Mister Muslim. You are rightly upset with the verdict of the Supreme Court on
the Ayodhya land dispute as it puts faith above law. Not for the first time,
secular India has let you down. But truth to tell, you too have let secular
India down. In this zero sum game between the Indian state and you, it’s been
advantage Hindutva all the way.
This is not
to rub salt in your wound. But to point out that Muslims as a community are
guilty of the very same thing they are accusing the Supreme Court of: Pitching
Shariah law against the Indian Constitution, faith against the law of the land.
The rigid, intransigent Islam that our Ulema and political leadership continue
to preach leaves us little space for manoeuvre or room to negotiate a
respectable place for ourselves in a secular-democratic polity. Such
inflexibility is bound to land us in the ditch, again and again, be it on the
question of a Masjid, triple talaq, Muslim Personal Law in general, or the
issue of population control.
for some honest introspection. Was it not us who took to the streets in 1985,
protested aggressively against the apex court’s judgment in the Shah Bano case,
insisted that Shariah law took precedence over the secular law of the land?
Congress government under Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi capitulated and the
result was the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986. Faith
triumphed over a secular law (Section 125 of the CrPC) and Muslims were
euphoric. The consequence: Secular-minded Indians were outraged, while Hindutva
organisations grabbed the opportunity to up the ante. If the law can be changed
in deference to Muslim religious sentiments, what about Hindu religious
sentiments? In a balancing act, the Rajiv government engineered the opening of
the locks of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya. Could it be, Mister Muslim, that in
setting a dangerous precedent, we lost the “plot”, not on November 9, 2019 but way
back in 1986?
Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi agitation snowballed, thanks to the ulema’s
myopia, what should have remained a legal dispute over land turned into a
dharam yudh between faiths, a conflict between Ram and Rahim. The militant
“mandir wahin banayenge” war-cry of the “Ram Bhakts” was matched by the equally
belligerent “once-a-mosque-always-a-mosque” posture of the Muslim leadership.
It’s a position that the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) upholds
even today. The leader of the All-India Majlis Ittehadul-Muslimeen (AIMIM),
Asaduddin Owaisi, has recently reiterated: “A mosque belongs to Allah and no
Muslim has any right to give or gift it away”. In Islamic Saudi Arabia any
number of mosques have been demolished or relocated for road widening and other
public purposes. But in secular India, it’s a different Islam.
escalation of communal conflict well suited the designs of the Sangh Parivar in
convincing more and more Hindus that “Babar ki aulad” are preventing the
building of a temple at the birth place of Lord Ram. From two seats in the Lok
Sabha in 1984, the BJP’s tally shot up to 85 seats in 1989 and 120 seats in
1991. This should have been a wake-up call for Muslims. But as riot after riot
claimed more and more Muslim lives, the leadership remained blind to the
reality that a state which failed to protect lives was unlikely to save a
recall the statement of the late Atal Bihari Vajpayee a year or two before the
demolition: “The mosque is sacred to Muslims, the spot is sacred to us Hindus
as the janamsthan of Bhagwan Ram. I appeal to my Muslim brothers. We Hindus
will respectfully lift the Babri Masjid brick by brick and re-build it at
another spot. You let us build our Ram Mandir there.” The Muslim response: A
mosque does not mean four walls but the land on which it stands. In other
words, it’s not a question of law but a matter of faith.
before the Babri masjid was demolished (December 1992), in an article published
in the now defunct weekly Sunday Observer, yours truly had argued why in the
interest of the minority community and the national interest, Muslims should
unilaterally hand over the Babri Masjid, either to the president of the Indian
republic or the Supreme Court. Let the chief custodians of secular India decide
whatever they thought to be in the best interests of national unity and
communal amity. The article reminded Muslims that the Places of Worship
(Special Provisions) Act, 1991, offered statutory protection against any future
agitations concerning all other mosques in the country. In response, I got a
mouthful from even secular Hindu friends who asserted: “The Babri Masjid is not
just a property of Muslims. It is a symbol of secular India. Who are you to
gift it away?”
Muslim, lost the opportunity for winning Hindu goodwill by our gesture,
arresting if not reversing the rising tide of militant Hindutva and
strengthening secular forces. The outcome: For Muslims, the loss of an
estimated 3,000 lives since then in the recurring communal flare-ups; for Hindu
nationalists, Ayodhya proved to be the chariot to ride to power.
forward to November 9, 2019. Yes, the Supreme Court’s verdict is disturbing.
More disturbing is the fact that it was unanimous; not one of the five judges
voiced a dissenting note. Even more disturbing, consider how it is that well
before judgment day the Sangh Parivar had not the least doubt that the
impending judgment would be in favour of Ram Mandir. How else does one
understand their overnight switch from mandir wahin banayenge vow to an appeal
to all Indians to “wholeheartedly support” the verdict, irrespective of which
way it goes? Also, consider this: Most self-proclaimed secular parties are
content with having expressed their respect for the verdict.
we realised, Mister Muslim, that our clinging to the ulema’s brand of Islam
gives every conflict a Hindu-Muslim complexion when the ongoing battle is, in
fact, between secular India and Hindu Rashtra. We mustn’t become the convenient
“other” for the Hindu nationalists to hide their real agenda.
Anand is convener, Indian Muslims for Secular Democracy and co-editor, Sabrang
Headline: Listen, Mister Muslim. You are rightly upset with the Ayodhya verdict
as it puts faith above law
Source: The Indian Express