Verdict of a ‘Citizen’; on Ayodhya dispute

By Sandesh Prabhudesai
12 November 2019 00:02 IST

We respect Indian democracy, and its principles, which are based on our Constitution of India. Also India’s highly respected institution - the Judiciary. And ultimately the Supreme Court. Not that the courts cannot be wrong. There are ample instances of these ‘wrongs’ being rectified, after review petitions filed, by the Supreme Court with a large-hearted self-critical approach. In a trued democratic spirit. But, by and large, we, Indian Citizens, follow the Supreme Court judgements in true spirit of our democracy, which is supposed to be the largest in the World.

In the same spirit, all of us have accepted the verdict on the most controversial issue of India – the Ayodhya dispute. Not because everybody is fully satisfied and convinced. But as a true follower of Indian democracy.  And also because all of us agree – without even discussing with each other – Enough is Enough! No more politics on Ayodhya. No more hatred in the name of Lord Ram. No more riots and killings in the name of Lords belonging to all religions, who are supposedly living harmoniously in One Heaven;  without playing politics, without spreading hatred, without committing riots.

Nonetheless, I believe I have a right to express myself on the verdict, as a Citizen of Democracy. Not on what right or wrong our most respected Judiciary has done. But what I wished it could be. The option I would have preferred if I was the Supreme Court. Without any disrespect to the Judiciary.

I believe our judiciary holds up one principle: Law should be interpreted in ‘letter & spirit’. Not merely literal and also by not getting emotional. It’s considered to be an antithesis. When we obey the letter of the law but not the spirit, we obey the literal interpretation of the words. Similarly, when we obey the spirit of the law but not the letter, we do what the authors of the law intended. Not necessarily adhering to the literal wording. It’s a theory of dialectics. A simple principle: Development is the Unity & Struggle of two Opposites. The open-minded approach. Not with ‘eyes closed’ to the harsh realities, but for ONE INDIA.

I am a Goan. A state which had witnessed in the 16th century a worst kind of religious conversion by the Portuguese aggressors. And then the Inquisition, the most torturous long-drawn out operation of the Portuguese rulers. Torturing their own neo-Christian brothers and sisters, to transform them as Christians; not let them live as Hindus, in terms of following  rituals, customs, traditions, way of living, eating, drinking, dressing etc etc. Today, we the civilised society, consider this forceful Inquisition (cultural transformation) as the most inhuman act of human history.

And what do we witness when 450 years of Portuguese rule ended and we became the part of Indian Democratic Republic? No digging of black history, no hatred, no cultural clashes, no religious tensions. On the contrary, display religious, cultural and social harmony at all levels. We have many Hindu festivals, where Christians are part of the rituals. They were not disowned because of mere religious conversion. The customs and traditions continued. Not only among Hindus & 'converted' Christians. Even among Hindus & Muslims.  

The Old Goa feast is not a feast of only Christians, but also Hindus & Muslims who walk all the way to Old Goa barefooted from all parts of the state to seek blessings of Goencho Saib (Sahib of Goa), St Francis Xavier, for the well-being of their family and the whole community. Old Goa is significant in this context because it was THE centre of all kind of religious oppressions during Portuguese rule. And it is also propagated that one of the prime churches, Basilica of Bom Jesus was built by demolishing a temple of Shiva or Mahadev.

There is another temple of Mahadev in Kakoda in South Goa, adjacent to which are the temple of Betal and also a Dargah of Peer Muhammad. The religious processions of Lord Mahadev simply can’t proceed without seeking blessings of their ‘good neighbour’, the Dargah of Peer Mohammad. And the Muslims don’t lay the shawl on the Dargah at ‘Uroos’ without seeking blessings of Lord Betal. And more interestingly, the land for the Dargah is donated by the temple of Mahadev. No land dispute. In fact a spirit of co-existence.

There are umpteen examples to be quoted. But to mention one among many more is the New Year Celebration in Siolim village of Bardez taluka (which is also known worldwide for its scenic beaches like Calangute and Vagator). Jagor is a form of folk theatre which belongs to the original settlers of Goa. The Jagor of Siolim is traditionally celebrated by both the communities together, the Hindus and the Christians. From all the hamlets of the village, traditionally, Hindus and Christians march together dancing and singing “ashench cholum amchem bhava bhanvanchem” (let this brotherhood of all of us last forever). India’s pop star Remo Fernandes belongs to the same village, who shares the same spirit of brotherhood and co-existence set by our ancestors, who never politicised this tradition. And even today’s fanatic politicians don’t dare to.

Respecting each other’s religion and faith has been the Culture of Goa for centuries together, not only after its liberation in 1961. Even today, Goan Muslims don’t cook beef for Eid or Christians don’t keep pork on their table since Hindus visit to greet them. There are also examples of Christians not eating meat for a week because a Hindu religious procession will pass through their locality. There are also festivals which are celebrated together, with rituals involving both the communities.

May be perhaps due to this rich tradition, Goans across religions enjoy vegetarian festive delicacies like Khotkhhotem or non-vegetarian Sausage Bread made of pork or Beef Roast. It’s left to your choice, no forceful compulsion. That’s GOA!

Similar is the spirit of togetherness and co-existence we experience in many parts of India. Including Ayodhya. Babri Masjid was one such monument of togetherness. No matter who politicised the issue, the Hindu-Muslim communities of Ayodhya at large coexistently performed prayers without any conflict. From Lal Krishna Advani’s Rath Yatra to Ramshila Pujan to the demolition of Babri Masjid in 1992, it is proved beyond doubt that Lord Ram was exploited for political gains. But Ayodhya’s community at large thought differently.

India certainly has a black history. From Buddhism to Hinduism to Islamic rules. Destroying each other’s religious shrines and forcefully building their own structures was an order of the day. It was a philosophy of aggressors. They not only built their own religious structures but also butchered the ‘opposite’ communities. The civilised society simply cannot advance by digging this black history but by putting to rest this hatred through harmony and brotherhood; like my Goa!

When I read the Supreme Court verdict, I wondered what the judgement could be if Babri Masjid was not demolished on 6th December 1992. Build the Ram temple in the same 2.77 acres of disputed area? Is it a reward to the demolishers for their ‘brave act’ or a verdict in tune with the principles of Constitution of India? As a Citizen of India (and not a mere voter), I deserve this explanation.

In this background, my wishful judgement on Ayodhya would be this. In any circumstances. Whether Babri Masjid was demolished or not.  

Leave the disputed area of 2.77 acres from any one religion. Instead, build unique Museum there. A museum of multi-religious, multi-cultural and multi-lingual India, which all of us is proud. Mera Bharat Mahan! Display all such stories of harmony and brotherhood across India under one roof. Because under this disputed roof (before demolition on 6th December 1992), in spite of religious conflicts triggered by some vested interests since 19th century, Gods of two religions were worshipped under one roof, without any conflict. It was a site of true religious harmony! Just like all the Gods belonging to all the religions live harmoniously in The Heaven.

The  'disputed site' could be the replica of Heaven on the Earth!

And as the Supreme Court, I would have also ordered the Governments (State or Central), to allot 5 acres of land each to both the religions to build their own temples or mosques, elsewhere in Ayodhya, simply to put the ‘political controversy’ to rest.

As a judge, I feel I also have a fundamental duty to perform, enshrined in the Constitution of India. Just not to deliver a judgement in ‘letter’ but also in the ‘spirit’ of my beloved Constitution. Something beyond technicalities or legalities. The ‘intent’ of those who penned down the Constitution. To display the Greatest Wonder of the World.

What is it?

CONSITUTION OF INDIA

PART IVA

FUNDAMENTAL DUTIES 51A.

Fundamental duties.—It shall be the duty of every citizen of India—

(c) to uphold and protect the sovereignty, unity and integrity of India;

(e) to promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people of India transcending religious, linguistic and regional or sectional diversities; to renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of women;

(f) to value and preserve the rich heritage of our composite culture;

When I read the observations in the judgement, I wonder if it corroborates with its operative part. I am not learned enough to deal with the technicalities or the legalities. As a layman, but as a truthful Citizen of India, and certainly not a mere Voter, I expect my judicial institution to uphold the ‘spirit’ of the Constitution, while dealing with the ‘letter’.

As an ardent believer of democracy, I want the Judiciary to guide me on the path of Humanity, Equality and Justice. The politicians, for their vested interest of winning the elections and coming to power, disturb these three basic principles of my Democracy. And the ‘last hope’ for me is the Judiciary that reminds us of our fundamental duties. I am vanished if my ‘last hope’ becomes the ‘lost hope’.

Frankly, I am simply not bothered what the verdict on Ayodhya dispute is. I am sincerely worried if Preamble of my beloved Constitution of India is upheld by the Judiciary, the institution I respect the most.

WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC and to secure to all its citizens

 JUSTICE, social, economic and political;

 LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship;

 EQUALITY of status and of opportunity; and to promote among them all

 FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation

As a Citizen of India, I feel the highest institution of our Democracy, owes me an explanation.

 

Blogger's Profile

Sandesh Prabhudesai

Sandesh Prabhudesai is a journalist, presently the Editor of goanews.com, Goa's oldest exclusive news website since 1996. He has earlier worked as the Editor-in-Chief of HCN and Prudent, Goa's TV channels and Editor of Sunaparant, besides working as a reporter for Goan and national dailies & weeklies in English and Marathi since 1987. He also reports for the BBC. He is also actively involved in literary and cultural activities.

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