The Supreme Court verdict on the Ram Mandir-Babri Masjid dispute in Ayodhya has left many concerns and questions for the people of our country. First of all, as was appealed by almost every political party including BJP, this verdict by a five-judge bench of Supreme Court of India should not be taken as a victory for any group over another. This sounds good but the truth is entirely different. Many senior BJP leaders who are in government and also leaders of RSS-affiliated organisations have made statements which resonate like trumpet of victory. On the other hand, the people who are committed to secularism and justice have started expressing their agony and anxiety over the possible implications of this judgment. Renowned historians, academicians and judicial luminaries have commented openly and pointed out how the ‘faith’ has been kept over evidences and historical facts.
The apex court has agreed that placing of idols in the Masjid in 1949 and the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992 were violation of rule of law. The verdict could have addressed the gravity of the crime, that it was not merely demolishing one 450-year-old structure, rather it was an act of creating hatred among different communities of our country’s people. One could recall the profound words of K R Narayanan that demolition of Babri Masjid as the greatest tragedy India faced after the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi.
It is to be noted that the judgment failed to deliver justice in this matter. The judgment has left many lacunae of ethics, equality, justice and constitutionalism within its reasoning.
It has legitimised the illegal act of demolition and asked the government to allot the same land to build the temple. It also asked the government to allot five acres of land for the construction of a Masjid. This raises questions about the role of the Judiciary and the State under the present Constitution which hails Secularism. Our Constitution, whose prime architect was Dr Ambedkar, mandates that Indian state should remain neutral and above all faiths. It also applies to Judiciary which is to act as an independent dispute resolution institution mandated by the Constitution.
The Supreme Court’s decision to allocate five acres of land to Muslims to “relocate” the Babri Masjid elsewhere in Ayodhya implicitly accepts the existence of the mosque, which is also supported by historical and archeological findings. In the initial stages of the hearing the Supreme Court explicitly stated that it will use judicial reasoning and constitutionalism instead of mob frenzy and majoritarianism. On November 9, while pronouncing the verdict, the Supreme Court seemed like privileging faith over faiths. The Supreme Court, while giving the judgment should have employed concrete facts and judicial pronouncements instead of a vague compromising stance. The use of Article 142 also stands discredited in this context.
By this judgment, the Supreme Court has established a bad precedence for other judicial bodies in the country. The judgment can be potentially abused by communal forces, particularly, the Hindutva forces for fetching similar judgments in matters of other similar disputes in the country. This can open a Pandora’s Box and can be used as a catalyst for communal polarisation amongst the otherwise secular population of India. It is a relief that the Supreme Court has upheld the Parliament Act of 1991 with regard to places of worship in this context.
Former Communist Party of India general secretary C Rajeswara Rao on February 14, 1990 itself had said: “At first our party had proposed that in case the controversy is not settled amicably the whole complex should be handed over to the archaeological department as a historical monument. With regard to all other disputes regarding religious places the status quo at the time of independence, i.e., August 15, 1947, should be maintained.
“But, when the pending cases were referred to the Allahabad high court by the UP state government and some other parties agreed to abide by the court verdict, our party also agreed to this position. However, we must repeat that the status quo regarding all other religious places as on August 15, 1947 must be maintained.”
Ordering the state to make a trust for constructing the temple and a mosque in Ayodhya also runs contradictory to our constitutional principles of secularism and equality, meticulously laid down by Dr Ambedkar and other freedom fighters, to keep equidistance from all religions in the political sphere. The judgment also used the vocabulary of ‘Hindu’ and ‘Muslims’ instead of using the name of the parties concerned, going against well-established judicial practices and principles of the rule of law.
The RSS-controlled BJP government, facing continuous failures on the real issues of livelihood of the people, on development and on economic growth, resorts to its core agenda of polarisation. Mass issues like employment have always remained at the periphery of the right-wing agenda and instead, they have prioritised and fanned communal issues to divert attention from actual issues of material interest to the masses. This time is no different. The RSS-BJP combine is exploiting the fractures of the society based on class and caste to its advantage by camouflaging mobocracy as ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikaas, Sabka Vishwas’.
The judgment is also being taken as a pronouncement of impunity for the perpetrators of the demolition of the Babri Mosque and the widespread violence spread afterwards. The judgment, by awarding the land to the aggressor has emboldened the stance of right-wing communal forces.
In light of all these, I call upon all secular people to come together to save the values of our freedom struggle, values of our Constitution and secular ethos of our country.