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A Judgement Based On Populist And Political Sensitivities

By Dr John Dayal

01 October, 2010

The judgment of the Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High court today on the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi dispute is patently based on populist and political sensitivities, rather than on points of law. The judges have given a legal cloak to popular Hindu mythology that the Lord Rama was born at the very spot where the mosque was built over the ruins of a Hindu temple sometime in 1528 AD during the reign of Emperor Babar. Though the fractured judgement does not bring a closure to the dispute, Hindu groups, who see the demolition of the mosque on 6 December 1992 as the natural outburst of an injured majority sentiment, have hailed this as a victory and the RSS chief Bhagwat has called upon all Hindus and others to join in a national campaign to build a Ram temple at the spot. All sides have three months to move the Supreme court.

Jurists and law scholars have been left numb at the bench’s effort to play “village mediator” and divide the disputed land in a three way distribution – one part to the Muslims and two parts to two different Hindu groups. This has surprised most because it was not even a prayer by any one of the many litigants over the last sixty years. But perhaps it also provides the way to future peace with a temple and a mosque coming up, this time lawfully, in the future.

The Muslim wakf board will almost certainly move the Supreme Court asking for clarification on their suit that the property be declared at a mosque which is owned by the board – an argument partially refused by the high court.. Even some Hindu groups may contest the decision, demanding that the entire land be handed over to them.

There is no doubt that a jubilant Hindu majority will sue for peace, and this could see their right wing religious groups ensuring that there is no trouble. The onus is also on the Muslim community to ensure that its extreme elements do not rebel against the judgment. “We will not surrender”, a Muslim leader, himself a lawyer, says, quite reflecting the rather depressed mood of the community.

For other minority communities, there are disturbing signals from the judgement. The courts are not ruling on points of law, but on the feelings and faith of people, which gives the majority community an extraordinary power in a multi cultural nation such as India and can have serious implications in other disputes of this nature.

What has been salutary in the existence of the past few days has been the preparedness of the Union government and the state governments to take the most strict precautions so there was no flare up violence between the communities. The Indian army, the Air Force and hundreds of thousands of state militia and police forces were mobilised across the country, extraordinary precautions including a modicum of censorship of SMS and mass mailings were taken, and thousands of people taken into protective custody on the eve of the judgement. This decisiveness is welcomed by the minorities who, unfortunately still have more faith in central armed forces than the local police for their security.

The disputed land is currently in the custody of the Union government, as is the final responsibility of maintaining peace in a land that seen so much bloodshed over the last 19 years since the former deputy prime minister, Lal Krishan Advani, led a religious crusade across the nation, his land march leaving tens of thousands dead in Hindu Muslim riots which reached their culmination in the demolition of the Babri mosque in the afternoon of 6th December 1992.

Dr John Dayal is Secretary General, All India Christian Council