With the Supreme Court’s verdict on the Ayodhya title suit less than two weeks away, advisories from the RSS and influential voices within the Muslim community to the masses to tone down their reactions and respect the judgment in full ought to be welcomed. After spearheading the movement to reclaim the controversial land, the RSS has sought to eschew triumphalism, saying it would not celebrate the verdict if it went in its favour.
While there is a lot of speculation on which way the court would lean, the RSS appears optimistic as it already seems to have worked out a tentative timeline to begin construction from January. The Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas, one of the litigants in the case and controlled by the VHP, has a master plan for building a new temple at the site, for which a lot of off-site works like constructing pillars and statues have already been completed.
With the Yogi government lubricating the process, construction can start quickly and the temple made ready for consecration by 2024—as per the Sangh timeline—when the BJP would be preparing for a fresh mandate. Unlike in the past, the VHP, too, has been sober, saying it will not spin a favourable verdict into a victory of Hindus over Muslims. How it exercises control over lumpen elements within its sister organisation, the Bajrang Dal, will determine whether or not the response is calibrated. At the other end of the spectrum, many prominent Muslim leaders including Navaid Hamid of the Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat, Arshad Madani of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, retired bureaucrat Wajahat Habibullah and former MP Shahid Siddiqui have requested the people to accept the judgment.
As for the Centre, it must ensure peace irrespective of the outcome. Controlling loose cannons like the Shiv Sena while defanging disruptive elements in both communities would be challenging. Apprehension of a backlash in J&K is perhaps why the security grip there has not been fully loosened yet. India’s reputation as a tolerant, pluralist democracy, where the rule of law is supreme, would be under test.