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Current Affairs ( 1 Oct 2010, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Ayodhya Verdict: The Muddle Path

By Dileep Padgaonkar

Oct 2, 2010

The verdict of the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad high court on the title suits related to the disputed site in Ayodhya makes you wonder whether anything straight can ever emerge from the crooked timber of the majoritarian mind. The three parties involved in the suits the Nirmohi Akhara, the Sunni Central Board of Waqf and the Ramlalla Virajman had expected, on wholly reasonable grounds, that the court would rule in favour of one or the other side without a trace of ambiguity. What the three judges decided instead was to trifurcate the land and hand it over to the litigants in equal parts.

Among the factors that led them to do so, the most intriguing by far is the cachet of legality that they have bestowed on belief and faith. Both, we had assumed, naively as it turns out, had to be kept outside the ambit of the court. Here, judges weigh evidence rooted in incontrovertible facts, examine the pertinence of reasoned arguments and proceed to deliver a judgement that conforms, in letter and spirit, with the laws prevalent in the land. But by their very nature, faith and belief have no factual basis. They are above reason. And if push comes to shove, they aren't answerable to norms of legality laid down by mere mortals.

This is the road that the three judges chose to tread. They looked upon Lord Ram not as a mythological figure who, given his exemplary life and character, dwells in the hearts of millions of Hindus, but as a historical character. This explains the court's willingness to identify the precise location of his place of birth. The exercise did not call for a shred of evidence. None was sought and none was forthcoming. It was undertaken simply because the faith and belief of Hindus decreed that the Lord was born under the central dome of the mosque that was razed to the ground.

Once faith and belief are factored into a resolution of a legal tangle, you embark, swiftly and surely, on the slippery slope of majoritarian conceit. Both can well come into play if a settlement is discussed outside the confines of a court. Attempts to this effect have indeed been made since 1992. Each one has failed. The reason, quite simply, is that when the sangh parivar asked for a compromise, it in fact wanted the Muslims to renounce their claims to the disputed area "out of respect for Hindu sentiments". That was no compromise solution at all. It was a summons to surrender.

For this very reason, the Muslims asserted time and again that they would like the case to be examined in a court of law and that they would abide by its verdict. This affirmation of trust in the judiciary is easily explained. They had every right to expect the court to focus on the title suits without taking into account considerations that were extraneous to the judicial process.

The biggest infirmity of Thursday's verdict, therefore, is that the court treated Lord Ram as a 'juristic person'. In the eyes of the law, a deity or an idol is thus entitled to be placed on par with flesh-and-blood litigants. The sheer brazenness of this stand, which belittles the exalted stature of Hinduism's most revered divinity, makes you wince.

After this bit of 'creative' legal thinking, the other infirmities in the verdict appear to be no more than trifles. Take the issue of whether or not a mosque was built after demolishing a temple. From all accounts, the findings of the Archaeological Survey of India were incomplete at best and, at worst, misleading. At any rate, experts are divided on the subject. But that did not persuade the judges to exercise a bit of circumspection.

But assume for a moment that Babar did order the destruction of a temple and the construction of a mosque in its place. How can you apply the laws of the 21st century to the depredations witnessed in the 16th century? And, more significant still, why should the sins committed by Babar visit his co-religionists today? In a country where, for example, Buddhists have been at the receiving end of Hindus, this can open a can of worms. This verdict therefore smacks of majoritarian arrogance which, one hopes, will be jettisoned root and branch by the Supreme Court.

The silver lining in all this is that the country has by and large heeded the appeal of political parties and religious leaders to remain calm after the verdict. With the exception of a few hotheads, who have again raised the spectre of Kashi and Mathura, their own reactions have indeed been muted. Does this augur well for an out-of-court settlement? Much would depend on the outcome of a criminal case related to the demolition of the mosque that is being heard in another court. Exemplary punishment for those who brought shame and infamy to India could go a long way in persuading the Muslims to part with the land that is now rightly theirs in the larger interests of the nation. They can then walk tall as citizens who put the future of our democratic and secular republic above their sense of hurt.

Source: The Times of India