Like most citizens of this country I believed that the courts would decide on the fate of not just the land but what happens when history is revisited to annihilate the contemporary. The issue is beyond land. What next? Silence. Nobody wants to know.
A day before the verdict of September 30, I saw one of those anchor’s faces in profile promising to give a blow-by-blow account. She would be there, as we knew they would. I did not watch a single news channel on that day. I switched on Zee cinema; it telecast Mani Ratnam’s film ‘Bombay’ on the riots of December 1992-93. The Brahmin-kasai emotional war transmogrified into a street fire and bloodshed; what did not burn were the stereotypes. They still exist. Why was this film so pertinent to be shown on that day? To capture eyeballs and the public imagination.
Silence. I thought the law of the land would prevail. We are supposed to respect it. My judiciary has instead taught me a new math. One is equal to two. The 2.77 acre land has been divided into three parts – one for the master, one for the slave and one for the little boy who cries down the lane.
Has the judiciary defined what exactly it means by the term ‘Hindus’ and ‘Muslims’? Does Hindus include those of the backward castes and tribes? Are they permitted to visit temples? Which Hindu group will have ownership rights over that one-third land and how will it utilise it? Will it have the acquiescence of all Hindus?
Who are the Muslims? Is every sect been taken into account? Can the Waqf Board claim rights over it? Is the Muslim Personal Law Board the rightful governing body over land issues? What would this generic group called ‘Muslims’ utilise the property for and will it be acceptable to the ‘neighbours’?
This secular democratic republic has copped out under the weight of its own mythology and given a verdict where religion IS the state. Let us stop pretending. This happens only in theocracies. And do not stuff the argument about the Muslim Personal Law on our faces. That has to do with a specific segment of society to deal with its personal issues and not about how they behave as Indian citizens. These rights are protected for every community, including the majority.
This brings us to the third portion – the demolished mosque. It “belongs to Hindus”. Which Hindus? From an ancient era? To those who decided there was a temple deep beneath the innards of the mosque that was built over its rubble? Or those who opened the locks of the mosque? Or those who took bricks along and finally razed the Babri Masjid? Which Hindus have any right to that space?
Did the judges even think about how careless their terminology is? Ever since stars started twinkling in the eyes of those who woke up to claim their ancient heritage, which is around 1990 right up to 2007, they started acting like architects. Artisans have been busy chipping away on slabs of stone to create pillars, beams and platforms. 65 per cent of the work is supposedly complete. To take a conservative estimate of what it has cost, let us imagine 50 artisans who worked at 200 rupees daily wages. Since it has been 17 years, Rs. 6.12 crore have been spent at the very minimum only on labour. Who is sponsoring this? Have any accounts been maintained? The Vishwa Hindu Parishad is behaving like an employment agency and is already making plans of recalling the artisans, who incidentally earn a far greater deal of money than other construction workers. It is to “finish the work”.
Has the verdict taken cognisance of the fact that the case was subjudice all these years and no work ought to have been started in the first place? Will the judges order that any of the materials that have been placed inside or in the vicinity that falls within the purview of the ‘dispute’ be dismantled with immediate effect and only after the case has been completely cleared can it be resumed?
Many of us recall the early days when there was magnanimity expected of Muslims and many did start parroting the ‘let us gift the Babri Masjid’ line. It was ridiculous, for you cannot gift something that you have not created. Then there is the ‘Muslims should help in the temple building’ suggestion. All Dale Carnegie fans, it would appear: How to win friends and ingratiate yourself. Had such a scenario occurred, it would still not have solved the problem. Whose riots were those?
They forcibly placed the idol of Ram lalla inside a makeshift temple. On what grounds can any judgement go in favour of a makeshift structure? What is the basis for it? Aren’t people evicted for forcibly occupying land? Aren’t slums bulldozed?
This brings us to the moot issue beyond the structure and the land – the people. We are still waiting for the culprits to be brought to book. They include our top leaders. Everyone who was on the dais that day. There is evidence that they incited the public and the kar sevaks. There is evidence that they sat back and watched the riots. There is evidence of their harsh words against the Muslims.
There is evidence that they created an India that Partition had not envisaged. They have failed the country and have no claims to be called Indians.
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Published in Countercurrents, October 4
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UPDATED on Oct 5
The following is a note from a senior bureaucrat who wishes to remain anonymous. He has raised some important points, and therefore I am using it in the blogpost itself. Reproducing it verbatim:
For a variety of reasons I have no desire to join a discussion on the much talked about judgment. As however on many networks, including the present one, many speculative opinions have been expressed I feel it incumbent to set the record striaght on obseravations of Justice Sibghatullah Khan on the limited point of the place of birth and the reason for not ordering the removal of the deities.
Contray to the general impression, Justice Khan has not upheld the argument of faith and tradition. He has further drawn a distinction between the expressions "Janam Bhoomi" and "Janam Sthan" and held that the latter connotes place of birth and not Site of Birth. He has accordingly, upheld only that Ayodhya is undisputedly the place of birth of Lord Ram. Nowhere in his judgment he accepts that the very spot where the deities are presently placed is the site of birth. The reason that he has upheld that the deities may not be removed from the present site i.e. the place over which the central dome once stood, is on account of adverse possession (adverse possession which in persian legalese is called "Qabza-i-Ghasibana" means that if physical occupation for a long time, it will not be disturbed even if ownesrship does not exist). On this point, in fact, he is in a minority as the other two judges have relied on "faith", "belief" and "tradition" to hold that the site where the deities were wrongfully placed on 23rd December, 1949 is the exact site of birth.
I regret to say that people who are well versed in law and should have known better before expressing opinions on the matter without going through the texts of the three judgments which are contained in 27 pdf files. It is even more regrettable that hasty criticism in a particular case has gone to the reprehensible extent of questioning his religious beliefs which remids one of:
Zafar Adami usko na janyee ho woh kaisa hee sahib-i-fahmo zaka
Jise taish mein yade khuda na rahee, jise aish mein khaufi khuda na raha!
I hold no brief for Justice Khan (it is quite likely that careful reading of his judgment will throw many valid grounds of criticism). Clearly, however, the present line of adverse comments without going through his order is wrong and smacks of righteous indignation.