Monday, December 11, 2023

The 5 acre graveyard of justice and democracy

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The demolition of the medieval-era Babri Mosque by Hindu mobs in the north Indian town of Ayodhya in 1992 triggered some of the deadliest religious riots [File: Getty Images]

Ansab Amir Khan

The pronouncement of Ayodhya Verdict has brought upon a resolution to a very controversial standstill, yet what it failed to bring was justice and hope among the minorities of India.

Let us begin by establishing a few points. That as a law-abiding, peace-loving citizen of India, the author accepts and respects the judgement of the honourable Supreme Court, as should everyone else. And that, as a nuanced debater, the author believes acceptance does not have to be necessarily equated to agreement.

The Babri Masjid – Ram Janmbhoomi dispute has been perhaps the most volatile, and the most significant religious and legal bone of contention in the horizon of India’s recent history. Central elections have been fought, won, and lost, upon the promises made regarding this verdict. General perceptions have been created and destroyed. And Indians have fallen prey to this manipulation, time and time again, due to the lack of closure regarding this decision.

On Saturday, a bench comprising of the  Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, S.A. Bobde, Dr. D.Y. Chandrachud and  Ashok Bhushan and  S.A. Nazeer, finally brought this dispute to an end. Overturning the 2010 Allahabad High Court’s decision to distribute the disputed land among the three parties involved (Ram Lalla, Nirmohi Akhada, and the Sunni  Waqf Board), the Supreme Court pronounced that the disputed land of about 2.7 acres shall be given to a Government Trust for the purpose of building a Ram Janmsthal Mandir, and the Sunni Waqf Board would be given a separate 5 acre land for a mosque to be built. This decision has successfully brought to an end a saga of confusion and controversy; however the end does no justice to the means of requirement for this decision.

The means of this verdict have traversed a path of blood, hate and fear-mongering. The reason that the judiciary had to step into the circus of faith, Mandirs and Masjids, was because, in culmination of a decade long campaign of division and hatred, in 1992, the stalwarts of the current leading party, LK Advani, Uma Bharti, Murli Manohar Joshi and our incumbent Prime Minister Narendra Modi, with the blessing (and motivation from a fiery hate speech) by the Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, chose to let all forms of respect for the law and legal proceedings be razed to the ground, as they did with the 16th century structure of the Babri Masjid.

This brazen act of pure division and domination via hateful politics was undertaken with an agenda in mind. An agenda to consolidate a communal vote bank, and to intimidate the minorities and free thinkers to be afraid of speaking out against all injustice, lest they be detained, delegitimized, un-citizened, or very simply, lynched. The effects of that act are what we see today in a very real divide of people on religious ground, a very real otherization, and a very real fear.

The Supreme Court, with this judgment, may have brokered a peace, by simply keeping the communal powers and communal parties at bay. In their continuous war-mongering and intimidation, they had made it clear that they would settle for nothing less than a “grand, complete” Ram Mandir at the disputed site.

But the Supreme Court did nothing to alleviate the fears of citizens who were worried what would happen to them if the verdict, somehow, came to favour their religious beliefs.

The Supreme Court did nothing to ease the pain of the thousands that were killed during the riots of 1992. The Supreme Court did not imbibe confidence in the general population of the safety and freedom that the Indian Constitution guarantees. The contention of the Mosque being built upon a vacant land, or an un-Islamic land or a land of Hindu Significance has always been disputed.

Yet, the Supreme Court chose to award the disputed site on the “balance of probabilities” and “deference to faith”.

Would the Supreme Court sit in the same manner as it did for the Mandir, and establish measures to ensure no other mosque is ravaged and no other human life is destroyed? Would it punish those who are or were in power, when, as per their own admission, the illegal demolition of Babri took place?

Would the Supreme Court be able to stop the razing of structures of minorities’ faith in the future? Would it do anything to alleviate fears of the population, like this author himself, who are told by their mothers not to write anything against the Government or the decision or express disappointment at the Supreme Court’s decision, lest “they” retaliate? Would the Supreme Court dissociate itself from the“them” who are above criticism, beyond the arms of law, away from the ethics of humanity? The judgement had no reference to the deterrents that would be in place to avoid this kind of hateful politics. The verdict had no rebuke of one of the bloodiest chapters in Indian history. All it had was a veiled message. “They” can do it, and “they” can get away with it, give or take 5 acres of meaningless land.

The questions also remain that would the Supreme Court intervene as the All India Akhara Parishad (AIAP) [An extremist body affiliated to the far-right Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), the original destroyers of Babri  Masjid] gear up to launch a movement to get (read “demolish”) the mosques adjoining the Kashi Vishwanath Temple in Varanasi and Shrikrishna Janambhoomi in Mathura once the Ram Temple was built? Would the Supreme Court stop the next time a Vajpayee or an Advani, or God forbid, a Yogi, plan a rathyatra for another mosque? Or maybe the same mosque that might be built in Ayodhya, on the token of land given?

Becauseif they won’t, and then this decision, this verdict, is nothing but a hollow tree of peace, collapsible with the next winds of communal hatred. It was never about who would get 2.7 acre of land, or who would get 5 acres. It was about delegitimizing communal, hateful politics and movements in India. It was about correcting a historic wrong. It was about establishing the rule of law over the rule of faith. It was about the expectations of a nation of an adequately balanced, and sufficiently strong decision, upholding the ideals of our democracy. It was about justice, and about why the ravaging of that mosque was a scar upon democratic values of India, and these five acres, are nothing, but the graveyard of those values. They can provide 5 acres for every mosque that falls then. They can even provide 6 yards for every person that dies in the aftermath.

That, would not be justice then. As it is not justice now.

Ansab Amir is an engineering student at Aligarh Muslim University

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