Saturday, June 23, 2007

Babri Masjid India 03-08-24

The nature of compromise in the Babari Masjid Dispute, India

Mirza A. Beg

Written, August 24, 2003

Indian Express, Sept 17th 2003

Muslim Observer Sept 13th 2003

Recently there have been articles suggesting compromise and magnanimity by the Muslims to reach an agreement on the issue of the Babari Masjid dispute in India.

I think it is a laudable Idea. I am all for compromise, even if one has to give more than one gets; if it will bring peace and better future for all. Three very important questions need to be addressed to attain this worthy aim:

1. Sanctity of religious beliefs.

2. Compromise with whom? Who are the parties to this dispute?

3. Will the compromise hold? Who will guarantee that it will not be violated?

1. Sanctity of religious beliefs.

Religious beliefs are unassailable in the personal realm. Hindus are free to believe that there is one supreme all encompassing reality (God, Ukhand Bramha), or there were many incarnations and there are 186,000 gods and goddesses. Jews may believe that they are the God's chosen people, Christians may believe that Jesus was the Son of God. And the Muslims may believe that Prophet Muhammad traveled to the heavens on a white horse. To others they may sound incredulous, but personal belief is sacrosanct in a free society. Governments should keep out of it.

The problem arises when one claims some one else's property in the name of one's religion. It becomes a temporal, legal dispute. Then the only solution is a legal solution. An honest mediation is even better.

It is not to say that Muslims have not at times suppressed Hindus and Hindus have not been cruel to Untouchables (Dalit). Past oppressions of a bygone era, the detritus of history should not be allowed to destroy the present. Through the history, conquerors and societies have used power to subdue others. "Might is right", is the old outmoded norm, rejected by those claiming to be civilized. The most important reason for the establishment of the UN was to propagate justice and amity based on human rights and the rule of law. In the 20th and now 21st century, a consensus has emerged that there will be freedom of belief, and countries will be structured under a constitution to accord justice and amity to all its citizens. India, under its constitution is a part of it, and claims with pride to be a part of it.

Ayodhya is traditionally known to be the birthplace of Lord Ram, the Incarnation of Lord Vishnu the sustainer (Part of the trinity). That Lord Ram was born exactly at the site of the Babari Masjid was an innovation to create discord. The Masjid was destroyed by the VHP in violation of the law. Now, even the archaeological evidence does not support the VHP claims, and at best is dubious.

The Sangh Family of Hindu supremacist parties have the upper murderous hand, as evidenced by the demolition of the Masjid, as well as the Government engineered riots in the last few years. If Muslims were politically and effectively in a stronger position, their giving away the Babari Masjid property, as a goodwill gesture will be termed magnanimity. If they give-in from the present horribly weak position, it will be termed and perceived as capitulation. One can not be magnanimous from an utterly weak position.

Be that as it may. Still if one can reach a negotiated compromise to achieve a sustainable peace, in the interest of humanity and decency, I will recommend a compromise or even making a present of the Babari Masjid site to our Hindu brethren if that was the root of the Hindu Muslim divide.

2. Compromise with whom? Who are the parties to this dispute?

The question is whom should the Muslims negotiate with? No individual can guaranty that the agreement will be honored, even Shankaracharya was maligned by the VHP for his efforts and he had to back pedal. The Sangh Family of politico-religious organizations has exhibited venomous vitriol. It insults and creates an ugly caricature of the higher Hindu tradition, in order to garner votes by misleading the polity.

It is not a religious dispute but a political agenda, at least since Mr. Advani's Chariot march (Rath Yatra) in 1990. For the sake of discussion let us say the RSS and VHP agree to the settlement, in a few years Shiv Sena or Bajrang Dal may renege on it saying that they were not a party and their claims are steeped in the depths of the religion. The party that negotiated peace will atrophy and a new behemoth could take its place. A similar situation could arise on the Muslim side as well and the dispute could be renewed in future.

The present government, or any other government can not be relied upon either. It is the government complacency and later complicity that has brought the contrived dispute to such horrible level. A new government can and does renege as we have seen time and again. The only party that is accountable as well as temporally lasting is the people of India as a whole, represented by the constitution of the Indian republic. In effect the constitution should expressly guaranty that such disputes will not be allowed in future.

3. Will the compromise hold? Who will guarantee that it will not be violated?

One could argue that though the constitution of India provides the guaranty of life and property but the Indian Government, especially in the last few years has given it short shrift. Unfortunately it is true. Yet it is the strength of the constitution that has allowed the dispute to go on in the courts. Otherwise Sangh-brotherhood would have already built a temple there, as well as other places simply by brute force.

Therefore the only decent, logical, sustainable and possibly best course (there is no perfection in life) is to start a serious discussion with the secular parties to propose a constitutional amendment. The amendment in effect would say that, "No public or religious structure can be contested that was not in dispute before August 15th 1947, the day of birth of modern Indian Republic. This will allow Muslims to donate the site of the Babari Masjid, as the dispute pre-dates 1947, and constitutionally, thus legally, it will outlaw other spurious, mischievous claims by the Sangh brotherhood. The amendment could be crafted on the lines of the Article 49th of the Indian constitution:

'Article 49 Protection of monuments and places and objects of national importanceIt shall be the obligation of the State to protect every monument or place or object of artistic or historic interest, declared by or under law made by Parliament to be of national importance, from spoliation, disfigurement, destruction, removal, disposal or export, as the case may be.'

Should such an effort be made?

This is not easy and will not be attainable if a serious thought is not given to this idea and an effort not made. An agreement with the Sangh Family should not be trusted, as they have shown time and again that if this gambit succeeds, as it seems to have, they have more then 2000 other places (political capital) to demolish.

The downward spiral into the abyss of hatred, driven by the immoral political parties that drag religions into the muck of their putrid desires, will continue. There have been 86 amendments to the Indian constitution in the last 56 years. The mechanics are difficult; thus the will needs to be fortified.

The larger share of credit for India continuing to be a democratic republic goes to secular enlightened Hindus. All other communities have helped as well. There still is a reservoir of intelligentsia that is appalled by the events in the last fifteen years, as is evident by the editorials and many opinion pieces in almost all national dailies and magazines in India.

There are great jurists in India. Given an opportunity, they will take this effort willingly and with pride. Majority of decent Indians, Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians and all other religious and ethnic communities will support it if the political leadership of all the secular parties take this as a mandate to bring peace to an old and proud civilization.

Mirza A. Beg - email

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