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Why the Ayodhya judgment is a landmark

By Rajeev Srinivasan
October 08, 2010 20:57 IST
Rajeev Srinivasan on how the use of religion as a weapon took a beating on September 30.

It would not be wrong to compare the Ayodhya decision of the Allahabad high court on September 30 to landmark, epoch-making judicial rulings that set right grievous historic wrongs: For instance, Brown versus Board of Education in the United States in 1954, which ruled as unconstitutional the then endemic discrimination against non-whites and led to the civil rights movement.

The Ayodhya judges have indeed shown a path to a reasonable settlement of the dispute, which may not be fully satisfactory but may well be the basis for a negotiated end to the issue.

In the run-up to the ruling, I expected three things: First, whatever the court decides, this would be appealed to the Supreme Court by one or more of the litigants -- that is, this is not the last word on the subject.

Second, the decision would generally favour the Muslim claim.

Third, whatever happens, there would be violence.

In the event, I had mixed fortunes in forecasting: Correct on the first, partly correct on the second, and, thankfully, wrong on the third, at least as of now.

And something that I had not anticipated seems to have happened: A ringing endorsement of the historical Hindu religious claim.

This is unprecedented, and the apparent unambiguous support of the Hindu position as the victimised ones is a big step in the right direction.

The best possible solution would be for Muslims to relinquish their claim, and voluntarily give up the land they have been allotted, because Ayodhya has zero religious significance to them.

Since there is no mention whatsoever of Ayodhya in the Quran, it is not a holy spot for Muslims, but it is one of Hinduism's five holiest sites.

Ayodhya is even less relevant to Muslims than the al-Aqsa mosque they built on the Jews' holiest site of the Dome of the Rock -- Jerusalem is at least mentioned in passing in the Quran.

It is clear now that the Muslim stance in Ayodhya is purely political, and has nothing to do with religion.

That there will be appeals is disappointing, because it means the status quo will be maintained and the courtroom dramatics will continue.

It is in the vested interests of many to keep the Ayodhya issue unresolved, a festering wound that annoys Hindus and rallies Muslims.

On the merits of the case, based on traditional belief and archaeological evidence, it is likely that a Ram temple once stood at the spot. But that's not the point.

The point is that the self-proclaimed 'intelligentsia' want to use Ayodhya, which they portray as the 'original sin' of Hindus, as their excuse for supporting Muslim intransigence in all issues.

Never mind that the judgment is an absolute slap on the faces of the 'intelligentsia': Their desperation shows; the mask is slipping and the claws are coming out.

Evidence from folk memory is nothing to sneeze at: Only traditional belief supports most religious claims.

For instance, the place where Jesus was allegedly crucified was 'divined' in a dream by Helena, mother of the first Christian Roman emperor, Constantine, circa 345 CE, with no further evidence whatsoever. But they had the imperial Roman army to support them. Therefore, a temple to Athena that stood on the spot was razed.

Similarly, given well-documented Muslim takeovers of others' shrines as a mark of conquest, it is likely that an imperial Mughal army demolished a Ram shrine.

The justices recognised this logic by explicitly referring to Article 25 of the Constitution, which protects the right to profess one's religion, based on many centuries of Hindu belief.

Besides, in Ayodhya, there is voluminous evidence from the archaeological dig under Supreme Court direction, which the judges have accepted as fair and unbiased, and which indicated that there was a large earlier religious structure, specifically a Hindu shrine, right where the disputed mosque structure used to stand.

Given the fact that almost Hindu-Buddhist-Jain shrines in northern India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, were destroyed and/or converted to mosques, by Occam's Razor it is highly likely this happened in Ayodhya as well.

As people like the intrepid Koenraad Elst have pointed out, there was never any question about the authenticity of the Hindu claim about the birthplace of Rama. In particular, medieval Muslim historians fully endorsed this claim.

In fact, they celebrated the construction of the mosque structure precisely for that reason, because it was one of the holiest of Hindu shrines, and forcibly taking it over was an assertion of Muslim military -- and by implication, religious -- superiority over Hindus. Imperial British courts accepted this logic too.

This happy state of affairs lasted up until 1989, when a group of Left-leaning academics -- who grandly call themselves 'eminent historians' -- created the entire problem by simply trashing any and all Hindu claims outright.

In a fair system, they should be called to account for the hundreds of deaths and the massive human suffering that their mischief has caused.

They are the ultimate culprits, along with the undoubted agents provocateurs who chivvied people on to raze the disputed structure in 1992.

It would not be outrageous to wonder if they are guilty of sedition.

Second, courts are not manned by coldly logical automata. They are staffed by real humans, susceptible to prevailing opinion, and sensitive to other factors.

There is pressure on the judges to conform to what amounts to the official religion propagated by the Government of India -- a strange animal called 'secularism'.

This includes an imagined narrative that Muslims are, will be, and have always been, oppressed by Hindus.

This is a fiction assiduously cultivated by the GoI's propaganda machine as well as the English-language media, and it has become an article of faith: An example of a gigantic collective delusion that periodically afflicts populations. (The famous Dutch tulip bubble is another example of the extraordinary madness of crowds.)

This sentiment, along with the understandable hope on the part of politicians to appeal to vote-banks, is endemic.

For instance, the government of Kerala allotted Rs 5 crore (Rs 50 million) recently to Pakistan for flood relief. The calculation, with elections looming, is that this will appeal to Muslim voters. The fact that it insults Muslims by insinuating that they are all pro-Pakistan seems to escape the bountiful ones.

The appeasement is especially ironic considering that Kerala has become a centre of jihadi violence and money-laundering. There is the Christian professor whose hand was chopped off on vague accusations of blasphemy, whose 'punishment' was allegedly decided by an extra-judicial Sharia court, not the law of the land.

Incidentally, while the Kerala government gave Rs 300,000 to the family of Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan, martyred during the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks, it gave Rs 500,000 to the families of those killed recently drinking adulterated liquor.

Amazing, isn't it, the priorities of the Communist government of Kerala? Or of the Government of India, which allotted Rs 500,000 to next of kin of stone-throwing Kashmiri insurgents who were shot.

The third point is that there has been no violence so far, thankfully. Well, so far so good. Given the history of religious riots in India, I keep my fingers crossed that agents provocateurs financed by the usual suspects do not succeed in inducing law and order problems.

I find it hard to believe that the fire-breathing extremists are going to persist in good behaviour. I sincerely hope I am wrong.

The English-language media has unfortunately become one of the main tools for incitement.

There are several reliable memes that the Indian English-language media uses to beat Hindus with: Chronologically, Kashmir, Ayodhya, and Gujarat.

Kashmir is burning, so onwards to the next, Ayodhya. Hence the expected and endemic trash-talk by the talking heads on television who, oddly enough, seem to lust for violence.

I expect not one of them will consider the intriguing parallels between Ayodhya and the Cordoba House/Park 51 mosque raising tempers in New York.

Generations to come will scarce believe that there once stood a World Trade Centre in New York; the reality of the mosque will overcome the fading memory of 9/11.

Possession is nine-tenths of the law. This is probably similar to what happened in Ayodhya circa 1526, but the Hindu racial memory -- for those thinking in terms of millennia, this is a short time -- still remembers, as it remembers the extinct Saraswati river, dry since 1900 BC.

Besides, why 'Cordoba'?

Because Muslims still remember the pain of the reconquista of Spain by Christians circa 1236, and the conversion of their Cordoba mosque into a Christian cathedral.

Pakistan's national poet Allama Iqbal wrote touchingly of his distress upon visiting Cordoba. Strangely, he omitted to mention that the mosque had been built atop an earlier (Visigoth?) Christian church, so it was a re-conversion.

In Kashi and Mathura, the very pillars of demolished Hindu temples are clearly visible under the Muslim replacements.

So long as the Indian government, and the media, put about the odd idea that only Muslims have the right to feel pain about their religious structures being demolished, the Ayodhya issue will not go away.

And that is an original sin. The judges, in their wisdom, have shown a way to cut the Gordian Knot. It would be wise to follow their lead.

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Rajeev Srinivasan
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