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Faith cannot be the basis of any judgement

The Ayodhya verdict is an affirmation of Hindu majoritarianism. For this reason, it concerns believers and non-believers alike, and must be contested in the apex court, writes Shohini Ghosh.

india Updated: Mar 06, 2011 13:06 IST

Since the Ayodhya High Court verdict, a pressure has been building up to ‘move on’ and negotiate for reconciliation. This exhortation comes not only from the Sangh parivar but many, who in the past, have been trenchant critics of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement and the unruly demolition of the Babri Masjid. There is very little criticism of the triumphant chest-thumping of the Hindutva spokespersons who, on every TV show, are busy declaring that since the Muslims have ‘lost’, they should now help in building a Ram temple at Ayodhya. When asked whether they would help in building the mosque, the worthies maintain a surly silence. But this does not deter the ‘move-on’ brigade.

I was shocked when Pankaj Vohra (Between Us, October 4) demanded “a bit of generosity by the Muslim groups” to not “oppose the building of the temple” because even if it sounds “legally illogical”, Lord Ram does occupy an “important position in the lives of most Hindus.” This reminds me of traffic brawls where the owner of the bigger vehicle bullies the owner of the smaller one into submission even when the former is at fault. The crowds plead with the two parties to ‘move on’ and it is usually the owner of the small vehicle who is arm-twisted into compromising. So what exactly is being said here? That Hindus have faith and Muslims don’t?

Surely, even Ram bhakts will agree that Muslims have faith as do non-believers and atheists like me. (Imagine the consequences, if the courts decided to uphold my ‘faith’ on the issue of Ayodhya.)

Vohra’s approach closely mirrors the judgement’s line of reasoning which is also the logic of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement. L.K. Advani always maintained that it was immaterial whether or not Ram was actually born in that spot because it was a matter of ‘aastha’ (belief). Today, this vague, intangible sentiment has found legal recognition, thereby reviving a movement that had collapsed under the weight of its own worthlessness. As one of the filmmakers who made the documentary Kiska Dharam Kiska Desh (Mediastorm Collective, 1990), we witnessed (and recorded) the ‘hate exhibition’ that had been mounted during the ‘shilanyas’. In one exhibit, ‘Ramlalla’ sits next to a cow and the text reads: “Gau hatya au hathya karne walon ko hathya karna har Hindu ka dharmik kartavya hai .” (To kill those who kill cows is the religious duty of Hindus.) This was just one of the many exhibits. Is this the “faith” that we must respect? Are we to forget everything that we have seen?

The Ayodhya verdict, if left unchallenged, will have dangerous implications for some of the best ideas contained in the Constitution of India. The matter must reach the Supreme Court because we cannot accept ‘faith’ in place of hard evidence or a flawed ASI report that has been discredited by experts, and most importantly, an indirect justification of the demolition through the assertion that under the central dome lies the birthplace of Ram. The verdict is not an example of “judicial statesmanship” but an affirmation of Hindu majoritarianism. For this very reason, it concerns believers and non-believers alike. If the litigants should choose to go for reconciliation then other parties must appeal to the Supreme Court and ask for our faith in democracy and secularism to be restored.

Shohini Ghosh is Professor at the AJK Mass Communication Research Centre, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi

The views expressed by the author are personal