Ayodhya : Struggle of Power, Not Faith

 

 

By Ms. Sandhya Jain

 

The alacrity with which Muslim intellectuals have rejected the Supreme Court’s call for a uniform civil code to ensure equal justice to all citizens highlights the community’s determination to maintain a privileged ghettoized existence by taking advantage of our secular polity. Sayeeda Hameed, former member, National Commission for Women, has rationalized her opposition on the grounds that the Vishwa Hindu Parishad has vitiated the atmosphere over Ayodhya.

Any normal person would be hard put to figure out the connection between Ayodhya and more equitable divorce and inheritance laws for women of minority communities. The latter would facilitate a better quality of life for women (and by extension, children), which is something all progressive nations should strive towards. The Muslim community, however, fears that this would loosen the hold of the orthodox clergy and eventually unravel the cohesiveness created by unchanged personal laws. Thus, Muslim failure to join the national mainstream is the result of a conscious choice made jointly by its orthodox leaders and modern intellectuals.

Secular pundits are equally complicit in this monstrous partnership that keeps the rank and file of the community bonded to the medieval era. Distinguished jurist Fali Nariman upholds the absurd position that: "... this is not the time to enforce a civil code, particularly at a time when we have not put Ayodhya behind us.." (Rediff., 25 July 2003). Nariman offers the specious plea that the minority community will feel that "even the Court now is against us." In fairness, however, he has had the grace to say that Muslims should "understand that people genuinely believe that Lord Rama was born in a particular place in Ayodhya. And if no Muslim leader or saint was born at that spot, which is not their claim at all, then they should say please take this...".

Clearly Ayodhya is the melting ground for many related and unresolved issues in this country’s onward march. It is therefore surprising that many analysts still have a poor understanding of what it involves. Many commentators express impatience with the Hindu community for believing (irrationally in their view) that Sri Ram was born at a specific site in Ayodhya, which Hindus commemorated with a temple. The Hindu desire to exalt this sacred site with a grand temple has irritated these secular Hindu writers, who demand ‘proof’ that Lord Rama was a historical figure and that modern Ayodhya is his birthplace. These writers are also convinced that the ongoing archaeological excavations will fail to conclusively establish if a temple stood at the spot prior to the Babri structure.

Paradoxically, in the colonial period, there were no such doubts about the legitimacy of Hindu claims to the site. In a suit filed before the civil judge, Mr. H.N. Kaul, the Hindus sought permission to erect a temple over the chabutra upon which Sri Ram’s feet are embossed. In his 1885-86 judgment, the civil judge inspected the premises and observed that the current dispute between the communities had led the government to erect a wall between the mosque and the chabutra, "so that Muslims worship within that wall and Hindus outside that wall."

Noting that if the temple were constructed at the site, there would be only one passage for the temple as well as for the mosque, the judge stated: "The place where the Hindus worship is in their possession from old and their ownership cannot be questioned.... If a temple is constructed on the chabutra at such a place....sound of bells and sankh (conch shell) from the temple will be overheard when both Hindus and Muslims pass through the same way.... then one day or the other, criminal case will be started and thousands of people will be killed.... For this reason of law and order, the officers have restrained the parties from making any new constructions. So, this court also considers it to be proper that awarding permission to construct the temple at this juncture .... should not be granted...."

Aggrieved at Mr. Kaul’s ruling, the Hindus appealed before the Faizabad district judge, Col. Chambers, who, in his ruling of 1892 stated: "I found that the masjid built by Emperor Babar stands on the border of the town of Ayodhya.... It is most unfortunate that a masjid should have been built on the land specially held sacred by Hindus. But ... it is too late now to remedy the grievance. All that can be done is to maintain the parties in status quo. In such a case, as the present one, any innovation would cause more harm and derangement of order than benefit."

Sensing that the merits of their plea had been upheld in Col. Chambers’ judgment, the Hindus further appealed to the Judicial Commissioner of Oudh. He pronounced: "The spot is situated within the precincts of the grounds surrounding a mosque erected some 350 years ago, owing to bigotry and tyranny of the emperor who purposely chose the spot, according to Hindu legend, as the site of his mosque. The Hindus have limited access to certain spots within the precincts adjoining the mosque and they have for many years been persistently trying to increase those rights to erect buildings on two spots in the enclosure named Sita ki Rasoi and Ram Chander ki Janambhoomi...". However, the Judicial Commissioner, too, found it inexpedient to alter the status quo at this sensitive site, and ruled that the officers who had prevented Hindu advances there had correctly performed their duties.

Interestingly, the Jaipur royal family’s Palace Museum has a rare, 300-year old cloth map of Ayodhya town, which depicts its key sites, such as the fort, the Janamsthan, Agni Kund, Laxman Kund, Janaki Kund, River Saryu, and so on. This clearly indicates that well before the British courts came into the picture, a place in Ayodhya was designated as the Janamsthan. It is understood that a rare copy of this map was made available to the then Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao in 1992, and it is likely to figure as crucial historical evidence in the Allahabad High Court case as well. Naturally, Left historians have been quick to claim that the Janamsthan refers to the open ground outside the Babri structure, and not to the (now demolished) mosque! (Hindustan Times, 25 March 2002).

Most Hindu intellectuals shy away from facing the fact that the Muslim community is even today using political power (through ‘secular’ political parties) to deny legitimate Hindu claims to the site. Even worse, Muslim intellectuals and religious leaders are jointly determined to perpetuate this profound spiritual and moral offence against Hindu dharma, and to maintain for as long as they can the already altered status quo over a site towards which they can have no real religious allegiance.

Contrary to what secular intellectuals maintain, Ayodhya is not just another mosque for the Muslims. Even before the Babri demolition, no Muslim spokesperson was agreeable to shifting the mosque. And despite the reclamation of the site by the Hindus, Muslims remain adamant that Sri Rama’s birthplace should be bereft of a fitting temple in his honour. The Babri standoff has become a symbol of their continued power to keep the Hindu civilizational ethos at bay, more than five decades after independence. Conversely, the makeshift temple symbolizes an incomplete Hindu triumph.

 

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Information Courtesy : Mr. Sanjeev Naiyyar, E-Mail : exploreindia@vsnl.net

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