When five member bench of judges headed by Chief Justice of India, Ranjan Gogoi, issued the much anticipated verdict of allotting the 2.77 acres of the Babri Masjid’s land for the construction of Lord Ram’s temple, most Indians rejoiced the judgment.
Pro-BJP commentator Swapan Dasgupta said that the temple ordered to be erected at the site of the mosque will “signal the end of a long period of mental servitude and subordination”.
It is widely believed that the verdict represents the Hindu nationalist ideology that aims to settle the centuries old scores with the Muslims who, they think, have built their monuments and places of worship by razing down the Hindu’s religious places. This fanatical lot outnumbers those who effuse secular, balanced and tolerant views. That is why the prudent sense of the judges many a time coincides with the common sense of the far-right Hindu nationalists.
To make the matter explicit, suppose, a family lives in an allegedly occupied house. A group of furious people, antagonistic to the family and its residence, comes and attacks the family for residing on a land not theirs. In this assault, many members of the family die and thereby the land becomes disputed in the eye of law. The court gives the land to the attackers with no mention of punishment for the delinquents.
This is what happened here.
In 1992, a mob of Hindus with crowbars and pickaxes in their hands, went for the demolition of Babri Masjid, built in the reign of the first Mughal emperor, Babar.
In the aftermath, the ultra-ambitious mob started targeting the Muslims. More than 2000 Muslims got killed in 1992-93 pogroms. Two sons of the last Imam of the Babri Masjid also lost their lives in these communal commotions egged on by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in consonance with Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP), Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Kar Sevaks.
Though the 1045 page judgment poses to capture all the details concerning the said mosque, it knowingly ignores the raiders who sparked and killed the unarmed Muslims. No member of the BJP has ever been properly prosecuted or convicted. So much so that the Srikrishana Commission report’s recommendations could not be enforced due to the VHP’s intrusions and Maharashtra government’s unwillingness to accept them. Later, the policemen involved in the killings were promoted, and the politicians who incited leapt to high offices with honour and grace.
The verdict also insults section 295 of Indian Penal Code that says “whoever destroys, damages or defiles any place of worship or any object held sacred by any class of persons with the object of thereby insulting the religion of any class of persons or with the knowledge that any class of persons is likely to consider such destruction, damage or defilement as an insult to their religion shall be punished.”
Albeit replete with historical references, it wittingly tends to overlook the forcible installation of idols in the mosque in 1949 in complicity with the then-district magistrate K.K. Nayyar, who was close to the Hindu Mahasabha.
What next now? Will the emboldened nationalist stream stop here? Will the charged crowd, who perhaps transcends the flimsy threads of laws, be deterred by a 1991 law that freezes the status of places of worship at the time of India’s independence on Aug. 15, 1947? The answer simply is: ‘no’.
Vociferous news room rants and social media have generated the debate of reclaiming those sites as well which, the Hindus believe, were theirs before the arrival of Muslim rulers.
The VHP has already shown its intentions of targeting Gyanvapi Mosque in Varanasi and the Shahi Idgah mosque in Mathura.
Now the question is what will be the reaction of the Muslims of India over these developments. The simple reply is that they will exhibit the same response as they have done on this verdict – that is to keep silent.
They will be silent since they fear reaction. This phantom of fear has grown unprecedentedly and inordinately violent and revengeful during last 6 years. This dragon is ubiquitously present in media houses, news rooms, courts, police stations, army and academia.
They will be silent as they know the fates of Pehlu Khan, Tabrez Ansari and many such hapless Muslims who were publicly lynched by the hateful crowd. Legal bindings cannot bind them. They know how the killers get exonerated from the courts and then the sitting members of the respected houses garland them amidst echo of thunderous clapping.
Somebody may enjoin upon them to be brave and even if they show the nerve to open their mouths so as to get the reports register, they will be vexed. In his article, “Broken Lives and Compromise”, Harsh Mander narrates how the Muslims in the post Gujrat massacre were coerced to retract their cases against the Hindu perpetrators.
Silence, thus, remains a viable option as a matter of expediency in a locale where the denizens gleefully shun the values of pluralism and tolerance, and embrace ultra-sentimentalism imbued with bigotry. Such exacerbating circumstances rarely find any antidote that could recuperate the affairs of the state until the academics, writers and analysts come forward and make the people cognizant with the traits of a tolerant polity. Jawaharlal Nehru once said in 1948, “We cannot encourage communalism or narrow-mindedness, for no nation can be great whose people are narrow in thoughts or in action.”
The writer is an educationist and historian.