Response of Dr John Dayal, Secretary General, ALL INDIA CHRISTIAN COUNCIL, to the Judgement on Ayodhaya by the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court:New Delhi, Sept 30, 2010
The judgment of the Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High court today [30th September 2010] on the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi dispute is patently based on populist and political sensitivities, rather than on points of law. Its implications, not just for the Muslims who were a party in the dispute, but all other religious minorities is yet to be fully assessed, but here is little doubt that there is an ominous aura to a verdict being touted by some as the only way to inter community peace in India. Judges SU Khan, Aggarwal and D V Sharma – the last of the 18 justices who have heard the case since its inception — have given a legal cloak to popular Hindu mythology and faith that the Lord Rama was born at the very spot where the mosque was built over the ruins of a Hindu temple sometime in 1528 AD during the reign of Emperor Babar.
The fractured judgment — Justice Sharma took an absolute and unabashed pro-Hindu line while the other two appeared to give somewhat more consideration to the arguments of both Hindus and Muslims — does not bring a closure to the dispute as an appeal in the Supreme Court is inevitable. But Hindu groups, who see the demolition of the mosque on 6 December 1992 as the natural outburst of an injured majority sentiment, have hailed this as a glorious victory. RSS chief Bhagwat has called upon all Hindus and others to join in a national campaign to build a “magnificent” Ram temple at the spot. Political leaders such as Mr Lal Krishan Advani have supported this move, and others have asked the Muslims to be magnanimous in defeat. The more virulent right wing of the Sangh Parivar, unmoved by calls of restraint, has demanded absolute control of the Mosque land, and everything else around it.
All sides have three months to move the Supreme Court. The time, some feel, may be used for out of court negotiations and dialogues which will make it easy for the Supreme court to make the High Court decision absolute and pave the way at some time in the future for the Ram Temple to take shape. The more secular elements, among them academics, hope the Supreme Court will take a long enough time for a new generation of Indians to accept the situation with the baggage of emotions and religious fervour.
That is as maybe. But jurists, law scholars and thinkers among the minority communities have been left numb at the Lucknow bench’s effort to play “village mediator”, accept mythology and theology as legal facts, and then proceed to divide the disputed land in a three way distribution – one part to the Muslims and two parts to two different Hindu groups. This surprised most because it is not even a prayer by any one of the many litigants. This also treads a very thin edge of the legal wedge in India where land disputes between religious groups is legion, and documentation, written and archaeological very scarce. Even in the Hindu Muslim relationship, there are at least three other major Temple-mosque disputes and the Sangh Parivar lay claims to as many as 3,000 mosques built at various times over former temples. Forgotten in this claim is the history of Buddhist stupas and shrines all over the country which were demolished to make way for temples during the first Hindu resurgence a thousand years ago. There are, however, no Buddhists of Indian origins in any numbers to make a claim. Also apparently blown away by the wind is the law of the land that the religious character of a building, church, mosque, temple or gurudwara, has been “fixed” for all times from the moment of India’s Independence on 15th August 1947 and no one can usurp each other’s religious places.
It is not for nothing that historians and archaeologists, as well as jurists of the stature of Rajeev Dhawan and PP Rao, have commented on the court’s temerity in framing issues of faith and devotion, and then giving a ruling on them, banking on specious evidence if available or on folk lore when even the shred of academic proof was not forthcoming. This is the caution bell for other minority communities.
The major disturbing signal from the judgment is that the courts in India are not ruling anymore on points of law, but on the feelings and faith of people, which gives the majority community an extraordinary power in a multi cultural nation such as India. It can, I fear, have serious implications in inter community disputes of this nature in the future.
The supporters of the judgment and these include the diverse ruling parties in New Delhi and the states are gloating on “a window of opportunity for peace and reconciliation”. It is to be examined how the judgment, even if it buys time, provides the way to future peace with possibly a temple and a mosque coming up, this time lawfully, in the future. There is no doubt that a jubilant Hindu majority will sue for peace and this could see their right wing religious groups ensuring that there is no trouble. But at this time in history, I do not see Hindu groups agreeing to have a Ram Temple rub shoulders with a revived Babri Mosque across a barbed wire fence. With the issue back in the courts, onus is also on the Muslim community to ensure that its extreme elements do not turn violent but wait for th next judgment, even if at least one major Muslim leader as said “We will not surrender”, quite reflecting the rather depressed mood of the community at large.
What has been salutary in the existence of the past few days has been the preparedness of the Union government and the state governments to take the strictest precautions so there was no flare up violence between the communities. The Indian army, the Air Force and hundreds of thousands of state militia and police forces were mobilised across the country, extraordinary precautions including a modicum of censorship of SMS and mass mailings were taken, and thousands of people taken into protective custody on the eve of the judgement.
This decisiveness is welcomed by the minorities who, unfortunately still have more faith in central armed forces than the local police for their security.
The disputed land is currently in the custody of the Union government, as is the final responsibility of maintaining peace in a land that seen so much bloodshed over the last 19 years since the former deputy prime minister, Lal Krishan Advani, led a religious crusade across the nation, his land march leaving thousands dead in Hindu Muslim riots which reached their culmination in the demolition of the Babri mosque in the afternoon of 6th December 1992.