Opinions

Babri Masjid – The Last Opportunity

“Welcome Syed Shahabuddin Sahab” written on a banner across the road, I saw while coming out of my college. I stopped out of curiosity, what’s going on? It was a crowd of about 500 people gathered there to listen to their leader, who was about to arrive. It was 1990 or 91. Shortly Syed Shahabuddin Sahab, a renowned Muslim leader of that time, M.P. and former IFS, arrived right on the stage. There was a big chant “desh ka neta kaisa ho, Shahabuddin jaisa ho” and after few short speeches by some other speakers Syed Shahabuddin held the mic.

On a very high pitch, “Musalmono know your power, you are 14 crore, you can change the destiny of India”. We have all the evidences and we will never give up our claim on the Babri Masjid. The judgment will be 100% in our favour etc. etc.  You will get justice. People shouted again “desh ka neta kaisa ho…..” in excitement. The speech went on for about 30 to 40 minutes which led to a very emotional atmosphere there. It was purely in Urdu and good enough to impress anybody and no doubt he might be having good intentions for the community but lack of vision. Rest in peace Syed Shahabuddin Sahab.

Today down the years I feel nothing of that sought has happened. Syed Shahabuddin's mission not accomplished. Instead, thousands of innocent people killed in the process. Many pro-temple organizations and communal political parties gained enormous power. Babri Masjid demolished. The issue is still alive and God knows how long it will go. 

The message:

Message is “do not get excited on emotional or religious issues. Neither Hinduism is under threat nor Islam in any danger in India. Only our politicians have to keep their hands off from religious issues. Your religion is something inside you not outside in the hands of leaders. Successive governments are deliberately not solving the issues. Understand the politics. Understand the difference between the religion and obsession.

Sometimes we should compromise and should not persist; no matter how important is the issue and how big the provocation. There are things we don’t want to happen, but sometime we have to accept them to avoid other more unfortunate events.  

Forgiveness has the biggest place in Islam. Perhaps the biggest reason why a Muslim must forgive a person even if that person has caused pain to him is because forgiveness is one of the qualities of Allah Almighty. In Quran, numerous qualities of Allah Almighty are mentioned and forgiveness is one of them. Different attributes used for Allah in Quran represent His forgiving quality. Al Rahman Al Rahim is the most commonly used that means the most gracious and the most merciful. Provocation, revenge and hatred have no place in Islam.

Examples:

There are good examples where communities have compromised and similar disputes solved amicably. One example is of Sophia, Turkey, where a 1,500-year-old building claimed to be a church for 11 centuries, was converted into a mosque for five centuries. The dispute over the religious place was solved amicably. The building was converted into a museum after the declaration of the Turkish Republic and on 1 February 1935 Hagia Sophia Museum’s doors were opened for public. Unfortunately our leaders did not take lesson from it. They could have replicated it in 1947 in the case of Babri Masjid.

Why go far. In undivided India, Lahore experienced a similar dispute during the British rule. A resident of Lahore, Nur Ahmad, filed a case against Bhai Jiwan Singh and Ganda Singh, who held possession of the Shaheedganj Mosque. This mosque had been in control of a group of Sikhs for at least two-and-a-half centuries and in the same compound there also existed a gurdwara.

The suit was dismissed since Ahmad did not have possession of the structure. Ahmad was not deterred and filed at least three more cases but all of them fell through. In 1927, the Shaheedganj Mosque was formally passed into the care of the newly formed Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee.

Immediately, there were objections from Muslim groups and after a protracted series of legal cases, the Lahore High Court ruled in favour of the SGPC on the grounds that the mosque had long been ceased to be used for Muslim worship and that it had been in Sikh hands since 1852.

Soon after winning the case, the SGPC decided to clear the compound of all “un-Sikh like deviations and non-Sikh usages”. On the night of 8 July 1935, the Sikhs in control of the compound demolished the mosque, placing Lahore on communal tenterhooks.

Unlike Uttar Pradesh where lies Babri Masjid, Lahore’s colonial administration was extremely strict with protestors. It opened fire on agitating crowds when they tried to take the compound by force and arrested leaders of the agitation.

The legal side of the issue dragged on till 1940 when the case was discussed in the Privy Council, the court of ultimate appeal in British India.

Unlike the Allahabad High Court ruling in 2010, however, the Privy Council did not get bogged down with medieval history or religious belief in order to decide what was essentially a property dispute. In line with lower court judgements, it simply dismissed the Muslim side’s claim, citing the statute of limitations, noting that the property has been under Sikh control for a sufficient length of time.

This ended the matter. The Shaheedganj Gurdwara, constructed at the site, still exists in Lahore.

The way-out:

Here Babri Masjid Ramjanam Bhoomi dispute has reached to an irresolvable point. Even if the Supreme Court of India orders rebuilding of the mosque where it existed before demolition, it will be extremely difficult to implement it. Enormous lives may be lost. It has become a case of pride and prestige for both the communities. Majority always has the upper hand in a democracy right or wrong!

Our communal, casteist and unproductive politicians are looking for opportunity to further exploit the issue. Stoking the fire of temple and mosque, help them get elected without doing any good to the country. They will never play fair on it. Only people can find way-out through negotiations and talks.

The way-out for Muslims is that they can consider relinquishing their claim on Babri Masjid site and handover the site to the nation, if the government agrees to pass an unamendable, unbreakable law for 1947 status quo for all the religious sites in India forever. No pre-independence religious site in India will ever be disputed whatsoever. Not only this, the government of India will have to take steps for the protection of minorities in the country, such as law to give certain rights to the minorities for their foolproof social protection, Muslims reservation in all the armed forces, a TADA like law against all who participate in communal riots and fast-track courts for the pending riots cases. So that no powerful can bully the weak.

India has the third biggest Muslim population in the world only next to Indonesia and Pakistan. India is home to more than 10% of the world's Muslim population. Muslim rulers have wisely ruled India for about one thousand years. Time changes. Centuries have gone by. Most of the gorgeous and fascinating monuments built by Muslim rulers are deprecating and have started fading away. It is time to do something new. Use your energy to build one more wonder of the world. World’s largest and state-of-the-art mosque, along with a huge Islamic university with all the modern education. It might be somewhere at a city nearby Ayodhya or anywhere in India.

Nevertheless, the loss of lives in the dispute-related violence and riots can never be compensated, but the loss of a mosque can reasonably be, this way. We must not make the mistake to burden on this dispute on our next generation.  

The author is a freelancer based in Dubai, UAE.

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