Lessons from Ayodhya and the way forward

Is the India after the September 30 Allahabad high court judgment on Ayodhya different from the India before it? Is it a fleeting perception or is there truly a fundamental shift in the Indian mindset born out of a fatigue of chronic Hindu-Muslim clashes?

Given the extraordinary history of Hindu-Muslim conflicts over innumerable issues since Partition, this was that rarest of rare moments when a critical court judgment was not allowed to translate into an “I win, you lose” sentiment.

In the hours of excitement and anticipation prior to the judgment, none of the disputants, analysts or political parties had anticipated athree-way split of the disputed land. At best, the judgment was expected to result in another logjam, taking the parties to the Supreme Court (which is happening), and, at worst, give a verdict in favour of one against the other.

Although the Sunni Waqf Board and the All India Muslim Personal Law Board will challenge the order in the Supreme Court,a sense of “enough is enough” was unmistakable in the political class too. Would it have made greater sense for the Hindu groups to declare victory or be graceful about it?

Having made the Ram Janmabhoomi issue almost fundamental to its existence, it would have been natural for the RSS, BJP and allied Hindu parties to break out into celebrations. After all, their demand for a Ram temple at the Babri Masjid site stood vindicated. However, while it does not decriminalise the same parties and individuals who forcibly demolished the site in December, 1992, it is creditable that the RSS and the BJP chose to show restraint and did not celebrate the judgment on the streets.

The chatter on Twitter was interesting with teen India wondering what the hullabaloo was all about. Some wondered whether Ayodhya was located “in Lucknow” or in Karnataka? With the news media wisely not focusing on the visuals of December 6, 1992, there were some who remained shockingly ignorant about the background to the case.

There were no celebrations and still there was joy and jubilation. The common man had prepared for the worst from the politicians and there was considerable tension in homes and on the streets.

As things turned out, there was happiness that not a single bus was stoned or an innocent knifed. People who were out returned home safely and children could go to school almost fearlessly the next day. In simple words, we began to look at each other as Indians — and not as Hindus and Muslims.

It would be foolish not to be prepared for trouble from the mischief-makers, but there are reasons for hope. Some have termed the judgment more as a “panchayat settlement” than a legally-sound verdict. In simplistic terms, it does feel like one of those ancient stories wherein three quarrelling brothers were pacified by giving them an equal share of the property.

The judgment — and India’s reaction to it — has paved the way for reconciliation. From here on, can Hindus and Muslims be partners in development — not just on the Ayodhya site but on other core issues facing the nation?

Can India address her other challenges, specifically with regards to Kashmiri separatists and the Maoists, on similar lines where we don’t see one another as enemies but as partners in development?

In a sense, the October 2 weekend has been an apt ending for the Joy of Giving week. India has new reasons for hope and happiness.


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