Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Ayodhya case a property dispute, it should remain that

The Allahabad high court (Lucknow bench) is set to deliver the verdict in the Babri Masjid-Ram Janambhoomi title suit on September 24, and it has caused a rare flutter in the media, among the communal bodies of Hindus and Muslims and in the political class. A last ditch attempt has been made by one of the defendants to defer the verdict so that an out-of-court settlement could be reached. The court rejected the petition after the contesting parties – the All India Sunni Wakf Board and the Hindu Maha Sabha – did not show interest in the suggestion.

Meanwhile, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the arch provocateur of the temple agitation along with its affiliate, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), has sent out a call that the response to the verdict should be peaceful and legal. A similar appeal has been made by the Muslim communal organizations, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) and the Babri Majid Action Committee (BAMC). L.K.Advani, who spearheaded the Ayodhya agitation in 1990-92 and the BJP has appealed for restraint in the wake of the verdict. Most surprising, the central government has issued an official appeal to the people to maintain law and order and pursue legal remedies.

There is a sense of déjà vu in all this. These were indeed some of the hypocritical public statements that all these organizations had issued in the run-up to the December 6, 1992 demolition of the Babri mosque by vandals and arsonists. It looks like communal organizations and political parties are waiting for the verdict before they craft and calibrate their responses.

Therefore the issue has to be stated quite clearly so that communalists and political parties do not play their wily and vile games once again. The court verdict is not about a mosque or a temple. The issue is a narrow, legal one of who owns that bit of land where the Babri mosque stood till 1992 and where the temporary structure of the temple stands now. The contesting parties have no option but to abide by the court verdict. An appeal to the Supreme Court can be made, but ultimately the court verdict has to prevail.

Observers are optimistic that the ‘mandal-mandir’ frenzy of 1990-92 cannot be revived because India in 2010 is a far different place. The power of the hate brigade to trigger trouble is not to be underestimated. Government should be firm in dealing with them. Congress party being in power has a greater responsibility. It must stop playing footsy with Hindu and Muslim communalists on the issue. No one else has any stake in the matter except the main parties to the dispute.

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