negated the ruling of the apex court, and placed the Muslim woman outside the purview of even this basic right to live. At that time the media covered in some detail protests by secular women across the country, where they refused to join the Hindu and/or the Muslim tirade on the issue and succeeded fairly well in bringing out the secular, legal reservations to this highly regressive law enacted by Parliament.
Sensing an opportunity ---and why not--- the RSS and the BJP rose in protest to this ‘appeasement’ of the Muslims and demanded that the locks to the Ram Janambhoomi/Babri Masjid be opened. This property had been locked for decades ever since idols mysteriously appeared in the monument, to prevent precisely what followed. As soon as this was done, with television cameras being informed of a supposedly independent decision beforehand by a powerful Minister in the Congress government, the voice of secularism was drowned in the cacophony of communal din. Community based organisations entered the picture to claim the monument, with self appointed custodians claiming to speak for the muslims and the hindus respectively.
Educated persons like former Indian Foreign Service officers like Syed Shahabuddin formed committees to ‘save’ the Babri mosque, even as others spoke of razing it to the ground. The media obliged by running from one right wing group to another, with the result that those speaking of the law and the legislature were barely heard. The Muslims converted themselves into warring hyenas, attacking each other, forming rival committees, becoming Shias and Sunnis and custodians of the religion in the name of the mosque.
Unable to counter the offensive after having playing into the hands of the Muslim conservatives, the Congress ---always confused about secularism and the vote bank---joined in on occasion and events unfolded then with lightening speed, leading to the demolition of the mosque on December 6, 1992. Then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi gave the call for Ram Rajya even as his government allowed shilanyas that was taken through villages to divide and polarise in the name of religion; Congress Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao sat fiddling like the proverbial Nero in Delhi without bothering to take urgent stock of the situation at Ayodhya. And woke up to convene a Union Cabinet meeting only after a makeshift temple had been constructed at the spot.
And hence it stands to reason today that the first party after the BJP to rush to embrace the verdict for the temple is the Congress party, always unable to understand the Constitution of India, the depth of secularism and the essential meaning of diversity.
The demolition acted like a temporary catharsis for the mobilised mobs and for some years the Ayodhya issue went on the backburner. The Muslim groups, also ferocious in their utterances before the demolition, dissolved after. The secular marches for the reconstruction of the mosque slowly faded away. And it did seem that perhaps the Ayodhya issue had lost its fervour and appeal. But unresolved it continued to fester and make its presence felt every now and again.
Until finally it resurfaced in 2014 after the BJP came to power at the centre, caught speed, and today the Supreme Court has ruled as expected. Again Muslim individuals and groups emerged on the eve of the ruling, claiming to speak for the community. Some proposed deals, others offered suggestions, all keeping the story within the Hindu vs Muslim claims to what is essentially an issue of the law, of independent India’ legacy and her Constitution.
The mosque as it was the day it was demolished was a protected monument. And the case of demolition should have been fought accordingly, instead of communities confronting each other on what are essentially religious claims. It is tragic that the intervening decades after the demolition have not taught any lessons, and justice has become a questionable entity.