When the constitution makers were debating how the free India’s religious discourse would look like, two contentions came to the forefront. One, whether the passive secularism of the US Constitution would be our guiding principle or the active secularism would find more suitability considering India’s humongous religious diversity. It was the wisdom and farsightedness of our forefathers that a concept of secularism was adopted though implicitly which would embrace and nurture all the religions equally. The landmark 42nd Amendment made it explicit that secularism is one of the goals of our Constitution. People of India were given the inalienable right to practice, profess and propagate their respective religious beliefs with full freedom. State had the fundamental responsibility to uphold the religious freedom of all Indians.
The Babri Masjid title dispute and the Ram Janmabhoomi Movement must be seen in this spirit. The right of the Hindus to worship at the site is fundamental to their religious ethos. That was reaffirmed by the 1994 Supreme Court judgement of Ismail Farooqui case in which the court made a significant observation that Mosque is not an integral part of worship in Islam. This
strengthened the narrative that the marooned Masjid at Ayodhya built by Mir Baqi and popularly called as Babari Masjid was not a place so integral to Muslims of the area. The above proposition has again been established by the 3 judge bench of Supreme Court by a 2:1 majority. It has also been said that the ongoing titular dispute pending before the Supreme Court will not be taken up by a constitutional bench and it will considered as an ordinary suit to be decided on merits.
The ruling given today has a lot of implications on the overall religious and political milieu of the country. It will give a huge fillip to the pending case and things will get fastracked towards a just and reasonable solution to a problem that has lingered for years. The dispute has driven the political discourse of the country from somewhat left leaning to centre right. The dispute though present from 18th century, turned into a socio religious movement by the Sangh Parivaar and it’s associates in the late 1980s. The Rath Yatra of Lal Krishna Advani, his arrest in Bihar by Lalu Prasad Yadav and the Kar seva at the disputed site finally culminated into the demolition of the structure.
We cannot justify the act of violence that was spilled over in the heat of the movement, but we can decipher the reasons for it. Given the deeply religious ethos of the Indians, Lord Rama is the most revered God. He is the epitome of morality and people look up to him to achieve a just, ideal and ethical life. The disputed site is considered the birthplace of Maryada Purshottam
Rama. Considering these facts and taking into account the active secularism given to us by our constitution makers, a place of worship at the site is a reasonable demand by a majority of the country’s population. The judgement pronounced today has made it crystal clear that the dispute is an ordinary titular dispute and not a constitutional question to be taken up by an appropriate bench. Now the contention is quite clear that the Fundamental rights of the Indians Under Article 25 and 26 have a place above the ordinary property rights of the parties to the case.
Other spillover effects of the judgement and the subsequent hearing that will commence from October 29th would be the sentiment of the Hindu population that will be aroused with each passing day. That will be a great booster for the ruling party and it’s right wing agenda given that building a Grand Ram Temple at Ayodhya is one of the election promises of the BJP. Moreover, if the matter gets settled justly and amicably, one of the biggest issues of the country will see a solution and there would be an end to deriving political mileage from the issue. That would surely usher a new era of political discourse based on common pressing issues that affects Indians at large such as poverty, development and social justice rather than on issues that lead to arousal of religious sentiments and disturbs the secular fabric of the country.
The sole dissenting judgement given by Justice Nazeer reiterates the demands of the Muslim community that the dispute must be taken up by a constitutional bench and the observations of the Ismail Farooqui judgement that Masjid is not an integral part of Islam must be set aside. The argument attached to it is that the 1994 judgement was taken into consideration by the Allahabad High Court in 2010 when it divided the disputed site into three parts. To such a sensitive issue that has grave implications, Supreme Court should have spoken in one voice. The dissenting judgement will lead to division of opinion with majority appreciating the majority judgement while minority taking the minority one.
With this judgement of all the judgements that CJI Dipak Misra and his colleagues have taken up before he retires we can say that there seems a light at the end of the tunnel. It is heartening to see that things will proceed to it’s just conclusion very soon. Atleast we can hope that politics will not come to play to stifle the verdict and play with people’s sentiments to score political goals!