Rama’s Rebirth!

Does the Ayodhya judgement(s) fall between two stools in an effort to appear at once legally tenable and politically correct? Can any verdict, that can only be a binary yes or no particularly in a title suit, imitate King Solomon’s decision vis-a-vis that disputed baby? Can law take a leap to faith? Is it the job of a court to at all find an ‘amicable’ solution to problems? Is the court an adjudicator or an arbiter?

Of course, to the credit of the judiciary, it must be said that the Ayodhya issue is no ordinary challenge. Nor can the judges be totally insulated from the burden and consequences of their judgement. For had it been just another property litigation, it would have been settled long back, even by the snail standards of our system. Still, not just the split verdict, but the apparent contradictions (between legal logic and what should have been natural decisions) that run through even unanimous parts give rise to many such questions.

For instance, all three judges agree in all their wisdom that the disputed spot, not just the site, right under the central dome is the birthplace of Rama. Two of the judges, who constitute the majority and, therefore, carry finality, hold that the site is in fact the Ramjanmabhoomi. The Sunni Waqf Board’s title claim is then summarily dismissed. Then why the three-way division of the property? Is this not inconsistent with the stream of arguments? On what basis can a party whose claim to a property has been rejected legally be entitled to the same or a part of it?

Of course, the wisdom behind such a pronouncement is best known to the learned judges. But it has also given rise to a very ludicrous argument amidst the prime time pundits and sundry other intellegentsia: The court has tried to balance the religious scales so that no party goes home unhappy, goes the pompous polemic. In fact, the key highlight of the verdict is that it has endorsed the long-held Hindu claim of Ramjanmabhoomi. But it is the three-way split of the property that is being touted as the verdict itself! Followed by endless pats on the court for being so nice to Muslims. Really? Well, the Waqf for one does not feel elated and continues to claim the balance two thirds too for Babur! No secular entreatments or coy courtesies are going to make them give the issue a quietus or stop them from going to the Apex Court. Indeed, the nation looks wedded to appeasement and partitons.

The judges have alternately declared that a ‘massive Hindu temple’ indeed existed, it was demolished by Babur’s men, a masjid was raised over it instead and that this masjid has no sanctity even to Muslims because it was built against the tenets of Islam. It will no doubt gladden Hindu hearts that their Ram has been acknowledged as a deity and therefore a judicial persona with inalienable rights and that His birthright has now been legally articulated and ratified, despite Dasharatha not bothering to procure a birth certificate. The judges, in arriving at this conclusion, have relied not just on ASI excavations and history, but also on traditions of worship and millenia-old faith. The legally coherent line of reasoning thus suddenly makes a jump into the realms of belief and spirituality. So much so that, even while concurring to concede that the idols were placed on a wintry December night in 1949, the judgement however sweeps this under the larger carpet of faith. But the double-edged sword of faith can cut both ways in a legal arena. Indeed, it would be interesting to see how the SC negotiates and crosses this inevitable threshold between the law of the land and land of the Lord.

That said, the folly lies not in invoking faith in fits but in failing to recognise it as the key factor from the start. The Ramjanmabhoomi issue has always been a matter of faith, despite the downright blasphemous legal wranglings, rallies, politics and polemics over it. For, Rama and Krishna are not Ramanand Sagar’s concoctions that mesmerised multitudes but epic convictions that moulded a civilisation. Now, can fifty or sixty secular years erase over five thousand years of such abiding faith? In comparison, all other religions of the world which are of far lesser vintage but with the benefit of better institutional packaging, lose no opportunity to celebrate and showcase their ‘historicity’ and go to any lengths to protect such ‘religious history’. It is not uncommon to see a supposedly secular State even legislating to preserve religious shrines and associated traditions. This course should have been taken long back vis-a-vis Ramjanmabhoomi too.

In a tragic travesty, however, it is Hinduism’s antiquity that is its bane too. The sepia tones of a distant past, rendered hazier by prejudiced political eyes, have made myths out of real happenings, whose authenticity however lies undiminished in folklore and oral traditions down centuries. Small wonder Hindus are repeatedly told that their history has a starting cut-off of 1947 with little ‘material’ evidence to back their age-old beliefs. On the contrary, it is common knowledge that most of such material evidence was systematically destroyed by medieval marauders, the Mughals mainly. Forget a HC bench getting broken three-way, even a single Judge would suffer a split personality, when confronted by such legal equations with so many ‘x’s. In short, law is too brittle a bottle to hold this explosive, expansive stuff. Even the SC can only bring about a forced closure, a facade that can fall apart once the fatigue wears off and the warring factions find fresh fangs.

In this context another strange interpretation is being attributed to the case, though there is nothing in the arguments or the judgements to substantiate it. We are now told that the nation’s next-gen wants to leave Ayodhya behind and ride forward on the India story bandwagon and that this verdict paves the way for it. How, I cannot fathom. But the greater fallacy seems to lie in the assumption that the Indian youth are shunning religion. This may be partly true of the project of political Hindutva, but the post-Ayodhya progeny seems firmly fixed to Bakthi Hinduism. The tell-tale proof of this religious pudding is visible all over, in cellphone ringtones, lap top screen-savers and on cyberspace. Even the so-called disinterested youth, when they ascend the ladder of life, would seek out only their religious anchors in times of turbulence. This land offers them that spiritual safety net. But for that Hindu society should safeguard its symbols and sacred places of worship.

Now, do we have the right to barter away our past or posterity for the sake of peace, a piecemeal one at that, in the present?

All said, whatever the spirit behind the split verdict, it is a relief that the penultimate milestone has been crossed. One only hopes the final frontier too is reached soon so that Lord Rama and Ayodhya are remembered in a pleasanter frame of mind.

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Jawahar T R