Loss of Babri Masjid - Requiem of a Soldier
The India Supreme Court, unanimous, verdict of November 9, 2019 awarding 2.77 acres of disputed land to Deity ‘Ram Lalla’ did not surprise me at all. The writing was always on the wall.
The ‘All India Muslim Personal Law Board’ should have had the sagacity to foresee that Court decisions and public opinions are generally, though, not always, co-related. Courts will generally mirror the public ideological mood.
A court that is not responsive to majority opinion would stand to lose its legitimacy and trigger social disorder which would detract from its social responsibility to the nation. The RSS, more with the ear to the ground, during a meeting of Muslim intellectuals, on November 6, at the Indian Islamic Cultural Centre, New Delhi accepted to abide by the Supreme Court verdict.
I posed a pointed question to Dr Krishna Gopal Ji, on this. He replied emphatically, twice, that they would. The RSS so far had, earlier, never confirmed that they would accept a Court verdict. Their affirmation only confirms my view that they had appreciated which direction the wind was blowing. I shudder to think of the mayhem that would have been wrecked in case the judgement had favoured the Muslims.
Conversion of places of worship have generally followed victories after battle or after social revolutions, seldom in peace time. The Muslim community triggered the Ram Janam Bhoomi Movement by not accepting the ‘request’ to bequeath the land of the Babri Masjid to the majority community in exchange of offer of removing the Masjid brick by brick and rebuilding it at a suitable alternative site.
This gesture would have created immense good will and would have punctured attempts at polarisation of the two communities. Unfortunately the rigid stance of the intellectuals of the Muslim community added fuel to the fire which led to the demolition on December 6, 1992 and, ultimately, resulted in the change of the political map of India.
I need not go into the intricacies of the judgement but as a compensatory gesture (Sop, say most Muslims) to the Muslims it has been ruled that 5 acres be allotted, at a prominent location in Ayodhya, to the Sunni Muslim Wakf Board for construction of a Mosque with associated facilities. No time frame has been specified, which can stretch to infinity.
There are already several mosques in Ayodhya where there are no worshippers. I initially opposed the call of most Muslims to politely refuse this ‘Barter’. I perceived that this would be considered as a ‘big sulk’ on the part of a loser.
However, after pondering further I think this would be the right decision as there is a danger of it being cited as a precedent. If the Sunni Wakf Board decides to accept the offer it would be better to establish an educational institution instead. We need ‘Mosques of Knowledge’. There is already a surfeit of places of worship, totally under-utilized and now decrepit and uncared for.
The Judgement termed the razing of the Babri Masjid in 1992 as illegal. The case is still pending in the courts of justice and hopefully notice will be taken of the Supreme Court stricture and deserved punishments will be awarded; not the nominal punishment of one days imprisonment and a fine of Rs 2000/- imposed on the then Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Kalyan Singh who was subsequently rewarded with a gubernatorial appointment.
Another disappointing feature of the Judgement was the nine page reference (Pages 116-125) to the ‘Places of Worship (Special Provisions)’ which prohibits ‘conversion of any place of worship….. as it existed on 15 August 1947’.
The Ram Janam Bhoomi/ Babri Masjid is specifically excluded from the ambit of the Act. I had expected that, as a gesture of reassurance, the Supreme Court would add teeth to the Act.
The punishment of only 3 months imprisonment and a penalty( How much?) for violators is not deterrence enough for such dastardly acts to be repeated in future. The victory of faith over facts may ignite disputes over other mosques too. I think the nation has had enough blood letting on places of worship and the chapter needs to be closed once and for all time to come.
Prior to the judgement Muslim organization had agreed to abide by the judicial verdict and the demand for a judicial review is misplaced. It will only keep the communal cauldron on the boil with the Muslims being further singed.
Soldiers are taught to weigh all options (Termed ‘Appreciating a Situation’ in Military parlance) before adopting a particular course of action because lives of soldiers are on the line and may result in defeat. But reverses, do happen, have to be accepted and call for change of strategy.
I had made an appreciation before the Judgement and came to the conclusion that the best course of action was a negotiated settlement. There would have been no winners / losers or loss of face.
The Muslim community is now faced with a reverse and needs to change tack. Unfortunately conservatives carry the day by the din of the noise they make and by castigating persons who advocate a conciliatory path. A person need not sell his soul and be reduced to becoming a ‘Sarkari Mussalman’, as I have been accused of becoming. I may not be as well-versed in theology as other learned men of the Muslim community but I am a rationalist and have seen terrible riots and blood letting and do not want another drop of blood shed.