That a multi-religious Bench could deliver a unanimous verdict is a tribute to our judicial system and political sagacity
Revered variously as Maryada Purushottam Sri Ramchandra Raja of Ayodhya, the Imam-e-Hind as Allama Iqbal designated him, and a founding pillar of the Oriental civilisation, the status of Sri Ram as the central deity of the Hindu pantheon has always been beyond question. Regardless of whether a temple built at the place of his birth was demolished and a mosque built in its place, it was almost universally believed that this was indeed the place of the God-King’s birth. In fact, till recently Thailand’s Capital was called Ajutthia, referring to Ayodhya — such was the Indic influence of the epic Ramayana. To that extent it would have been a travesty of the faith of generations had the Supreme Court permitted any structure other than a shrine to Sri Ram to be built on that site. Collective historical memory being an integral part of any civilisational ethic, it is not surprising that the local populace around the town of Ayodhya has fought for over 400 years to regain the spot where Ram lalla or the infant Ram was born. Apart from physical clashes between Hindu and Muslim armies, the advent of the British colonialists dragged the matter to the courts where the issue hibernated for more than a century. A closure proved elusive and the case got further complicated by the mysterious appearance of idols of the infant God in 1949, shortly after Independence. So powerful was the collective historical memory that a mass movement to reclaim the site, launched by the BJP in 1989, gained massive traction once the then party supremo LK Advani initiated a Rathyatra from Somnath in Gujarat to liberate the Babri Masjid. Although the yatra could not complete its proposed journey, it aroused passions across the country, reinstating Lord Ram’s place as the most venerated member of the Hindu pantheon. It also gave India an alternative political narrative and birthed a national consciousness.
Given the convoluted history and labyrinthine logic of the arguments tabled by both sides, only a well-considered and voluminous verdict could have pacified the claimants. Even though Saturday’s judgment has been widely welcomed, there are indications that not everyone is satisfied. Some are reiterating that nothing short of restoration of the mosque will be acceptable, knowing well that such talk will only stir a massive communal bloodbath. Fortunately, most responsible organisations on both sides of the religious divide have been more restrained and their followers have not bitten the bait of provocations. The Government’s tough measures in anticipation of the negative role of agents provocateurs have so far kept a tight lid on people wanting to engineer riots and destroy India’s unity and integrity. Even residents of Ayodhya are tired of being circumscribed by a political context that doesn’t help their aspirations and have been seeking closure. With jobs and education on their mind, an entire generation, be it Hindu or Muslim, born under the shadow of the dispute is ready to cast away what has become a beast of burden. The Ayodhya verdict is truly a paean to India’s legendary spirit of tolerance and socio-religious diversity. That a multi-religious Bench could deliver a unanimous verdict in 40 days is a tribute to the strength of our judicial system as well as our political sagacity, too. The Supreme Court must be appreciated for stripping down the complexity of religiosity to the titular nature of the suit and creating a multi-representative trust to decide on the roadmap ahead. Not only that, it has said categorically that the allotment of land, all of five acres, for the construction of the mosque should happen simultaneously and within the perimeter of Ayodhya. Even the Sunni Waqf Board’s counsel Zafaryab Jilani highlighted that the operable parts of the verdict had upheld the secular nature of our polity, such as that classifying the act of demolition itself as illegal. Nothing and nobody must be allowed to damage this legendary resilience and democratic foundations. Finally, let us hope that with the restoration of our civilisational core, it isn’t used as a justification for historical corrections that are guided by narrow political considerations. Lord Rama wouldn’t like that maryada to be tampered with.
Monday, 11 November 2019 | Pioneer
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