Ayodhya land
Ayodhya land
(Photo by SANJAY KANOJIA / AFP)

Last Saturday, following the Supreme Court order in the Mandir-Masjid dispute the Prime Minister said that November 9th was also significant for the fall of the Berlin Wall the same day thirty years ago.

The comparison was ill-advised. For the fall of the wall marked the defeat, nay, the disintegration of the Soviet Empire. It marked the end of the Cold War, the fall of the evil empire, as the then US President Ronald Reagan described the Soviet Bloc.

The apex court judgement, on the other hand, the prime minister would like us to believe, is victory for neither party to the Ayodhya dispute. His well-meaning appeal to the people to maintain peace coupled with the precautionary bandobast put in place ahead of the crucial verdict seem to have borne fruit.

There have been no reports of breach of peace from the most communally-sensitive hotspots. This is welcome. But, this is not to deny that one side in the Ayodhya dispute has not only emerged victorious but is hard put to hide its unalloyed joy and celebration.

As we have said in this space over the decades on multiple occasions, the Ayodhya dispute was not over a mere piece of land, nor over the right to worship of one community over another.

No. it was a grudge match between Hindus and Muslims which neither side was ready to lose. But whether you try and put a gloss over it, in this mooch ki ladai the Muslims do feel humiliated. And have reason to feel humiliated. All because of their own fault.

Had the wise men in the community come forward to cede their claim over the disputed land, which held no religious significance for them as against Hindus who believed that it was the birthplace of Lord Rama, it would have struck a huge blow for communal harmony and peace. Hindus would have felt humbled by this grand generosity.

And it would have become hard for them to rake up Kashi and Mathura where too mosques were built over ancient Hindu temples. The two communities having got trapped in a bitter battle of one-upmanship, and lacking a statesman-like leadership even at the height of the British raj, who too sought to shove the sensitive issue under the carpet, had defied law courts and a series of arbitrators thus far.

The biggest thing going in favour of the court order last Saturday is that it seeks to apply closure to a dispute which has defied resolution for over a century. Pragmatism has prevailed. No other outcome was possible under the circumstances.

Despite its attempt to sound even-handed, the apex court order does grant the Hindus their long-standing wish to construct a temple to Lord Ram at the disputed site.

Whether or not the Muslims accept the compensatory five-acre plot elsewhere in Ayodhya is of little significance since they too were determined to hold on to their claim over the same 2.7 acre of disputed land in the holy Hindu town.

It is no point telling them that Ayodhya was like the Mecca to the Hindus while they attached no religious value to the place. Because extra-religious factors became dominant in the tug-of-war between the two communities, Muslims were determined not to let go of their claim.

Meanwhile, critics who have faulted the apex court for rewarding the Hindu aggressors who began to disturb Muslim namaz at the Babri mosque in the mid-1800s ought not to choose the cut-off date arbitrarily.

If you have to go back to more than a century to bolster your claim to the mosque, why not go back a couple of centuries further and consider how a temple was razed to construct the mosque in 1528 or thereabouts.

If 1856 is important to argue that Hindus harassed the Muslims, why not 1528? The trouble arises when the present-day Muslims see themselves as the successors of the Mughal invaders who ransacked thousands of Hindu places of worship and erected mosques over them.

The Kashi and Matura are other two prominent examples. The court order amply proves on the basis of historical evidence, including voluminous ASI report, that a temple, though not necessarily a Ram temple, had stood at the disputed site before its demolition and the construction of the Babri mosque.

The critics of the court order virtually argue that the gains of the present-day Muslims from the depredations of the Mughal order are permanent and must accrue to them by right.

How, then, about the ancestors of the Hindus who are indigenous to this land and must have the first right to their original places of worship? Of course, there will be no end to this divisiveness

if we continue to fault the apex court’s well-meaning, and unanimous, effort to settle a seemingly intractable problem which had caused so much bloodshed and bitterness between the two communities. The judgement ought to end this dispute provided armchair critics do not fuel trouble by an ill-advised nit-picking.

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