Arif Mohammed Khan, a noted thinker, author and former Union Minister, had an informal interaction with 50+ intellectuals belonging to the Muslim community at Jaipur the day after the Ayodhya verdict. His view that Allahabad High Court judgement was a product of judicial wisdom that could pave the way for the resolution of an extremely sensitive issue and, therefore, must be accepted was broadly agreed to by the participants. They were greatly relieved that the verdict, though not entirely acceptable, had averted a possible catastrophe. There was a universal appreciation of RSS chief Shri Mohan Bhagwat’s “sober, restrained and healthy” response to the High Court judgement. They were particularly appreciative of his observation that it was not a matter of victory or defeat for any group and that nothing provocative should be done or said. His earnest appeal to Muslims to forget the ill will and hard feelings of the past decades too was well received.
As if to prove that this was not the view held by a select group of intellectuals in Jaipur alone, Javeed Anand, general secretary, Muslims for Secular Democracy, noted a similar, albeit more pronounced, response from aam Muslims in Mumbai. An activist friend of Javeed made a trip to Bhindi Bazaar and other Muslim dominated localities to gather first hand knowledge of ground realities. He was surprised that Muslims were distributing sweets not to celebrate victory but to express their gratitude that the verdict was such that it didn’t provoke a communal flare up. Ordinary Muslims were keenly aware that there was no way they could have built a masjid on the site even if the judgement had gone entirely in their favour. An interesting response from some apolitical Muslims was that the community must approach the Supreme Court not to challenge the High Court judgement but with the prayer that if the disputed site was indeed Ram Janamabhoomi, the entire disputed land be handed over to Hindus to build the temple. Of course, Javeed is strongly of the opinion that fear shouldn’t be the basis for national reconciliation. However, he is convinced that the best course of action for the Muslims would be to gift away to Hindus the part of disputed land apportioned to them by the Court. This, he says would be in the interest of the nation and the community. Interestingly, Mohammad Hashim Ansari, one of the original plantiffs in the case, has publicly stated that Hindus should now be allowed to build a temple at the site they believe to be Ram Janmabhoomi.
Contrast these sober and healthy sentiments of ordinary Muslims, with the inflammatory statements made by the likes of Mulayam Singh Yadav, Ram Vilas Paswan and Syed Shahabuddin. They are greatly disappointed with the national reconciliation narrative obviously because their political survival is dependent on communal tensions and conflicts. They are making provocative statement in the hope to win back sections of Muslim that had recently drifted towards the Congress in Hindi-speaking states. They are the worst type of communalists and Hindu-baiters and, along with the Congress and the Communists, guilty of causing Hindu-Muslim divide and communal tensions. Syed Ahmed Bhukari, the notorious rabble rouser, has virtually accused the High Court for “betraying the Muslims” and predicted that the Supreme Court won’t give justice to the community and would endorse the Allahabad High Court judgement. He has faith neither in judiciary nor in the political class and is dead set against a negotiated settlement. What is he aiming at? Bloody street battles to decide the issue!!!
Communists and their fanatic fellow travellers masquerading as historians and scholars are on the same page as the fanatic Muslims. CPM has rejected the verdict and wants Muslims to challenge it in the Supreme Court. “Eminent historians” that distorted history to invent the Muslim claim on Janmabhoomi have questioned the verdict and described it yet another blow to the “secular fabric of the country and reputation of the judiciary”. The national mood of reconciliation and social harmony has thrown them into confusion. They are more comfortable in situations of chaos and violence. The sooner they and their bogus ideology are thrown into the dustbin of history, the better it would be for the nation.
The Congress party is in a serious dilemma. It finds itself between the devil and the deep sea. It has been rattled by communal outbursts from fanatic Muslim leaders and pseudo-secularists. Its nervousness is reflected in its revisiting, again and again, its stand on the verdict. It has travelled a long distance from “welcoming the verdict”, to “wait for the final word from the Supreme Court”. The party perceives the verdict as a serious threat to its attempt to win back Muslims that had drifted to regional outfits in 1980s and 1990s. It is apprehensive that if the party stuck to its initial response of respecting the verdict, fanatical Muslim and pseudo-secular outfits would provoke anti-Congress sentiments among Muslims pushing them to the waiting arms of regional parties. Its think tanks are worried that if it were to overplay its traditional obsession with minority politics, its arch rival BJP would gain tremendously because of the Hindu backlash. The disquiet in the ruling party is caused by its perception that recent developments have boosted the moral of the principal opposition party since the verdict is essentially a vindication of the Ayodhya movement and BJP’s stand on Ram Janmabhoomi as articulated by its National Executive in what is known as Palampur resolution.
Moderate Muslim voices that had all along been ignored by “secularists”, particularly the Congress, need to be heard.
RSS Sarsanghachalak Shri Mohan Bhagwat’s statesman like statement on the verdict gave a tremendous boost to his image and status in public life. Even “secularists”, among politicians and media, are all praise for his conciliatory remarks and sober approach. His timely observations set the tone for public discourse on the sensitive issue. Barring a few exceptions, the initial response from religious, cultural, social and political outfits was within the parameters set out by the RSS chief. It is time to move forward and start a dialogue for a negotiated settlement. The 90-year old Ansari has already started the process by requesting Mahant Gyandas to act as a mediator. The later has contacted Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas leader Ramvilas Das Vedanti who in turn is in touch with VHP supremo Shri Ashok Singhal, the undisputed leader of the temple movement.
While these initiatives are welcome, the Government of India must rise to the occasion to perform its sacred duty to start the process of reconciliation facilitate early construction of a magnificent Ram temple at Janmabhoomi. That will usher in an era of communal amity and peace in the country.