Saturday, October 9, 2010

Faith versus Fact debate on Ayodhya verdict

Predictably, the debate between evidence submitted and faith as highlighted in the verdict by the Allahabad High Court
ought to be analyzed here in certain details.
One observation on the verdict was that the majority verdict of the High Court was well intentioned, politically correct, meant to be a measure of compromise and aimed at avoiding any communal riots. The process of national reconciliation has been lauded by many including those not happy with the verdict totally. A local furniture maker near Ghantaghar Market at Faizabad Md Siddiqui, summed up the paradox aptly, “the court had no option but to appease all. Otherwise by now there would have been bloodbath in UP and the rest of India”.

“If it (the verdict) is accepted in that spirit (reconciliation) by the Muslim community, it will resolve a burning communal problem of our nation,” wrote former Solicitor-General of India, T.R. Andhyarujina in The Hindu.
Thus, for weeks aftermath the verdict, political jargons revolved around whether the court order has legitimized the vandalisation of December 6, 1992.
Contemporary historians would recall that so great was the sense of outrage in the country on the demolition that the Prime Minister P V Narasimha Rao and the Central Government said on December 7, 1992 that the Babri mosque would be re-built.
Surprisingly neither of the judges took note of December 6, 1992 and virtually give an impression that the demolition as a fait accompli, as if the disputed 2.77-acre site was vacant land. It legitimized the Hindu claim over what was once described as ‘make-shift’ temple.

The Congress party, clearly on defensive following Muslims’ anguish, held its highest policy making body, the steering committee, meeting on October 5. At the end of marathon meeting, the party resolution said in no way the verdict had given sanction to the demolition exercise of December 6, 1992.

This aspect was truly exploited by other players as well. Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid Syed Ahmed Bukhari, often known for hardline stance said, “the verdict of the High Court provides legal validity to the shameful and criminal act of the demolition of the Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992.” Bukhari, who also held a closed door meeting with discredited secular brigade leader Mulayam Singh Yadav, ruled out the possibility of any attempt to resolve the Babri Masjid issue through dialogue. “Giving away of the mosque, its forcible occupation or allowing idolatry within its premises was totally haram (illegal),” he had said.
LJP led by discredited secular champion, Ram Vilas Paswan, has gone a step further only to put pressure on Congress and urged the Centre to seek Supreme Court's opinion on the verdict and especially address the 'faith'
CPI(M), another key self-styled champion of the cause of secularism, after quite a balanced and guarded statement on September 30; a few days later slammed the ‘faith’ part of the verdict and also the “post-facto justification for the (Babri) demolition".
"There are apprehensions that some of the reasoning set out in the (title deed suit) judgements may be taken as a post-facto justification for the (Babri) demolition" which was a criminal offence, CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat told reporters after a two-day meet of the party's Politburo.
In a statement, the CPI national executive also held that the Allahabad High Court verdict was based on "faith and religious belief" and said it did open a few questions on rule of law and principles of secular democracy.
Pushed to the corner by the much goodwill generated for Ms Mayawati-led BSP government in the wake of incident free passage of entire Ayodha verdict imbroglio, Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav-led Samajwadi Party launched aggressive and detailed roadmap to retain its base among Muslims. On October 1, a day after the verdict, in Lucknow, Yadav, once called ‘Maulana Mulayam Singh’, said, “a nation state is run by the rule of law and not on the basis of religious faith”.

The BJP, predictably, had, however, slammed parties for their remarks that Ayodhya verdict is based on faith and belief. Party’s chief spokesperson and also a lawyer in the dispute Ravi Shankar Prasad instead asked the political parties including the Left to read the length judgement.

Interestingly, L K Advani, though stood vindicated in the wake of the verdict, remarked in a statesmanlike spirit that “what the court has said does not justify the demolition”.
Aptly, Advani’s statement has come in for appreciation by objective observers. “This is a clear denunciation and disowning of the crime of 1992 by a top BJP leader than you have heard of the Emergency of 1975 by a top Congress leader,” wrote Shekhar Gupta in his popular column ‘National Interest’ in The Indian Express, October 2, 2010.
December 6 Vandalism:

However, it goes without saying the vandalism on December 6, 1992 was grossly erroneous and sinful. No less than the Supreme Court had passed an order in 1994 for the demolition of the Masjid, saying “the Hindus must bear the Cross for it.”
Former union Law minister and country’s best known maverick politician Subramanian Swamy argues that while the Supreme Court absolved the Hindus in general sense for the December 6 act, adding, “what was wrong with the demolition of the Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992 was that it was unauthorised by law and hence a criminal offence.” (The Hindu)
In this context, those who believe temple was destroyed by Babar and a mosque built in its place, argue that way back on March 18, 1886, the Faizabad sub-judge, a Briton, had ruled that “It is most unfortunate that a Masjid should have been built on land specially held sacred by the Hindus. But as the event occurred 358 years ago, it is too late now to remedy the grievance.”
The case was thus kept open – for political exploitation in democratic independent India where the political class had vested interest to pursue vote bank politics.

Another question which has evaded scrutiny is whether a temple and a masjid be considered equally ‘sacred’? The answer is perhaps a big no as the informed legal opinion suggests strongly “a mosque is not en essential part” of Islam.
“Under Mohammedan law applicable in India, title to a mosque can be lost by adverse possession. A mosque is not an essential part of the practice of the religion of Islam and namaz (prayer) can be offered anywhere, even in the open,” the constitution bench of the Supreme Court had ruled in 1994.

Thus based on this ruling, with due respect, the acquisition of a masjid is not prohibited by the provisions in the Constitution of India. That way Babri Masjid demolition case essentially means a criminal offense because the destruction was not allowed by the state or any judicial order.

Moreover, the point which ought to be emphasized is that the vandalism and subsequent destruction of the mosque had resulted in communal riots in several parts of the country including the hitherto peaceful places like Mumbai or parts of Assam.

“…. in Islamic law as well as in Saudi Arabia the authorities have demolished mosques from time to time for developmental works like to build bridges and lay roads. Even the mosque where Prophet Mohammed used to pray was demolished,” Subramanian Swamy told me in Parliament within days the historic verdict was pronounced.

However, like the political class and other players like Shahi Imam, even legal experts on the other side of dividing line had some strong words for the verdict.
The court’s judgment robbed Muslims of their entitlement to a site and a mosque on no flimsy legal grounds. The Lucknow judgment is a mess of potage,” wrote eminent jurist Rajeev Dhawan.

One would not like to value judgement either on the verdict or the merits and demerits of each of the arguments for and against the bench ruling; but it ought to said that majoritanism-minoritism is a reality.
It is this, I had found during and after post-Godhra riots in 2002.

Unlike their self-styled leaders like Shahi Imam, the common Muslims pretty well appreciate the futility of confrontation.

It is this realization about the “futility of confrontation” that made Ayodhya-based oldest plaintiff Mohammad Hashim Ansari swear by the compromise formula. “Agar masjid chhor dene se aman hoti hae …. Toh chhor do, humey nahi chahihye,” he retorted.
It is in this context, he had said, “Khushi ho ya gam, Band kamre mein raho. Musalman sarko pe ani nahi chahihiye, (Whether it is victory or loss in the case, Muslims should not take to the streets either to protest or rejoice)”.
After the verdict, giving his reaction to it, Ansari told me on October 1, “throughout my life I have maintained that Muslims should not adopt confrontation approach towards Hindus. Most of the time, people did not listen to me. I have gone through all that. Even before partition, Muslims would say, I am coward. But look at the reality today, Muslims are no where. Any further confrontation against the High Court order legal and political will be suicidal. That’s why I am meeting the Hindu leaders; many Hindus agree with me. We should use the opportunity.”


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