For a dispute festering as long as the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi one has, it is only natural that the country was holding its collective breath to see how reactions to the verdict would be. While most of India has indeed, in the phrase of Home Minister P. Chidambaram, “moved on”, one knows that in India’s story of sectarian-ridden politics, you don’t need to ‘remember’ or ‘forget’ to light a spark. Thankfully, a day after the three-judge Allahabad High Court bench delivered its judgement, almost all parties involved and following the contentious case have taken the verdict in their stride. Even those who have critiqued it have done so within the realms of jurisprudence and rational discourse.
The BJP, whose actual formative years and ‘booster shot’ to becoming a full-fledged national party lies in the Ayodhya movement, has behaved maturely. It would have been easy for the party to strike a triumphant note, making political hay while the sun of judicial approval of its belief — that the disputed site marks the birthplace of Ram — shone from the secular institution of a courthouse on Thursday. It would have been equally easy for elements of the Muslim community to take the irrational path of showing disapproval that lies outside the precincts of law. It would have been predictable for other parties to align themselves in pro- and anti-cubicles after the verdict. But none have picked on real or imaginary sores.
Much of this can be explained by the times we live in. India is no longer in the state of political flux that marked the ‘Mandal’ and ‘Kamandal’ years. Priorities have shifted. But at the same time, the Babri masjid demolition in 1992 and its violent aftermath as well as the more recent anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat in 2002 were ‘single-point’ events that tipped the nation over into a communalised furnace. Sparks such as those have, and can, set the peaceful coexistence of differences ablaze. Which is why it is necessary to proactively continue in building and maintaining bridges between the two largest religious communities in the country.
The Ayodhya verdict has provided a strong ‘hand-railing’, a template, if you will, for sorting out Hindu-Muslim differences. While some critics of Thursday’s judgement have compared it to “panchayat justice dividing the disputed property among the three contenders”, it really is an outside-the-box verdict that is bent on a workable solution rather than a radical departure from judicial nitty-gritty. In a way, the Ayodhya dispute is a panchayat-style property case that required Solomon-like ‘panchayat justice’. The case will move now to the Supreme Court. Between now and when the final judgement takes place in the future, the tangibles and intangibles of law and communal bridge-building must be firmly kept in sight.