India’s majority gets the site. Some 70 people have been arrested for posting hate messages online. Protestant bishop wants action “for peace”. Secular activist, it is depressing for those “who believe in secular values”. Muslim leader laments the victory of religion over the law.
New Delhi (AsiaNews) – Two days ago, India’s Supreme Court ruled in favour of Hindus over the sacred site of Ayodhya. For Nadeem Khan, a Muslim leader of United Against Hate (UAH), a progressive group, the decision is unfair but must be respected.
The verdict ends a dispute that has inflamed the passion of religious communities for several decades. For Bishop Joseph D’Souza of the Good Shepherd Church of India and president of the All India Christian Council, “It is time for Indians to accept the Supreme Court’s decision, however they may feel about it.” Everyone must “find the strength to work for peace and communal harmony”.
Unanimously, the Court ruled that the Hindu community owns the land on which stood the Babri mosque before it was destroyed in 1992 by Hindu radicals who claim that it is the birthplace of the god Ram. However, India’s minorities and secular Hindus are against the decision.
The verdict includes a provision whereby Muslims will get a five-acre site on which to rebuild their mosque. The Ayodhya site itself instead is turned over to a trust to be set up the government.
Expected protests or violent reactions from Indian Muslims did not materialise, perhaps because Muslim leaders have called for calm. Nevertheless, the authorities arrested 77 people in the State of Uttar Pradesh for posting sectarian messages on social media that might spark communal violence.
Ram Puniyani, president of the Centre for Study of Society and Secularism in Mumbai, questions the sentence. It is based on the claim that “Muslims have not been able to present the evidence that they were in exclusive possession of the inner court yard”.
The problem is that it sends “the signal as to how in India faith is becoming the basis of judgments” and it marks “a very depressing moment for those who believe in secular values and those who want to defend minority rights.”
The pro-secularism activist notes that Hindus have claimed that the Ayodhya site since 1856 saying that it is Ram’s birthplace. The demolished mosque was built in 1528, yet the Islamic community failed to prove ownership of the land. Now Puniyani hopes that “other mosques which have been on the demolition list of the RSS[*] will not be taken up for such a treatment.”
With “children dying in hospitals for lack of oxygen, youth not getting suitable employment and farmers’ worsening plight,” the “country can’t afford such agenda”. Instead, he adds, people must “focus on the issues of the present and not create issues which retard the social progress and divide the society.”
For Nadeem Khan, the sentence “is unfair.” It marks the victory of religion over the law. In 1949 Hindu extremists placed idols of the god Ram in the mosque. Then in 1992 they destroyed the mosque. Despite this, “we shall respect the rule of law.”
Finally, Bishop D’Souza urges “Those who are aggrieved with the decision [. . .] to find the strength to work for peace and communal harmony, while those who feel they have won must also find the humility to accept this judgement with the kind of attitude that respects the Muslim community and their rights in a democratic India.” (A.C.F.)
[*] Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, a Hindu paramilitary group.