The changes from a pretension of secularism to a majoritarian Hindutva culture within the mainstream psyche was slow and steady during the post independent India. The growth of Islamophobia from the partition period to the destruction of Babari Masjid was one stage in this. The destruction of Babari Masjid and its justification changed the pace in which communal forces acted on the ground, through media, through legislative bodies, through the executive machinery and finally through the judiciary. The verdict on the Ayodhya issue seemed to keep the pretension of being within the parameters of a `secular State’. But in its essence, the verdict was a sell-out to the Hindutva forces.
The real conflict has not been for the land to construct a temple after the destruction of a mosque. The real conflict was for the establishment of the superiority of Hindutva forces over not only Muslims but all those who believed in secular values in India. The real conflict was for the invasion over the right to faith as enshrined in the Indian Constitution. The real conflict was to treat a segment of Indian society as secondary citizens. The real conflict was to redefine
Indianness’ of the Indians. We have seen this in its brutal forms during Gujarat and Kandhamal genocides and many communal attacks by the Hindutva forces during the post Babari Masjid era in India. The nature of brutality varied in its quantity and quality during every communal attack. But it is for the first time itslegalisation’ has been publicly accepted by the mainstream psyche. With this verdict, the Supreme Court made the secondary citizenship of the minorities in India as
legally’ acceptable also. The question which remained is:If the Babari Masjid was not destroyed, would the Supreme Court announce a similar judgement?’ What did the existence of a place of worship really mean to supreme legal institution in India? If the present verdict is according to the secular principles of Indian Constitution, then would the court have ordered the Government of India to construct a temple on the land where a mosque stood, with the same `legal’ logic? In addition, is it the job of a Government administered by a secular constitution to build such a temple?
The other question which disturbs me as a human being placed in secular India is : `What role should moral values and ethical standards of any society play in shaping its notion of legal justice?’ One may argue that the verdict has failed in all these three standards, but since I believe that the Supreme Court even today with all its limitations can and must play a role in preserving the secular fabric of the society, I would argue that if the legal institutions fail to play a fair role, it is the responsibility of the civil society to reshape the notions of justice beyond its narrow legalistic frameworks. It is time now for the civil society to discuss and find ways and means to reshape justice itself for the welfare of all communities in this country, in order to protect and reinstall the structure of Indian democracy.
There are thousands of constructions which violated the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) in India. Very few such constructions were stopped due to the involvement of the civil society and social activists. In some cases, the Government itself has ordered to destroy such illegal constructions. But was Babari Masjid an illegal construction? It was constructed centuries before the formation of Supreme Court of India itself. Can such a construction be measured by the legalistic measures of the present law, and if so, to what extent and at whose cost? Has the Supreme Court overstepped on the archeological, cultural, historic and spiritual parameters of this site? Was the Babari Masjid just a
construction’ or abuilding of stones’ or illegal as per the logic of Indian Constitution? If so, how many structures of different faiths must be destroyed?
Among the hundreds of Ramayanas in the world today, including Muslim Ramayana, Adivasi Ramayana, interpretations of different Dalit communities and Ramayanas of many other countries like Thai Ramayana or Arab Ramayana there have been many variations of the story of Ramayana as well as existence of sites referred in such stories. Therefore, it would be good to ask which Ramayana did the court rely upon and why?
Jesus Christ was a part of history and there was a definite historical period of his existence. So was Prophet Muhammad, Buddha, Mahavir Jain and many others who became instrumental in the formation of different religions in the world. But the presence of Ram was more as a myth than history, followed by people in different places with many sites referred in all these myths. Therefore, the verdict of the Supreme Court was in that sense not a justification of the
historical’ truth of Ramayana, but a violation ofhistorical’ truths of hundreds of Ramayanas including the Ramayana in Thailand. It is a violation of the spiritual belief systems of many communities including those who still believe and worship Ravana in India since they would prefer to worship the site of birth of Ravana than Ram.
The verdict does not justify the destruction of Babari Masjid. But by denying the right to faith of a community, the verdict indirectly justifies the culprits of destruction. It is here that the public discourse in India must see that the notion of justice is not merely
legalistic’, it is also historical, spiritual, cultural, anthropological, sociological and economic. No verdict which does not represent the cultural and spiritual diversities of Indian society can be termed as ajust verdict’ in the test of times.
But the most significant question today is what role does the civil society have to reshape harmony, justice, democracy and secular values of this sub-continent? Apart from analysing the drainage of values, the civil society has a major role to play and reshaping harmony, so that such dark chapters do not cross our future anymore. Where do the mainstream media and our political machineries fit in, when we discuss on reshaping and reasserting the values of harmony and secularism? Is the civil society prepared to reshape a mainstream psyche which functions within the framework of democratic values in such instances in future? This becomes the most challenging question of our own times.
If the verdict respected a true history of spiritualities in this subcontinent called India, no court can ever produce any evidence of any Ram temple before the emergence of Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Jainism or Sikhism in this landscape.Moreover, we can find many records of religious tolerance and religious harmony, not just conflicts of faiths. The challenge for the civil society in India for a peaceful existence in future, is to rebuild and strengthen the notions of harmony, between all faiths as well as between faith and no religious faith. Atheism was also an ancient segment of people of this region. It is not `tolerance’ of multiple belief systems which can take us to a civilised future, but strengthening of values of mutual respect between the belief systems of every section of our society. The Indian society would not have evolved as a civilisation without such meaningful values.
Secondly, as a pro-active model of thought process, it is of crucial significance that the people of this country should be measured not as numbers in the calculations of electoral gains but as breathing souls who survive with specific needs in life. Unfortunately, the political parties in India as well as the mainstream media look at people as statistical figures rather than their inherent needs. Even in such calculations, unfortunately, the arguments of majoritarian and minoritarian interests do not satisfy my sense of logic. For Indian society is still segmented as various
minoritarian’ faith mechanisms rather than onemajoritarian’ faith. If you analyse the election results carefully, you will find that the upper caste logic of `majoritarianism’ is still extremely weak. What we have today is a majoritarian power system rather than majoritarian numbers. When it comes to numbers, the numbers of the marginalised identities as a whole become much more than any majoritarian force. However, the power structures facilitate a notion of majoritarianism.
For the future evolution of a civilised society which functions with peace, justice and harmony, it is crucial that we look into the above argument very seriously. For the total
statistical number’ of the marginalised identities in India is certainly much higher than the non-marginalised identities. Thus, it must be argued vehemently that a peaceful existence of the future in India is determined by the united actions of all marginalised identities. Therefore, coalitions of marginalised identities like Dalits, Adivasis, women, religious minorities, sexuality minorities, marginalised races, colours and nationalities are of crucial importance for the future history. The expressions of power due to caste, class, gender, sexuality, faith, region, language etc can be controlled and regulated only with such a unity. And for this, it is of utmost importance that the representatives of all such marginalised identities come together in a common struggle for justice, with common and minimum programmes of understanding. In isolation, no oppression can be dealt with. This reality has to be understood by all activists and intellectuals who express their energies for the rights of one oppressed section or the other. And if this logic is pursued, then we will find that the real power lies with the marginalised sections as a whole, even if they appear to be aminority’.
Such a unity will naturally dissolve the sectarianism which may manifest within at least a small section of activists who focus only on the oppression of their identity. Such a unity will not just force the institutions of the mainstream like media, legislature, executive machineries, judiciary, education system and social organisations in general to think in terms of more democratic principles, but also purify the minds of the mainstream sections for a more humanitarian existence rather than celebrating the violence promoted by all sections of communal forces.
K.P. Sasi is a film maker, writer and cartoonist