With Ayodhya verdict in its favour, will the Hindutva juggernaut now pause?

The Supreme Court has cleared the way for the construction of a Ram Temple at the disputed site in Ayodhya. Prime Minister Narendra Modi reacted to the verdict with a tweet that the judgment should not be seen in frames of “victory or loss”, that it “does not matter if you worship Ram or Rahim, it's time to strengthen Bharat bhakti (patriotism).” Rahim is one of the names of Allah in Islam, meaning “Merciful”.

He can afford to speak of nationalism above religious beliefs in the aftermath of victory, but his Hindutva supporters know that he has won the game for them.

The Ayodhya verdict has helped Prime Minister Modi consolidate his political position further. By delivering on the promise that his party had made, he has emerged as the tallest leader of the Hindus. His stature will, for a long time to come, rise well above that of his peers, making him the sole and supreme arbiter of Hindutva ideology. None of the Hindutva institutions, including the Rashtirya Swayamsevak Sangh, will now dare to challenge him.

What he has achieved for his Hindutva constituents is a watershed event and self-evident. There should be no need for him to proclaim the Ram Temple as his personal achievement. So contrary to speculation that the building of the Ram Temple at Ayodhya will now be used in forthcoming election campaigns in Jharkhand, Delhi and Bihar, Prime Minister Modi may find no need to do that.

The unanimity of the verdict is significant as the bench included even a Muslim judge. A divided verdict or a dissenting judgement would have created ground for review or curative petitions in the Supreme Court. Despite Zafaryab Jilani of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board claiming that the board may file a review petition, a unanimous judgment of a Constitution Bench may make that process slightly difficult. The unanimous judgement has also given a way out to the Muslim community which was at the receiving end of the dispute. They must know full well that the apex court verdict would not have been possible had the mosque been still standing at the site.

 

Whether this judgement, contrary to the claims made, takes into account “faith or belief” in land title suit will be debated by legal experts for long as would the virtual normalisation of the calculated destruction of the mosque for which it seeks to compensate the Muslim community with allotment of 5 acres of alternative land. But the mainstream Muslim community may well heave a sigh of relief that it is only a piece of land housing a virtually defunct and disputed mosque that has been snatched away from the community; that no Trishul-wielding hooligans will now try to dispossess them from their homes and hearths. The latter were warned well in advance by those who control them to maintain peace. Muslim youth could, however, view the verdict differently. It may validate their fears that their community cannot get justice under the present dispensation. Their faith in the judiciary is unlikely to be strengthened.

After the verdict, a number of BJP leaders have urged the people not to “react emotionally”. The defeated party to the dispute can do precious little and knows the perils of “reacting emotionally”. The appeal for peace and not to react emotionally then seems directed at the BJP’s own supporters and cadres who in their over-enthusiasm could potentially provoke violence.

The huge political effort to ensure that peace was maintained has given rise to speculation that some may have been in the know of the broad contours of the verdict. Those who in the past have deliberately created violent upheavals in the name of collecting bricks for the Temple at Ayodhya, taken out Rath Yatras which led to deadly communal riots in their wake, organised an illegal foundation-laying ceremony at the disputed site and participated in the deliberate demolition of the Babri Mosque, would not have overnight donned the wings of angels of peace unless they were sure that victory would be theirs.

This however does not exhaust the Hindutva agenda that the BJP wants to implement. After the abrogation of Article 370 and construction of a Ram Temple at Ayodhya the Uniform Civil Code remains the third three key promise of the BJP. The next major decision of the government would then be to implement a Uniform Civil Code. A gesture in that direction was the criminalisation of instant divorce for Indian Muslims through “triple talaq”.

None of these measures has been pursued for the ostensible reasons given: the protection of Muslim women, to end terrorism emanating from J&K or for communal reconciliation by ending the Ayodhya dispute. They have been flogged to polarise society by villifying the Muslim community.

So the fear is that the Hindutva list may not end with these three measures. After the Ayodhya verdict, the floodgates could open to demand the correction of similar ‘historical wrongs’. Mathura and Kashi (Varanasi) have already been on the agenda of Hindutva organisations. New disputes could surface and ripen in their own time. Were this to be allowed to happen, the much touted promises of having achieved national reconciliation through the Ayodhya judgement, would be frittered away. The minority community may then rethink the retreat that has already been forced to make.

Election analysts claim that voters the world over are seldom satisfied by promises kept. There is always disaffection over that which was not delivered. As the dismal state of the economy rises to the top of the public mind will the ruling party respond with claiming more sites for temples, increasing belligerence towards Pakistan, and reviving claims over Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK)?

Time and again the Modi campaign has shown that in India emotional issues trump concerns about livelihood, employment and economic well-being. The Modi electoral machine steadily taps into cultural fears to formulate ever-new strategies of voter manipulation. The state of the economy could however put unexpected brakes on the escalating emotional spectacles.
Twitter: @Bharatitis


Business Standard is now on Telegram.
For insightful reports and views on business, markets, politics and other issues, subscribe to our official Telegram channel