Ayodhya verdict: Not land, Muslims are striving for equal rights in secularism
The Supreme Court of India closed the 40-day-long marathon hearing of the Ayodhya dispute over Babri Masjid vs Ram Janmabhoomi on 16 October 2019 and reserved its verdict. The case is in a Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi. It’s hearing a petition filed against the 2010 Allahabad High Court verdict on the controversial long-pending civil suit filed by the Hindutva fascist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)-affiliated organisations and the Sunni Waqf Board over the land where the now-demolished Babri Masjid once stood.
The 15th-century Babri Masjid was demolished by a feral mob of thousands of Hindutva fascists led by the RSS and its affiliates like the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), Bajrang Dal and Shiv Sena on 6th December 1992. This incident blew-off the facade of pseudo-secularism that the Hindutva fascist Indian state had been wearing since 1947 and ever since then, it didn’t shy ever to reveal its grotesque Brahminical, bigoted self.
The Allahabad High Court’s verdict gave two-third of the 2.77-acre land to the Hindutva-affiliated organisations and one-third to the Sunni Wakf Board. The land was distributed in such a way that the Sunni Waqf Board got its share outside the periphery of what the VHP and other rabid Hindutva agents claim was the birthplace of Hindu deity Rama. This verdict was challenged at the Supreme Court and, after an initial attempt to resolve the deadlock through mediation failed, the Constitution Bench went for a marathon-hearing, attaching immense importance to the case. It had set a target of finishing hearing by mid-October under the CJI’s pressure. The verdict is most likely to be pronounced before the retirement of CJI Gogoi on 17 November.
The surprising part is, at the same time, the Supreme Court overlooked numerous petitions regarding Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s regime abrogating Article 370 and 35A of the Indian Constitution and bifurcating the Indian-administered Jammu & Kashmir into two union territories. The Supreme Court didn’t hear the matter despite the fact that eight million Kashmiri people are reeling under a military blockade imposed by New Delhi, along with a communication embargo, for more than 70 days. Thousands of Kashmiris are jailed as they are “detained”, not arrested, because they are Kashmiris and their identity is perceived as a threat by the Indian state. The apex court didn’t pay heed to the numerous appeals filed to take a strong action against the unconstitutional steps taken by Modi and the BJP vis-a-vis Jammu & Kashmir.
What’s the priority for the court? It wants to deliver an unprecedented verdict on whether the Hindu deity Rama was born at the same place where the Babri Masjid stood. It wants to tell the world whether a temple of Rama was razed by the Mughal general who built the Babri Masjid in the 15th century! This is the paradox of 21st-century India. A court of law meant to uphold the rule of the Constitution and law is debating on the mythological legacy of Ayodhya.
Under Modi’s Hindutva fascist rule, the Muslims are subject to utmost brutality and macabre atrocities. They have been stripped of their citizenship rights in Assam and there are proposals to do so throughout India, especially in West Bengal. They are lynched at the whimsical fancy of the Hindutva fascist thugs. At each step of life, the average Muslim is vilified, demonised and faces discrimination. Ayodhya played a crucial role in this. The Babri Masjid demolition in 1992 made the atmosphere of fear a real one for the Muslims to see and live in.
In such an atmosphere of fear, where they are threatened by the RSS and its progeny organisations for simply living their lives or for practising their religion or for simply professing their faith, the Muslims feel scared and vulnerable. Seizing this opportunity, the RSS and all other Hindutva fascist organisations are trying to throw the Muslims off their own land. They are forcing the Muslims to give away their land claim in Ayodhya and even luring them with a promise of not encroaching any other Muslim place of worship if the land of Ayodhya is peacefully surrendered.
This muscle-flexing and bait dangling by the RSS frightened and hoodwinked many liberal democrats and elite Muslims, who shamelessly appealed to the community to give up its rightful claim over the land in Ayodhya for the sake of peace. Forgetting the notion of right and wrong, justice and injustice, many pessimistic Muslims and liberal democrats have urged the Muslim community to show its largeness of heart by giving up the Ayodhya land to the Hindutva fascists.
The RSS, whose chief recently claimed that the Indian Muslims are the “happiest in the world” as they live in a Hindu land, actually has no interest in the land. Ayodhya dispute isn’t merely a land dispute; it was never a civil affair. It’s a political battle of hegemony through which the Hindutva fascists, on one hand, want to demean and subjugate the Indian Muslims using violence and their clout over the Indian state, while on the other, they want to titillate their fanatics with sheer Islamophobia so that they remain polarised and can be instigated to commit gross acts of violence against the Muslims. The incessant lynchings of Muslims in India prove how happy the Muslims are and now, when the Modi regime has unofficially made it clear that the court’s verdict will be with the BJP, the Muslims must realise how much the Indian state values them.
Even if the Muslims give up all their claims on the land in Ayodhya where the Babri Masjid stood, for the construction of a Ram temple, it won’t stop the Hindutva fascists from inciting trouble in Varanasi’s Gyanvapi Masjid, Kamal Maula mosque in Dhar, Madhya Pradesh, Taj Mahal in Agra, Uttar Pradesh, etc, which they claim were Hindu temples following falsified versions of history peddled through bush telegraphs for decades. The question here is not about the Muslims giving up a piece of land in Ayodhya where no Muslims went for namaz for decades, rather the question is of giving up or fighting for the rights of the Muslim community in a secular democracy, as guaranteed by the Constitution.
It’s infantile to expect the Hindutva fascists of not encroaching over Muslim places of worship when they are already attacking Muslim congregations that offer Friday prayers at public places in Noida and Gurgaon. With a new concept of “land jihad”, they are already attacking the Muslims who try to pray at vacant plots and the mammoth propaganda machinery of the RSS justifies such denial by stitching conspiracy theories out of rags.
In case a gang of fanatic Muslims had demolished a Hindu temple in 1992 and incited a massive anti-Hindu pogrom throughout the country, they wouldn’t be arguing in the court now whether a temple or a mosque stood there at the first place, rather, in the last 27 years, the perpetrators of such a heinous crime would’ve spent more than 14 years of rigorous imprisonment and the temple would’ve been rebuilt by now. However, when the equation changes, the rules of the game changes. The Hindutva fascists like Lal Krishna Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Uma Bharti or Vinay Katiyar, the vociferous rabble-rousers who incited the mob to demolish the mosque on 6th December 1992 at Ayodhya, have not only enjoyed immunity from the law but also enjoyed a fair share of the power pie for years. A case that started to prosecute them, disappeared in the annals of history, never to be found again.
One can’t forget that it’s the Babri Masjid demolition under Advani’s leadership that propelled the BJP’s rise in national politics and, today, it’s few inches far from the RSS’s long-term vision of establishing a Hindu Rashtra — a theocratic state with Brahminical hegemony — where the Muslims, Christians, Dalits, backward castes and tribal people will be castigated and disenfranchised. Today, the BJP’s former stalwarts like Advani, Joshi or Bharti, remain outside the ambit of law for their notorious role in demolishing the mosque, while the Muslims are under pressure to give up what rightfully belongs to them.
As the Supreme Court ended its Ayodhya hearing, the toady media of Modi started the cacophony over the verdict. Some even declared the Muslims as encroachers and nakedly proved the asserting of Mukut Bihari Verma, the Uttar Pradesh minister and BJP leader, who claimed that the Supreme Court is “ours” and will deliver a verdict in favour of “Ram Mandir” in Ayodhya. Their enthusiasm showed that the verdict of the Supreme Court will be either in favour of a Ram temple at the site of the Babri Masjid or the Modi regime will supersede the Constitution Bench’s verdict by enacting a law in favour of temple construction.
The real struggle of the Muslims is not for regaining the land ownership in Ayodhya. The real struggle for the Muslims is to establish their identity as equal citizens with equal rights in a secular society; it’s their struggle to uphold democratic values, the ideology of secularism, the promotion of communal harmony and the right to live their own lives with their own choices without any fear of transgression, political persecution, pogroms, discrimination and marginalisation. This is a battle for social justice and equality that it can neither win alone nor settle through petitions to the judiciary or the executive. Rather, it’s a political struggle, where only the most-exploited socio-economic blocs of Muslims, united with the ostracised Dalits, the tribal people, the backward castes and other minority groups, can really defeat the Hindutva fascist brigade.
Whatever may be the Ayodhya verdict, the Muslims, the Dalits, the tribal people, the backward classes, the exploited and oppressed masses represented by the democratic and progressive forces must remember that feral Hindutva fascists and hate mongers are not more than 250m people in a country of 1.3 billion. They aren’t the majority; those who are against these Hindutva fascists and their obnoxious politics are in the majority and if they can intensify their anti-fascist struggle by uniting under a common banner then it won’t take long to bring down the Hindutva fascist empire and build a people’s democratic and secular society, where communalism will be trashed forever and economic equality will be established, which will pave the way for social justice, gender equality and abolishment of the caste system. All political struggles should try realising that goal because without it there is no real victory.
An avid reader and a merciless political analyst. When not writing then either reading something, debating something or sipping espresso with a dash of cream. Street photographer. Tweets as @la_muckraker