All Sections of the People Must Participate
This article first appeared in the Bulletin of the Communist Ghadar Party of India dated 1 November 1992, more than a month before the demolition of the Babri Masjid.
Will the talks between the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the All-India Babri Masjid Action Committee (AIBMAC) convened under the aegis of the Central Government lead to a negotiated solution of the Ayodhya dispute? Two rounds of talks have already taken place and October 23 was set as the ''final date" for submitting documents relating to the respective claims of the VHP and AIBMAC. By October 29, both sides are expected to submit their replies to the government Meanwhile, the Central Government will make available to both parties, the records, documents and antiquities relating to the excavations carried out in Ayodhya about two decades ago.
The Prime Minister, while reserving all comments about what the nature of the proposed solution would be, has indicated that by November 26, the Central government will complete its task of consolidating the litigations pending in various courts. He has stated however that the case will not be referred to a special bench of the Supreme Court until both parties give an undertaking that they will abide by the Court verdict.
The path of revenge seeking
The principles that guide the Central Government’s strategy will not lead to a just and lasting solution. This is so because the Ayodhya issue, as it stands today, is no more a religious problem or a juridical problem. It is a problem with which the future of our people, irrespective of their religious or other denomination, is linked. It is a problem that affects Hindus and Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists, believers and non-believers alike. Its impact is being felt all over the country in the communalisation of politics and the hardening of positions, as well as in the increasing danger of widespread bloodshed all over the country.
Can the dispute over Ayodhya be solved by verifying historical/ archaeological facts? Were it a dispute between archaeologists or historians, it might well have been possible to do so. But the dispute has gone far beyond this. Even if it could be proved that a temple existed or that the site was the birthplace of Ram (or vice versa), is this a justification for comnunalising the life of the country? Should Muslims today be made to pay if it could be proved that Babar's commander did indeed destroy a temple at Ayodhya? Will the destruction of the mosque help the people? This is the path of revenge seeking and it will open the way for mass slaughters and bloodshed. If history is re-examined in this manner, not only Muslims, but many other communities will become the target of hatred and violence. What then is the purpose behind unearthing historical and archaeological evidence?
The issue is therefore far more explosive and complex than the mere construction of a temple. Even the Supreme Court judge, at the last hearing of the case, remarked that it is a social and political question, and not a mere technical point of dispute. On some occasions, various government Ministers have also expressed this view. Why doesn't the Central government deal with the real issues and the actual concerns of the people? The people at large are concerned about the communalisation of life, the whipping up of hatred, and the atmosphere of fear and insecurity that is being built up. By resorting to the use of historical and archaeological evidence, the Central government is actually fostering this climate of tension. It is giving legitimacy to the path of revenge seeking.
The BJP is advocating a particularly dangerous course. It is participating in the 'archaeological investigations', and at the same time its leaders are asserting that the issue of the existence of a temple at the site, as well as the issue of whether it is the birth place of Shri Ram, is a matter of faith. BJP leader and leader of the Opposition in the Parliament, L.K. Advani, has repeatedly declared that the temple must be constructed on precisely the site where the mosque stands today. The BJP has also raised the issue that the problem is not merely one of Ayodhya but that the Ayodhya problem is part of the bigger problem of restoring the lost glory of Hindus. The BJP blames the Muslims for the problems of India. This course that the BJP is advocating, of making the 'minorities’ responsible for all the problems of India, spells only disaster for the People. Far from restoring "the glory of India” and "the Pride of the Hindus”, this Policy will take India back into the era of medievalism, and barbarism, lead to brother slaughtering brother, and turn our people into the slaves of reactionary forces. The followers of BJP must ponder deeply over the question as to who will benefit from following the course of revenge-seeking.
Legalism and Violence by the State
A second course of action is also being advocated: that of seeking a Supreme Court judgement, which will be binding on both parties. It is suggested that the Supreme Court verdict should be enforced, with all the authority of the state, including the use of violence against those who challenge it and the use of Central security forces in case the state government refuses to comply with the Court's orders.
The construction of a temple at Ayodhya is not a 'law and order' problem, as anybody familiar with its origins will readily agree. It is not an issue of establishing the rights of owner- ship over a piece of property, which a court of law can settle. Had it been so, it would never have assumed the kind of national, political significance that it has at the moment.
Those who are advocating a court solution and going so far as to justify violence are falling into the trap of narrow legalism. Violence by the state, even if it is supported by a so-called court verdict, will not end communal strife; it will worsen it, paving the way for fresh slaughters. Such a course will bring grist to the mill of the most rabid communal forces. The advocates of this position are missing the wood for the trees. In the eyes of large sections or the people, the state institutions, including the courts, have been stripped of their sanctity and they are no longer seen as impartial dispensers of justice. In the past, court decisions have been used to serve narrow partisan ends and to inflame communal passions, by insulting the religious sentiments of various communities. In 1986, for example, the Faizabad court ordered the building open to worship for Hindus, after a period of over 40 years, when it was not being used as a place of worship by either community. It is widely believed that Rajiv Gandhi was personally responsible for influencing the court decision, since it served the narrow electoral and other interests of the Congress party. Again in November 1990, V.P.Singh and Mulayam Singh Yadav used the High Court decision ordering a stay on the further construction activity, to justify shooting down kar sewaks and others, which further aggravated the problems. Is there any reason to believe that the Supreme Court will not be misused as it has been in the past to further inflame the situation? Those who are interested in a peaceful and just solution should not fall into the trap of legalism or constitutionalism. They should suggest ways and means to enable the people to have a decisive say in the matter, so that a peaceful and lasting solution can be found.
By narrowing the discussion to technical issues, the Central government is foreclosing the possibility of finding a lasting solution. It is trying to pull wool over the people's eyes by making a show of being interested in a solution, while it holds all the cards for inflaming the situation at a future date. This has been the experience of the past and the people must learn from the past.
Against the Marginalisation of the People
What is happening today is the complete marginalisation of the people on an important social and political question. The Central government has tacitly accepted that only the VHP and AIBMAC represent the Hindus and Muslims, respectively. On what basis does it do this? The majority of people do not owe allegiance to either of these bodies. Why should these organisations negotiate on behalf of the people? This has happened on other matters too and this is why the problems continue to fester and various sections of the people remain dissatisfied. This is not an innocent maneuver. Its purpose is to reduce the people to the status of mere onlookers, waiting for deliverance, while those in power prepare new tragedies.
The people and their organisations should step into the centre of the debate. They should raise the relevant issues that are of concern to the people, and prevent the debate from being diverted into dead-ends. How is a peaceful, just and lasting solution to be found to the Ayodhya dispute? The debate should be carried further to other relevant questions as well: What should be done to put an end to communal violence? What should be the responsibility of the state? The stands of all the political parties irrespective of whether they call themselves secular, religious or fundamentalist should be debated.
It is necessary that all sections of the people and their organisations participate in the debate and forward their solutions. When the matter is one of social relations and relationship between the people and state, everybody should have their say. Not only the political parties, the VHP and AIBMAC, but the unions, women's organisations, youth groups, environmental groups, social and cultural associations, intellectuals and others to come together to evolve a common stand, which will defend the well-being and interests of the people. The people must exercise their will and not allow the political parties and the state to usurp this right.