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article imageProspects and challenges for India on the Ayodhya Verdict Special

By Srijit Mishra     Oct 26, 2010 in Politics
Mumbai - A group of concerned citizens gathered to discuss the verdict of the Allahabad High Court with regard to the Ayodhya dispute between Ram Janmabhoomi versus Babri Masjid in India. A number of perspectives were put forth.
The Centre for Study of Society and Secularism (CSSS) and Institute of Indian Culture (IIC) jointly organized a round table discussion 'Prospects and Challenges of the Ayodhya Verdict for the Nation' on 23 October 2010 to discuss the judgment passed on 30 September 2010 by a three judge special bench from the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court with regard to the dispute between Ram Janmbhoomi and Babri Masjid (Mosque).
The discussions began with a brief history by Dr Asghar Ali Engineer, a scholar on the Constitution of India and Islamic scriptures. As per recorded texts, history of this litigation goes to a suit filed in Faizabad in 1885. At that time, the trial court as well as the subsequent appeal to the District Judge, Faizabad and Judicial Commissioner, Oudh led to a ruling in favour of maintaining status quo. Muslims prayed in the inner portions (the Babri Masjid) and the Hindus in the outer portion (comprising Ram Chabutara and Sita ki Rasoi). This continued till independence and partition of the country (midnight of 14/15 August 1947) and sometime after that in the wee hours of 23 December 1949 idols of Ram Lalla were placed inside the Masjid (or as some group say the idol of Ram Lalla emerged there).
The current judgment is with regard to four suits. The first litigation dating to 16 January 1950 is an appeal to be allowed to pray and an injunction against removal of idols of Ram Lalla. Subsequently, there were three suits filed claiming full title to land by Nirmohi Akhara on 17 December 1959, Sunni Wakf Board on 18 December 1961 and Ram Lalla Virajman on 1 July 1989. The two major question that the court had are who the land belonged to and whether Ram Lalla was born at that place. The judgment, Dr Engineer opines, have nothing to do with the cases filed. On the first question, they divided the property into three equal parts. On the second question, they used faith, rather than evidence. Justice Khan also invokes the faith of Muslims by referring to a peace treaty signed by Prophet Mohammad. This is against laid down principles of jurisprudence and constitutional propriety, which was also indicated by a former Chief Justice of India in a recent discussion.
An human rights activist, Dr RM Pal, pointed out that the judgment cannot be independent of the Masjid being demolished on 6 December 1992 leading to rioting and violence that spread across the country. True, a separate case is being heard. But, the least that one can expect from the leaders espousing this cause is to apologize for this act.
Left view of participants of round table discussion on  Prospects and Challenges of the Ayodhya Verd...
Left view of participants of round table discussion on 'Prospects and Challenges of the Ayodhya Verdict for the Nation' on 23 October 2010 jointly organized by CSSS and IIC and held at the Conference Hall, IIC, Mumbai.
CSSS, Mumbai
The popular media perspective on the verdict is that this is a good judgment and we should accept and forget about it. Ms Jyoti Punwani, a journalist, does not accept this. On the faith question, she points out that Hindus believe that Ram Lalla was born in Ayodhya, but not on any particular location. Even if they agree that he was born there they do not want a temple constructed there. In any case, faith cannot be the basis of a judgment. In her discussion with the victims of the 1992-93 riots, many are happy with the absence of communal violence following the judgment. One victim remarked that "dono side ko kuch mil gaya, kuch acha hua," (both sides got something, something nice happened).
A medical practitioner and peace activist, Dr Arif Ali Sayeed, had helped victims of the riot said that there are different reactions to the judgment from the Muslim community. Youth are mostly indifferent, some are happy and there are few with extreme reactions "yeh desh unka hai, yeh adalat unka hai aur yeh zamin unha hai," (this country is theirs, this court is theirs and this land is theirs). Dr Engineer responded to this by saying that the court case should not be construed as Hindu versus Muslim; this dispute is, plain and simple, a matter of title. He further said that the "laws and rules laid down by the Constitution and the State have nothing to do with religion, language and ethnicity." Professor Anthony Kunnath, a political scientist, reacted by saying that "yeh mulk kisika nahin hai, yeh ham sabka hai," (this country belong to nobody, it belongs to all of us).
Arguing from a legal perspective, Advocate R Mishra, practicing in the Bombay High Court, mentioned that a judgment cannot be pro-Hindu or pro-Muslim. This is a sensitive issue and all the three judges gave separate judgments that together run into about eight thousand pages. If the judgments are not proper there are legal channels available to appeal in the Supreme Court and that we should refrain from questioning the judgment. He also mentioned about section 89 where one can go beyond evidence in the process of judgment to ensure mediation and solution.
Professor Kunnath reacted by saying that we can question a judgment. In particular, he raised the controversy surrounding the report of the Archaeological Society of India that the court relied on and whether the data prepared by them has been subjected to scientific scrutiny. It is relevant because court's judgment depends upon facts and figures put forth before the judges. There is an independent open appeal to look into this.
Right side view of participants of round table discussion on  Prospects and Challenges of the Ayodhy...
Right side view of participants of round table discussion on 'Prospects and Challenges of the Ayodhya Verdict for the Nation' on 23 October 2010 jointly organized by CSSS and IIC and held at the Conference Hall, IIC, Mumbai.
CSSS, Mumbai
Speaking from a Muslim perspective, Dr Zeenat Shaukat Ali, a professor of Islamic history and religion and founder Director General of Wisdom Foundation, a World Institute of Islamic Studies for Dialogue, Organization of Mediation, Gender Justice and Peace, puts her point of view in three parts. First, the judgment needs to be dissected and analyzed by experts without judging the judges. Second, the issue has been politicized leading to sectarian strife that led to demolishing the Masjid by divisive forces, but today 18 years later the mind of India has changed with the need to take it to greater heights so that it finds a place among the league of nations.
Third, she invokes Maulana Wahiuddin, a revered Islamic scholar, to state that "this is an opportunity for Muslims of this country giving in good will something in which they believe that Lord Ram was born." The mosque can be shifted to another place and this should not be considered as an act of surrender but rather an act done in the interest of peace and communal harmony leading to nation building. She even cites two instances from the scriptures, one in which Prophet Mohammad refuses to pray in a Church because he does not want Muslims to claim this place of worship as their own and another case in which some Christians claim a portion of the land in which a Masjid stood and this portion was given to them. She reiterated that peace, and not divisiveness, is the central message of Islam.
To a proposal that Hindus should not build a temple and reciprocate this gesture. Dr Ali responded by saying that what Hindus do or will do is an independent act and irrespective of that Muslims should consider giving away their claim to this piece of land. Today, this could be a minority view but with deliberations and discussion efforts should be made to make this a more accepted view within the community. She also elaborated that such sectarian issues should be left behind so that we move forward to more substantive issues under a multicultural plural ethos, which she is proud to be a part.
A second media perspective, with particular emphasis on the Urdu press, was put forth by Mr Mohammad Wajjihuddin. Prior to the judgment being passed all leading newspapers put up messages addressed to Muslims to maintain peace and nothing was mentioned about those who demolished the Masjid. The leading daily applauded the judgment but the Urdu press was saddened and pointed out that the judgment is not acceptable to Muslims. This two positions were also evident from the leading weekly's with India Today thinking it to be a historic moment for reconciliation whereas Outlook highlighting it to be an injustice against Muslims. In subsequent days, the lead articles in the Urdu press where mere translations of English/Hindi writers who were against the judgment. But, by and large, the media played a responsible role and did not inflame passions.
Inside view of participants of round table discussion on  Prospects and Challenges of the Ayodhya Ve...
Inside view of participants of round table discussion on 'Prospects and Challenges of the Ayodhya Verdict for the Nation' on 23 October 2010 jointly organized by CSSS and IIC and held at th Conference Hall, IIC, Mumbai.
CSSS, Mumbai
The difficulty in ascribing the title to land was echoed by Professor Lionel Fernandez. He is also of the view that the demolishing of the Masjid should not be considered independently. It was an unholy act and by that the place has been devoid of divinity. It should not be used for any place of worship. Further, the people responsible for the act should be identified and punished. He bemoaned "it is a dismal present we are living in, we are not addressing the fundamental issues."
From a sociological perspective, Professor SM Michael mentioned that this is an example of politicizing religion. This will have long term consequences for our future, the future of India. In another fifty to hundred years time we will be judged in how we handled this situation. This is an opportunity for us and particularly for the Hindu leaders and also Muslim leaders to show their magnanimity, come down to talk and take the nation forward.
On the eve of the day of judgment, as Mr Sukla Sen observed, there was a perceptible fear. Roads and otherwise crowded places were empty, but by evening and in a day or two, things started being normal. The overall need of the hour, as the Chairperson Dr Vasundhara Mohan summed up the days meeting, is that the call of the nation is peace, reconciliation, to live and let live. With this, let us move forward!
More about Ram janmabhoomi, India, Babri masjid, India, Ayodhya
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