Monday, September 20, 2010

The Great Indian Rope Trick

It is 1992

The tendentious Congress government is grappling with the massive political repercussions of the dissolution of the Soviet Union only a year ago, and has just about averted a balance of payments crisis by freeing the anesthetized Indian economy from paralyzing governmental controls, in the process reluctantly reversing an economic policy that allowed the annual growth rate to stagnate at 3.5% per annum for over 40 years. The main party in opposition at the centre is the BJP whose election campaign in the general elections held last year is lopsidedly centered on the building of a Hindu temple at the exact location where an early 16th century mosque presently stands, in a town teeming with an innumerable number of temples all vying for breathing space within a 10 sq km radius, in a state in which it is the party in power. No one has been allowed access to the mosque since 1949 when the Government of India imposed a lock down on an area that had been subject to controversy ever since a particularly zealous Central Asian Muslim invader heralded in the Mughal Era of Modern India’s history. It is said that the conqueror Babur demolished a sacred temple complex in the town of Ayodhya and bid his general Mir Baqi build a mosque, the Babri Masjid, on its ruins in the year 1527.

We wake up on the 6th of December, 1992 to the news that a mob of over 150,000 people are demonstrating outside the site of the mosque and are being held back by a completely outnumbered and monstrously unmotivated police cordon. It has been common knowledge through recent months that Hindu fundamentalist organizations and their political party affiliates have been conducting large-scale recruitment sorties all over India to mobilize followers to descend upon the town of Ayodhya and, in turn, to pressurize the judiciary to allow them to build a Mandir (temple) on the site they claim is the revered birthplace of the Lord Ram, immortalized in the Hindu epic, the Ramayana, and believed to have ruled the Kingdom of Ayodhya circa 1400 BCE. At noon, a teenage Kar Sevak is ‘vaulted’ on to the dome - a signal that the breaking of the outer cordon has begun and, as the country waits with bated breath, the structure of the mosque is fully demolished by the time the sun sets.

The immediate fallout of the Babri Masjid demolition was that 3000 people died in rioting across India and very many local terrorist organizations were born in a country that is home to 138 million Muslims who live alongside 828 million Hindus.

It is September 2010 
The Babri Masjid/ Ram Mandir case is the longest running legal dispute in India. The demographics of the nation, meanwhile, have changed inexorably over the past 17 years to support an i-pod wielding, facebook and twitter-obsessed, materialistically chauvinistic 300 million strong middle-class, and the country is one of the fastest growing economies in the world, clocking an average growth rate of 8% over the last decade and is well on its way to becoming a globally important consumer economy. Indian per capita purchasing power parity is forecast to significantly increase from the current 4.7% to over 6% of the world share by 2015. But in Ayodhya, it all boils down to who owns the land where the Babri Masjid used to stand. The first court ruling on the dispute from a petition filed in 1886 by the head of an Ayodhya-based Hindu organization asking for permission to offer prayers to Ram inside the Babri Masjid ended with the judge stating, ‘It is most unfortunate that a mosque should have been built on land specially held sacred by the Hindus, but as that event occurred 356 years ago, it is too late now to remedy the grievance.

Since then and from 1950 onwards five title suits have been filed in the Allahabad High Court of the State of Uttar Pradesh where the town of Ayodhya is located. All the suits stake claim to the title of the plot of land of the Babri Masjid, four being filed on behalf of Hindus and the fifth on behalf of Muslims. The title suits will now be decided on by a three-judge bench of the Allahabad High Court. The bench comprising Judge SU Khan, Judge Sudhir Agarwal and Judge DV Sharma will answer the following questions: Did a temple exist at the disputed site before 1528 when the Babri Masjid was constructed? Was Ayodhya really the birth place of Lord Ram and is there evidence to show that Hindus have been worshipping in the town for millenia? Did Muslims abandon the mosque before India became independent? Even after a verdict has been passed, the appeals process will see the case appear before the Supreme Court of India in what could take years. 

All this for what is, essentially, an area that measures 60 ft by 40 ft.

Please readThrough the Stained Glass, Darkly forthwith

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