Appeasing A Bully: The Ayodhya Verdict
Former judge of the Indian Supreme Court Justice Markandey Katju writes that the Ayodhya Verdict will not only polarise society, but it will also embolden aggressors and lead to more attempts at reclaiming Hindu historical symbols as seen in the Babri Mosque case.
I submit that the recent Ayodhya verdict of the Supreme Court will go down in the annals of Indian legal history in the same category as its decision in ADM Jabalpur vs Shivakant Shukla, 1975, the only difference being that unlike the latter, in this one there is not a single courageous dissent.
In substance, it has said that might is right, and has laid down a dangerous precedent sanctifying aggression. It is like a bully snatching a kid’s sandwich in school, and the teacher giving a ‘balanced judgment’ by allowing the bully to keep the sandwich and giving the kid a slice of bread instead.
One need not go into the correctness or otherwise of the court’s finding that the Babri Masjid was built by one of Babur’s generals after destroying a Hindu temple on the site. It is true that many Hindu temples were destroyed by Muslim invaders, and mosques built on their sites, sometimes even using the material of the temple. An example of this is the Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque near Qutub Minar, Delhi, whose pillars have Hindu carvings, or the Gyanvapi Masjid in Varanasi, whose rear wall has Hindu carvings, or the Atala Devi Masjid in Jaunpur. But the point is this – is India to move forward or backward?
It would be a different matter if a Hindu temple is broken today and converted into a mosque. But where this was done allegedly 500 years ago, does it carry any sense to go about restoring the structure to its Hindu original?
This revanchism will be stupid, and can only polarise society, serving the political agenda of some people who wish to keep the communal fire burning for getting votes.
And it is stupid to think that the Ayodhya verdict will bring about communal peace. Appeasement to a bully, like the Munich pact of 1938, only whets the appetite of an aggressor. Cries of ‘abhi to yeh jhaanki hai, Kashi Mathura baaqi hai’ were heard soon after the demolition of the Babri Masjid on 6th December, 1992, and are bound to be repeated soon. Sakshi Maharaj, the BJP legislator, has said that Jama Masjid, Delhi, was built on a Hindu temple, which should be restored. Similar claim has been made about the Taj Mahal. Where will all this end?
To say that Ram was born at a particular spot is ridiculous. Even if he was a historical, not mythical, figure, how can anyone say where a person was born thousands of years ago?
India is passing through a terrible economic crisis, with GDP at a record low, manufacturing and business in steep decline, and unemployment at a record high, even according to the Government’s own National Sample Survey. There is appalling level of child malnourishment with every second Indian child being malnourished according to the Global Hunger Index, 50% of our women anaemic, farmers’ suicides continuing unabated, and healthcare and education for the masses in a pitiable state.
Evidently, our leaders have no clue how to solve these huge problems. So, to divert attention from them, they must resort to gimmicks like Yoga Day, cow protection, Swatchata Abhiyan, abrogation of Article 370 etc. Building Ram Mandir lies in the same category.
After Partition of 1947, the demolition of Babri Masjid by vandals with the connivance of some people was the greatest tragedy of India. The Ayodhya verdict says it was illegal, but in the same breath sanctifies it. Well done, my lords!
Markandey Katju is a former judge of the Supreme Court of India. He was also the Chairman of the Press Council of India.