Move on! Pray, where?
It was in the backdrop of palpable fear and trepidation of a violent communal blow out that the Ayodhya verdict was announced by the judges of the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court. The bulky three-member split verdict was welcomed with confusion and concern, but also with general relief that the murderous swords of communalism were not unsheathed. In the recent history of Ayodhya, perhaps for the first time, the blood of innocents did not spill. Post-Mandal, it became a battleground for a vicious power play that changed the content of Indian politics as well as how Hindus and Muslims perceive each other in what was posited as a pluralist, secular nation inspired and protected by the doctrines of the Indian Constitution. Atavism fed by grievances whipped up by fanatic forces trapped in a medieval time warp violently expressed itself when the Babri Masjid was demolished on December 6, 1992. A spiral of blood-letting followed across the ravaged landscape. The wounds are yet to heal.
Since those nightmarish days, India has changed in many ways. The mandir movement and criminal demolition of Babri Masjid by Hindutva forces led by LK Advani and BJP/VHP/Bajrang Dal/Shiv Sena leaders, the killings that followed, the Bombay pogrom of Muslims in 1992-93, the state-sponsored Gujarat genocide of 2002, the global war on terror and rise of BJP to power with opportunist rump socialists as allies, changed the terms and language of political discourse. Secular India wilted under this sinister, muscle-flexing Hindutva onslaught.
What also changed was the manner in which the minorities were expected to conduct themselves in a Hindu-majority India. Their growing devaluation and hounding was accentuated by the progressive irrelevance of so-called homogenous Muslim vote-banks, engendered by communal mobilisation of Hindus. Intelligence agencies, sections of the bureaucracy, police and armed forces, and their perception of threat, were influenced by such happenings. Return of the Congress in 2004 may have reversed the fast-forward rewind towards a fundamentalist 'Hindu rashtra' syndrome, but the cutting edge has been always missing in what is professed as secular politics. Instead, the subliminal and overt, majoritarian rules of engagement established by the Sangh Parivar, have not really changed. This is reflected even when India gallops at 9 per cent growth rate and its elite aspires for super power post-modernity.
So after 18 years of the Babri Masjid demolition and eight years after the most vicious carnage India has witnessed, the Ayodhya verdict arrived. It was politically correct, even if it offended those zealous about the purity of the judicial process. Drawing from earlier pronouncements and judicial orders, the bench turned faith, mythology, populist belief systems into juridical entities and established the place where the idols were planted in 1949 as the spot of Lord Rama's birth. The judgement gave precedence to blind faith over any documented archaeological or historical evidence in trying to establish an idol as a juridical entity.
So even if the verdict does not square with much of the evidence or with organised acts of criminal vandalism, including the demolition, it has been celebrated by those who believe that the judgement promises a new beginning as it grants 1/3 land to the Muslims, too, in the disputed area. Public perception, disenchantment or acceptance of the issue is still shrouded in a cloud of mystery. As the cover story in Hardnews reveals, even Muslim public opinion is divided on whether they should give much play to their claim on the disputed land. That is why, the shrill demand within our shallow media discourse to "move on" might turn out to be nothing but yet another troubled journey from one twilight zone to another. So will it be bad faith to bad faith, forever? Or will the nation's rationality unleash a new hope?