Almost all newspapers wrote editorials either on 10th or 11th November on the unanimous verdict of the five judge bench of the Supreme Court on the Ram Janma Bhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute on November 9. A plethora of articles appeared in the newspapers expressing various views on the verdict of the SC. One common wish or appeal expressed in almost all editorials and in various articles is “Let us move on; let there be no repeat of 1992; India has had enough”.
People in general felt a sigh of relief, as there were no untoward incidents or violence in any part of the country. The Central and the State governments had taken extraordinary measures to deal with any breakdown in the law and order situation. All political parties and leaders had appealed to the people to maintain peace and calm and accept the verdict of the SC.
The Supreme Court judgement recognises the Hindu claim over the disputed land, while directing the building of a mosque on a suitable plot at a prominent place in Ayodhya. That gives the impression that the judgement is a balanced one. At the same time, there are a few unanswered questions. Prominent among them is that t he judgement accepts that the demolition of the mosque in 1992 and the placing of the idols in 1949 were "serious violations of the law". Then why does the court reward the serious violators of the law by handing over the entire land to them? The editorial in ‘The Hindu’ on November 11 (Justice and Peace, Ayodhya Verdict), has pointed out this aspect. “ But what is most disappointing about it is that the relief spelt out by the Bench may amount to legitimising the very demolition it unequivocally condemns. Having declared that the suits are representative of the two communities, organised violence by one party ought not to have been ignored.”
A saving point in the whole exercise is that the judgment enjoins the Central and the State government to abide by the Places of Worship (Special Provision) Act, 1991, which forbids the conversion of any other place of worship as it existed on August 15, 1947. Hence the Ayodhya verdict cannot be taken as a precedent for claiming the ownership of other worship centres like Kashi and Mathura. The SC in its judgement also made clear that there is no proof to show that the mosque was built after destroying a temple, although it has accepted the report of the Archaeological Survey of India that a structure similar to temple was found beneath the mosque.
While almost all political parties welcomed the verdict and appealed to the people of India to do the same, many Muslims are not satisfied with the judgement, although they have not rejected it. Terming the decision of the Supreme Court to hand over the disputed land to Hindus unjust, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board said that the verdict is not satisfactory. The Sunni Waqf Board has said that it will be making a decision on its position on the five-acre of land granted by the Supreme Court in its Ayodhya land dispute judgment in the next 15 days. From the perspective of a lasting reconciliation between the two communities, the Muslims may avoid review petition, though they are entitled to it, and accept five acres of land offered to them through the SC judgement for the construction of a mosque.
What is the way forward? Some commentators have pointed out that through the judgement the Supreme Court tried to resolve an issue that has vexed the nation for about seven decades and to initiate a process of reconciliation. If genuine reconciliation is to take place and India has to move on, certain favourable conditions are to be created.
First and foremost, the Hindu organizations, especially the Sangh Parivar members, should shun all kinds of triumphalism and should not make use of the process of building the Ram temple at Ayodhya another occasion of communal polarization. Some VHP members have already declared that karsevaks will be brought from all over India for the construction of Ram Temple in Ayodhya. In an age when building construction is highly mechanized, only limited number of labour force is needed. Hence mobilizing karsevaks will be another political and communal mobilization. The BJP and the Central government should prevent any kind of mobilization of karsevaks for temple construction.
Secondly, the BJP expanded its political footprint all over India and came to power in many States and at the Centre mainly through communal polarization centred on Ayodhya Ram mandir issue. It has to resist the temptation to use the same technique when it sees that power is slipping out of its hands.
Thirdly, the BJP and the saffron parties must drop future mandir-masjid agitations. Although some organizations have declared that they have no plan to pursue the issues like Kashi and Mathura, the behaviour of these organizations in the past does not guarantee that they would keep their word. The government and the SC have to be firm on these organizations so that they would not start another disastrous mandir-masjid agitation.
Fourthly, as ‘The Hindu’ editorial on November 11 stated, “There would be a real sense of justice only if those who plotted and executed the demolition are convicted in the ongoing trial in Lucknow. The rulers of the day owe this much to the nation. And in the spirit of the ‘new India’ put forward by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, it would be in the fitness of things if the VHP and other organisations which participated in the demolition are expressly excluded from the proposed trust to build the temple.”
Fifthly, the people of India have to graduate from religiosity to spirituality. This is a very difficult task, but not impossible. The canny politicians will always try to make use of religion for accessing power and remaining in power and the priestly class in all religions will try to keep people subservient to blind faith and superstitions. Spirituality requires the practice of the core values taught by the religions whereas religiosity focuses on rituals, dogmas and traditions. The core values of all religions are love, forgiveness, compassion, truth, justice and respect for the other. When people start practising these values the worship centres will become secondary. They will not give priority to build worship centres and lock God in these worship centres. On the other hand, they will see God in the human beings and in the whole nature. They will respect other human beings and be compassionate to them. They will not kill another human being in the name of God and worship centres; they will not pollute the nature or overexploit it.
Many gigantic churches built in Europe have become mainly tourist centres. The people of Europe are in search of a higher level of spirituality. Unfortunately, the religious leaders in Europe have failed to satiate the spiritual quest of the people; they continue to offer the age-old religiosity perhaps in new bottles. As a result, people are becoming indifferent to religion. The religious and spiritual leaders in India have to educate people to move from religiosity to spirituality. They should shun building opulent worship centres, erecting huge statues and organizing mega religious events that attract crowds. Let the focus be on learning the essence of religion, the core values and practising them. Lord Ram will be happy if all people in India enjoy righteousness and live in harmony. Jesus will be happy if the disciples of Jesus follow the way he has enunciated in the Sermon on the Mount. Prophet Mohammed will be happy if all people live in discipline and fellowship. Will God be happy if people worship him without doing His will? Will He not tell them, “I never knew you. Get away from me, you wicked people.” (Mt. 7:23)
If India has to move on, it has to focus on the education of the youth as Swami Vivekananda has envisaged. “We need an education that builds character, increases strength of mind, expands intellect and helps a person to stand on his feet”. What is severely lacking today is character formation and expansion of intellect. The students are not taught to develop critical thinking. As a result they are easily brainwashed by the political and religious leaders. They easily become the voracious consumers of divisive ideologies and ideologies based on hatred and revenge. A divided India cannot become a strong India.
The BJP government at the Centre could achieve most its Hindutva goals like making triple talaq illegal and criminal, abrogating article 370 and 35 A and dividing the Jammu and Kashmir State into two Union Territories, and preparing the way for constructing Ram temple in Ayodhya, even though the last one came from the judiciary through a legal process. The BJP may take the credit for the construction of Ram Temple in Ayodhya and use it for electoral gain.
At the same time the economy is on the downhill. Lakhs of people are losing jobs; there is no let up in the crisis in the farm sector and people are losing faith in the banks. Credit rating agency Moody’s Investors Service changed the outlook on the Indian government’s ratings from stable to negative even as it reaffirmed the existing foreign and local currency ratings. The results of the assembly elections in Haryana and Maharashtra have vindicated that people are more concerned about the issues of bread and butter than the xenophobic nationalism. The BJP should avoid triumphalism with regard to Ayodhya issue and focus on the issues of governance. Harping on nationalism and exploiting the religious sentiments of the people may bring electoral dividends in the short run; but in the long run India will be failing. Allow India to move on.
(Published on 18th November 2019, Volume XXXI, Issue 47)