The Allahabad High Court is to give its verdict on the Ayodhya issue on September 24. The case has been in the court for long years. The court is essentially going to touch upon three major issues. Whether there was a temple at the disputed site before 1538, whether the suit filed by the Babri Committee in 1961 is barred by limitation and whether Muslims perfected their title through adverse possession.
While the judgment is awaited, there is a lot of tension in the air about the same. The whole issue has been deeply linked to the faith and has been used to whip up communal hysteria. As such Muslim minority has been the major victim of the violence due to communal issue which has used the emotive appeal around Ram. Just to recall, the matter came to surface when some Hindutva forces forcibly entered the Babri mosque on the night of 22 December 1949 and installed the Ram Lalla idols in the mosque. Despite the repeated messages of the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru the local administration let the matter drag. Incidentally, the local District Magistrate K.K. Nayyar who let the issue sow the seeds of discord in times to come, joined Bharatiya Jana Sangh, the previous avatar of BJP, after his retirement. He became the Member of Parliament from the area.
During the decade of 1980s BJP took Babri issue as its main plank. The pressure of VHP and others on political scenario went up and the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, in a thoughtless move got the locks of Masjid opened and Shilanyas for the temple was performed. Advani’s Rath Yatras stepped up the temperature; violence followed and prepared the ground for the final assault on the Mosque, the kar seva of December 6, 1992. This demolition was coordinated by BJP-VHP-Bajrang Dal under the supervision of their father organisation, RSS. The demolition of the mosque was followed by ghastly violence, in Mumbai, Surat and Bhopal in particular. This also led to the strengthening of BJP, whose number of MPs went on increasing and it could come to power at the centre. Despite its communal rhetoric BJP had to bite the dust during the last two general elections, 2004 and 2009.
BJP has been trying to experiment with different emotive issues through its sister organisations but no other issue has been as powerful as to bring it to centre of political power again. And now with this forthcoming verdict in offing its sister organisations have stepped up the campaign to demand the building of Ram temple irrespective of the judgment.
In anticipation of the judgment, there are various types of efforts which are on in the society. The local peace groups in Ayodhya, which have played a significant part in maintaining peace in the aftermath of the demolition, are trying to appeal that whatever be the court verdict it should be accepted by both the parties, and that will be a fair way for the social harmony. The Government is trying to put forward a legalistic view and is appealing for calm in the society. Most of the Muslim groups have requested for maintaining law and order. They are also committing to accept the court verdict.
The RSS affiliates on the other hand, claiming to represent ‘all’ the Hindus, are on a different trip. For them the court verdict is immaterial and irrespective of the court verdict they are asserting that Ram temple has to be built at the site as that is the ‘wish of Hindus’. The RSS chief has repeatedly said that Ram Temple has not only to be built but also that Muslims themselves should accept the Ram Temple coming up there to prove that they are patriots! In RSS camp BJP at the moment seems to have taken a back seat as it feels that the verdict of last two elections has amply proved that people of India are not in favour of such issues coming to political arena. But even if BJP is on the back foot, RSS has no problems as it has its other wings which are doing that job. VHP has launched a multi-pronged effort through meetings, leaflets, booklets and SMS campaigns, exhorting Hindus to call for Ram Temple at the site. Its message is laced in the emotive language aimed to rouse passions. It is also planning to bring in the ‘sadhus’ to restart the campaign and has called a ‘Dharam Sansad’ (Religious Parliament) to react to the court verdict, i.e. to ask for temple irrespective of the judgment.
In this context there is a section among thinkers who are calling for establishment of permanent ‘History and Truth Commission’ to investigate and authenticate historical claims of ‘rights and wrongs’. It just shows how much history has been ‘used’ for current political goals. It was the British who had introduced ‘communal historiography’ to pursue the policy of ‘divide and rule’. While Muslim League and Hindu Mahsabha-RSS picked up the communal view of History, the National movement led by Gandhi took a different view, which was more in tune with uniting all the people. The likes of Bhagat Singh and Ambedkar saw the history as the history of either class or caste oppression irrespective of the rule of the kings of one or the other religion. At one level the formation of such a commission is welcome since so much muck has been left behind by the British policy, which continues to shape the ‘social common sense’ even today. History cannot be looked at as just the history of rulers and that too seen through the prism of religion. Other components of society, workers, women, dalits and adivasis also must be given the historical space, which is due to them.
Today we are at a crucial juncture. The core issues of society, bread, shelter, employment and Human Rights need to be brought to the front stage and the Temple-Masque disputes can be left to the rational historians and the law of the land. All of us need to adopt this attitude and accept the process of law and the values of Indian Constitution.