I WISH I could trust the BJP when it says that it would stay peaceful and await the Allahabad High Court verdict on the 60-year-old suit to know who owned the site where the Babri masjid stood before the demolition on December 6, 1992. The Sangh parivar has so many members that any one of them can start the mischief.
One of its members, Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), has already collected a large number of sadhus at Ayodhya, the town where the disputed site is located. The VHP has suddenly woken up to declare that it is a religious issue. This is a change of tactics. So far it was given out that it was a political issue.
The BJP which vitiated the atmosphere before the masjid was pulled down went back on its word of staying peaceful and building the Lord Rama’s temple without causing any harm to the masjid. This was their undertaking even to the Supreme Court. Yet once again L.K. Advani tested the waters whether he can whip up the same old raw passion when he went this week to the Somnath temple to perform puja, the same place from where he had started the rath yatra in the wake of which many Muslims were killed. Crores of rupees were also collected at that time by selling bricks for the temple. But no account has been rendered so far.
New Delhi has been timidly silent. It did not take any action against Advani and scores of others who were found guilty by the Liberhan Commission after an inquiry lasting 17 years. In 1992, the then Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Ravo connived at the destruction. However, the centre is not taking sides this time. It has sent its forces and offered help to the UP chief minister maintain peace at any cost. Still I have a lurking doubt whether the centre would respond in a strict manner if some were to take law in their hands.
Fortunately, the atmosphere at Ayodhya is clam, unlike the past when thousands of kar sevaks were allowed to gather for shilanyas on the BJP’s instigation. UP chief minister Kalyan Singh was the villain of the piece. He is again vainly trying to exploit the situation but chief minister Mayawati appears firm on implementing the verdict.
The RSS has advocated peace. But it has left the future action to deliberation. Looking back, it and that of its affiliated bodies’ record shows how they have relentlessly tried to convert the Babri masjid into a temple and how they destroyed the mosque with ladders, ropes, crowbars and hammers which they had collected according to a plan. The effort to capture the masjid goes back to 1886 when a Hindu jagirdar approached the then British rulers to claim the mosque. They left the status quo prevail.
Coming to events after independence, it seems that the extremists had begun to assert themselves in the Congress. Jawaharlal Nehru described them in his letter to then UP chief minister Gobind Ballab Pant as: “I have felt for a long time that the whole atmosphere of UP has been changing for the worse from the communal point of view. Indeed, UP is becoming almost a foreign land for me. I do not fit in there.”
Nehru was referring to such Congress members who were at the back of the Hindu fanatics and responsible for the installation of the idols at the Babri masjid. It was given out as a ‘miracle’. The RSS official organ, The Organiser, reported the event thus: “On the historic morning of December 23, 1949, the idols of Sri Ramachandra and Sita Devi miraculously appeared at the Janmasthan.”
Still an FIR was filed to say that two policemen had stalled the idols. Nothing came out of the FIR. Yet it showed that some people had done the mischief from outside. And there was nothing like miracle or pargat (appearing from nowhere). The person at the back was District Magistrate K.K. Nayyar who later resigned to become a Jan Sangh MP in 1950. There was so much commotion in the country—Nehru said that Pant did little—that the administration had to declare the premises closed and locked the gates.
Some Muslims went to the Allahabad High Court to claim possession. The title suit has been hanging fire since 1949. Even recently a person neither connected with the suit nor with the parties contesting it intervened to have the judgment deferred both at the High Court and the Supreme Court on the plea that the two parties should be given one more chance to settle the matter amicably, out of court.
The two Supreme Court judges hearing the suit differed. One felt that after knowing the history of the case, no settlement was possible between the two sides. He was probably right. But the other judge wanted to issue a notice to the parties to find out if they saw the possibility of a settlement on the Babri masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi dispute. Since the court’s practice was to issue a notice when the two-judge bench differed. Thank god, the full bench rejected the petition and cleared the way for the pronouncement of the judgment.
Rahul Gandhi jumped into the arena to say that the verdict was not so important as development or the infrastructure in the country. No doubt, what he said carried weight. Yet the fact remains that the status quo gave advantage to only one party, the Hindus, who built overnight a small temple at the site where the Babri masjid was razed to the ground. The Hindus continue to worship. It is the Muslim community which has been denied the mosque. In any case, both sides are now prepared to fight the case through all legal means.
Whether the verdict harms Indian secular polity is yet to be seen. 2010 is not 1992. People are not gullible now and they do not want anything to come in the way of their day today business. They are vigilant enough not to play into the hands of politicians. Still what the loose guns like Kalyan Singh, who was the chief minister when the masjid was demolished, and the RSS parivar are saying is ominous. They still argue that when it is a question of faith, no legal remedy can undo the belief. Yet they have to realize that they must hold negotiations with Muslims to settle the dispute. The verdict does not make one party victorious and the other a loser.
The two sides have to face the fact of either conciliation or arbitration if the court’s judgment is not acceptable to them. They should know that the judgment is on the dispute over the site’s title suit. It should not be stretched to an intractable communal problem.