13th Nov, 2019: The National Alliance of People’s Movements condemns the ‘unanimous’ verdict by the 5-judge Bench of the Supreme Court in the Ayodhya matter. The judgement, instead of holding accountable before law all those who criminally demolished the 450 year old Babri Masjid has rewarded the violators. The judgement legitimizes majoritarianism and mobocracy and strikes at the very secular fabric of our Constitution. Full of contradictions, the verdict only pays sermons to the values of equality and fraternity, but ends up violating these very principles in its relief.
The judgement also does not pass the test of logic. Despite the Court stating at the outset of the hearing that the judgement in the matter of title dispute would be pronounced based on facts and not faith, the final judgement has ended up privileging faith in a disproportionate way and opening a dangerous flood gate. On the one hand, the Court upheld that a masjid stood at the ‘disputed site’, that there was no evidence of a temple below the mosque (the Court accepted presence of a non-muslim structure), that idols were unlawfully sneaked into the mosque in 1949 and that the mosque itself was unlawfully demolished in 1992. However, on the other hand, while issuing directions, the Court ordered that a temple be constructed at the very site of demolition of the mosque, which not only defies logic but is also a gross abuse of the due principles of law and natural justice. To camouflage this, the Court directs that 5 acres land be given for ‘rehabilitation of the mosque’. There is no clarity as to the legal and constitutional basis for arriving at such a decision !
The invocation of Article 142 of the Constitution in this context would infact give rise to many new challenges in the future. This was a clear title suit where the Uttar Pradesh Sunni Central Wakf Board was agitating for its legal rights and the question was not about ‘finding alternative land for the mosque’. The judgement conveys an impression to muslims that despite being equal citizens of the country, their rights are not equal before the law. This is an extremely worrying message from the highest court in today’s times when muslims are already being targeted and marginalized in many ways. It is as if the Court is granting them a favour by offering the land. Further, granting the land (beneath the mosque) as a legal right to the same party which demolished the mosque is a historical insult to the values and principles enshrined in the Constitution.
Another unprecedented and unconstitutional aspect of the judgement is addressing the two sides as ‘Hindu’ and ‘Muslim’ which is clearly in violation to the secular character of the state and can prove quite dangerous. There were no parties with these names before the Court. The Uttar Pradesh Sunni Central Waqf Board was a petitioner representing that specific disputed land (and not the entire Muslim community of the country). Nor is ‘Ram Lalla Virajman’ (on behalf of Vishwa Hindu Parishad) a representative body of all Hindus.
Despite the verdict mandating that the central and state government must strictly implement the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991 which stipulates maintenance of status quo on the character of disputed sites as it existed in 1947, the judgement sets in motion a very dangerous precedent of allowing majoritarian faith over facts. Based on this, any community / sect can use their faith to contest the ownership of any structure and forcibly take over and demolish it by vicious campaigning and support from highest powers of state machinery. And it is no exaggeration to state that in the delicate circumstances that our nation is in today, the majoritarian political and religious forces would fully abuse such a judicial precedent and indulge in persecution of minorities.
Be this as it may, the ‘Ayodhya matter’ itself is far from resolved and accountability is yet to be fixed on those who indulged in the criminal act of demolition. There are many unanswered questions. What happened of the Liberhan Commission’s Report? Why has the CBI been dragging its feet even 27 years after the demolition ? Why haven’t the perpetrators of the crime been prosecuted and brought to justice ? Within days of the verdict, we also observe that the All India Hindu Mahasabha has now written to the Prime Minister and Home Minister to withdraw all cases against the karsevaks responsible for the Babri demolition !
It is also a harsh reality that the political leaders, party and their violent affiliates who were behind the ‘Rath Yatra’ and demolition of the masjid in 1992 and the Gujarat pogrom of 2002, are in power in the centre and the state, to who the Apex Court’s verdict hands over the ‘disputed land’ on a platter despite admitting that they were guilty of criminal acts. Ironically, these communal elements are now preaching to others that the ‘bitter past must be left behind’ in the interest of a ’new India’, seeking peace and brotherhood ! With a combination of draconian measures including the abrogation of Article 370 and lockdown of Kashmir for over 100 days, the communal criminalization of Triple Talaq, the proposed Citizenship Amendment Bill and proposals to extend the NRC across the country, the present verdict not only emboldens and encourages these powers but also gives them legal sanctity in the pursuit of their ‘Hindu Rashtra’ project.
If the Apex Court was of the view that such a judgement was the ‘need of the hour to let peace prevail and move ahead’, the judgement should have said so, in so many words that it was depriving one party of their rightful ownership of the disputed site for pragmatic reasons, placing the imposed ‘compromise’ on record and acknowledging the sacrifice expected of the Muslim community. Without such an express acknowledgement, it would be very unjust to call this decision, justice.
We demand that the Supreme Court reviews this faulty judgement within the framework of the Constitution and decides it again on the basis of fact, law and logic and not on the basis of ‘faith’. This is important since this is not just the case of one ‘disputed religious site’, but is necessary to ensure that hate-mongering elements do not get an opportunity to carry forward their divisive agendas and violate the Constitution. We also demand that the state stop registration of false cases and persecution of anybody who critiques this judgement on the basis of law and logic. All those responsible for the criminal act of demolition must be brought to book at least now.
We hope that in this challenging climate of struggle for justice, the common citizens of the country and in particular, people belonging to both Hindu and Muslim faiths maintain peace. Democracy-loving citizens and groups need to be ever vigilant to ensure that in the garb of ‘temple construction’, there is no further hate and bloodbath. At a time when the very right of citizens to question, reason and expression are trampled upon and all dissent is termed as anti –national, we must be on our toes to defend our democracy.
NAPM deeply appreciates the courage and peace-loving nature of the common masses, in particular the Muslim community and resolves to stand by them in these trying times. NAPM commits itself to fight alongside those who are wronged and continue its collective struggle for a just society based on peace, equality, reason, freedom, liberty and fraternity.
Let to organize to save our country from right-wing majoritarianism and strive to ensure that the values of the Constitution as well as the aspirations of Gandhi, Ambedkar, Maulala Azad, Bhagat Singh, Periyar, Shubash, Phule, Savitribai, and others are kept alive.