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Time to move on from mandir-masjid saga

October 08, 2020 19:30 IST

Applying balm on the wounds of the two religious groups is a better course of action for the rulers.
Common sense dictates the verdict be accepted in good grace by all sides, suggests Virendra Kapoor.

IMAGE: Senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader Lal Kishenchand Advani, one of the accused in the Babri Masjid demolition case, along with his daughter Pratibha Advani after being acquitted by the special CBI court, September 30, 2020. Photograph: ANI Photo

Last week's judgment in the Babri Masjid demolition case acquitting all 32 accused is unlikely to mark the end of the mandir-masjid row.

Ideally, it should.

The Supreme Court last November allowed the construction of the Ram temple at the hitherto disputed site.

A 5-acre plot of land some distance away from the proposed temple was allotted for a mosque.

Vested interests, however, seem determined to keep the pot simmering.

Keeping the highly emotive issue alive, rather than doing the sensible thing and letting peace prevail, advances a few partisan agendas.

This was apparent from the reactions to the court order.

Mainstream parties were circumspect, considering the religious sensitivities of the majority community.

The Communists, expectedly, were sharply critical.

As for Asasuddin Owaisi and other Muslim voices, expectedly, tore into the judgment.

Taking a cue from a memorable newspaper headline following Manu Sharma's acquittal in the Jessica Lal murder case, Muslim leaders mocked the Special CBI court order, intoning loudly, 'Nobody demolished Babri Masjid.'

But what critics of CBI Special Judge S P Yadav fail to appreciate -- or, actually, do not want to appreciate -- is that when you gather a crowd of a couple of lakh frenzied people next to the object of their passionate hate, you always risk a handful of miscreants running amok.

Mobs tend to go crazy, out of control of leaders and perpetrate violence and arson.

Numerous communal riots since Partition bear out the above fact.

It is always hard to pin blame on one person or a small group of persons when breaking free from a procession a mob indulges in rioting.

Countless reports of judicial commissions into communal conflagrations have failed to pin blame on specific individuals.

In the case of the Babri demolition, the surprise is not that it was demolished the last time a huge crowd was collected in Ayodhya on December 6, 1992.

No, the real surprise is that it had survived earlier such huge gatherings of kar sevaks at the same site.

Those who gave permission to L K Advani, the spearhead of the Ram temple movement, to hold a rally on the fateful day committed the original wrong.

They cannot escape blame.

The Narasimha Rao government took a calculated risk in putting its faith in the assurances given by the organisers.

But Rao did not reckon that even the wonted discipline of the RSS-BJP cadres could come up short when a small group of miscreants hell-bent on pulling down the disputed five-century-old structure goes berserk.

In any case, those criticising the acquittals of Advani, Dr Murli Manohar Joshi, Kalyan Singh, Uma Bharti etc, lead players in the mandir campaign, have some explaining to do of their own.

Why was the criminal conspiracy case allowed to meander through various courts for nearly three decades?

Even while making allowance for the endemic delays in our judicial system, the non-BJP governments at the Centre and in UP since the 1992 demolition were guilty of not prioritising hearing in the case.

Why did the CPI-M's Sitaram Yechury, who now mocks the order acquitting Advani and company, fail to coax the Third Front and, later,rthe UPA-I governments, which relied on his party's support for survival, into expediting the hearing by a special court?

If the argument is that the CBI is the handmaiden of the current regime, it was led by its nose by the Third Front and UPA bosses as well -- remember the Supreme Court had called the premier investigating agency as 'a caged parrot' when the UPA was in the saddle.

Yechury, Owaisi and other critics of the acquittals are merely addressing their respective constituencies.

Otherwise, it should be a matter of relief that at long last after the case had lingered for over 28 years in various courts the trial has ended in a verdict.

It is for the CBI to challenge the acquittals.

But it would be highly inadvisable to do so.

Anyway, it is not likely under the current dispensations at the Centre and in UP.

It is time to move on.

Applying balm on the wounds of the two religious groups is a better course of action for the rulers than to keep the painful mandir-masjid saga alive as a costly distraction.

In any case, after the acceptance of the Supreme Court verdict by the rival litigants, it is pointless to keep on pursuing the demolition case any further.

No good can come out of an appeal against acquittals.

Even otherwise, Advani will be 92 on November 8, Dr Joshi is 88, Kalyan Singh a couple of years younger, but given the case took 28 years for it to conclude in a lower court, the appeal process taken to its logical conclusion right up to the apex court would need several more decades.

Common sense dictates the verdict be accepted in good grace by all sides.

However, note of caution needs to be struck here.

After the cataclysmic demolition on December 6, 1992, a shell-shocked Parliament had unanimously adopted a resolution freezing the status of all religious places other than the one in Ayodhya as it was on August 15, 1947.

Sadly, nascent moves to rake up the dispute regarding the Gyanvapi mosque in Varanasi and the Shahi Idgah in Mathura are already noticeable.

Recent petitions filed by complete unknowns in local courts were promptly dismissed by civil judges.

However, it may not be as innocent as it appears.

It is a small but nonetheless significant signal that once the Ram temple is ready for darshan to millions of Ram bhakts, the campaign for 'liberating' two other similar sites, which reminds devout Hindus of humiliation at the hands of Muslim invaders, will need to be reorganised.

A time bomb may already be ticking in Kashi and Mathura.

Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/