Muslims are feeling ditched
Muslims feel as if they have been given short shrift by the apex court, the custodian of law in the country. For many Muslims, and for others who thought that the law of the land was supreme, this is a tough pill to swallow, especially when the judgment has been delivered not on the basis of fact and evidence, but on the basis of faith.
If the demolition of the structure of Babri Masjid was done by a marauding mob that not just demolished a historic mosque, but wrought destruction in many towns and cities, culminating in the death of hundreds of people, the verdict has been no less shocking.
Faith over fact
The Supreme Court verdict seems to be the victory of astha or faith over facts and evidence. The apex court clearly mentions in its judgment that placing the idol of Lord Rama in the mosque in 1949 was an illegal act and the demolition of the mosque on 6 December 1992 was an act of vandalism. The court also clearly says that there is no evidence that the mosque was built after destroying a Hindu temple. The apex court in its final judgment has also accepted the fact that Babri Masjid, built by Mir Baqi, a general of Mughal Emperor, Babur, stood at the site for as long as 500 years. But amazingly, after accepting all these historic facts, it goes on to hand over the title of the land to a body that will be formed by the government. This also gives a long handle to the Modi government and Sangh Privar to gloat about the achievement in the days to come.
The ASI report on which the Supreme Court largely based its verdict doesn’t conclusively prove that Babri Masjid was built on a Hindu temple or any structure whatsoever.
The verdict has also shocked many legal eagles. Former Supreme Court judge Asok Ganguly has criticised the verdict. "You have said that there was a structure under the mosque, but you have not said that the structure was that of a temple. There is no evidence that after the demolition of a temple, a mosque has been built. On the basis of what archaeological insight can court decide that after 500 years? So considering it a mosque, which has been standing there for 500 years, how do you decide the title after 500 years? On what basis can you do it? Those who have come here (in court) to depose have documents. On the basis of archaeological report you cannot decide titles,: said Justice Ganguly.
Probabilities over fact
While the fact that the mosque stood at the site for 500 long years, was ignored, it was also ignored that there was no evidence that the mosque was built over a temple, let alone a Ram temple. The verdict says, “On the balance of probabilities, there is clear evidence to indicate that the worship by the Hindus in the outer courtyard continued unimpeded in spite of the setting up of a grill-brick wall in 1857. Their possession of the outer courtyard stands established together with the incidents attaching to their control over it...As regards the inner courtyard, there is evidence on a preponderance of probabilities to establish worship by the Hindus prior to the annexation of Oudh by the British in 1857. The Muslims have offered no evidence to indicate that they were in exclusive possession of the inner structure prior to 1857 since the date of the construction in the sixteenth century."
Will this set a precedence for future demolitions?
There is every probability that the apex court judgement will be taken as a precedent by right wing Hindu organizations and many more places of worship will be targeted in similar fashion, hoping that finally the court will condone the acts of hooliganism in the name of faith. Gyanwapi Mosque in Kashi and Mathura are readymade fodder to keep the communal pot boiling in the years to come.
Mohan Bhagwat, who addressed the media immediately after the Supreme Court verdict, when asked if the Sangh would now focus on Kashi and Mathura, was non committal on the issue. When pointedly asked about the two flashpoints, he said, “Sangh kisi andolan ko nahi karta, Sangh manushya nirman ka kaam karta hai (The Sangh doesn’t undertake any agitation, the Sangh is engaged in human character building)”. While Bhagwat was non-committal on the issue, other Sangh affiliates were not. When asked by reporters if the Sangh outfit will raise the issue of Kashi and Mathura, VHP working president Alok Kumar said: "About Kashi and Mathura, I must make it clear that Supreme Court judgement is not the end of the story, it is the beginning," said he.
While there are unverified reports that the Sangh organizations have decided to shelve the issue of Kashi and Mathura issues for the next few years, no one knows if the reports are true and for how long they plan to shelve it.
Hopeful for the future
While the verdict has been shocking, I don't really agree with naysayers that the future of the Muslims in the country is at stake. Every since the judgment came, many Muslim leaders and so-called intellectuals have been talking about the oft-repeated assertion ‘Musalman Khatre mein hain’ (Muslims are under siege). But this, they have been saying for the last many decades, without doing precious little for the nation or the community. They have created an air of siege mentality among the Muslim community, leading to the ghettoization in many cities and towns.
The Muslims have made strides, despite adverse circumstances, in almost all the fields, including education, particularly in professional education, business and in overall human development indices. While a conscious effort has been made by certain powers to create a fear psychosis among the Muslims, and this has unconsciously been furthered by the Muslim leadership. Despite some apprehensions, most ordinary Muslims don't buy into this siege mentality narrative.
Muslims have firm belief in the law of the land, its Constitution and the secular fabric of the nation and they know that such changes are normal in a democratic nation where political parties with opposing ideologies vie for power. If Sangh wields power at the Center now, there is every hope that down the line, a few years from now a secular party or an alliance of secular parties will ride to power once again. Instead of losing hope, there is every reason to work more proactively for preserving the secular fabric of the nation.
(Syed Ubaidur Rahman is a New Delhi based author and commentator. His latest book 'Ulema's Role in India's Freedom Movements with Focus on Silk Letter Movement (Reshmi Rumal Tehrik)' has just been released
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a New Delhi based author and commentator. His forthcoming book 'Ulema's Role in India's Freedom Movements with Focus on Reshmi Rumal Tehrik will be out in October