Finally, there is a new truth: There was no plan to destroy the Babri Masjid. The court has set free all 32 accused on the ground that there was no evidence to prove that they had conspired to bring the masjid down. If there was no conspiracy and no plan, the only possibility is that the big masjid fell down by itself. This is possible, given the notorious malpractices prevalent in India’s construction business. Maybe the contractors used poor quality cement even in those days.
Since we are all patriotic, we must also have a second look at what we have been accepting as facts till now. More than a lakh of “volunteers” had assembled in Ayodhya. They were armed with tell-tale implements such as spades and ropes and crowbars. Providing inspiration from vantage points were political leaders such as L K Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Uma Bharti.
These are all known and recorded facts. They were legally authenticated by a judge named Liberhan who reported that Sangh Parivar organizations had collected the funds required for the operations and that kar sevaks had converged in Ayodhya and Faizabad with “army-like discipline” in a “well-orchestrated and planned manner”. The theory now upheld by the CBI court is that Advani-Joshi was there to stop anti-social elements from destroying the masjid.
It is an endorsement that goes well with new notions of patriotism. Time was when the judiciary was an umpire feared for its uncompromising independence and its commitment to judicial autonomy. But ideas of patriotism and judicial independence have undergone changes in keeping with modern notions of rule of the people, by the people, for the people. The guiding principle today is: What is good for the rulers is good for the ruled.
It is another matter that the court’s ruling carries little conviction with the public. Several organisations have already voiced criticism of it while moves are underway to go to higher courts on appeal. While such moves may proceed at their own pace, the implications of the current verdict can neither be missed nor ignored. That segments of the judiciary wish to be seen as more loyal than the king is now there for anyone to see.
The fall that began with Indira Gandhi’s 1975 Emergency has become precipitous. It was to fight judicial honesty that she resorted to an extreme measure such as Emergency. She succeeded in subjugating the judiciary. Justice H R Khanna refused to be cowed down and paid his price by getting blacklisted.
What is disturbing is that the present judicial partisanship amounts to endorsing the Hindutva lobby’s stance that the Mughal period of history must be erased from memory as well as from the records. Textbooks can be changed, but how practical is the view that remnants of Mughal glory must be wiped out as well? Apart from the Taj Mahal, these “remnants” include Delhi’s Red Fort and the Agra Fort, besides landmarks like Humayun’s Tomb, Fatehpur Sikri, Delhi’s Jama Masjid, Akbari Fort and Museum at Ajmer, the splendid Taj-ul-Masjid in Bhopal and the Taj Mahal-like Bibi Ka Maqbara in Aurangabad.
It is a pity that globally admired masterpieces that qualify for preservation laws are seen in communal terms in today’s India. A structure like the Allahabad Fort at the confluence of the Ganga and the Yamuna is not just a legacy of Akbar; it was also a tribute from the Mughal emperor to an area that had become a centre of pilgrimage for ascetics and which he had accordingly named Illahabas (blessed by God). Emperors of those days were often respectful towards worshippers of other gods. It is today’s emperors who are intolerant of dissenters.
The area cleared by the demolition of the masjid was handed over by an obliging Supreme Court to the very demolition advocates who wanted to put up a Ram temple there. This was in spite of the Supreme Court describing the demolition as “an egregious violation of the rule of law”. We are being tutored to understand varying meanings of terms like violation and rule of law, demolition and construction, politics of religion and religion of politics.
Now that judicial legitimisation has given a fresh new face to the Ram Janmabhumi concept, the shilanyas of two months ago can be carried to its logical conclusion. On that day, 3,500 policemen, 40 companies of Armed Constabulary, 10 companies of the RAF and two Directors General of Police were deployed in Ayodhya. The Gods must have felt happy that India’s police is there to protect them.