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Zia Haq, Hindustan Times
September 20, 2010
Now that the decks have been cleared for the Ayodhya verdict, we have to ensure a fresh tsunami isn’t heading for the shore. On 24 September, the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court will decide the ownership of the disputed land in Ayodhya where the 16th-century Babri mosque stood, until it was destroyed by Hindu groups on 6 December 1992. Hindus believe it is the birthplace of the Hindu god, Ram.

Before splitting hairs again, all stakeholders must try out the following five standard-operating procedures, which arise from common-sense and have a reasonable chance of succeeding.

One: Leave it to the judiciary. Make no mistake, a legal solution to the Babri mosque issue is the only definitive way out of a problem so complicated and complex. Any talk of more talks at this stage and we could go round in circles again.

Two: Talk of any out-of-court settlement at this juncture will be a bad call. Fresh negotiations should not be explored or encouraged. They will cause renewed heartburn. They may well be a waste of time and lead to fresh acrimony. There is every possibility that fresh negotiations may fail, as they did on several earlier occasions.

Three: The Babri case should not be allowed to be taken out of the court’s jurisdiction. Doing so will push it back where politicians desperately want it to be – on their turf. We have to take the political incentive out of the Babri issue so that it becomes terribly unattractive and counterproductive for politicians. We have to make it a ‘dead issue’ as far as political parties are concerned.

Four: The verdict must be respected, regardless of what it is. The need of the hour is to let justice run its course. In the interest of this country, Hindutva organizations must not insist that it is a matter of faith and hence cannot be decided legally. That argument, by definition, is potentially acrimonious. Muslims, on the other hand, mustn’t rejoice if the verdict favours them. Nor should they run a campaign around the issue if they were to lose the case.

Five: Let’s face it: one of the parties is bound to lose, unless some unforeseen development unexpectedly changes the situation. That loser must accept the verdict and move on to explore the next available legal option. Both parties would do well to tell their constituents that the 24 September verdict is not final. It will be appealed and any final verdict in the future must also be respected by all.

These five points have a common theme running – it proposes the need to remove the Ayodhya-Babri complex from the realm of politics and its historical context and relocate it to the domain of law. That is the direction current discourse over the issue needs to take.

I am one of those who generally risk something for the sake of saying what they believe. From the Congress’s decision to open the locks of the disputed structure for Hindus to the BJP’s polarizing campaign for a temple in the 90s -- politicians have ensured that Ayodhya remains alive as a historical-religious flashpoint.

We now have an opportunity – the first window is on 24 September – to bury it for good, if we let law take precedence.