NOT many Indian newspapers quoted opinion expressed by Pakistani media on the Allahabad High Court verdict on Babri Masjid issue. But the views of one paper, Nawa-i-Waqt have received attention. According to the paper, trifurcating the disputed land is a victory for Hindu fanaticism and not conducive for peace in the long run. “How did the court accept the claims of two other parties over the land on which the Babri Masjid stood without dispute for more than 500 years? Can a temple come up beside a mosque and the azan go with the ringing bells and the namaz with idol worship? Will it be possible to maintain peace at such time?” the paper asked. It also held the view that the verdict came “under the government’s supervision and overwhelmingly kept political considerations in mind”.
Such a comment, coming from a Pakistani paper is hardly surprising; nor is the criticism of our pseudo-secularists of the judgement. They must be the descendants of ancestors who fell at the feet of Mughal rulers, Nawabs and their like, for small mercies. What is significant is that they have got their comeuppance from two leading papers, The Free Press Journal (October 2) of Mumbai and The Sentinel (October 2 and 5) of Guwahati. The Free Press Journal came down heavily on some of them for claiming that the judgement reflected’ “a majoritarian view”. The paper said that was “a contemptible line of reasoning”. “The problem with this line of reasoning” said the paper, “is that a certain groups of people have come to believe that they can burnish their secularist image only if they indulge in majority-bashing not by maintaining a fair and correct balance between the two communities”.
Pointing out that neither Irfan Habib, the historian, nor Zoya Husan, the educationist, had a good word to say about the substantive part of the verdict, the paper said: “Instead, they picked holes in it… And the professional secularists belonging to, what else, but the majority community, competed with them in bashing the Court for its findings…. Indian secularism clearly is a sham meant to hide pro-minority biases and to allow its practitioners to preen themselves as superior human beings, a key factor in fuelling minority communalism” How rightly said.
Guwahati-based The Sentinel was no less critical of the pseudo-secularists. In the first place, it said, the reaction of the RSS to the verdict is a “welcome augury”. In the second place, it said, “religion or religious belief can never be an existential issue for any truly secular democratic state”. It suggested that the Leftist politicians and intellectuals should be asked to go in for a reality check at the earliest “so that they may not end up being completely anachronistic.” It made the point that “religious majority of the country, the Hindus, ought not to be trampled in the pursuit of the sinister policy of appeasement of its largest religious minority group, the Muslims, for sheer electoral gains” and pointed out that the belief that Lord Rama was born in Ayodhya…. “is symbolic of tradition of the religious majority in the country who deserve respect and not ridicule”. Otherwise, said the paper, “in the ‘secular’ scheme of things in this country, it is as if it is a ‘sin’ to be born as a Hindu”. And it added: “We welcome the very sensible Allahabad High Court verdict”. In a separate editorial the paper said that “clerics like the Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid need to be told that they alone do not represent their community and that the community will profit not by heeding the retrograde voices, but by following the liberal, flexible and enlightened minds in their midst”. And as for politicians like Mulayam Singh Yadav, they should be informed “of their complete irrelevance as of now”.
The Asian Age (October 2) said that the verdict “had something for everyone (which) ensured that disappointment and elation remained at manageable levels” and “the fact remains that it was clever and nuanced enough to keep extreme reactions at bay”. “All this” said the paper, “is a pointer that India might have changed, perhaps substantially, from the early ‘90s”, adding: “at the cost of sounding self-congratulatory, we can say that India is slowly maturing, at the cost of much pain, as a nation and as a political entity”.
Meanwhile, a new twist has been given to the reason why there were no riots anywhere in India following the verdict. According to Rajdeep Sardesai, writing in Hindustan Times (October 8) “a majority of news channels consciously shied away from projecting extremist voices” which he said was “also a sign that amid the madness of the news whirl, there is still some space for restraint and responsible journalism”. There are some 120 television channels.
But above and beyond that Sardesai attributes the new sanity to drastic economic changes in the country, apparently these changes have contributed to a change in the mindset of people who now have a different kind from that of 1992. And what are these changes? In 1992 economy was growing at 2.2 per cent; today it is hovering around 9 per cent. In 1992 our forex reserves were $ 2.2 billion, now they are as high as $ 287 billion; the Sensex in 1992 was round 2,000 while now it has crossed the 20,000 mark. In 1992 per capita income was pegged at around Rs 1.8 lakh per annum. It is now triple that amount at Rs 5,16 lakh. In 1992 there were 70 lakh cars on India’s roads, now there are more than 1.8 crore. From 4 lakh computers we now have 4 crore. As Sardesai sees it “the presiding deity for new India is neither Ram nor Rahim, but Lakshmi, the biggest urge is not to build a mandir or a masjid, but to own a house”. “Which is why” he adds, “any self-congratulatory note struck by the near total clam in the aftermath of the Ayodhya verdict needs to be tempered by the harsh reality of an India which remains dangerously segregated in the mind”.