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Why the Ayodhya judgment makes people nervous

Last updated on: September 09, 2010 18:42 IST
Sheela Bhatt explains why the judgment in the title suit in the Ayodhya case -- despite a delay of over half a century -- still comes at the wrong time for the Centre and several state governments.

The governments of several states and the Centre are scrambling to handle the possible fallout of the coming judgment in the Ayodhya case by the Allahabad high court's Lucknow bench on September 24.

The judgment is related to the title suit of the land in Ayodhya where the Babri Masjid once stood.

The suit will decide the following:

  • One, whether there was a temple at the disputed site, prior to 1538.
  • Two, whether the suit filed by the Babri committee in 1961 is barred by limitation.
  • And third, whether Muslims perfected their title through adverse possession.
  • If the judgment is delivered in favour of the Muslim litigants, a large section of Hindu organisations are likely to react.

    Similarly, if Muslims find that judgment establishes the claims of the Ram bhakts at the site where the Babri Masjid was demolished on December 6, 1992, then their anger would intensify.

    Prime Minister Manmohan Singh recently took stock of the issue at a high-level meeting. The Bharatiya Janata Party, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and Muslim organisations have conducted many 'brain storming' sessions on the likely impact of the verdict.

    The Mayawati-led Uttar Pradesh government, which is likely to face the brunt of a fall-out of the judgment, has already begun to deploy additional security to control any communal tension.

    Mayawati has told her Bahujan Samaj Party leaders to exercise restraint and avoid making any reference to the controversial Ayodhya issue in their speeches.

    "It is distressing to see that even after 62 years of Independence, India is getting nervous because of one verdict," says a retired security expert.

    The nervousness is just not about its impact on party politics or law and order in the country. As Dr Singh put it this week to some editors: the Naxal problem, the Kashmir unrest and the forthcoming judgment in the Ayodhya case will be some of the top issues that would have a bearing on how India will shape up in the years ahead.

    Its political fallout is a matter of worry for the ruling Congress. But even the BJP is worried because it will directly impact its alliance with the Nitish Kumar government in Bihar, a state which will go to the polls in October-November.

    It is absolutely baffling that the political establishment thinks that even after a delay of more than 50 years, the judgment is arriving at a wrong time. The issue has the potential to divide the nation, and that is scaring its rulers.

    The law and order situation cannot be predicted in spite of the best deployment of security forces. In view of the tension prevailing before the judgment, the government is worried about its impact on the Commonwealth Games which will see many VVIP visits to India in the coming months.

    A senior Union minister told rediff.com that the government is planning an impressive package to boost bilateral relations on the eve of American President Barack Obama's visit in November. Ministry of External Affairs sources describe the visit as "the event of the year."

    President Obama will arrive in New Delhi in early November, about seven weeks after the judgment if it is delivered on September 24. Government sources reveal that Obama will be in Indian only for two working days.

    He wants to visit the Taj Mahal, presumably with his wife Michelle. Obama is also likely to address both Houses of Parliament on November 9, a honour denied to his prdecessor when George W Bush visited India in March 2006, because the Left partiies and others like the Samajwadi Party opposed it.

    A high-level government source said, "One wishes this judgment had come a little later. There are many VVIP visits scheduled in coming months including Obama, Russian President Dmitri Medvedev and French President Nicholas Sarkozy."

    Dr Singh will travel to Japan, Malaysia and Vietnam for a week from October 24 to 30.

    Logically speaking, four possibilities could occur on September 24:

    One, due to some legal tangle or 'natural development' it is possible that in spite of the announcement, the judgment may not be delivered on September 24.

    Two, in clear terms it could go in favour of the Muslim litigants or in favour of the Hindu petitioners.

    Three, it is possible that the verdict may have ambiguity which will create tension or it could defuse tension depending on the political interpretations of its content.

    Four, if and when the judgment is delivered, there is no doubt the side that loses the case will rush to the Supreme Court. That move may reduce tension and curb emotions.

    The BJP has forbidden its leaders from speaking on the issue till the day of judgment. But Hindu organisations are showing signs of nervousness. Some fringe elements are circulating provocative SMSes.

    Kamal Faruqui, member of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, says, "The Muslim community will be comfortable with the court order. If we lose we will go to the apex court. Our request to the government and political parties is only one: Let the rule of law prevail in the country."

    "We will not react," adds Faruqui. "We will make sure that no reaction comes from our side. We will pacify our members if Muslim litigants lose. We will say all is not lost. There is a higher court. But we are worried about people who don't respect the courts and their orders."

    If the BJP is silent, the RSS and Vishwa Hindu Parishad are not. In the past month, the VHP has declared many times that 'Let the issue get debated in Parliament and let lawmakers bring legislation that can facilitate a temple in Ayodhya where the Babri Masjid once stood.'

    Some RSS and VHP leaders have insisted whatever the judgment, the Ram temple must be built in Ayodhya at the precise location where the Babri Masjid once stood.

    Ram Madhav, member of the RSS executive board, told Rediff.com, "We want Parliament to take up the issue and draft legislation that can help build the Ram temple. That should be done by the people's representatives."

    By all accounts, neither the states nor the Centre are ready to face the situation once the judgment is delivered. Their best case option is to avoid the situation in a legal way.

    But it is difficult to delay the pronouncement of the judgment because one of the three judges on the bench hearing the petition is retiring this month. One judge's retirement is shaking the nation and scaring many state governments and the establishment in New Delhi.

    Justice Dharam Veer Sharma will retire this month. Had he retired without the Ayodhya bench pronouncing judgment, the entire hearing -- as per Indian law -- would take place again, under a new judge. It is anyone's judgment, what will happen next.

    Also See: Coverage: The Ayodhya dispute

    Sheela Bhatt in New Delhi