Between Caesar and God
Premature punditry on the Ayodhya verdict is a little bit like writing commentaries on Shakespeare after only reading Lamb’s Tales
Rapid readers will take days and weeks to digest approximately10,000, 4,000 and 260 pages of the judgments on Ayodhya delivered by Justice Dharam Vir Sharma, Sudhir Aggarwal and Sibqat Ullah Khan, respectively.
An impression had been created by a sideshow in Lucknow since September 15 that somehow the judgment was going in favour of the Muslims. On that day Justice Sharma, an avid Ram Bhakt or devotee of Lord Rama, accepted an application that the judgment, due to be delivered by three judge bench on September 24, be deferred so that the parties to the dispute can arrive at out-of-court, compromise settlement. He did this without consulting the other two judges.
The matter reached a two judge bench of the Supreme Court which was divided on whether or not a compromise was possible. The quest for a compromise on an issue which had defied settlement for decades, indeed centuries, was seen as a desperate desire to “defer” the judgment – because deferment would, for a variety of reasons, be for years. The engine for deferment was an undiluted Ram Bhakt, Justice Sharma. He was on the bench and therefore knew exactly which way the judgment was inclined. Why else would he seek deferment? It was therefore assumed that the verdict was “not” going in favour of the Hindus. It followed, in simple minds, that it was probably favouring the Muslims.
It is against this background that the responses aired by the two sides so far must be placed. Hindus, who thought the tide was turning against them, are relieved at the verdict. This sense of relief is being given a “spin” of triumph. Conversely, Muslims, expecting victory, are disappointed.
Had Justice Sharma succeeded in “deferring” the verdict, the response of the Muslims would have been loaded with irony. They would then have nursed a grievance that the higher judiciary had denied them justice.
The astonishment handed down by the court is coming across as stunned reflection. Time, in any case, has proved a healer. Even though there was much hype, most of it generated by an otherwise restrained media, there was no frenzy.
The leaderless Muslim community, before it could reflect, was hustled into continued litigation by the lawyer for the Sunni Waqf Board, Zafaryab Geelani, who proclaimed that he would go in appeal to the Supreme Court. Good luck to Geelani and the Sunni Waqf Board. I propose an international award to him for having read, digested and produced a legal response to atleast 15,000 pages of legalese penned by the Ayodhya Bench. And he performed this feat within the space of three hours!
Where was the need to rush when the verdict itself gives three months to all sides to, first, read the judgment, then consider, deliberate, accept or appeal. The pre emptive announcement is a function of fear that alternative, possibly more sensible views might begin to emerge from within the Muslim community.
Let me give you the reaction of my mother, now 94, who lives in our village, Mustafabad in Rae Bareli. She was cryptic: “Saanmp marey, na laathi tootey” (Kill the snake; don’t break the stick). In other words, kill the “snake” of Hindu-Muslim tensions without breaking the stick. It is difficult to explain ancient aphorisms but the “stick” in her approach is Hindu-Muslim harmony.
Yusuf Muchhala, convener of the legal cell of the Sunni Waqf Board, says the three judgments appeared to be a “mix of facts, principles and mythology”. This may be a succinct observation but, like, Geelani he is making observations without having read the judgments, the reasoning behind what the lordships have concluded.
As far as I am concerned, I grew up in Lucknow and never heard of Babari Masjid until the locks to the temple were broken. The subsequent story is charged with communal politics – on both sides.
Ayodhya is both, a matter of Hindu faith and grist to the mill of communal politics so long as Muslims are the foil. That is the complication. Babari Masjid, on the other hand, is a matter of Muslim hurt. Scabs form over bruises. Wherever the Muslim turns towards Kaaba is his mosque. Reflect for a month. Think of ways to bring down the edifice of communal politics.
Unless the community disenges itself from the grip of backward leaders, it will be left holding, Babari Masjid, Shah Bano, Muslim character of Universities, Salman Rushdie, corrupt Waqf Boards, while the country and the world move on, into another zone almost.
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