Why is UPA sleeping over Ayodhya verdict?

By Abdul Khaliq,

I am appalled at the naivety of our political commentators and the political class which celebrated the Allahabad High Court verdict in the Ayodhya dispute. No sooner the judgment was pronounced it was projected as the best thing to happen to India in recent times. Our learned TV anchors and experts told us to “move on” to build a “modern India”. The experts loudly proclaimed that the High Court verdict was the best possible ‘way out’ to sustain ‘communal harmony and peace’ in the country. Almost the unanimous opinion on the judgment day was that the Muslims must be generous enough to give up even the 1/3rd piece of land the honorable judges had allocated to the Sunni Wakf Board for the construction of a ‘bhav’ Ram temple on the demolished Babri mosque site.

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It is settled now that the Ayodhya dispute will now move to the Supreme Court. But the judgment has generated some very serious issues having dangerous and long term consequences for the country. Hence, I intend to generate a debate through these columns regarding the Allahabad High Court judgment which has made a judicial history of sorts.

Let me at the outset declare that most of the learned comments of commentators and politicians over the Allahabad High Court judgment on the Ayodhya dispute were shocking, indeed. There was no serious debate even in the legal/judicial circles over the dangerous precedent set by this judgment which puts aasatha (belief/faith) over the rule of law. No one was willing to discuss even the long term judicial and social implications of the judgment. Ironically, the supposed beacon of ‘secularism’ in India, the Congress Party did not just brushed aside the serious implications of faith versus rule of law issue, but Nehru’s Congress too welcomed the Ayodhya verdict at its highest levels.

Aside from giving short shrift to the rule of law, the judgment also sets the precedent that in a future Ayodhya type dispute the courts could well uphold the supremacy of the majority belief over the minority belief while undermining admissible evidence under the law of evidence. After all, the Babri mosque was nearly five hundred years old historic reality till 6th of December 1992 when the kar sewaks pulled it down. The learned judges of Allahabad High Court declared it as the Ram janam asthan on two counts. One, the Hindu belief says so. Secondly, on the basis of the disputed ASI evidence which said that the mosque was built either by destroying a temple or the mosque was built on the ruins of some ancient temples. What is more – and this aspect has been left virtually unreported in the media – that Justice Agarwal in his judgment has endeavored hard to suggest that the mosque could have been constructed during the era of Aurangzeb.

Can a modern and secular India afford to hail a judgment which lets belief rule over the law and where judges embark on ‘historical research’ which could well remind us of a fishing expedition? Is it not medievalism that we are hailing as the best thing to happen to India! Are we building a modern India on medieval foundation? Does not such line of judicial reasoning logically lead to soft Hindu state? Are we competing with Pakistan where sometime sectarian beliefs and opinions of individual jurists (fuqaha) take precedence over settled propositions of law? Should such a judgment go unchallenged, as some of the right wing leaders advocated after it became known that the Muslim Personal Law Board had decided to go in appeal to the apex court? These are some of the issues that come to my mind after the Ayodhya judgment. I strongly feel that the country must give a serious thought to these queries to build a truly modern India of Jawaharlal’s dream.

As a patriotic Indian Muslim I feel appalled. The Muslim community too is in a state of deep shock to realize that one of the leading courts of the country has seen it fit to let law be superseded by faith of the majority community. One need hardly to point out that the 150 million strong community of Indian Muslims has already been pushed to the margins in the last sixty years. This is not my contention; it is the unambiguous finding of the Sachar Committee appointed by the UPA Government. The committee state that literacy rate of Indian Muslims is even lower than that of Dalits. It proclaims that there are hardly any government sponsored schools, hospitals or banks in Muslim concentrated localities. It admits that the Muslims have hardly any access to bank loans. The much quoted Sachar report even points out that the vast majority of Muslims do not have stable means of livelihood in public or private sectors. So a huge chunk of the community is obliged to make ends meet by pulling rickshaws, doing odd jobs or selling goods on pavements.

It is amazing that such a marginalized community did not loose hope. It has faith in Indian democracy, its secularism and pluralism, despite going through cycles of communal violence and shocking events like demolition of Babri mosque and Gujarat pogrom. The community may have at times lost faith in politicians; it never lost faith in judiciary. So when the Ayodhya verdict came the community was shell shocked. The feeling was of the lost hope from the bastion of justice. Do not let the second largest community of Indian Muslims live in the permanent state of hopelessness.

Indian Muslims have strong faith in Indian democracy. And they have become wise to the electoral number game too! They may be leaderless, yet they have the ‘horse sense’ to make out the enemy from a friend. They may be shocked now but they would know what to do when elections come. They had used the same sense in the wake of the Babri mosque demolition in 1993 when they defeated both the Congress and the BJP in UP and MP Assembly elections. They did it on number of other occasions too. They will surely do in the future as well. So the political parties dare not take them for granted.

Last but not the least, why is the UPA government sleeping over the matter so far? It is now certain that both the parties will take the matter to the Supreme Court. But it does not absolve the government from its responsibility. The judgment has generated the greatest ever judicial debate on the issue of faith superseding rule of law. Ayodhya dispute is no longer just a Hindu-Muslim issue. Post Allahabad judgment it has become a constitutional issue. Yet the Manmohan Singh government has no view on it.

The government of the day is duty bound to defend the constitution. Therefore, it is imperative upon the UPA government to intervene in the matter by seeking Supreme Court view on whether the faith can override law of the land. We want the government to stand up and clear the shadow cast over the secular nature of Indian republic by the Allahabad High court verdict. Narasimha Rao type of dilly dallying tactics may not just boomerang on the government but could prove dangerous for the country in the long term. It is time for every one, both inside the government and outside, to stand up in defense of secular Indian republic which is being threatened by the Allahabad High Court verdict.

[This article was first published in Sunday Guardian. The Author is Secretary General, Lok Janshakti Party.]