Ayodhya Verdict: Bending Justice for the Status Quo

It is no doubt that the Ram Janmabhoomi movement was more of a political movement than a faith based movement. Parties like the BJP and Shiv-sena were able to catapult themselves into the mainstream through this movement. It started in the late 1980s and has finally reached a conclusion on 9th November 2019.

I got introduced to the movement through Anand Patwardhan’s ‘Ram Ke Naam’ (A must see documentary) in 2015 and since then I have been following the Ayodhya dispute.

The review of the film by P. Sainath

The day before the verdict I was little scared about the situation but at the same time political leaders of the hindutva brigade were speaking in a secular tone, much different from the leaders of the previous generation of the same party. The RSS as the leader of the Sangh Parivar had also toned down their stance regarding building the Ram temple. This was the first time the BJP was making efforts to counter communal tension in the country.

When the verdict was finally announced I was happy that the judiciary came out with a balanced verdict. The verdict was satisfactory to almost everyone: All parties of the dispute, the ruling party, the opposition and most of the civil society.

As the day progressed and more information became available I was having mixed thought as to whether the judgement was really fair or not. By the end of that day I realized that it was probably not that fair and the ruling just created an illusion of justice.

The Supreme Court did say that the destruction of Babri Masjid was illegal, it also said that the verdict cannot be given on faith and trust but on factual grounds. The verdict states that the Masjid was built on an underlying structure, as reported by the ASI, but could not prove that it was a temple. It could not even prove that the previous structure was demolished for the sole purpose of constructing the Babri mosque. It also established that the outer courtyard was used by the hindus for praying whereas the muslims used to offer namaz every friday in the mosque. Thus establishing the fact that both hindus and muslims had claimed rights over the disputed area.

For me the verdict is highly complex and raises more questions than it answers. It did not call the Babri Masjid an illegitimate structure, yet gave all of the land to the hindu party. If it was an illegitimate structure, then why did the SC order 5 acres of separate land, elsewhere in Ayodhya for the Muslim party? (Just because the demolition was illegal?) The SC exercised Article 142 to ensure complete justice to the muslim party by giving land in Ayodhya that was not part of the dispute. How is this complete justice? One may argue that the judgement tried to create a balance by giving double of the original land to the muslim party. The question still remains that this land is not the land that the muslim party was fighting for, it was fighting for the land Babri Masjid stood and got illegally demolished.

These are serious issues that no one was questioning. The only dissenting voices were of some civil society activist, Asaduddin Owaisi and the All India Muslim Personal Law Board. The Indian National Congress, that wanted a reconstruction of the mosque at one point of time, accepted the verdict like everyone else.

Then it hit me. No one wanted to fight any further. This was a sensitive case that had defined the social fabric of India for a significant amount of time. 1992,1993 and 2002 are healing wounds that no one wants to relive again. The SC knew this very well. Therefore, the ruling party was issuing notices to keep peace and was communicating in a more secular way.

The Ram Janmabhoomi is not just about a title suit or political movement anymore, it is about the faith or aastha of the people. Even if it was created through propaganda and for political gains it is here to stay and continue into the future. In an era of Majoritarianism, interfering with the faith and religion of the majority can disturb the social structure of the country.

The job of any court is to deliver a just verdict no matter the consequences. However, today, there would be consequences that could prove to be disastrous if a verdict is ideal in nature. In such a situation the SC did an excellent job in coming out with a verdict that was balanced and satisfactory to everyone, it did so unanimously.

On 9th November 2019 there was no violence that broke out in the country. Those who did not agree with the verdict were allowed to express their dissent without any issues. Journalists, politicians, social media warriors expressed their opinion through cartoons, posts and statements. These are signs of a thriving democracy, even under a majoritarian or an authoritarian rule.

The judgement is far from perfect or ideal, I might go to the extent of calling it flawed too. Nonetheless, it is welcome as it is able to keep peace and harmony in the society. Therefore, it was acceptable for most of the society. The wider thinking is that the dispute is behind us and finally there will be closure. While I welcome and accept the verdict I remain sceptical about the closure part.

The Ayodhya verdict sets up a dangerous precedent. It gives a signal that if there are any disputes related to majority vs minority it would be the minority that would have to compromise, whether complete justice is served or not won’t be the question.

The real question would be, which the SC judges would have asked themselves, will this verdict lead to consequences that could disturb the ethos of society?

Justice will depend on this answer.