My appeal here, to Sunni Waqf Board lawyer Zafaryab Jilani to not appeal against the Ayodhya verdict, may not appeal to my angry, young friends in Kashmir.
My reasoning has nothing to do with the universality of Islam, which cannot be seen as endorsing geopolitical exclusivity. In Kashmir, I may be in a hopeless minority to subscribe to the notion that India has a heart warm enough to accommodate conflicting points of view, having played host to Tibetan, Afghan, Sri Lankan and Bangladeshi displaced persons. Kashmiris as individuals also feel at home anywhere in India. Their only place of discomfort is their home, Kashmir where they feel choked, humiliated, disempowered and, of course, occupied.
Mr Jilani, I am not addressing you about the woes of Kashmir. Much has been said about the judicial verdict on the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi title suit. But as a Muslim, and an Indian in Kashmir, my views deserve consideration before you approach the Supreme Court (SC). You will expect the SC to either uphold or turn down the High Court (HC) order. Suppose you fail to convince the court of your argument. Where would you go after that? Accept the verdict, obviously, as you and other Muslim leaders have stated.
The SC judgement is not just a judgement on a title suit. It will become a law for all times to come. If it upholds the HC verdict, delivered by three gentlemen who could have been on the Supreme Court bench as well, can we live with the long-term fallout of such a decision? Would the faith of a group of people not become a legal factor in determining the life of every individual in this country?
Also consider the aftermath once such a judgement is delivered. If the HC verdict is upheld, the disputed land would have to be partitioned. If the SC rules that the HC correctly adjudicated the issue, what claim do we Muslims have? Why should we accept it?
For the Muslims of Ayodhya, we could donate a rupee each to build a good mosque to pray in. You seem to be confident of persuading the SC to overturn the Allahabad judgement. I too believe that there are enough facts to support the claim. If the SC grants your plea and restores the land to the community, you are confident of a smooth enforcement of that verdict.
You might be anticipating that same 'display of maturity' that marked people's response after the present verdict. But I would also fear a nightmarish response in case the title suit is won by you. But I'd rather desist speculating about such a scenario and let the 'maturity of the nation' be celebrated without a dampener. But it would not be a good idea to let the idea of a new, mature, tolerant India be subjected to a severe test.
Mr Jilani, I have another reason to dissociate from your litigation. The Allahabad HC has opened a 500-year-old property dispute on the basis of people's faith and reversed the last known, established possession of the divine estate. Most people in Kashmir believe the 63-year-old accession is actually a case of adverse possession if not outright occupation. A seal of finality by the SC could have unintended ramifications for Kashmiri youth. That could happen either way, whether the apex court grants your appeal or upholds the HC verdict.
Let us avoid the possible despondency of an unfriendly SC judgement.
Naeem Akhtar is chief spokesperson of the People's Democratic Party. The views expressed by the author are personal.