Babri Judgment 2019: What Next

Ram Puniyani

The Supreme Court seven bench verdict on Bari Masjid- Ram Janmbhoomi has elicited various reactions. While those who were part of Babri Demolition feel vindicated and are seeing this as the highest Court upholding their beliefs and faith, the minority community and most of those upholding democracy, pluralism and rule of law are seeing this as a blatant violation of the norms of justice. It has also raised the question of what next? Those associated with the construction of Ram temple at the site are looking forward to the formation of Trust which will build the grand Ram Temple there. Many human rights groups and some Muslim organizations want to appeal for review of the judgment. There are some Muslim groups who want to go for the process of review there are still others who want to ‘move away’ from the issue. As per those appealing to, ‘move away’ from Babri issue argue that this issue has tormented not only the Muslim community but has also strengthened the communal politics and has dealt a severe blow to pluralism of the country and fraternity aspect of Indian Constitution.

The letter, ‘move away’, signed by over 100 Muslims from different walks of life, with prominent one’s like Shaban Azmi, Nasiruddin Shah and Javed Anand have come out with an appeal in a widely circulated letter. They state, “We share the unhappiness of the Indian Muslim community, constitutional experts and secular organizations over the fact that the highest court in the land has placed faith above law in arriving at its decision. But while agreeing that the court order is judicially flawed, we strongly believe that keeping the Ayodhya dispute alive will harm, and not help, Indian Muslims”.

It is very true that on one side to uphold the rule of law, to ask SC to give a relook at the verdict is necessary on several grounds of justice, on the other if we take stock of the whole political game played around Babri issue it becomes clear that it is around this issue that sectarianism has thrived. This has been the major issue which strengthened RSS combine. One index of this comes in the form of the electoral strength of BJP, which just prior to taking up this issue was mere two MPs in Lok sabha, and in the last general elections has rose to 303 MPs in the parliament.

It is true that RSS combine did raise other polarizing issues like Love Jihad, Cow-beef, Ghar Wapasi as well. It is also true that RSS combine has been polarizing the society on the issue of Nationalism, particularly through anti-Pakistan rhetoric, but Ram Temple remained the central issue all through. One could see that while the nation was united as Indian nation through the anti colonial movement, in contrast different steps of Ram Temple campaign led to emotive upsurge, in which ‘Hate Muslim’ was the core. The rise of emotions around Babri issue have also led to a condition where Muslims been relegated to the margins of society.

One can understand the spirit of the ‘look away’ letter when one looks back as to what happened during the whole period of this campaign. The first thing was that the basic issues of society, the one’s related to bread, butter, shelter, employment were relegated to the margins and issues related to faith were put on the forefront of the society. One could also see as to how ‘faith’ can be manufactured to serve the political goals. Till six- seven decades ago, no one talked that Lord Ram was born precisely at that spot where the mosque is standing, now it is by and large part of the understanding of section of Hindus.

During this period, the violence in the name of religion kept going up and different studies show that Muslims have been the major victims of this violence. To cap it all the analysts also show that in the aftermath of violence BJP stands to gain at electoral level. The whole story of pain and marginalization of Muslim community running parallel to the Babri issue is there for all to see. Apart from physical insecurity, the aftermath of violence and other issues, which have added on to the process, we also see that Sachar Committee and Rangnath Mishra Commission also showed as to how at economic and social level the conditions of Muslim community has become abysmal. The logic behind this letter stands out very clearly if we survey the happenings during last few decades.

While RSS-VHP seems to be in command for temple construction what is happening to the plight of majority community, the Hindus, in the name of whose faith the whole exercise has been undertaken? In a recent Asghar Ali Engineer memorial lecture, Prabhat Patnaik, the leading intellectual points out, that majoritiarianism does not enhance rights or result in material benefits to majority community. One can add that the poorer section of majority community as such are used as cannon fodder of this politics, while the elite of the community reap the rewards sitting in comfort zones of their homes and offices.

So today we are facing a dilemma yet again. Should we go to struggle for justice in the real sense by asking for review of the terribly flawed SC verdict and let the issue linger on or whether we should look back and see who stands to benefit if this issue is kept alive? Do we not need to bring our focus back in the direction, in which our republic began, material progress, solving agrarian issues, take urgent steps against rising unemployment, ensure that our children do not die due to lack of Oxygen in the hospitals, ensure that scientific temper is promoted to put the nation back on the track which was envisaged by the policies which laid the industrial, agrarian and educational infrastructure of the country. The letter by Shabana Azmi, Naseerudding Shah et al is timely intervention in the debate on the issue and needs to be taken in all its seriousness.    

Category :- English Bazaar Patrika / OPED

Lately committing of suicide in higher places of learning has been in the news more often than before. Most of the victims belong to the dalits, Adivaisis in particular, while few others have also done so due to academic pressures. In case of Rohith Vemula, it was a case of caste discrimination and his activities as a Rohith was labeled as anti-national. Two other cases which stand out are that of Payal Tadvi, an aspiring gynecologist, and Fathima Lathif, who was pursuing her post graduation in IIT Madras. Tadvi was a Bhil Muslim, wife of Dr. Salman Tadvi, and she was harassed by her seniors, in day to day life. Fathima was a bright young student who was topping in most of the examinations and after joining IITM, she met with the stone wall of prejudice, where despite her caliber she was given poor score in ‘internal evaluation’. She named one of her teachers for denigrating her and wrote to her father “Dad, my name itself is a problem’.

While other types of humiliations have abounded based on caste, being a tribal or being transgender, these two cases of Payal and Fathima relate also to be part of subtle and overt dislike-hatred for Muslim community. This phenomenon is not present only in India but globally as it picked up after 9/11, 2001, when US media coined and popularized a phrase “Islamic Terrorism”. Surely terrorism is an all pervasive phenomenon where people from many religions have indulged in it for various reasons. There have been those belonging to Irish Republican Army, Buddhist Monks indulging in such activities in Sri Lanka, there has been LTTE, with Dhanu killing Rajiv Gandhi, but never was religion associated with terrorism till the WTC attack. This attack was most horrid killing nearly three thousand innocent people from across different countries and different religions.

Blame for this was put on Osama bin Laden-Al Qaeda. It is another matter that it was America which helped in bringing up of Al Qaeda, by funding it massively (eight thousand Million dollars and seven Thousand tons of armaments). Scholar Mahmud Mamdani in his book ‘Good Muslim Bad Muslim’, based on CIA documents gives the details of mechanism in which America operated to prop up Al Qaeda, how the syllabus of its indoctrination module was prepared in Washington. Later of course the US policies in the West Asia, policies aimed at controlling the oil wealth of West Asia led to the other dangerous fallouts of Al Qaeda, in the form of ISIS and IS. US Vice-President Hillary Clinton in a blunt statement did concede how Al Qaeda was propped up by US to fight the Russian armies in Afghanistan. She says, “Let’s remember here… the people we are fighting today we funded them twenty years ago

… Let’s go recruit these mujahedeen. “…importing their Wahabi brand of Islam so that we can go beat the Soviet Union.”

The roots of global Islamophobia lie in the American machinations. In India this came as an add on to the prevailing prejudices against Muslims. These prejudices part of ‘social common sense’ does have roots in the British introduced communal historiography, presented in a selective way. While the roots of these anti Muslim perceptions do lie in the British introduced syllabus, the proliferation of this took place through various mechanisms, the roots of which les in communal organizations particularly RSS, while Muslim League made its own contribution by adopting the historiography, which presented Muslims as the rulers. In RSS Shakhas the acts of Muslim kings in destroying Hindu temples and spreading Islam on the point of sword and selective stories of Aurangzeb form the base for indoctrinating young minds. This was supplemented by the chain of Sarswati Shishu Mandirs and many other acts, organizations floated for glorying Hindus and demonizing Muslims.

This demonization got a big boost in the decade of 1980s, when Rath Yatras were taken out to build Ram Temple. What was propagated was that Babar’s general Mir Baqui had destroyed the Ram Temple at the site of Lord Ram’s birth. The good part of the recent Supreme Court Judgment on the Babri Mosque is that as per SC there was a ‘non Islamic structure’ below the mosque. And As per the ASI report, there is no proof that it was a temple or that it was destroyed or that was a place of birth of the Lord Ram.

All this truth coming out is a bit too late in the day as by now the falsehoods spread against Muslims are a core part of understanding of most of the people in the society. So Fathima’s teacher or Payal Tadvi’s seniors are in a way no exception to their subtle signals about dislike for their Muslim students or junior Muslim-Tribal colleague.

The power of media in shaping people’s perceptions is infinite. The acme of the power of media was seen when US went on to attack Vietnam on the pretext that its liberation from colonialism is an attack on free World. Noam Chomsky rightly calls that US media ‘Manufactures consent’ for imperialist ambitions of US. Today while US media is most powerful in spreading the global Islamophobia, in India media during last two decades had caught up tremendously in following not only what US media has been spreading, but also the socially divisive propaganda generated by RSS organizations, which are working strongly from last many decades.

Can Fathima’s and Payal’s be saved from the humiliation, insinuations and the insults to which they are being subjected by their peers? It is quite likely that Payal and Fathima are the tip of the iceberg! Not much has been done to counter the hateful propagations done by the US media impacting global media and by Hindu nationalists’ machinations, here at home. The plight of Muslim community, which has to face the brunt of such prejudices and misconceptions are infinite. Can we raise ourselves to counter the false hoods against weaker sections of society, prevailing all around? 

Category :- English Bazaar Patrika / OPED