India awaits verdict on Babri Mosque with bated breath


As India awaits the Supreme Court verdict on whether the site of the historic 16th century Babri Mosque belongs to Hindus or Muslims, the government is reaching out with bated breath to both Hindu and Muslim leaders to calm tempers and avoid any major fallout, in case of an adverse ruling.

The verdict is expected before the current Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi retires on Nov. 17.

Recent days have seen a flurry of activity in New Delhi, with high government officials meeting leaders of both communities, prevailing upon them to use their influence to maintain calm and prevent the recurrence of communal riots that could tarnish India’s international image and damage its economy.

On Tuesday, India’s Minister for Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi held a meeting with prominent community leaders urging them to maintain peace. The meeting was attended by Hindu nationalist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) leaders Krishna Gopal and Ramlal, former minister Shahnawaz Hussain, Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind General Secretary Mahmood Madani, former lawmaker Shahid Siddiqui, All India Muslim Personal Law Board Member Kamal Farooqui, Filmmaker Muzaffar Ali and others.

On Dec 6, 1992, when a large group of Hindu activists demolished the mosque located in the northern Indian city of Ayodhya, it triggered communal riots all over India, killing around 2,000 people, many of them Muslims. India’s commercial capital Mumbai was severely hit in the riots, leaving 700 people dead.

The issue of Babri Mosque — widely known as Babri Masjid — perhaps the world’s oldest civil dispute had first reached a district court in 1853 when Hindus claimed that Lord Rama — pantheon of Hindu mythology — was born at the site, some millions of years ago. The plea was rejected by the British district judge.

The issue again reached the court in 1949. This time by Muslims pleading the removal of an Idol of Lord Rama, which was placed inside at the sanctum sanctorum of the mosque by a group of Hindus, who scaled the wall in the dead of night. The issue has devoured hundreds of thousands of lives in communal riots, over past one-and-half century.

Anticipating riots, heads of prominent Muslim organizations and religious leaders have also asked people to maintain calm. After a closed-door meeting convened by Navaid Hamid, president of All India Muslim Majlis e Mushawarat, in New Delhi last Saturday, leaders concluded that the court verdict should be respected in any case.

Verdict to have far-reaching impact

Hamid expressed confidence that the lawyers representing Muslim parties have argued the case with evidence. “Law is on our side. So, there is no reason to doubt about the outcome,” he said. He further said that the judgment would be a milestone in the judicial history, having far-reaching impact on the destiny of India.

In the western state of Rajasthan, Hindu and Muslim religious leaders are holding an interfaith peace march on Nov. 9 to convey a message of peace, ahead of the verdict. “The peace march is intended to acknowledge the brotherhood and to give a stern warning to forces that we stand united in every circumstance,” said an organizer of the march, Salim Engineer, who is also vice president of Jamaat-e-Islami Hind.

Meanwhile, the government has convinced Hindu groups not to organize victory marches in case of court rules in their favor. A prominent English language daily The Hindu reported that the RSS has issued directives to its cadres to help in maintaining restraint. Quoting a senior functionary of the RSS, the newspaper reported that the construction of a grand Ram temple at the site of demolished Babri Masjid would begin in early 2020.

“The Sangh never celebrates victories. Have you seen us celebrating after [abrogation of] Article 370 [revocation of special status to Jammu and Kashmir]? We do not assess anything as a victory or defeat and this will be a court verdict [so] there is no question of victory or a defeat […] it can be interpreted as the victory of justice,” the RSS official said.

The ultra-Hindu nationalist Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), which was at the forefront of the movement of Ram temple has canceled its 10-day training camp, which was scheduled from Nov. 4 to 14 in the city of Ayodhya. It has also canceled its annual conference of volunteers originally scheduled from Nov. 15 to 17 in Lucknow.

The RSS leaders, who held a marathon meeting with Muslim leaders of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) last Friday night decided to keep them (Muslim leaders of BJP) at the forefront. They have been asked to fan all around the country and assuage their community, in case the verdict comes in favor of Hindus.

In northern Uttar Pradesh state, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath told his ministers to refrain from giving any “unnecessary” or “controversial” statement and rather maintain peace.
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