Why a negotiated settlement over Ram temple-Babri masjid row is not a far cry
The question is, if a temple and a mosque can co-exist in Kashi and Mathura, why not in Ayodhya?analysis Updated: Jun 01, 2017 13:18 IST
“Ayodhya is a storm that will pass. The dignity and honour of the Supreme Court cannot be compromised because of it,” former Justice SP Bharucha had observed way back in 1994.
Even 25 years after the demolition of the disputed shrine in the temple city on December 6, 1992, the storm has refused to subside. Instead, it is back with a bang, with many hopeful of a negotiated settlement of the century-old dispute.
And there are reasons for it.
It was the Supreme Court which first stirred the pot by suggesting a negotiated settlement of the emotive issue with the Chief Justice of India JS Khehar even offering to act as a mediator between the two sides laying claim over the historic site in the temple city. The observation had come on Subramanian Swamy’s plea for early hearing of a civil dispute over the site that the Hindus believe to be the birthplace of Ram.
The CJI’s observation that sensitive issues are best settled through negotiations was quickly picked up by the Hindus while the Muslims, by and large, remained sceptic. Their apprehensions are rooted in Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s old call for liberation of birthplaces of Ram (Ayodhya), Krishna (Mathura) and Shiv (Kashi), which however does not figure in the BJP’s agenda as they are ‘active mosques’. Namaaz was not offered in Ayodhya shrine since the surreptitious appearance of Rama idol in the mosque in 1949.
Perhaps the answer to the knotty question of negotiated settlement is buried in the pages of history. The Gyanvapi Mosque was built after destroying the Hindu temple, the remnants of which exist on its walls even today. Kashi Vishwanath temple was built adjacent to the mosque.
Similarly, in Mathura temple and mosque co-exist at the Krishna Janma Sthan. Interestingly, both Mathura and Kashi are protected under the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act of 1991. Prayers are held peacefully in both the holy cities though under heavy police deployment.
The BJP had also not seconded the Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s claim on the Kashi and Mathura mosques on the plea they were active masjids. Is there a learning here for the leaders of today? Though the rigidity of rebuilding a mosque where it existed has diluted over the years, the Muslims have been demanding the reconstruction of the Babri mosque within the 67 acres of acquired area. The question is, if a mandir and a mosque can co-exist in Kashi and Mathura, why not in Ayodhya?
After winning Uttar Pradesh, several ministers have been indicating, ‘the climate is conducive for a negotiated settlement’ now that Yogi Adityanath is the chief minister of the state. And Yogi on Wednesday said as much. “The Ram Mandir issue will be resolved through dialogue between two communities. The state government will provide all support in the dialogue process to resolve the deadlock on the issue,” he said.
The confidence for a negotiated settlement comes from the fact that it is for the first time since the unlocking of Babri Mosque in 1986 when numerically-strong BJP governments rule both the Centre and the State, that too under their two most prominent Hindutva faces -- Prime Minister Narendra Modi and chief minister Mahant Yogi Adityanath. The stand of both Yogi and Modi is unambiguously clear -- Ram Mandir at his Janmasthan.
The foundation laying of the temple in 1989 was done during the Congress rule at both the Centre and in UP. Whereas the 1992 demolition took place when ideologically heterogeneous parties were at the helms -- Kalyan Singh (BJP) was the chief minister and PV Narsimha Rao (Congress) Prime Minister.
But there are many a slip between the cup and the lip.
The question is, can there be a negotiated settlement of the century old dispute? Efforts made in the past have failed. Then what is it that is generating hope besides the same party rule in Centre and state?
The All India Muslim Personal Law Board has rejected the offer for a negotiated settlement but Shias and some individuals have come forward in its support. Perhaps its the subtle change in the Muslim mood that has raised the hopes.
It was best reflected in a statement of a senior Muslim in Lallanpura in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Lok Sabha constituency Varanasi during the 2017 Assembly elections, ‘We have had enough, take away Ayodhya, but give us security. We have lived in fear for so long.”
So far the government has not made any move to resolve the issue through talks though efforts are on in small groups.
Time to watch Modi and Yogi as hints have already started coming before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
(Views expressed are personal)