Last Saturday, the Supreme Court in a judgement closed a bitter dispute over 2.77 acres of land in Ayodhya that had dragged on and on for centuries.
India can breathe easy, now that a hyper-communal irritant has been removed from the psyche of Muslims and Hindus, hopefully forever. Refusing to take folklores, scriptures and religious beliefs into account, the verdict also settled several issues of far-reaching significance.
It impressed on courts to avoid interfering in matters of faith and called destruction of Babri mosque a criminal offence, suggesting that perpetrators must be punished.
It also maintained the status of temples and mosques existing as on August 14, 1947, thus effectively sealing the status quo at Kashi and Mathura, and allotted five acres of land to Sunni Central Waqf Board for a mosque in Ayodhya, lest it feels uncared.
This dispute is actually a historical travesty. The land existed long before Babur invaded India where Hindus worshipped, believing that it was Lord Ram’s birthplace.
The documented evidence supporting the continuous possessory claim of Hindus eventually convinced the Justices to award the title of the composite land to them. But you can’t also blame Muslims of later generations.
Mir Baqi, a general of Babur, had indeed built the mosque and if Muslims subsequently started genuinely believing that it had been there since millennium, it wasn’t their fault. It was also not their concern if Baqi used material from a Hindu structure.
The general would have surely acted differently if he could foresee that his mosque would be desecrated in 1949, destroyed in 1992 and finally handed over to Hindus in 2019.
The claims of competing parties could have been long settled if political leaders could rise above the lust for electoral gains and Muslim groups showed little understanding for Hindus’ seminal faith in the sanctity of the place.
The courts fared no better. They huffed and puffed for decades, looking for documented evidence from Indians who never had a sense of recording history.
The Allahabad High Court did dispense a verdict but that was worse. It tried to please all by distributing the land among Hindu Maha Sabha, Sunni Waqf Board and Nirmohi Akhara.
It was a recipe for keeping the anger and distrust raging, with temple and mosque located side by side. Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and his four Justices displayed a remarkable foresight in handing over the entire disputed land to a government-run trust.
Expectedly, sceptics have begun nitpicking the judgement and trying to vitiate communal harmony. Fortunately, most mainstream political parties and religious leaders of both communities have welcomed the verdict and appealed for restraint.
As a result, no communal disturbance has taken place. The central and state governments’ unprecedented security precautions have also left no room for miscreants to engineer riots.
One could also discern a sense of fatigue over the issue that helped in de-escalating the situation. The communal harmony visible in the aftermath of the verdict in PM Modi’s much-reviled era, albeit unfairly, is something that must be treasured and built upon for a better and more cohesive future for Indians, without, of course, ever-lowering the guard against doomsdayers and Owaisis.