Justice Markandey Katju-
I submit that the recent Ayodhya verdict of the Supreme Court will go down in the annals of Indian legal history in the same category as its decision in ADM Jabalpur vs Shivakant Shukla, 1975, the only difference being that unlike the latter, in this one there is not a single courageous dissent.
In substance it has said that might is right, and has laid down a dangerous precedent sanctifying aggression. It is like a bully snatching a kid’s sandwich in school, and the teacher giving a ‘balanced judgment’ by allowing the bully to keep the sandwich, and giving the kid a slice of bread instead.
One need not go into the correctness or otherwise of the Court’s finding that the Babri Masjid was built by one of Babur’s generals after destroying a Hindu temple on the site. It is true that many Hindu temples were destroyed by Muslim invaders, and mosques built on their sites, sometimes even using the material of the temple e.g. the Quwwat ul Islam mosque near Qutub Minar, Delhi whose pillars have Hindu carvings, or the Gyanvapi Masjid in Varanasi whose rear wall has Hindu carvings, or the Atala Devi Masjid in Jaunpur. But the point is this: is India to move forward, or backward?
It would be a different matter if a Hindu temple is broken today and converted into a mosque. But where this was done allegedly 500 years ago does it carry any sense to go about restoring the structure to its Hindu original ? This revanchism will be stupid, and can only polarise society, serving the political agenda of some people who wish to keep the communal fire burning for getting votes.
And it is stupid to think that the Ayodhya verdict will bring about communal peace. Appeasement to a bully, like the Munich pact of 1938, only whets the appetite of an aggressor. Cries of ” Abhi to yeh jhaanki hai, Kashi Mathura baaqi hai ” were heard soon after demolition of Babri Masjid on 6th December 1992, and are bound to be repeated soon. Sakshi Maharaj, the BJP MP has said that Jama Masjid, Delhi was built on a Hindu temple, which should be restored. Similar claim has been made about the Taj Mahal. Where will all this end?
To say that Ram was born at a particular spot is ridiculous. Even if he was a historical, not mythical, figure, how can anyone say where a person was born thousands of years ago?
India is passing through a terrible economic crisis, with GDP at a record low, manufacturing and business in steep decline, unemployment at a record height ( even according to the Government’s own National Sample Survey ), appalling level of child malnourishment ( every second Indian child is malnourished according to Global Hunger Index ), 50% of our women anemic, farmers suicides continuing unabated, healthcare and good education for the masses in a pitiable state, etc.
Evidently our leaders have no clue how to solve these huge problems, so to divert attention from them they must resort to gimmicks like Yoga Day, cow protection, Swatchata Abhiyan, abrogation of Article 370 etc, and building Ram Mandir is in the same category.
After Partition of 1947, demolition of Babri Masjid by vandals, with the connivance of some people, was the greatest tragedy of India. The Ayodhya verdict says it was illegal, but in the same breath sanctifies it. Well done, My Lords!
[Justice Markandey Katju is former Judge, Supreme Court of India, and former Chairman, Press Council of India. The views expressed are his own.]