India’s Supreme Court says Hindu Ram temple can be built on contested site of 16th-century mosque
any punishment for the leaders of the demolition. That decision will be made as part of a criminal case still pending in a lower court.
Ever since the destruction of the mosque, the building of a Ram temple on the site has been a fixture in every BJP election manifesto. Leaders invoked it often in campaign rallies.
A slogan was born: “Mandir wahin banega” or “The temple will be built only there”. The issue of the temple lay at the core of a culture of polarising, antiminority politics that the BJP used to rise to power.
The opposition Congress party, under whose watch the mosque was demolished in 1992, has frequently proposed a negotiated settlement between the two communities. Yesterday,
though, it indicated it supported the court verdict.
“This judgment not only opened the doors for the temple’s construction but also closed the doors for BJP and others to politicise the issue,” spokesman Randeep Surjewala said.
Peer Mohamed, a political analyst who runs the political website Ippodhu, said resolution of the issue would remove a crucial electoral plank of the BJP. “But their political rhetoric will get strengthened,” he said. Other issues on the BJP’s agenda rely upon drawing lines between the Hindu majority and minorities.
In Assam, a national register of citizens intended to exclude illegal Bangladeshi immigrants left tens of thousands of Muslims off the list.
Similarly, in Muslim-majority Kashmir, civil liberties have been restricted since the special constitutional status of the state of Jammu and Kashmir was suspended in August.
Commentators expressed concern over the precedent set by the Supreme Court ruling. That it was delivered “at a time when the party in power today is one which openly asserts its partisanship on Ayodhya should be reason enough to worry us about happens next to the republic”, wrote Siddharth
Varadarajan, the editor of The
Wire, a news website. Asaduddin Owaisi, a parliamentarian and the head of the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen, said “faith has won out over the facts”.
He described the offer of two hectares of land elsewhere in Ayodhya as demeaning, saying: “Don’t patronise us.”
Mr Mohamed worried the verdict showed the judiciary yielding to the BJP’s majoritarian instincts. It broke the notion that all Indians were equal in the eyes of the law, he said.
“At the same time, I hope this will make people step up and defend these principles of equality – step up not as members of one religion or another, but as ordinary people, as a public,” he said. “We have to see if that will happen. This is a tipping point for Indian democracy.”
Since the mosque was destroyed, the building of a temple on the site has been a fixture in every BJP election manifesto