Within hours of the Ayodhya verdict being delivered on Saturday, an array of figures associated with Hindutva organisations tumbled over themselves to urge Indians to maintain peace and harmony. They also enjoined their fellow citizens to respect the Supreme Court’s decision to allow Hindus to build a Ram temple on the site on which the Babri Masjid had stood until it was demolished by a mob in 1992.
The leaders of the mob claimed that the mosque had been built over the very spot on which the Hindu god Ram had been born and had decided that Indian law should not impede their curious war on history.
Twenty seven years later, the law itself would validate their contention.
“It is a historic and landmark judgement of the apex court which everyone should respect,” said Defence Minister Rajnath Singh of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, whose leaders had spent several years whipping up the blood-soaked campaign that resulted in the destruction of the 16th-century mosque.
Praveen Togadia, who had been among the key leaders of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, one of the organisations that mobilised the mob that destroyed the Babri Masjid, appealed “to all to maintain democratic peace while expressing joy”.
Said spiritual leader Ravi Shankar, “We should move towards progress, maintain communal harmony and set an example for the world.”
It was a patronising display of majoritarian privilege.
‘No winners or losers’
Astonishingly, some Hindutva leaders attempted to claim that the judgment had produced no winners or losers – that Hindus and Muslims had both somehow paid a price in the dispute about who had right to the land on which the Babri Masjid had stood since 1527.
“This case was going on for decades and it has reached the right conclusion,” said Mohan Bhagwat, chief of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, which was banned briefly for its role in the demolition of the mosque. “This should not be seen as a win or loss for anyone.”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a key RSS organiser in the Ram temple campaign, echoed his leader’s line. “This verdict must not be seen as either victory or loss,” he said. “It does not matter if you are a Ram Bhakt or Rahim Bhakt, it’s time to strengthen Bharat bhakti.”
Sushil Modi, the BJP leader from Bihar, declared that the Supreme Court’s judgment was “the most balanced decision because it has respected the feelings of both Hindus and Muslims”.
Nothing could be further from the truth. The victor is this decision is evident. Since the events of December 6, 1992, it has been clear that there could be only one morally justifiable resolution to the Ayodhya dispute: that the Babri Masjid be reconstructed on the site.
On Saturday, even as the five judges of the Supreme Court handed over the plot to a trust to construct a temple, they acknowledged that the destruction of the Babri Masjid was an illegal act. “The destruction of the mosque took place in breach of the order of status quo and an assurance given to this Court,” the judges said. “The destruction of the mosque and the obliteration of the Islamic structure was an egregious violation of the rule of law.”
However, the case against the people involved in the demolition of the mosque, which includes senior BJP leaders, has lingered for nearly three decades. On Saturday, the Supreme Court closed off the possibility of the Babri Masjid being reconstructed in situ. If the nation is to demonstrate its commitment to achieving some measure of justice in this shameful episode, the courts must demonstrate the same eagerness in the demolition case as they did in the Ayodhya land case.
As the Supreme Court did for months in the Ayodhya matter, the special Central Bureau of Investigation court in Lucknow that is considering the demolition case should hold daily hearings to ensure the prosecution of the men and women responsible for destroying the mosque, and appeals should be dealt with swiftly. Only then can India’s collective conscience be satisfied.