The CBI court’s verdict in a criminal case dispels the 28-year-long shadow that has stalked the leading lights of the Sangh Parivar’s Ramjanma-bhoomi movement which led to the demolition of the Babri Masjid. That event, which cleaved society and politics, and set off violence across the country also cleared the way for what culminated in Prime Minister Narendra Modi laying the first brick for the Ram temple last month.
Despite the Supreme Court calling the demolition an “egregious violation of rule of law,” Wednesday’s verdict gives an institutional sheen to the temple movement. Even in government, the BJP always drew a distinction between being named in a corruption case — a ground for resignation — and being accused in the “political” Babri case. Now that political case has got legal imprimatur.
When it came to the title suit, the political consensus was that it should be left to the Supreme Court. In fact, when the court unanimously ruled in favour of the temple, the entire BJP leadership, from the Prime Minister down, had reacted cautiously highlighting the “amicable solution” that came through “due process of law.”
This verdict in a criminal case, clubbed with the Supreme Court’s title suit ruling, gives the BJP-RSS a handle to secure legal legitimacy for their movement in the eyes of a generation that did not witness the demolition.
Considering how the RSS struggled to de-link itself from Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination, these verdicts, coupled with the BJP in power, provide it enough ammunition to re-frame the movement and try and airbrush away the violence and divides it engendered.
Welcoming the court’s decision, RSS’s Suresh Bhaiyyaji Joshi said: “After the decision, all sections of the society should come together with mutual trust and harmony to face the challenges of the nation successfully and steer the nation on the path of progress.”
Will the CBI file an appeal? It’s a natural course of action, said a senior BJP leader. But the record, from the Sohrabuddin encounter to Hindutva terror — cases which the BJP considers politically motivated — puts a question mark on that.
Immediately after the verdict, BJP MP Lallu Singh, one of the accused, told The Indian Express: “We were framed by the then authorities and, that, too, three-four days after the incident for their political benefit. The court has said that it was not pre-planned. The leaders had no role in it.”
Senior BJP leader and party general secretary Bhupender Yadav tweeted: “Truth has a way of presenting itself no matter how hard those opposed to the truth may try. The Babri Verdict proves it yet again…The assembly (of kar sevaks) was never declared unlawful by any authority, by any mode as prescribed in law. Conspiracy theorists proved wrong.”
For the Opposition, the challenge persists. This was a criminal conspiracy case and slamming the accused being let off was a “low-cost” option. Anyways, the key accused have been marginalized in the current power equation and the next generation of leaders has taken over the project to build the temple.
Yet, except for the Left and the Congress – calling for an appeal — most of the Opposition is muted, just as it was in the title suit case.
“It is not soft Hindutva but more a case of let’s move on,” said a senior leader from Congress. “The BJP’s trap is always open, for the Opposition to be branded pro-Muslim and we have to avoid walking into it,” he said.
“We cannot get Owaisified,” said another senior Opposition leader when asked why his party couldn’t be as vocal as AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi on this issue. Calling the verdict “obnoxious,” Owaisi said it marked a “black day” for the judiciary and hurt those who “still believe in India’s Constitution, brotherhood, diversity and pluralism.”
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