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 Hari Jaisingh
Hari Jaisingh
Opinion

Ayodhya verdict in tune with the spirit of India

Hari Jaisingh

Hari Jaisingh

The five-judge bench of the Supreme court’s historic judgment has settled in a true spirit of India the centuries-old Hindu-Muslim issue on the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid disputed land for construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya. This matter had been in courts for 70 years.

It may be asked: what is the spirit of India? I look at it as a vibrant concept with an “Indian soul”. It has kept people going for centuries against heavy odds. It has given evidence of a mature and tolerant civilization, above any political consideration. It was “the sense of values” which made ancient India so great. Regrettably, it is this very value system which is at a discount today. This has exposed the weaknesses of our country and of its rulers in the public eye at home and abroad.

I do not see the spirit of India through the peephole of communal politics. It is quite a potent force which is not to be fritted away in chasing petty goals. Hence the urgency of rediscovering the roots, the values and the rules of dharma. They have to be used as catalytic agents for social changes.

The beauty of the five-member bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi is that its verdict is “unanimous”. The bench of CJI Ranjan Gogoi consisted of CJI-designate Sharad Arvind Bobde, Justices Dhananjya Y Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S Abdul Nazeer took just 23 days to author a common judgment running into 929 pages. The verdict was delivered on November 9.

The bench has said the verdict weighed in favour of deity Ram Lalla because the Hindu parties could produce better evidence to substantiate their right over the disputed land.

All the same, the bench justified the allotment of five acres of land to Muslims in Ayodhya as “necessary” since on balance of probabilities, evidence regarding the claim of Hindus to the composite whole of the disputed property stands on a better footing than the evidence adduced by Muslims. Muslims however, were disposed upon desecration of mosque on 22/23 December 1949, which was ultimately destroyed on 6 December 1992. The bench has held “acts of damage, desecration and the demolition” of the Babri Masjid as “illegal”.

Seeing the issue in a larger perspective, the Supreme Court has rightly admitted that historical wrongs could not be corrected by courts. It thereby rejected Hindu parties’ pleas to correct the action of Mughal emperors of demolishing several temples, including the Ayodhya temple.

The apex court has also emphatically said the communal riots that caused damage to the domes of Babri Masjid in 1934, its desecration on the night of December 22, 1949 by placing of idols and the demolition on December 6, 1992 were illegal acts, a conclusion which persuaded it to balance awarding the disputed site for the temple with five acres for a mosque in Ayodhya.

I see the apex court’s action to be in tune in the spirit of India which surfaces at times of crises, submerging the barriers of caste, community and religion To say this is not to suggest that the Indian spirit has absorbed external influences quietly and submissively. Far from it. There has always been a strong resistance to unwanted or unnecessary changes. Assimilation thus has been selective.

In fact, the Indian spirit or tradition has known how to protect itself from “any considerable or overwhelming invasion while accepting whatever struck or impressed it” and “in the act of inclusion subjected to a characteristic change which harmonized the new element with the spirit of its own culture”. Small wonder that the spirit of India is hailed as “eternal and everlasting”.

Sri Aurobindo wanted Indians to have “the firm faith that India must rise and be great”. I, of course, admit that I have added Sri Aurobindo’s perspective to India’s march forward in this century that is fully reflected in this trend-setting judgment on Ayodhya. In this context, I must say that the basic spirit of India need not be politicized or get caught in the controversial concept of Indianness.

Actually, the main problem before the leadership is how to widen and consolidate the Indian spirit of tolerance and national goals not only among the Hindus but also among the minorities, especially the Muslims.

What India needs is to learn from the present in the light of the past wrongs as well as to learn about the past in the light of the present. I look at history both as a source of inspiration and as a source of warning. Here, I must say that the Shia Waqf Board must accept the Supreme Court verdict gracefully and not to seek its review. I am, however, glad that the Muslim community particularly in Ayodhya, by and large, has welcomed the verdict. But there are always ill-informed comments, even from some members of the Bar who had argued their case for the Shia Waqf Board. The All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) on Sunday (November 17) is supposed to spell out its view on the offer of 5 acres of land for a new mosque as per the Supreme Court verdict. It will be a pity if the AIMPLB ‘resorts’ to the politics of negatives to the disadvantage to the community.

The apex court rightly asserts that “as a constitutional institution, set up under a constitutional regime” has to “maintain the religious character of every place of worship”. It further pointed out: “In the plural diversity of religious beliefs as they are practised in India, cultural assimilation cannot be construed as a feature of destructive religious doctrine. On the contrary, this process strengthens and reinforces the true character of a country which has been able to preserve its unity by accommodating, tolerating and respecting a diversity of religious faith and ideas”.

The apex court has made it clear that the award of 5 acres of land is not an act of “constitutional largesse but an exercise of power and duty to do complete justice under Article 142 of the Constitution. The court rightly asserts that the Constitution requires “tolerance and coexistence” which alone will nourish “the secular commitment of our nation and its people”.

Herein lies the true spirit of India which I have discussed at length. The Supreme Court has done a great job at these critical moments of the Indian polity under the regime of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.