A quarter century ago a 16th century mosque was pulled down in Ayodhya by Hindutva stormtroopers in an act of unspeakable criminality which did violence to the fundamental values of our Constitution and the civilisational ethos of the country. All our institutions, including the judiciary, have wobbled before mob frenzy or the threat of mob frenzy.
The hoodlums were marshalled in Ayodhya on December 6, 1992 to destroy the mosque by the most important leaders of the BJP at the time. Their goal was to bring the saffron party from the margins of India’s politics to centrestage, riding on religious emotionalism, encapsulated in so-called Hindu grievances in a Hindu-majority land.
The instrument the BJP-RSS chose was the non-ascertainable plea that it was a matter of faith for Hindus that the place where the mosque stood marked the exact spot where Lord Ram was born, and hence could only be marked by a grand Ram temple. The carefully fabricated Ram Janmabhoomi movement was thus born. Its objects were explicitly political and the dividend for the BJP in rising voteshare was swift in coming.
Now the ruling party carries the burden of fulfilling its promise to the faithful of building a Ram temple at the same spot where the Babri Masjid was demolished, and there is much activity on the political and the legal side. A leading light of the BJP, who has no locus standi in the mosque/temple land dispute, was permitted in July to mention the matter in the Supreme Court and asked for early hearings.
Recently, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat, who is legally unconnected to the dispute, declared that only a Ram temple can stand in Ayodhya. This is akin to saying that even if the judicial ruling on the land title where the demolished mosque stood went in favour of the Sunni Waqf Board, the RSS will ensure that a mosque can’t be rebuilt in Ayodhya and only the promised Ram Mandir will be bult. This is a sorry state of affairs.
The Ayodhya dispute goes back to the 19th century, fuelled by the British divide-and-rule policy. History is strewn with chicanery arising from a communal mindset. It was repeated bungling by Congress administrations that gave the BJP the opening to publicly communalise Ayodhya. The judiciary too has much to answer.
Supreme Court observers were present in Ayodhya as the stormtroopers descended, and the court never speaks of their report. The top political figures behind the demolition are untouched by the law. The Supreme Court embarked on hearings in the title dispute on Tuesday, and is going into the tenability of the 2010 Allahabad High Court order giving the “Hindu” side two-thirds and the “Muslim” party one-third of the land. The next hearing is on February 8. The nation bears a heavy cross.