June 02, 2020
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Ayodhya: Restoring The Republic

Some days back, Mukul Kesavan had a column in the Telegraph, with an interesting discussion on Indian 'secularism' in which he argued that the ideologues of Hindutva want to reconstrue the secularism of the Indian Constitution in an Israeli frame of reference:

...the only way of achieving Israeli-style pre-eminence for a religious majority in India lies either through violent mobilization, which might change the facts on the ground and achieve such irresistible momentum that the supremacy envisaged by Hindutvavadi organizations is established de facto  (and this is the case in Gujarat, where the pogrom has consolidated an electoral Hindu majority and segregated a subordinate Muslim minority), or through judgments that strengthen the assimilative aspect of Indian secularism and create precedents for a ‘creatively’ majoritarian jurisprudence. This is why the imminent high-court verdict isn’t just another judgment about a land dispute; it’s an episode in an argument about the constitutional ground on which our republic is built. [Read on at the Telegraph]

And then today, again, in the same paper, he takes the debate forward, arguing that the Allahabad High Court's judgment will show whether the Constitution has teeth, offering a good summary of constitutional scholar Gary Jeffrey Jacobsohn's analysis of Justice J.S. Verma's reasoning not only in acquiring the land in Ayodhya but also in defining Hindutva, concluding with:

Given that traffic has only flowed one way in the Babri Masjid dispute for the last 60 years, it’s hard to see what is left for the Muslim parties to this dispute to concede, short of accepting the status quo where an extemporized temple has replaced the mosque. To accept that arrangement would be to concede that majoritarian grievance backed by massive, illegal violence is above the laws of the republic.

There’s another possibility. The Allahabad High Court might rule in favour of the Muslim parties to that dispute, redressing decades of injustice, and should the matter be appealed, the Supreme Court might uphold that verdict. Such a resolution would make the point that no one, not even self-styled proxies for Ram, can violently change facts on the ground and then expect to have their goonery legitimized by the courts.

Read on at the Telegraph

Going beyond the constitutional position, Pratap Bhanu Mehta offers an insightful analysis in the Indian Express:

All parties are reading, correctly, that the electorate does not at this juncture want polarising politics of any sort. So the political incentives are, ex ante, aligned to defuse violence. So the political incentives are, ex ante, aligned to defuse violence.

But the question to ask is this. Is the absence of violence an indicator of genuine peace with the subject? Does the absence of political mobilisation indicate the absence of sentiment? Under what circumstances could this equipoise be derailed? A good deal depends on the quality of the final judgment itself, the care and credibility with which it is argued, and the artfulness with which it handles sensitivities. Shah Bano was the last judgment that occasioned significant political mobilisation. But in that case the trigger was not the substance of the ruling itself, but the casualness with which interpretive matters pertaining to the authority of the Koran were handled. Even a stray observation about the claims of faith and history has the potential of derailing a technical land dispute.

Read on at the Indian Express

In the last two weeks or so, Swapan Dasgupta has had a number of columns and TV appearances, some of which may be useful to get a context of the politics and the political aspects of the dispute, addressing whether or not India has moved on from the early 1990s.

For a Times Now discussion with Vinod Mehta, see here (it picks up from IV below, which also has Prasoon Joshi reciting his poem on Ayodhya):

Ayodhya: Restoring The Republic
outlookindia.com
1970-01-01T05:30:00+0530

Some days back, Mukul Kesavan had a column in the Telegraph, with an interesting discussion on Indian 'secularism' in which he argued that the ideologues of Hindutva want to reconstrue the secularism of the Indian Constitution in an Israeli frame of reference:

...the only way of achieving Israeli-style pre-eminence for a religious majority in India lies either through violent mobilization, which might change the facts on the ground and achieve such irresistible momentum that the supremacy envisaged by Hindutvavadi organizations is established de facto  (and this is the case in Gujarat, where the pogrom has consolidated an electoral Hindu majority and segregated a subordinate Muslim minority), or through judgments that strengthen the assimilative aspect of Indian secularism and create precedents for a ‘creatively’ majoritarian jurisprudence. This is why the imminent high-court verdict isn’t just another judgment about a land dispute; it’s an episode in an argument about the constitutional ground on which our republic is built. [Read on at the Telegraph]

And then, yesterday, again, in the same paper, he takes the debate forward, arguing that the Allahabad High Court's judgment will show whether the Constitution has teeth, offering a good summary of constitutional scholar Gary Jeffrey Jacobsohn's analysis of Justice J.S. Verma's reasoning not only in acquiring the land in Ayodhya but also in defining Hindutva, concluding with:

Given that traffic has only flowed one way in the Babri Masjid dispute for the last 60 years, it’s hard to see what is left for the Muslim parties to this dispute to concede, short of accepting the status quo where an extemporized temple has replaced the mosque. To accept that arrangement would be to concede that majoritarian grievance backed by massive, illegal violence is above the laws of the republic.

There’s another possibility. The Allahabad High Court might rule in favour of the Muslim parties to that dispute, redressing decades of injustice, and should the matter be appealed, the Supreme Court might uphold that verdict. Such a resolution would make the point that no one, not even self-styled proxies for Ram, can violently change facts on the ground and then expect to have their goonery legitimized by the courts.

Read on at the Telegraph

Going beyond the constitutional position, excellently outlined above, Pratap Bhanu Mehta offers an insightful analysis in the Indian Express:

All parties are reading, correctly, that the electorate does not at this juncture want polarising politics of any sort. So the political incentives are, ex ante, aligned to defuse violence.

But the question to ask is this. Is the absence of violence an indicator of genuine peace with the subject? Does the absence of political mobilisation indicate the absence of sentiment? Under what circumstances could this equipoise be derailed? A good deal depends on the quality of the final judgment itself, the care and credibility with which it is argued, and the artfulness with which it handles sensitivities. Shah Bano was the last judgment that occasioned significant political mobilisation. But in that case the trigger was not the substance of the ruling itself, but the casualness with which interpretive matters pertaining to the authority of the Koran were handled. Even a stray observation about the claims of faith and history has the potential of derailing a technical land dispute.

Read on at the Indian Express

In the last two weeks or so, Swapan Dasgupta has had a number of columns and TV appearances, some of which may be useful to get a context of the politics and the practical aspects of the dispute

For a Times Now discussion with Vinod Mehta, see below (it picks up from IV below, which also has Prasoon Joshi reciting his poem on Ayodhya):

For the earlier ones including political parties and media commentators, see: I, II, III, IV

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