Kan Kan mein base hain Ram. The meaning of this line is simple yet profound. Every particle is infused with the spirit of God. Since divinity is present everywhere, even the opponent or the ‘enemy’ becomes a manifestation of the divine. As against this philosophical wisdom of everyday Hinduism came the virulent and nationalist Hindutva with the rallying cry of mandir wahiiN banaayeNge.
This insistence on the place (wahiiN) gives away the true nature of the Hindu Right, which is that in order to build a temple, it was necessary to demolish the mosque. And that is exactly what they did.
One can further say that building the temple was not as important as demolishing the mosque. Thus the divine was very clearly hijacked and put to political uses. The Muslims were made into the enemy of Ram and Ram himself was turned into a divisive symbol between Hindus and Muslims. Ever since the Hindu Right’s takeover of the issue, Ayodhya ceased to be just a matter of faith; it became and has been since then fundamentally a question of politics.
It was curious that while Justice Sharma invoked the notion of divinity, he used it not to embrace the Muslims but to expel them.
It is a long held belief that Ayodhya is the birthplace of Ram. The whole of Ayodhya is thus called the janmsthan. To complicate matters further, there are many other temples in Ayodhya which are called janmsthan temples. But let us leave aside that problem.
It is also well established that Hindus have been worshipping within the mosque compound since a very long time. Two places which were objects of their veneration were the chabutra and sita-rasoi. In the original suit filed by the Nirmohi Akhada (1855), they pleaded to the British authorities to build a temple on the chabutra. There is no mention in this suit that the birthplace of Ram lay below any of the domes of the mosque.
It was only in 1949 that the idols were surreptitiously put in the mosque. Thus between 1855 and 1949, the birthplace of Ram had changed. Although the judgment of Justice Khan mentions this shift, he does not deem it fit to question the politics behind this claim. The fact that the person who had made this possible, the then District Collector of Faizabad and Ayodhya, later went on to join the Hindu Mahasabha makes it amply clear that it was not so mush a matter of faith as much as it was of politics. In a sense, it was politics that redefined faith.
It needs to be underlined that the Ayodhya judgment came only after the parties concerned declared that they had miserably failed to resolve the dispute among themselves. This judgment of political settlement, before being criticized from a purely legal perspective, needs to be welcomed for its wisdom. One does not understand what difference it makes if the judgment sounds like ‘panchayati justice’, when it actually does offer a blueprint for communal living. Hooking on to legalities and negating the ground realities, as some critics of the judgment seem to be doing, will not serve any purpose.
The judgment gives a window of opportunity for Muslims and Hindus of this country to re-appropriate shared spaces, many of which have been lost. After all, before 1857, Hindus were worshipping adjacent to the mosque and were circumambulating the mosque while doing their puja. Taking this spirit of co-existence into account, the Court rightly asked why a temple and a mosque cannot exist side by side today. This exalted principle is salutary, but unfortunately the High Court rescinded from its own lofty grounds by dividing the property between Hindus and Muslims. Better would have been to make both of them the joint owners of the property.
In appealing to the Muslims to remain patient, Justice Khan gives the example of Prophet Muhammad, who, it is said, through his patience later became victorious over his arch rivals, the Meccans. The problem is that the message of this particular story is completely antithetical to the spirit of the Court’s own judgment. Muslims should remain patient now in order to emerge victorious later. But victory over whom? The Hindus? What kind of a message of social harmony is it? This only tells us more about the imperialist ambitions of Islam than anything else. Such a language should have been avoided by the Court.
The reactions to the verdict have been most unfortunate. Both parties have now more or less decided to approach the Supreme Court. The Hindu Right has been asking the Muslims to be magnanimous and hand over the land without any corresponding assurance to help build a mosque there. On the other hand, some sections of Muslims, instead of going to the negotiating table, have decided to knock at the doors of Supreme Court. Make no mistake: both these positions are essentially the same. The Hindu Right says mandir wahiiN banaayeNge and by refusing to even entertain an idea of negotiated settlement, the Muslim hardliners are saying masjid wahiiN banaayeNge.
If there are some Togadias among Hindus who think that the judgment has legitimised their goonery of 6th December, 1992; there are also the likes of Jilanis among Muslims who think that they have a historic right to rule this country. There is also a certain level of hypocrisy which characterizes Muslim organizations hell- bent on going to the Supreme Court. Have they forgotten their own argument over the Shah Bano issue? After all, their retrograde campaign argued that sharia was a question of faith. It was the same argument that the Hindu Right later used in its campaign for Ramjanmbhoomi.
The average Indian has seen much wisdom in the judgment of the High Court.
The absence of violence does not mean that India has moved along. The 20s generation may not care about the Ayodhya issue but it also pretty much does not care about politics at all. Is it something that needs to be celebrated? It is in fact alarming that our youth are so apolitical. The absence of violence has much to do with the fact that the Court judgment resonated with the provincial rationality of the common man for whom this was the best possible solution. That there was no organized violence is also a reminder that there can be no riots if the state does not want it.
Contrary to what many commentators have written, the mood on the Muslim street is not one of betrayal but a positive acceptance of the judgment as a respectable way forward towards an amicable solution. There is a section within Muslims which feels that the judgment might embolden the Hindu Right to further their claims on other mosques like those in Kashi and Mathura, but then there are others who put much faith in the Places of Worship Act of 1991, which specifically mentions that there would be no change in the religious character of any place of worship as it existed on 15th August, 1947.
The provincial rationality of India is, however, best exemplified in the person of Hashim Ansari, who thinks it is futile to go to the apex court and is trying his best for a negotiated settlement with local Hindus in Ayodhya. For the metropolitan minds like Togadia and Jilani, Muslims and Hindus come in separate boxes. Accustomed to see things in black and white, they would never understand the local wisdom of Hashim Ansari for whom Hindus and Muslims have been coparcenaries of the same earth for centuries and there is no reason why they should not continue to be so. The way forward for India is to listen to people like him more carefully.
Arshad Alam is with the Centre for Jawaharlal Nehru Studies, Jamia Millia Islamia