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October 14, 2010

What better place than the grave of a mosque could a 'secular democracy' find to bury justice?

[Published as an essay in 'Making Sense of Ayodhya Verdict:Towards Efforts for Peaceful Solution' edited by Asghar Ali Engineer & Ram Puniyani. First Published By the Asian Human Rights Commission. Republished in the Milli Gazette and the Counter Currents.]

Numbness was the first response to the verdict on Ayodhya dispute. Everything and everyone went numb. And then, an eerie silence settled in the room where we were anxiously watching the live streaming of Indian news channels, 5000 miles away from India. We were 6, four Sri Lankans and 2 Indians.

It is like one of many judgments by Sarath N. Silva, said Basil Fernando, a reputed Sri Lankan crusader for human rights and rule of law. He was referring to many controversial and unjust decisions delivered by Silva as Chief Justice of Sri Lanka. Listening to the sadness pervading his voice, I remembered his recent article where he has referred to another recent decision of Sri Lankan Supreme Court as 'death of democracy'.

Numbness slowly gave way to an animated debate on the merits (rather, lack of them) of the decision. I was, however, far away from that debate and my thoughts were taken over by this haunting idea of ‘death of democracy’. Is this the beginning of the end? Is it the death of democracy? Or is it that of justice?

Thinking of death dragged me to another creepy domain of burial. Can we bury anything anywhere was the question that preoccupied me now. No, a definitive no, was the answer then that presented itself to me. All societies look for the most sacred placed for burial grounds as a matter of fact. After all, one does not belong to a land if s/he does not have someone buried under the ground, said Márquez in One Hundred Years of Solitude. Death gives one memories, the basic prerequisite for the sense of belonging. For this reason, burial grounds have not only been sacrosanct but most sacrosanct of the lands.

But then, what if the death is of Justice itself? Which cemeteries would be sacred enough to bury justice? None of the regular ones, I am sure. The country would need a new one for that.

The verdict of Allahabad High Court has not let us down in that. After all, what better place than the grave of a martyred mosque could the judiciary of a secular democracy have found to bury justice?

The verdict has ensured the completion of the saffron project, a project which saffron terrorists have miserably failed to achieve for last 18 years. All they could achieve then was demolishing an old building and nothing more. Everything else, from the cultural harmony called as 'gangajamani tahjeeb’'to justice, remained intact. Not that, they did not try. They tried their best. They converted matadors into some strange things and called them chariots. They got many people making bricks and called these bricks 'ramshilas'. Then they took these chariots and bricks on a tour of India leaving a trail of blood behind.

Nothing of this was strange though. What else can one expect from those who sow ‘branches’ instead of ‘trees’ as one Hindi writer has put it long ago?

They also tried to convert men, ordinary men, into Hindus and somewhat succeeded as well. They could fulfil one of their dreams of occupying power in Delhi.

Even while shedding crocodile tears about abdication of the duties of a king(rajdharm) by their chief minister in Gujarat, they were supervising butchering of 2000 Muslims, some still in wombs, literally. They were convinced that they were unstoppable. In their delusions they were assuring each other of the imminent takeover of Delhi on their own, without the crutches and constraints of a coalition.

They could see their ‘Hindu rashtra’ taking shape in the delusional magic mirrors they carried in secret. They could hardly conceal their smiles, proverbial smiles of the murderers.

Then came the elections. They found their dreams shattered, and their hopes smashed by the country barring Gujarat. The people of the country held the horses running for building a Hindu nation by their reins, stopping the chariots in the middle of its track. Their bricks left stacked in one obscure corner of Ayodhya, unused. They brought both the horses and the riders down and reaffirmed that we are a living nation with firm belief in our core values.

Justice and peace, both, have survived the frontal onslaught. The electoral demise of saffron fanatics has reassured the people that the courts would stand by the high ideals of justice. That whenever a verdict would come, it would be just and honest. The saffron terrorists have feared this predicament too. So, one used to have one or the other of their folks threatening the nation every other day. They used to shout at the height of their lungs that they would not listen to any courts on this issue of 'faith'.

How could they know that the court was going to complete their unfinished agenda? How could they see the Hindu heart tucked safely behind their black courts? How could they know that the judges would be able to determine the birth place of lord Ram with the precision of square feet? They could not even suspect that the judges would be able to create a juridical person out of someone who is not even a 'historical person'. They never knew that all their fears were unfounded and that the judiciary would be complicit with them. Even in the wildest of their dreams they could not have imagined that the verdict would prove to be a classic case of infusing myths with new and distorted meanings.

Intriguingly enough 'evidence' used by the judges to reach the conclusion was far more interesting than the actual decree. In basing their judgment on the ‘faith and belief’ of millions of Hindus, the judiciary has trumped even the most ardent of Hindu fanatics. What the judges did not tell, however, was the question that how they came to know of this ‘faith and belief’ with this conclusive conviction? Who are these Hindus? Where do they live? Did they send post cards to the judges telling them about their faith and belief? Or, did the courts organise some sort of referendum or even opinion poll? We did not get to know any of them. Though we kept seeing the Bhartiya Janata party, and its saffron agenda, getting rejected by millions of Hindus elections after elections.

The only possible inference that could be drawn from these elections was exact opposite of what the judges did. The election results symbolised the rejection of the sectarian agenda of the party and its tall claims of being representative of the Hindus. They proved that the saffron brigade raked this issue time and again for votes and nothing else and failed tremendously in that.

Has the court invented some different Hindus? In the Brechtian lingua franca, he spells out beautifully in one of his poems “The people have lost the confidence of the government; the government has decided to dissolve the people and to appoint another one”. Did the court really find some new Hindus whom none else could have found till now?

And if the judges were to follow Hindu beliefs only, how could they decide to pick and choose just this one? There are many other beliefs shared by millions of Hindus, like the one amply demonstrated by the kangaroo courts of Haryana called 'khap panchayats'. The belief that marrying out of one's own caste is a 'criminal' act and deserves no punishment less than a brutal barbaric killing! Maybe the court should withdraw all the cases against those who killed couples while upholding this 'belief' and faith of Hindus. It should even institute some award like ‘pride of the Hindus’ and confer it upon those killers.

The court should also legitimise caste based discrimination as it emanates out of one of the oldest 'beliefs' of Hindus and is sanctioned by Hindu scriptures. After all, the Hindus believing in caste should definitely outnumber those believing in Ram temple and so this action would serve the cause of the Allahabad High Court model of justice more than anything else. The court should also direct the government of India to scrap all anti-caste provisions of the Indian constitution and make not believing in caste a ‘criminal offence’.

The court should direct the saffron brigade to start demolishing rest of the places of worship belonging to the minority religions (not that they need any such directive! They have already burnt/demolished many of the churches in Odisha and Gujarat). This would help the courts being able to give at least a third of all these lands to Hindus. After all, it’s a question of belief of millions of Hindus, nothing less. The court could very well begin with Kashi and Mathura, the remaining two on the main agenda of the RSS, BJP and their hydra- headed monsters.

The court can also direct the Government of India to initiate the process of declaring India as a Hindu state, even if there is no sizable section of Hindus in India demanding this. But then, there was no sizable voice of Hindus believing in Ram janmbhhomi either! And maybe, the world needs a ‘Hindu Rashtra' especially after the demise of Nepal as one!

Meanwhile, all of us who are not Hindus or Muslims, but citizens first, should start the process of giving a tearful burial to the idea of justice. Justice and democracy was the most defining characteristics of our nation. All our claims of being the biggest democracy of the world, and being the only one in the region not to collapse in military dictatorships were based on that premise. The proud claims of being a 5000 year old civilisation rested on that very idea as well. Sad that the justice is no more, but then what better place than the grave of a mosque we could have got to bury it in this secular democracy? The grave of a mosque demolished by criminals in saffron on top of that!

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