Penguin Random House India published Salman Khurshid’s book, “Sunrise Over Ayodhya: Nationhood in Our Times”. Khurshid dwells on the Supreme Court of India’s contentious Ayodhya judgment (2019), in the aftermath of the demolition of the Babri Masjid (1992).
There can be no denying that “Jai Shri Ram!” (victory to lord Ram) has ended up becoming the clarion call of those who want to establish a Hindu rashtra i.e., a dominion of the Hindus, instead of the secular democracy we currently are.
“The symbology of otherness in the Ramayana makes it a precious tool in the hands of the ruling class. The deterministic approach in the text establishes the other, being Ravana, much before Ram’s birth. Ravana’s eventual demise at the hands of Ram is an essential message to human civilization: identify the political and moral other. Contemporary political leadership understands the importance of Ramayana’s storyline to continue the ‘us-versus-them’ syndrome for political outcomes.”
This is an excerpt from Salman Khurshid’s book, “Sunrise Over Ayodhya: Nationhood in Our Times”, published by Penguin Random House India and priced at ₹699. It deals with the Supreme Court of India’s Ayodhya verdict of 2019.
It has been in the news of late because its author compared “Hindutva” to terror outfits such as ISIS and Boko Haram.
The comparison may have riled up right-wingers to no end, but the Delhi High Court rejected a plea to ban the book—asking those who disagreed with the former union minister simply not to buy (or read) the book.
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Be that as it may, I think that it would be a mistake not to read the book, for Khurshid makes several, pertinent points across 300-odd pages. He breaks down the Ayodhya judgment for the layperson, in an attempt to explain why the Supreme Court ruled the way it did.
The book contains salient bits from all the relevant judgments regarding the “freedom of religion” in India (enshrined in Articles 25-28 of the constitution) and its secular values. It also takes its sweet time to talk about how different religions perceive God and faith. Personally, I found these chunks to be rather voluminous and a tad bit boring.
Coming back to the case in question: given that it was a title suit, the Supreme Court ultimately concluded that the evidence provided by the Hindus was stronger than that of the Muslims. It gave Hindus complete possession of the disputed land based on a delicate “balance of probabilities”.
All said and done, I believe it’s important to remember that those who were charged with criminal conspiracy in the unfortunate demolition of Ayodhya’s Babri Masjid, got off scot-free. No surprises there, am I right?
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The book makes a note of the fact that all the top Bharatiya Janata Party leaders (such as LK Advani, Murali Manohar Joshi, Kalyan Singh, Uma Bharti etc.) who were believed to be culpable, be it via making provocative speeches or for failing to stop the destruction, have been acquitted by a CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) court for lack of evidence.
While the state machinery proved to be ridiculously incompetent on December 6, 1992, journalists took on the mantle of righteousness. But, many paid a heavy price for the same. They had to bear the brunt of kar sevaks’ unprovoked violence directed at them.
The book quotes a report submitted to the parliament by the Liberhan Commission, tasked with investigating the historic mosque’s demolition by the government of India, to make this point:
“The evidence also shows that the attacks were primarily against journalists who were carrying recording equipment. The cameras, video recorders and the audio recorders were smashed up and even the exposed films and used tapes were systematically destroyed. The intent and effect of these attacks thus becomes crystal clear.”
Ironically, December 6 also marks the death anniversary of a revolutionary scholar and the father of our constitution, BR Ambedkar.
By and large, Khurshid believes that the Supreme Court acted keeping the principles of justice, equity and good conscience in mind. According to him, its directive to give the aggrieved Muslim party 5 acres of land elsewhere in Ayodhya, is an illustration of the same.
After reading the book, I was able to glean the fact that Khurshid is advocating for closure. He asserts in several places that the Supreme Court did what it had to, to treat a festering wound on the body politic of our nation. I am not sure if the rest of the world and history may see it the same way he does.
He wants us to put the communal conflict behind us, as we—Hindus, Muslims and everyone else—look toward a new sunrise over Ayodhya… And by extension, India.
While Khurshid’s stand may be a noble one, I think it’s best left to the survivors of the anti-Muslim violence that ensued in Ayodhya, to decide how they want to obtain closure. Meanwhile, one also needs to account for the targeted violence against Muslims that’s been on the rise since 2014.
Most recently, right-wing groups have been repeatedly trying to prevent Muslims from offering namaaz in public places in Gurugram.
In Khurshid’s own words from the book:
“Disappointment and pain are inevitable where there is togetherness. But this doesn’t mean one can’t expect the wrongs to be righted. If Muslims are made to feel more wanted as Indians by other Indians, the sacrifice of Ayodhya would be worth everything, or else it would be darkness at noon.”