It’s a political, not a legal verdict

Nothing exposes superficiality and hollowness of India’s so-called liberal-secular credentials than the Allahabad High Court’s split verdict on the Babri Masjid-Ramjanambhoomi case.

Eighteen years of supposed hard-thinking and deep-probing led the court to rule that the Hindus’ “belief” and “faith” – that there was a Ram birthplace structure at the disputed site – takes precedence over the hard reality that existed on the ground for nearly five hundred years in the shape of the Babri Masjid, that is indeed intriguing. By any standard this is a political decision, in defiance of law and jurisprudence.

Not that we in Pakistan think so; India’s premier newspaper The Hindu has voiced similar concerns. In a front-page comment on the court’s verdict, it says, “The legal and political system in India stood silent witness to that crime of trespass, vandalism and expropriation. Eighteen years later, the country has compounded that sin by legitimising the “faith and belief” of those who took the law into their own hands”. Rightly then the Muslims’ counsel, Zafaryab Gilani, has decided to go into appeal against the Allahabad High Court verdict, which, he says, is against the “settled principles of law and evidence adduced by the Muslim side”.

No wonder then the Allahabad High Court’s verdict has gladdened many a Hindu extremist’s heart. And who could be more pleased with the court’s verdict than L.K. Advani, whose Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), in league with the Vishawa Hindu Parishad, had launched in the 1980s, a movement “to liberate Janamasthan”, which culminated in an attack on the Babri Masjid causing its destruction in 1992. The court’s decision has cleared the way to build a “grand” temple at the disputed site, says a jubilant Advani.

Such a plan has been in the works ever-since India became independent, which immediately set about reviving Hinduism by means as diverse as the forcible occupation of Muslim majority states like Hyderabad Deccan, Junagarh, Manavadar and Kashmir and the take-over of mosques in the name of recovering Hindu temples said to be converted into mosques. The first attack came in 1949 when extremist Hindu elements entered the Babri Masjid by force and placed Ram idols there, and thus won the government’s approval for entry into the premises.

Unless reversed by the Indian Supreme Court, the verdict is pregnant with mischief to let Hindu extremists lay claim to hundreds of more such sites, a possibility in the light of an earlier apex court’s refusal to entertain a reference by the Narasimha Rao government seeking opinion whether a temple existed at the site of the Babri Masjid. Tulsidas, the famous Indian storyteller and a contemporary of early Mogul kings, who wrote Ramcharitmanas in the 16th century, makes no mention of this place as Ram’s birthplace.

If Muslims the world over are disappointed with the Allahabad High Court’s verdict, the Congress-led ruling coalition in New Delhi is not happy either; the verdict is potentially dangerous to peace and tranquillity that is so much required when India is going to host the Commonwealth Games. The games can come under a threat of violence in the wake of this clearly biased court verdict, not forgetting the communal strife that had dangerously notched up as the destruction of the mosque provoked violence that took thousands of lives.

May be the BJP would like to see the Manmohan-Sonia Gandhi set-up, the hosts of India’s first major initiative to showcase its global aspirations, grossly embarrassed, but that is not the intention of Muslims in India and elsewhere. In Pakistan, the government has taken special steps to ensure the safety and security of Hindu temples. Advocate Zafaryab’s strategy for further legal action seems to be dictated as much by his concern over the potential of the verdict to incite communal riots, as by his hope that the apex court will not endorse the Allahabad High Court’s decision.