In a country like India, which has thousands of years of history, it is quite possible to have varying narratives about the past.
On a fateful day in December 1992, the ugly incidents of the demolition of the Babri Masjid had a huge impact on the Indian society, and over the years, the Ayodhya issue has transformed into a conflict along with religious identity.
A quarter century later, it is futile to hope that the Supreme Court verdict on Ayodhya, whatever it may be, will somehow mark a closure. Healing the social fabric is far more important. That work is in the hands of people who are neither ‘secular’ nor ‘communal’ but may have been swept along in the flood of emotions unleashed by political ambitions. The messy course of the Babri Masjid demolition case displays a lack of political will to deliver justice.
But a certain custom, specifically in northern India offers a glimmer of hope that the verdict will be received with a sense of dignity and common sense will prevail.
Ganga Jamuni tehzeeb or pluralistic culture, famously inculcated in the northern Indian states by Mughal ruler Akbar, plays a big part in India representing unity with Hindu cultural elements with Muslim religious elements.
Ganga Jamuni tehzeeb literally means Ganga Yamuna culture. The term used as a euphemism for the fusion of Hindu and Muslim elements. Same as the phrase we learnt in childhood, ‘unity in diversity’.
This religious syncretism based on the ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’, unity in diversity and multi-communitarianism is a result of centuries of interfaith exchange and accommodation among Indian religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism). Where in India, communities preserve own cultural and religious identities while facilitating the shared celebration of festivals, customs and traditions.
Citing the forthcoming verdict, top Muslim clerics across Uttar Pradesh led appeals for peace in mosques just before Friday prayers, asking people from the community to maintain communal harmony at all costs.
Equally significantly, the members of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) took a call to approach leaders across the political spectrum in its effort to promote harmony.
What determines the path taken by a country after a tumultuous and conflict creating event? It depends a lot on the quality of the victorious sides’ leadership. The country’s political leadership must remember this, that perpetuating the conflict would not help anyone in the future. On the flip-side, any gesture of reconciliation from the victor to the loser at such a time goes a long way in putting a permanent end to any conflict.
In the Ayodhya case, the alleged acts that led to the conflict happened hundreds of years ago. The opponents in the case that was recently argued at the Supreme Court did not even exist when the original events are said to have taken place. Therefore, in the case of the Ayodhya conflict, it will not be easy to create a perfect reconciliation process.
The courtroom, in this schema, has been transformed into a theatre, where different narratives of conflict are enacted in a way to sustain the conflict. By amicably executing the Supreme Court’s order, the country will only be displaying its famed tolerance.
1992: The Babri Masjid was pulled down by Kar sevaks, VHP, Shiv Sena and BJP workers demolished. This led to communal riots.
1994: Central government in 1991 acquired 67 acres around the mosque. In 1994, in response to a petition against the acquisition, a Supreme Court bench held that a mosque was not an ‘essential part of the practice of the religion of Islam’ and that namaz could be offered anywhere and hence, ‘its acquisition (by the state) is not prohibited by the provisions in the Constitution of India’.
2002: Then PM Atal Behari Vajpayee set up an Ayodhya cell and designated a senior official to hold talks with Hindu and Muslim leaders.
2010: Allahabad High Court decreed the division and transfer of title in three equal parts of the 2.77 acres of the disputed land to three principal claimants, one-third to Muslims, Hindus another third and the remainder to the Nirmohi Akhara sect. However, Muslims objected that Hindus got the main section of the disputed land and filed an appeal against in the court of law.
2017: The Supreme Court gave out its verdict, charging BJP leaders with criminal conspiracy and ordered the trial court in Lucknow to finish the hearing within two years.
2019: February 26: The five-judge constitution bench by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi heard the matter on February 26 and advocated an amicable resolution to the Ram Mandir case through mediation.