By Ram Puniyani
The Supreme Court seven bench verdict on Bari Masjid-Ram Janmbhoomi has elicited various reactions. While those who were part of Babri Demolition feel vindicated and are seeing this as the highest Court upholding their beliefs and faith, the minority community and most of those upholding democracy, pluralism and rule of law are seeing this as a blatant violation of the norms of justice. It has also raised the question of what next? Those associated with the construction of Ram temple at the site are looking forward to the formation of Trust which will build the grand Ram Temple there. Many human rights groups and some Muslim organizations want to appeal for review of the judgment. There are some Muslim groups who want to go for the process of review there are still others who want to ‘move away’ from the issue. As per those appealing to, ‘move away’ from Babri issue argue that this issue has tormented not only the Muslim community but has also strengthened the communal politics and has dealt a severe blow to the pluralism of the country and fraternity aspect of Indian Constitution.
The letter, ‘move away’, signed by over 100 Muslims from different walks of life, with prominent one’s like Shaban Azmi, Nasiruddin Shah and Javed Anand have come out with an appeal in a widely circulated letter. They state, “We share the unhappiness of the Indian Muslim community, constitutional experts and secular organizations over the fact that the highest court in the land has placed faith above law in arriving at its decision. But while agreeing that the court order is judicially flawed, we strongly believe that keeping the Ayodhya dispute alive will harm, and not help, Indian Muslims”.
It is very true that on one side to uphold the rule of law, to ask SC to give a relook at the verdict is necessary on several grounds of justice, on the other if we take stock of the whole political game played around Babri issue it becomes clear that it is around this issue that sectarianism has thrived. This has been the major issue which strengthened RSS combine. One index of this comes in the form of the electoral strength of BJP, which just prior to taking up this issue was mere two MPs in Lok sabha, and in the last general elections has rose to 303 MPs in the parliament.
It is true that RSS combine did raise other polarizing issues like Love Jihad, Cow-beef, Ghar Wapasi as well. It is also true that RSS combine has been polarizing the society on the issue of Nationalism, particularly through anti-Pakistan rhetoric, but Ram Temple remained the central issue all through. One could see that while the nation was united as the Indian nation through the anti-colonial movement, in contrast, different steps of Ram Temple campaign led to emotive upsurge, in which ‘Hate Muslim’ was the core. The rise of emotions around the Babri issue have also led to a condition where Muslims been relegated to the margins of society.
One can understand the spirit of the ‘look away’ letter when one looks back as to what happened during the whole period of this campaign. The first thing was that the basic issues of society, the one’s related to bread, butter, shelter, employment were relegated to the margins and issues related to faith were put on the forefront of the society. One could also see as to how ‘faith’ can be manufactured to serve the political goals. Till six-seven decades ago, no one talked that Lord Ram was born precisely at that spot where the mosque is standing, now it is by and large part of the understanding of a section of Hindus.
During this period, the violence in the name of religion kept going up and different studies show that Muslims have been the major victims of this violence. To cap it all the analysts also show that in the aftermath of violence BJP stands to gain at an electoral level. The whole story of pain and marginalization of the Muslim community running parallel to the Babri issue is there for all to see. Apart from physical insecurity, the aftermath of violence and other issues, which have added on to the process, we also see that Sachar Committee and Rangnath Mishra Commission also showed as to how at an economic and social level the conditions of Muslim community has become abysmal. The logic behind this letter stands out very clearly if we survey the happenings during the last few decades.
While RSS-VHP seems to be in command for temple construction what is happening to the plight of the majority community, the Hindus, in the name of whose faith the whole exercise has been undertaken? In a recent Asghar Ali Engineer memorial lecture, Prabhat Patnaik, the leading intellectual points out, that majoritarianism does not enhance rights or result in material benefits to the majority community. One can add that the poorer section of majority community as such are used as cannon fodder of this politics, while the elite of the community reap the rewards sitting in comfort zones of their homes and offices.
So today we are facing a dilemma yet again. Should we go to struggle for justice in the real sense by asking for a review of the terribly flawed SC verdict and let the issue linger on or whether we should look back and see who stands to benefit if this issue is kept alive? Do we not need to bring our focus back in the direction, in which our republic began, material progress, solving agrarian issues, take urgent steps against rising unemployment, ensure that our children do not die due to lack of Oxygen in the hospitals, ensure that scientific temper is promoted to put the nation back on the track which was envisaged by the policies which laid the industrial, agrarian and educational infrastructure of the country. The letter by Shabana Azmi, Naseeruddin Shah et al is a timely intervention in the debate on the issue and needs to be taken in all its seriousness.