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Monday, Nov 18, 2019

Ahead of the Ayodhya verdict, a feeling of deja vu | Opinion

On the day of the verdict, only 47 people, including litigants and their counsel, were allowed to enter Court No 21 in a fortified Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court.

opinion Updated: Nov 07, 2019 17:42 IST
Sunita Aron
Sunita Aron
Hindustan Times, Lucknow
A general view of Ayodhya city, India, October 22, 2019.
A general view of Ayodhya city, India, October 22, 2019. (REUTERS)

“Here is a small piece of land (1,500 square yards) where angels fear to tread. It is full of innumerable land mines. We are required to clear it. Some very sane elements advised us not to attempt that. We do not propose to rush in like fools lest we are blown. However, we have to take risk. It is said that the greatest risk in life is not daring to take risk when occasion for the same arises.

Once, angels were made to bow before Man. Sometimes, he has to justify the said honour. This is one of those occasions. We have succeeded or failed? No one can be a judge in his own cause. Accordingly, herein follows the judgement for which the entire country is waiting with bated breath.”

This formed the prelude of the judgment delivered by Justice SU Khan, a member of the three-member bench of the Allahabad High Court that had delivered a split verdict on the Ayodhya title suit on 30 September, 2010 .

On the day of the verdict, only 47 people, including litigants and their counsel, were allowed to enter Court No 21 in a fortified Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court. No mobile phones were allowed, the media, denied entry into the court, was promptly issued press statements as the focus was also on checking the dissemination of wrong information. The other two bench members were Justice Sudhir Agarwal and Justice DV Sharma.

The judgment was delivered at 3.30 pm. The bench ruled in a majority judgment that there be a three-way division of the disputed land- one-third for Sunni Waqf Board, one-third for Nirmohi Akhara and one-third for Ramlalla.

The bench had taken into account 533 exhibits, 87 witnesses, innumerable archaeological artifacts kept in the record room, dozens of CDs and other records, before delivering verdict that had run into 8,000 pages.

The verdict had eventually brought down the temperatures though many legal luminaries had then described it as a judgment given on both facts and faith, although most of them agreed that the high court verdict would pave the way for the settlement of the dispute and work as a catalyst for the country’s unity.

The verdict was later stayed by the apex court.

A bit of coincidence: Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Justice Ranjan Gogoi is retiring on 17 November next, before which he is likely to deliver the verdict. Likewise, it was the last day for Justice DV Sharma in the High Court.

As the country braces for historical verdict by the Supreme Court om Ayodhya case, any time before 17 November, a feeling of déjà vu prevails.

There is excitement as well as fear for two reasons.

In 2010, the Manmohan Singh-led UPA government was in office while the Mayawati-led majority government of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) ruled UP. Today, both Centre and state are led by strong BJP governments headed by the two proponents of Ram temple in Ayodhya: Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. Both played an active role in the temple movement.

Secondly, when the then state government was pressuring the Centre for more security forces, the government of India had a reason to be confident. as “it was not expecting any problems since there was recognition that the party that loses the suit can appeal against the decision in the Supreme Court.” The media had then reported.

Congress leader P Chidambaram, now incarcerated, was the Union Home Minister at the time; he had kicked off a huge controversy by his comment on “saffron terror”.

This time around, both the communities believe the verdict is going to be final, though some legal luminaries feel the contesting parties still have the option to file revision or seek a larger bench for hearing.

As of now, the focus of both the communities is to maintain peace.

There has been a flood of appeals from Adityanath to Muslim clergies; security has been heightened; and social media posts are being monitored. Peace committees have been formed and ministers have been tasked with ensuring no provocative statements are made. The BJP is also sending personal letters to the saints to avoid celebrations as the verdict should be taken in the spirit of brotherhood rather than being seen as a matter of victory and loss.

However, unlike in 2010, so far normalcy continues with two lakh pilgrims performing Chaudah Kosi Parikrama, in Ayodhya on Tuesday. The parikrama will end on 8 November. So far, there have been no house arrests, which is in sharp contrast with what happened in 2010 when the Faizabad district authorities had bound down senior VHP leaders, including Ram Vilas Das Vedanti, Dharam Das ahead of the verdict. They were served notices requiring them to submit affidavits stating their acts will not cause a breach of peace.

Mayawati’s directive to the top cops was clear: “Nothing should happen from either side.” Politically, she could take that stand. Though Adityanath has also given similar instructions, this is his movement too.

The verdict day had passed off peacefully. In fact, many remember the evening pictures of children playing cricket in the temple city.

Now comes another challenge before the authorities as religious sentiments simmer.

If it’s a complex case for the Supreme Court , the execution of the verdict will be challenging for both Modi and Adityanath.

The community leaders, involved in an amicable settlement of the dispute, have failed their people. Perhaps, now the communities will amicably help governments execute the apex court’s verdict and set an example for generations to come.