Seen in terms of historical time, and of the lived experience of communities, as well as the upholding of liberal and secular values of our Constitution, the Ayodhya judgment of November 9 appears to suffer from serious limitations.
The one positive outcome of the judgment of course is that while it can never snuff out debate and discussion around itself, it does have the effect of ruling out agitations and violence that came to be associated with this religion-based tangle in the past, most notably on December 6, 1992, if we are to take a strictly legal and constitutional view. It is necessary to underscore this as such a view was clearly not taken in 1992. Indeed, in the forefront of the action in Ayodhya that year, rightly deemed criminal by the Supreme Court, were some of the seniormost and respected members of the political class, one of whom later became Union home minister and deputy PM, besides UP state, whose Chief Minister had given the court a written undertaking that he would not permit the status quo at the site to be altered. If we assume such an upheaval won’t occur as a result of the November 9 judgment, then the parties whose position was not upheld by the Supreme Court can at best decide to go for a review or move a curative petition, which — given the circumstances of the case — isn’t likely to be successful. Nevertheless, for the sake of the record, some may deem this option a necessity.
The most unfortunate aspect of the judgment is that it tallies one hundred and ten per cent with the views and ambitions of the anti-Babri Masjid and “temple reconstruction at that exact spot” campaign undertaken by the RSS-BJP and their cohorts and which excited mob violence to gain their purpose. This lot are now pleased and preach gracious acceptance of the judgment.
The judges were adjudicating the title dispute based on laws that were brought into being centuries after the religious structure/ shrine in question became the subject of controversy. Instead of being humble about this, and conceding that the evidentiary value of the material on record was sketchy at best, the Constitution Bench led by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi drew firm conclusions from these days before the CJI’s retirement. Worse, the bench incorporated in its judgment a 116-page addendum which, quite irrelevantly, dilates on the question of the faith and belief of Hindus about Ayodhya being the birthplace of Lord Ram.
This does raise suspicions on a commonsense basis. There are other unanswered questions when the judgment seeks to establish that the exact spot of Lord Ram’s birth lay under the domes of the demolished Babri Majid. Interestingly, the Valmiki Ramayan does not lay down an exact spot. Even the shaky ASI findings do not suggest that a temple was demolished by those who built the mosque that was in Babur’s name....