Ayodhya and Faizabad have been postcards of celebration this past week, the Ram dhun reverberating through lanes and bylanes in the countdown to Wednesday’s bhoomi pujan. That D-Day went by without a hitch shows how the two towns have changed in the last three decades. A gathering in Ayodhya would have led to tensions in Faizabad, but it is no longer the case. In the Muslim quarters, there is silence, a sense of quiet resignation and acceptance after the Supreme Court ruling nine months ago. The chorus here is: let’s not dwell on this, Basheer Ahmad, a 61-year-old who works at a unit that makes khadaus which sit so well on the feet of priests in Ayodhya, said: “We do not know what to say. We are not against the temple, but surely there could have been a mosque and a temple, Because the Supreme Court has ruled, what can we do except regret that we lost the masjid.”
Ahmad says a lot has changed since the 1990s. He says he had a shop of musical instruments which was targeted by kar sevaks, months before the demolition of the Babri Masjid.
“When the police came and we tried to complain, we were the ones who ended up being arrested. The charge was that we deliberately set our shops on fire. It has all changed. We no longer live in fear, and there is no harassment anymore,” he said.
Although the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, in a statement ahead of the bhoomi pujan, did say “the Babri Masjid was a masjid before, is a masjid today and shall Insha Allah remain a masjid”, several community representatives were reluctant to speak on the bhoomi pujan and reopen what one of them called “a closed chapter”.
“What is there to say? The Supreme Court decision has been accepted by all. So why draw Muslims into a new debate? For us, it’s a closed chapter after the ruling. The Personal Law Board is free to make any statement. I will not comment on it,” said a community representative who once played a leading role in the defence of the Babri Masjid.
An academician, who did not wish to be named in this report, said, “Muslims have accepted the defeat in the courtroom. In any case, this has gone too long, and has done no good to both the country and the community. We just wish the new generation doesn’t have to go through what we did.”
Another pointed to statements on the Ram temple issue by the Congress and BSP, and said “there should be no going back, it’s time we move ahead”.
Also not willing to be named, he said, “Muslims cannot hope for any support on this issue from any political party now. This is a Constitution Bench ruling, where can one go now? It’s best we move on.”
The fact that few want to go on record and most signal that they want to turn the page also underlines the political marginalisation of the community, said a local community leader.
“In 1992, it became a Hindu-Muslim, BJP-vs-the-rest issue but look at it today. Even the Congress and Samajwadi Party welcome it, the temple has been cleared by the Supreme Court. Just a few months ago we were worried over the NRC and the CAA, now there is the pandemic. We want education and jobs for our young, let’s hope the temple brings that to the town. We have to look ahead.”
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