We knew it
was coming. We knew it since May 23, when the BJP was re-elected to power with
a bigger majority than the previous general election. We knew that the BJP would
not miss this most opportune moment in history to complete the campaign that
first brought it to national prominence: The construction of the Ram Mandir on
the ground where the Babri Masjid once stood.
knowledge, or apprehension, was born not of a dream. But of hard facts that
played out in the first tenure of the Narendra Modi-led government. A tenure
marked by a spate of unpunished lynchings of Muslims, unchecked anti-Muslim
rhetoric of BJP politicians, and an unending anti-Muslim narrative peddled by
the media, that kept the community in the news on one pretext or the other, be
it beef or “love jihad” or “Bharat Mata ki Jai” or dead Muslim men like
Aurangzeb and Jinnah.
23,the BJP re-launched its Hindutva agenda with a renewed zeal. A zeal boosted
by the party’s re-election despite the failure to deliver on economic
development, proving without doubt, at least to the Muslim citizen, that
Hindutva was the BJP’s only attraction for its voters.
nation’s mood firmly in control, it was time for the BJP to get down to serious
business. To grow beyond wielding public opinion through news television, or
giving a free pass to mob violence against Muslims. To put the spirit of
Hindutva to the letter. To write the agenda subtly in law. And thus, the first
assignment of the BJP’s current tenure was to pass the Triple Talaq Bill, on
July 30. Less than a week later, on August 5, Parliament struck down Article
370, snatching away the statehood of Jammu and Kashmir, and locking down the
Valley indefinitely. The swift progression from one milestone to another,
amidst the implementation of the NRC in Assam, signalled that the next stop
could be building the Ram Mandir.
Court wrapped up hearing the 70-year-old title suit in 40 days and announced
its verdict, giving the whole of the disputed land to the Hindus to build a
temple. With this one stroke, it put the final full-stop to the story of the
gradual, state-and-court-sanctioned conversion of mosque into temple — from the
illegal placement of idols inside the mosque and disallowing Muslim prayer
there in 1949 to unlocking the gates in order to give Hindu devotees access
inside the mosque in 1986 to demolishing the mosque in 1992 and building a
makeshift, functioning temple at the site a few months later.
that the end to the long story was now finally in sight. In the unofficial
Hindu Rashtra, its time had come. And yet, my preparedness could not stop me
from being overwhelmed with grief when the verdict was being read out on TV.
Similar to the grief felt over the death of a terminally-ill patient, Muslims
felt a quiet, resigned sadness over a verdict that they knew would not go their
was compounded by the conviction that the verdict should have gone our way.
That we were stronger claimants of victory. Not the chest-thumping victory of
gain. But a sombre victory of recovering a loss. The loss of the physical
structure of the Masjid, the loss of lives in the bloody aftermath of its
demolition, the loss of faith in the secular foundations of the country. The
recovery of this loss would have spelt justice for Muslims.
knew all too well that justice for them in the Court could mean injustice for
them on the street in the form of possible retaliatory violence by Hindu
right-wing groups. Justice would then have come at the cost of peace. On the
other hand, losing the claim to the title suit would greatly reduce the
possibility of violence by the other side and ensure peace.
In an ideal
situation, justice and peace go hand in hand. But in majoritarian India,
Muslims knew that they would get either justice or peace. In recent months,
prominent Muslims talked of withdrawing claim to the site provided no fresh
cases of other disputed sites are opened and Muslims are allowed to pray at
mosques under the ASI. Would I now be allowed to pray on any day of the week
and at any of the five times during the day in the mosque inside the Taj Mahal
have been best had Muslims won the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title suit and
then handed over ownership of the land to Hindus in all humility. That would
have been a win-win: Hindus would get the land that they attach to their faith;
Muslims would get justice for their masjid which was criminally demolished on
December 6, 1992. That would have gone a long way in correcting Hindu
misperceptions of Muslims. But the possibility of such a scenario, born of a
tiny flicker of hope in the judiciary, fell apart on November 9.
Court verdict has guaranteed peace but denied justice to Muslims. Lest we
forget, Muslims are at the forefront of maintaining that peace, and the
community must be lauded for its patience and restraint in the face of repeated
provocations from the state, the mob and the media over the last five years.
And finally, betrayal by its last bastion of hope, the Supreme Court, on
One may ask
if the apex court’s offer of a five-acre plot elsewhere to compensate for the
demolition of the mosque isn’t justice. Charity is not a synonym of justice. Or
of closure. Charity is given by the privileged group to the underprivileged
group. Thank you, India, for reminding Muslims that privilege can only belong
to the majority in a majoritarian state.
Akbar is a Lucknow-based entrepreneur and a former journalist with The Indian
Headline: SC’s offer of five-acre plot to compensate for Babri demolition is
charity by privileged to the underprivileged
Source: The Indian Express