At 3.30 pm on September 30, when the Lucknow Bench of the Honourable Allahabad High Court pronounced the verdict on the Ayodhya case, there were tears of joy and sorrow across the country. While some were happy with the verdict, some rued the ‘partial’ attitude of the judiciary towards the majority community of this country. The RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh), the self-proclaimed custodian of Hinduism, proclaimed that nobody is a winner or a loser; the Congress proudly announced that it’s a good verdict and nobody should have any qualms about accepting it. But did anybody, even for once, spare a thought for the ‘man’ who was at the centre of all this mess—Raghukul nandan and son of King Dasaratha, Prince Ram? If there was any real loser, it was none but him, for he lost his ‘God’ status with the court saying in no indirect phrase that he was indeed born at the place where the Babari Masjid once stood. Gods are not born at historical places, reason tells us.
For over a millennium, Hindus took pride in calling him their God. He was known as Lord Ram, a maryada purushottam (the best of man) whose qualities of the head and heart every parent wanted his/her son to emulate. For over a thousand years, Hindus of all castes and races have known his story by heart. And suddenly today, we have been forced to believe that he was someone like us, very mortal in character and spirit, thanks to nearly 60 years of litigation over his ‘birthplace‘ and an even longer battle outside court between two communities willing to snap one another’s neck in the name of their respective Gods.
When Mughal Emperor Babur “ordered” the desecration of Hindu temples in Ayodhya and construction of the Babari Masjid in 1527-28, little did he know that his own grandson, Jalaluddin Muhammad Akbar, would be known to his Hindu subjects as an incarnation of Lord Ram! It was poetic justice anyway. The Hindus never realized this, and unfortunately, even the judiciary didn’t.
In its 12,000-page verdict, the HC said, “there is no evidence to suggest that the mosque was constructed by Babar, or upon his order, by someone else”. What the court refused to acknowledge was the plaque at the site written in Persian that credits the construction of the mosque to one Mir Baqi, a noble of Babur, who says he built it in the honour of his emperor. Also, numerous contemporary accounts and those by the British Government calling it ‘Babur’s mosque’ were set aside by the court. Instead, the court chose to accept legendary accounts that Ram was born in Ayodhya, although no account exists that pinpoints Ram’s birthplace to the disputed site.
I’m no legal expert, but the way two parts of the disputed land was handed to the Hindus and only one part to the Muslims, I somehow feel it would only create a feeling of mistrust among the minority community for us, Hindus. As a serious student of history, I would have preferred the entire land being declared as national property with the ASI (Archaeological Survey of India) acting as its custodian. It would have proved as a great gift for history of mankind had the ASI been allowed to dig deep into the ruins and find evidence of prehistoric cultures existing there—something even older than the legend of Ram. That’s how, I believe, a pragmatic society should function.
In a 21st century democratic country like India, it was expected of the judiciary to act rationally and count on historical sources, not mythical epics; but the verdict leaves room for speculation that someday, the ancient law of Manu would supplant the Constitution of India. The mere thought of it sends chill down my spine. In such a situation, it would be the women who would be at the receiving end, for everyone knows how fair Manu was to the fairer sex.
But maybe, the HC had a point when they passed the verdict yesterday: they didn’t want Ram to be seen as a God when he had so many qualities possessed by men in Ekktaa Kapoor’s television epics. After all, he was the one who suspected his wife of adultery and banished her from the kingdom – this was certainly no God-like quality. I’m sure Ravana must be sniggering at his nemesis, for he still remains the Demon King, but Ram is now very much a human susceptible to follies. At least, Ravana will be remembered as someone who abducted another man’s wife, but didn’t outrage her modesty. Ram, unfortunately, will now be open to attacks by feminists for being, in their words, an MCP of the worst kind.
Anyhow, before this sounds like a rant, I would like to end it with the hope that India will not become the next destination of religious fundamentalism and lunacy. Nobody is alive today who remembers what happened in the 1520s; the pains inflicted by a Muslim conqueror on his Hindu subjects have been long forgotten, for none of us know who our ancestors were at that point of time. Therefore, this frenzy of altering the course of history should be discouraged in a strong voice. And in a land where Rule of Law supposedly exists, whom do we turn to for that sound piece of advice if not the judiciary?
This verdict, I’m afraid, would only encourage a generation of people to try to alter the course of history. And given a chance, I too would like to change a lot of things: that Mamta Kulkarni ever existed in Bollywood, Mohinder Amarnath’s annoying style of bowling, Kirti Azad’s forgettable innings in the ’83 World Cup…the list is long.