‘PRE-CONSTITUTION JUSTICE’

Has India moved on? "No," said Farah Naqvi, member, National Advisory Council. "I thought the entire Indian society has chosen to accept this judgement. I refused to believe that it was true. Will there never be justice, especially for the Muslims of India?" 
Amit Sengupta Delhi 

Its's just that the onslaught of "let's move on" was so strong that the civil society became speechless. That the Ayodhya judgement was clearly a political judgement, and basically worked on the principles of populist belief, socially engineered by the history of the 'struggle' of the Hindutva forces, sank in moments after the Hindutva lawyers and BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad started pumping themselves up, with 'V'signs, in the jumbled up, garbled, chaotic reinterpretation of the bulky judgement which runs into a few thousand pages. Let's move on, the TV prophets said, India has moved on. Including those couple of senior BJP journos who were at the forefront when the mosque was demolished, and those who relentlessly glorify and strategise for Narendra Modi.

Has India moved on? "No," said Farah Naqvi, member, National Advisory Council. "I thought the entire Indian society has chosen to accept this judgement. I refused to believe that it was true. Will there never be justice, especially for the Muslims of India?" 

Asked activist Shabnam Hashmi, "After all these years of struggle against the communal forces, to restore the secularism in our Constitution, have we lost the battle again?"

In a first time reassertion, eminent members of the civil society from all over India, all professionals with distinguished track records in academics, bureaucracy, journalism, social activism, feminism, law, human rights, came together in Delhi last month in a closed door meeting at the Constitution Club on: Ayodhya judgement - Repercussions and Civil Society Responses. They spoke without hysteria, reasoned, facing up to the "changed situation at the ground and the big picture of Indian secular democracy". 

"Look at the history of the Ayodhya movement. They penetrated all the institutions, including security agencies, legal structures, bureaucracy, even secular parties and the media. The BJP chief minister betrayed the Indian Constitution on December 6, 1992. A top cop told me the judgement is good. These were the very people who did nothing when the mosque was being demolished, and the riots unleashed. They were active collaborators," said Shitla Singh, respected editor of Hindi daily Jan Morcha of Faizabad.

Senior lawyer Anupam Gupta, who resigned as counsel from the tortoise journey of Liberhan Commission after 10 years, deconstructed the judgement, because he has painstakingly studied all the pages of the verdict. "A strange element of déjà vu hit me," he said. "I always asked the same question, 'if it was not a mosque, why did you demolish it?' Is this judgement of the high court a judgement of a secular court in a free, democratic country under the Constitution of India, or is it some kind of a pre-Constitution medieval court? Justice Khan's dissent note is an angst and ultimate dilemma... Khan collaborates, improvises, comprises..."

"Secularism has been diluted and weakened," said Rooprekha Verma, former vice chancellor of Lucknow University. Agreed Harsh Mander, member National Advisor Council. Mander would know, he has worked in the thick of the conflict zones of Gujarat after 2002, healing wounds, against all genocide machines. "As citizens, we should make public criticism of the judgement, even if it means contempt," said Verma. Agreed almost everybody, "contempt is a small risk in terms of the big threat to secular democracy". "The judgement is based on the faith of non-secular organisations," pointed out Mander.  "The battle is not between Hindus and Muslims, but between secular democratic India and those who don't believe it. And when they say, 'what a good, fair judgement' - that's worrisome." 

"The principle thing is to give back to the nation the secular ethos of Ayodhya," said historian KN Panikkar. "This is like restoring the nation to its own Constitution."

The consensus, hence, was unanimous: Identify the churning on the ground, let no community feel hounded, always subject to relentless injustice, always objectified as the villain, bereft of constitutional justice, treated as second class citizens. Let the big picture of the Indian political structure be located: is it a nation-state at all? If it is, what binds its national unanimity? The Constitution of India? So how is the Ayodhya judgement doing that? And why is the Congress and ruling regime so pusillanimous?                 - AS

This story is from the print issue of Hardnews: NOVEMBER 2010