Ayodhya verdict tomorrow
A sense of anxiety mixed with a hope for peace pervaded Mumbai as the Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected the plea to defer the Ayodhya title suit verdict. Across the city, community leaders and residents worked to ward off a repeat of the 1992-93 orgy of violence by forming bands of volunteers to monitor sensitive areas and by sensitising citizens. The government, for its part, ramped up security measures, banned celebration of the verdict or protests against it, and declared Thursday and Friday dry days.It proscribed bursting of firecrackers or carrying posters displaying joy or anger at the verdict, and forbade assembly of more than five people ‘with the intention to disrupt peace’. The state has asked the Centre to extend a ban on bulk SMSs and said it will take a call on shutting down schools and colleges on Wednesday.
Years after a firestorm of hatred barrelled through the country in the wake of the Babri Masjid demolition, there now pervades an air of calm, helped by Hindu and Muslim leaders who are willing to accept the impending Ayodhya judgment with equanimity. The winds of change blowing across India since 1992-93 have displayed that it may be futile to stoke religious passions. Those were the days of the now-forgotten Mandal agitation. Decades of communal tension and the new threat of external terror have wisened the electorate to the games that politicians play. Today, neither the parties to the litigation nor fringe elements are preparing to make incendiary speeches or do battle in the streets. And not just because it would amount to contempt of court.
Unwittingly, Hindus and Muslims have come to common ground on almost every issue, save the verdict. Both condemn the “frivolous petition’’ by R C Tripathi that caused a delay in the Allahabad high court judgment. Both solemnly promise not to stoke passions in the aftermath of Thursday’s verdict, and advise the aggrieved party to approach the Supreme Court for a final say. Maulana Mahmood Daryabadi of the Ulema Council is one of the many who have appealed for calm. “Let the verdict come after a 60-year wait, that is all we ask. We are confident the court will serve justice.’’ Samajwadi leader Abu Asim Azmi said he is “yet to meet a maulana from Kashmir to Kanyakumari who will disrespect the verdict”. BJP veteran Jaywantiben Mehta, who played an active role during the ‘kar seva’, now says, “The Ayodhya matter is not a religious dispute. It is simply a question of ownership of land.” Party colleague Shatrughan Sinha denies making the fiery speeches that have figured in Anand Patwardhan’s documentary of the time. “Development and progress is the need of the hour. What happened on December 6, 1992, was a shameful act of mobocracy which brought tears to the eyes of none other than our leader L K Advani.’’
The Shiv Sena and MNS have advised calm, with the latter apparently dispatching pleas for peace in text messages. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad, too, is girding up to battle it out—but in court. VHP national secretary Vyankatesh Abdeo said, “The issue is certain to go into appeal, either from the Hindus or the Wakf Board. Legal recourse is the only way forward.’’ Even those fringe elements that are wont to react, for instance the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti (HJS) and the Sanatan Sanstha, are keenly aware that the tide has turned. “We have been served a notice under Section 149 by the police, warning us that we will be held responsible in case a law and order issue arises,’’ said HJS spokesperson Ramesh Shinde. “That is so unnecessary. We have instructed our cadre to respect the judgment and are not planning any demonstrations as yet.’’ The Sanatan Sanstha speaks in measured tones. “We have been patient for 60 years and will accept the verdict with calm fortitude,’’ said spokesperson Abhay Vartak.