Rasheeda Bhagat

Finally, we can put Ayodhya behind us

Rasheeda Bhagat | Updated on November 12, 2019 Published on November 12, 2019

The long dispute over the land where the Babri Majid once stood was simply not worth the pain caused to the Muslim community

For years I have held the view that all the Muslim bodies engaged in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute should voluntarily give up claim to the land where the Babri Masjid once stood, and ask the government/people of India to provide a grand mosque in the town at an alternate site.

I was slayed for saying this. However, the never-ending courtroom battle on this contentious issue has now ended with the five-member Supreme Court Bench giving a clear verdict in favour of building a Ram temple on the disputed 2.77-acre plot.

Mercifully, the violence, arson or rioting that could have erupted — as has happened so often in the past — did not take place. I had to take a flight within an hour of the verdict being pronounced. There were unusually long queues at the Chennai airport and stringent security, which was assuring. A day later, on Sunday, while taking the return flight from Mumbai, it was business as usual. There were hardly any queues or undue fuss about security.

On Saturday, there was heavy police presence on Mumbai’s streets but the city had remained calm. Although, while taking an Uber from the airport to the hotel, the driver’s comment jarred a little when I asked him about the situation on the roads. He said: “As of now, fine. And I must say I was relieved when I got a ride to a non-Muslim locality like Parel!”

The dispute

Returning to the Ayodhya issue, the acrimony, hatred and violence this dispute has claimed over long decades were just not worth it. The way in which the issue was used to polarise the country, whip up hatred against Muslims and gain political capital was horrific. Once again, it was the lack of leadership that let down the community. Instead of fighting for better education, employment opportunities or decent livelihood, I thought it was futile to fight for a mosque which had been desecrated before being demolished; and where puja had taken place — which meant that namaz could never be performed there. Having said that, let me reiterate that the demolition of the mosque through such jingoistic force was a heinous crime.

But it is a huge relief to find that the majority of Muslims have accepted the Supreme Court verdict calmly. One cannot rule out a sense of resignation in the larger community, at the receiving end in recent years amidst the rising tide and a brand of Hindutva that carries out lynchings. True, Muslims are on the back foot in today’s India.

It might seem strange, but I think there was more anger and hurt in the community over the lockdown in Kashmir and the demotion of the State into a Union Territory than there is over the judicial resolution of the Ayodhya dispute, clearly in favour of Hindus.

Five acres for new mosque

The immediate response to the apex court’s directive to the Central government to allot five acres of land — much more than the disputed land “all of 1,500 square yards” on which the Babri masjid once stood — to Muslims to build a mosque, is divided. While hardliners such as Asaduddin Owaisi have flayed the judgment saying Muslims don’t need such “charity”, the UP Sunni Central Waqf Board — whose decision will really matter — has welcomed the judgment and its chief Zufar Farooqui has said that a decision on accepting the land and its utilisation will be taken at the Board’s next meet on November 26.

He said he was getting “diverse views” on whether to take the land or not, but personally felt that “negativity” was not the way forward. A sane point of view.

A mosque, or any other religious structure for that matter, doesn’t need five acres. As some have suggested, the bulk of the gifted land should be used to put up a quality educational institution, as education is what the Muslim community sorely needs.

A silver lining in the dark and thick clouds that have loomed over the Ayodhya dispute over long years was Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s demeanour and measured tones in his reaction to the Supreme Court verdict in a televised address to the nation. Looking sober, the Prime Minister while welcoming the verdict said in staid and measured tones that this was nobody’s victory or defeat, and the resolution of this long dispute was bound to bring a “new dawn”.

While repeating his usual mantra of “making a new start for a new India”, Modi had a biting message for those saffron outfits that had been pushing the government not to wait for a court verdict and use its muscle power to make way for a Ram temple through an ordinance. In an obvious reference to them he said: “The Supreme Court has also given the message that the solution to the most difficult of issues lies in the Constitution and the ambit of law, even if it takes time.”

Mercifully, this contentious issue will soon be behind us. But can the PM and his team control the Twitter troll army which is already braying: “Kashi and Mathura next”?

Published on November 12, 2019
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