Babri Masjid Issue

Communal Conflict & Amicable Settlement

The hype raised about reaching an out-of-court settlement on Ayodhya issue is disturbing. Politically, this can be viewed from two angles. One is that politicians fearing negative impact of their support for either side and/or judicial verdict have begun making noises favoring “amicable, out-of-court settlement.” Secondly, those who are not too optimistic about their legal stand being strong are keen to turn the “out-of-court” tide in their favour. Should this be allowed to happen? Should “fear-complex,” shaped by political pressure and/or compulsions allow judicial process to take the backseat on controversial issues, particularly the ones that have been blown out of proportion by communal forces? If this is allowed, wouldn’t it be equivalent to setting a bad precedent, letting communal forces gain the edge? Should this be allowed to continue?

Constitutionally and culturally, this seems hardly in keeping with the Indian fabric. Give another thought to to crisis raised over Ayodhya issue. Around thirty years ago, the entire Indian public was not even aware of the issue. Their awareness about the birthplace of deity Rama was limited to what they learnt through the epic – Ramayana. It cannot be ignored that the hype raised over Ayodhya issue, targeting Muslims and Babri Masjid by the saffron brigade together with media coverage given to these played a major role at several levels. With the communication revolution then still in infancy, communal passions were excited over Babri Masjid with extremist elements going overboard to propagate their version of the dispute. They added communal aggression to it by organizing rath yatras, riots and demolition of the mosque.

If the site, over which some parties are keen to reach “amicable settlement,” had been a vacant piece of land, the issue would have been different. It would have then been appropriate to consider an out-of-court compromise and also minimize the risk of rival parties rushing to the stage of communal conflict. The chronological series of events, since India achieved independence, are hardly in keeping with what may be considered encouraging for an “amicable settlement.” It is pertinent to study the legal complications of the issue in accordance with the country’s Constitution, enacted and adopted after India achieved independence. India and its citizens are expected to respect and follow the country’s Constitution and not try shaping the nation’s future by taking the law into their own hands. The situation was certainly different before 15 August 1947.

Several centuries old mosque, called the Babri Masjid, stood on the spot in Ayodhya. It may be repeated that the mosque was not suddenly constructed after 15 August 1947. Peace and calm prevailed in the area. Besides, that particular spot was not the centre of any pilgrimage for any particular section at the time when India had gained freedom. Even the British are not known to have practically exploited that particular area in keeping with their policy of “divide and rule” during the period of their colonial rule over India.

The saffron brigade started aggressively propagating their stand on Ayodhya issue from mid-eighties onwards, leading to nationwide riots and demolition of the mosque on 6 December 1992. Here, it may be pointed out, the same elements are understood to have prepared a list of monuments they plan to gradually target. Against this backdrop, hype raised over an “amicable” settlement on Ayodhya lacks credibility. It is equivalent to turning a blind eye to the hard fact that this stage has been reached after exciting communal passions leading to Babri Masjid’s demolition and riots across the country.

Should it be assumed that parties keen for an out-of-court settlement do not trust the judicial system and/or do not expect the judicial verdict to be in their favour? In this situation, preferring the “compromise” is equivalent to giving these parties the “authority” to evade, abuse and/or respect the judicial system only as and when it suits them. Had the same people not taken the law in their own hands by fomenting communal frenzy and demolishing the mosque the situation would have been different. At this juncture, secular spirit displayed by the Indian people has passed a crucial litmus test – by remaining peaceful and not allowing themselves to turn communal over the Allahabad High Court’s verdict on Ayodhya. Indirectly, they also let their respect for the country’s Constitution and secular fabric prevent communal elements from exploiting the situation. The quiet decision of people to go by the judicial process cannot be ignored. Let the case be heard at the apex court. If the same case, as mentioned earlier, had a different history, without any party bearing charges of having earlier taken the law into their hands, “amicable settlement” may have been given some thought. But the communally aggressive manner, with political overtones, in which law has been violated and abused over the Ayodhya issue, only demands that the judicial process should be allowed to take its own course. The judiciary and parties involved now face the litmus test of their respect for the country’s Constitution and legal process. Hopefully, this process is not sidelined by the hype raised over an “out-of-court amicable settlement.”