ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Where Angels Fear to Tread: The Ayodhya Verdict

Was the destruction of Babri masjid justified? Absolutely not. Was the judgment fair? If one thinks of history and law as the primary means of just recompense it was clearly not. If abstract principles of law are what are seen to be at stake, the judgment disappoints. If however one asks whether it may facilitate peace understood as a negotiated compromise between people who have no choice but to live with each other and with all that binds them and all that threatens to separate them, things look more hopeful and less bleak.

The High Court in Allahabad has settled the title suit before it by recommending partition of the site of the Babri masjid/Ram Chabutra/Sita ki Rasoi, into three equal parts to be shared by the Sunni Central Board of Wakfs, Bhagwan Sri Ram Lalla Virajman and the Nirmohi Akhara.1 Response to the judgment from the anti-fundamentalist liberalleft sections of society has been mixed. Some have expressed sorrow, rage and disappointment that faith and belief have trumped reason, evidence and history in the acceptance by all three judges of that location as the historical birthplace of Ram as alleged by the Ram Janmabhoomi movement. It is argued that secularism has been undermined and the criminal destruction of the Babri masjid given a cloak of legitimacy.2 Others have taken a less pessimistic view suggesting that by giving all litigants an equal share of the disputed area the majority opinion has tried to bring closure to a painful and violent period. The facts of history are seen to be less important than creating the conditions necessary to moving forward, a possibility held out by the logic of arbitration evident in the judgments of justice S U Khan and justice Sudhir Agarwal.3 What the former laments as a politically expedient decision that deals one more blow to secular democracy, the latter regards as a conciliatory gesture in the interest of peace.

It would be easy to dismiss the second position as naïve, to argue that genuine peace depends on justice, to assert that permitting the Sangh parivar to get away with demolition and murder by legitimising its grounds for the assault on Babri masjid assures neither. Such sentiments would be supported by the Sangh parivar’s shameless response to the verdict which has been to request Muslims to hand over even the share of the land a pportioned to them and to help in building the Ram temple for the sake of “national integration”. But rather than contribute to these debates unfolding o nline, in the media and elsewhere, I would like to reflect on some of what is overlooked when the judgment is conceived as the triumph of belief over law.

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