Ayodhya and the Politics of India's Secularism: A Double-Standards Discourse Author(s): Ramesh Thakur Source: Asian Survey

, Vol. 33, No. 7, South Asia: Responses to the Ayodhya Crisis (Jul., 1993), pp. 645-664 Published by: University of California Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2645353 Accessed: 18/08/2010 16:41
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AYODHYAAND THE POLITICSOF INDIA'SSECULARISM
A Double-Standards Discourse
RameshThakur
... ifonedaytheBabrimasjid dismantled, faith HinduCatholicism is my in informs that large me a section theHindus be as pained of will (they want the temple bebuilt, themosque be destroyed) theMuslims Indiaand to not to as in Pakistan be. will 1 Ironically, the veryday that the above was pubon lished, the Babri Masjid was destroyedby a 300,000-strong mob in Ayodhya.The demolition themosqueplunged of India intotheworst outbreak of communalviolencesince partition, with 1,700 dead and 5,500 injured. The savage communalriotsin Calcutta,seat of a Communist Party government more than a decade, and Bombay,home to the for Laxmiputras(sons of Laxmi, the wealth goddess), sent shock waves in a through country unaccustomed seeingsuch eruptions its principal to cosmopolitan cities. ScenesofMuslimsin thethousands crowding railway in stations a desperate effort escape fromBombaywerereminiscent of to themassexodusafter post-partition serious the riots. Othercostsincluded doubtsaboutthecapacityofthepoliticalsystem cope withthecrisisof to confidence the fright and investors givento international just whenthey liberwerebeginning acceptthegovernment's to to commitment economic alizationand reforms. The militant of Hindusgloatovertheavenging pastcenturies Muslim of and rule,whiletheaverageIndianMuslimis sullen, frustrated, bitter.The Englishlanguagepressin India reported and reactedto the eventsin the languageof secularism, constitutionalism, rule of law. I shall argue and herethatthe communalization politicsby the Bharatiya JanataParty of
Relationsand DirecRamesh Thakuris Professor International of torof Asian Studies,University Otago, New Zealand. of ? 1993 by The Regentsof the University California of 1. Saeed Naqvi, "Musingsof a Muslim,"Sunday TimesofIndia, 6 December 1992.

645

"State and Religionin South Asia: Some Reflections. "and withthatsinglestroke poll ofroyalgenerosity moresupport won the from majority India's populaof Constitutional Secularism 2. Loyaltywas reciprocal." South Asia 4:3 Journal (1991). 7."2 This enabledsocial cohesionto be maintained within pata tern diversity. Akbar.VOL. In 1564 he reto the mitted hatedjiziya(non-Muslim tax). and return the notionof to rights thateveryIndian qua Indian has. of abandonthesearchfor"votebanks"based on promoting confrontational group rights.in establishing dynasties. crisisoffers new opportunity retreat the a to from the discourse doublestandards. conflicts and alliances betweenrulersin India were based on politicalclashesof interests expediency and rather thanreligious divisions. of state-enforced orthodoxy neither was necessary possinor ble. But the cataclysmic eventsof December6.The mostimportant conceptwas "loyalty the salt" and the to mostdespicablebetrayal was disloyalty the salt (namak haram). The appeal of fundamentalism a religious in community has no history of that zealotry grownalongsidea demisein themoralauthority thestate. 1992. While most religions preach universal brotherhood. XXXIII.projected such an imageby forging matrimonial allianceswithHindu Rajput clans and by merit-based recruitment peopleofall faiths of intohighstate In offices. SurjitMansingh. 297. Secularand sacred authority in separated thetraditional the Hindu social orderthrough varnashramadharma system:"The Indian socio-political normwas characterized by in orthopraxy observance similarcustomsand social distancebetween of in castes ratherthan by orthodoxy termsof identicalbeliefsheld by all individuals. p. religionhas been a sourceof friction has throughout humanhistory.NO. in return accepting responsibility guarding the faiths theirsubfor all of jects. JULY1993 (BJP) is the proximate cause of the Ayodhyacrisis.and after also symptoms a pervasive are of regimedecay thathas slowlybeen eatingaway at the Indian state. foundit expedient promote to thisconcept. Rulto ers. Yet historically. dharmarefers thedutypertaining a particular to to casteor order.646 ASIAN SURVEY. 1563 he abolishedthe tax thathad longbeen exactedby kings from pilgrims traveling worshipat sacredHindu sites. .thegreatest Mughal emperor (1556-1605). Varnashrama the Hindu classification societyand lifeinto is of fourdivisions and orders. Islam by contrast distinctive uniting spiritual is for the and temporal aspectsof social order.The Subcontinent been were especially in unfortunate thisrespect. has of By thesame token. imposingrightsand obligations both on rulerand subject.

thisstillleftsignificant dependent of wereapprehensive minorities and Sikhs.The problemof religious to in tion-a policyof divideand leave.notas theleaderofa majorpolitical area oftheSubin as theleaderof the Muslimsliving theHindu majority was not solved by partiminorities continent. worship. The Government India Act of 1935introduced prinsectarian elevatthe throughout politicalsystem. India.The religious chose to act as a community beingswampedby Hindus if the majority one Secularism.RAMESHTHAKUR 647 combinedmanaged to musterby tion than all otherMughal emperors theirconquests.religious merically large followingsas the surest path to political power. mean one in and expressed for twothings:equal and due respect all religions faiths.The Preambleto the Conto declaredone of the objectives be to secureto all citizensof stitution on of belief.Buddhists. groupsthattheir to guarantee minority a tal rights provided constitutional democracy. No religious against. NewHistory India (New York: OxfordUniversity p. 127. the ination is accorded any special privilegeor discriminated Press. 1977). lost and accommodation consociationalism any politicalutility. politicalopposition treasonto the nationand the community. The in sensitivities could not be overridden a majoritarian minoriassuranceto religious thatthiswas insufficient framers. of seeksanctification politicalrulein religious rule in Islamicrevivalism orderto equatehis military to Haq tried harness could thenbe dealt withas withPakistanand Islam. of 3. of of morethanfour-fifthsthe population inHindus formed Although of numbers Muslims. believing on 25-28 focusing in a ties. Stanley A Wolpert.incorporated separategroupof rights Articles of the right freedom religion. is no statereligion India. . but party up ical importance to 1947.Mohamof "thefather Pakistan."3 along divisions policyof divideand rule hardenedvertical The British the of lines. Jains. Politicalcoalitions nuin leadersacquiredvestedinterests demonstrating nal lines. to denomin there Constitutionally.The chapter fundamenand India thefreedom faith. of of system government.Christians. ciple of communalrepresentation for separateelectorates above all else and providing identity ing religious beganto be builtalongcommuHindus and Muslims.or separaas Sanskrit sarva dharmasamabhav(let the tion of the statefrom church."claimedand was concededpolitmedAli Jinnah. bloc in a representative voting or bothof can of the majorprinciples the Indian Constitution. all religions prosper). Governments Pakistancontinue GeneralZia ullegitimacy. But in its second meaningsecularism betweenstateand churchin relationship againstthe historical militated India in boththeHindu and Islamiccontexts.

example.VOL."Positive"religious freedoms underpinned a setof"negaare by tive"religious rights. Infanticide and sati in (widow-burning). There was a seriesof laws. in particular regard on in and in to access to. In time. statewas permitted by of the to enact measuresof social reform. of committed promoting to secularism. JULY1993 rights conferred the Constitution equallyavailableto every by are citizen.morality.requiring bebargaining and accommodation tweengovernments by different run politicalparties. employment. have politicians gradually becomeless cosmopolitan moreprovincial.sensitive conventions to governing relations between government the and opposition benches. decisions. and health. seemedto and policiesthatcumulatively demandadherence themajority of to whileconcedcommunity secularism The Retreat from Secularism . to ensuring thatsocial inequalities could notbe legallyperpetuated underthecloak of religion. The constitutional protection of religious rights extendsfromfreedom religious of thought and observance to the maintenance charitable of and educational institutions all by religions. for cannotbe practiced thenameofreligious rituals sanctified centuries custom. His was representative of the myriad strands Indian society.The factthatstategovernments werealmostall underthe control of the CongressPartyhelped. government inclusive. Their attacksgained credencewithattempts Prime Ministers Indira by and Rajiv Gandhi to build "vote banks" along sectariandivides.Similarly. and seek the highest office state of in embodiessecularism the politicalrealm. admissioninto any and educationalinstitution maintained whollyor aided by the state. whilefederalism and has becomemorecomplex.and sections of of to society. This was a corollary the abolitionof untouchability. but also all ritualsand observances that are regardedas integral partsof a religion its adherents. The rightof any citizento aspireto. 7.some parties relibegan to attackNehru'slegacyof tolerating gious diversity "pseudo-secularism" as and "appeasement"of Muslims. example. by Jawaharlal Nehru was a majorarchitect the Constitution. or use of public places.openingup Hindu relifor giousinstitutions a publiccharacter all castes. XXXIII.The scope of freedom religion of conferred the Constitution by has been widenedbyjudicial interpretation theeffect it guarantees to that notjust the right practiceand propagate to religious faithand belief. of During his tenureas primeminister (1950-64).NO. But the Constitution does circumscribe religiousfreedom with three qualifications: public order.however.classes. Since the 1960s.The stateis enjoined to discriminate not againstany citizen thebasis ofreligion anymatter.and generally carefulnot to intrude upon state rights.648 ASIAN SURVEY. he triedto give "fleshand blood" to theconstitutional principles.

forinstance. Safia. itycountry.They won. By insisting from requirements the Muslimsshouldbe exempt of thaton somematters erodedthevery leadersprogressively Muslimand government secularism. Hindu SuccessionAct of 1956 gave Hindu womentheright the subwhileMuslimwomenremained patrimony. thegovernment The demonstrations. was asked to The Muslim cabinetminister. India's secularlaw took precedence thisinstance ArifMohammad Khan. V.4 The to ess and she was sentenced 16 publiclashesand three most celebrated case in India is that of Shah Bano. forexamistan."Women FightIslamic Abuse. and mands of the Muslim fundamentalists passed the Muslim Women to of on (Protection Rights Divorce) Act in 1986. P. in . Under was and by malewitnesses thevictim ple.a 16-year-old to thismadeheran adultercourts a result a doublerape. P.28 October1984.rapehad to be substantiated four as blindgirl. by RAMESHTHAKUR The Shah Bano Controversy Similarly. as reprinted theNew Zealand Times. 4." Sunday Times(London).and thatwithretroactive verdict theSupreme the resigned from cabinet. Rightsguaranteed Shah of Bano by the Constitution India were takenaway by a constitutional the purposeof overturning judicial enactedwiththe specific amendment ArifKhan effect. on of secularism whichthesecurity Muslimsdependedin a Hindu-majoris Muslim men to have fourwives.gavebirth the required identify rapist. right gle forindividual Muslims in India to regulatetheirown affairs. despite a in thatin on Supreme Courtruling 1985in Shah Bano's favor thegrounds over Islamic law. Some Muslim leaders fromher former a by it converted obscurecase intoa cause celebre turning from strugthe of the justiceintoan issueofgrouprights-namely. of Court. Mary Anne Weaver. To thePakistani of yearsinjail. to inherit shareof their a religious laws. Singh. mass protest lost its nervewhenMuslimsorganized liberal Rajiv Gandhi caved in to the deputatively Western-educated.Permitting propaganda millthatIndia eventually will grist the Hindu chauvinist's to be overrun Muslims. an elderlyMuslim support womanwho soughtrecoursein the civil courtsformaintenance husbandwho had divorcedher. Indianshad alreadybecomeconscious ject to anachronistic Pakofwomen'sunequalposition theeyesofIslamiclaw in neighboring in Zia by theordinance introduced President ul-Haq. in but of speakin Parliament defense thecourt'sdecision. NarasimhaRao was not onlya member of the Gandhi cabinetat the timebut also a member the key Cabinet of decisionto negatethe that Committee PoliticalAffairs tookthefateful on in primeminister courtverdict.Othercabinetministers wereV.649 to the ing to the Muslimminority right live by othernorms.

Sunday Timesof India.5The dangerwas event"in mobilizing Hindu sentiment of of recognized a number Muslims. of ChandranKukathas.I did not have one discussion whichthe Shah ber 1992-January of proofof thediscrediting up Bano case was not brought as theultimate is secularism. Politicalrights nityembracesseveralreligious evenwhen.ed. This written theIndian-born by Satanic Verses faithin the is a rich.6 of The SatanicVersesControversy of in of The nextnail in the coffin secularism India was the banning The Muslim. 14 October1990.NO. clearly deep electoral by ously. Advaniacknowledged the Shah Bano case was "a watershed laterthat behindhis party." Multicultural on for Studies.650 ASIAN SURVEY. when a Hindu spoke of his he country. theforethequestionoftheproper constitution a multireligious of with the religious.VOL.The 1986Act captured and encouraging havingto adMuslim supportforthe Congresswithout fundamentalist dressthe economicand politicalmarginalization Muslims. Chavan. man Weekly. 11. but praisedfor standingup for minorities. (Sydney:Centre Independent pp.in princiindividuals distributed equallyamonggroup-defined 5.1993). XXXIII.p. 107-12. 7. The Congressgovernment widelyperceivedto have refor treated statedpointofprinciple crasspoliticalreasons: from publicly a thatwas for Muslimbloc support a party an effort shoreup crumbling to in peoplesaid contemptutrouble. he on arguing thatwhena Musliminsisted his rights.and S.one of whomarguedthatefforts by an at theAll-IndiaMuslimPersonalLaw Board seemeddirected creating among Indian Muslims.Salman Rushdie. rights a Hindu-majority in K. Politics Identity. . Act."Muslim PersonalLaw: Case foran OptionalReform 1992. was ance to thefull. Duringtwo weeksof extensive in in 1993. A fuller discussion by RameshThakur. in The Muslimcommunity India has paid a highpriceforthatpolitical travelin India in Decemvictory 1986. None of themopposed Gandhi on the issue.powerful. secularismmeant endless appeasement the Hindus of neverthissenseof Hindu grievThe BJP exploited yielding Muslimfanaticism. B.and The political community not coterminous is need to be addressedwhereone politicalcommuproblems adjustment of may not be communities." States6."FromtheMosaic to theMelting is and in Citizens: The Philosophy National Reflections Multiculturalism. PartyleaderL. complexnovel in whicha migrant's and religion his birthis brokenbut not replacedby faithin the dominant of to it surrounding brought religion the host society.JULY1993 in 1990.To theCongress. Hasan Abdullah. January 25 Pot: Cross7.7The controversy of society. home minster 1992.keepingthembackward exclusiveconsciousness and orthodox reactionary forces. was called a bigot.

Islam is distinctive are in its conceptof treasonto the universal of community the umma (faithrose of ful).RAMESHTHAKUR 651 ple.The individual's right wouldbe an empty conceptifunaccompaniedby the right the group.e. custodians absolutetruth as the of of via up in defense thedivine nature truth revealed theprophet..The as statusof truth not easilyinvestigated religious but is in matters. to Individuals exercise right.Similarly.. symbols and their faith. * thebelief thatall religions shouldbe left equallyunprotected thelaw. right the freedom religion simultaneously individual of is an right-theright any of personto choose betweenreligions-and a collectiveright-that of the members any religion maintain beliefs.i.i. of of Structures belief notcommonto all religions. A Muslimin India has the right beof to lieve in and practiceIslam. attack on theirpersons.blasby phemyagainstany religion shouldbe banned. i. the Muslimsin India have the corresponding right maintain Islamiccommunity. outcomeof the the theexercise to determine fateofcollectivities. becomes an therefore. An assault on beliefs. to the Neither complete is without the other.. * thenotionthatall religions shouldbe equallyprotected thelaw.e. many non-Western societies havedifficulty conceiving individual of identity outsideitscultural context. by thereshouldbe no blasphemy law. In reality. This is a dangerousgame to play and it was turnedagainstthe Muslimsin the Ayodhyacontroversy. and Westerners have difficulty can comingto termswiththe idea thatthe selfis embeddedin its social environment.e. The Rushdieaffair threwup fourdifferent conceptions equal treatof mentin law in a multireligious society: * theorthodox viewthatthestatemaynot persecute suppress or any religion but remains freeto reflect dominant in the religion society. of is the Similarly. theyare distributed equally among all citizens. action: anti-discrimination e the legal equivalentof affirmative legislation are seeksto provide to becausethey specialprotection womenand minorities to under a perceived be underspecial threat. beliefin suchtruth heldcrucialto theidentity self-definitionMuslimsliving is of of in India (as in the West). particular religion in threat a givenpoliticalor social climatecould be givenexexceptional traordinary measures protection. in Satanic Verses. Hindu funda- . The paradoxofindividual versuscollective rights be illustrated the can by right self-determination. of of to the practices. The disjunction between individuals' membershipin discrete political and religious communities attracts interest politicaltheorists the of becauseof a tension between conceptions how to treatindividuals of justlyas members reliof gious communities as citizens. blasphemy againstthe Hindu faith would be illegalin India.

JULY1993 mentalist leadersinsisted thatthe actual historical recordwas irrelevant.was a continuing assault on everyHindu personally. those who disagree with the contentsor messageof a book shouldengagetheauthorin debateand attempt deto molishhis arguments. creed.comof of mented thatthis"is not mereintolerance. it is inoffensive. legal restrictions mustbe groundedin reasons that everyone can share. In a society characterized moral and religious by diversity. AsgharAli Engineer.Practically." He .This was thebasis on whichtheSatanic Verses was bannedin India. excites and people'scuriosity. of In June 1992 Professor MushirulHasan of the Muslim JamiaMillia said in an interview University thatwhilehe disapproved theSatanic of he Verses. The forceof religiously based arguments be rejected adherents competing will by of but faiths. director the Institute Islamic Studies.theyargued. Religionis a matter faith of and belief. to amounts penalizing victims the rather thantheperpetrators disorder.thisbelief gave extraconstitutional sanction to theirprogram. If then Equality is the right be critical anyonewithout to of on of discrimination grounds race. can lead to threats createdisorder it to by it it any group that wants to stop anything dislikes. But the veryact of banninggivesa book notoriety. the imbalancein the recognition reliin of giousand nonreligious valuesin thepublicrealmofmulticultural societies. The Rusdie affair and the Ayodhyacontroversy demonstrate diffithe cultyof basingpublic rules in a plural societyon religion. was opposed to the book's banning. or gender.otherdissenting teachers at (about halfthetotalstaff the university) werethreatened withrapes of theirdaughters. XXXIII. Secularismpredicatedon religiouspluralism should not be confusedwith religiousrelativism. for A lecturer who disagreed withtheirdemandswas beatenup by theagitators."Freedom of religion"means the prevented the freedom liveand worship to according one's religious to beliefs.A variantof cultural relativism would imposelimitson the freedom expression proscribof by ingattacks beliefs on thatcould lead to publicdisorder. it does not need safeguarding.NO. the faithful not prevented are fromrecognizing the validityof arguments grounded secularism.. ifHindusbelievethata temple and to Ram once stoodon thesite. and it has two deleterious consequences. The goal of a ban is to prevent people from readinga book. is degenerate it conduct.The continuing existence the mosque on a site so of sacred to Hindus.652 ASIAN SURVEY.philosophically.The interview produceda violentreactionfrom fundamentalist students who began an agitation Mushir'sresignation. The Satanic Verses Muslimsbut none was thereby may have offended frompracticing faith.In his view. leads morepeopleto read it clandestinely. 7.VOL.Freedom ofexpression functionally is if meaningless it does notincludethefreedom to offend.Hence.

and inteprogram was justified grounds maintaining on of nationalunity of gration. In September 1990. thenthe oppositehas happenedin India. AsgharAli Engineer. 9. Far frombeingconfined the private to sphere. to Muslimpoliticians" joiningthedemandforMushir'sresignation." In Asghar Ali's view: "Any movement promoting intolerance can only be harmful the minority for community. caste. 20 Hindu Weekly. the and onlythere).In reality. itsown version liberationtheology.about30 were to volunteers) the killedby police in the attempt more died in the ensuing and hundreds communalriots.partyleaderAdvani launcheda nationwide of of for campaignin support themovement theconstruction a templeto Ram in Ayodhya."8 If secularism understood thegradualdisplacement ascriptive of is as of ties religion. 8.Asghar Ali argued further that former Prime Minister P. to his The ensuing storm protest of merely reinforced perceptions Islamicillibof eralismand intolerance. In contemporary newspeak.000-km rathayatra (chariot journey)in a jeep painted look likea war chariot. Although BJP'ssuccesseshave a manifold the explanation thatincludes and its werebuilt organizational leadership skills.p. provides It legitimacy majority to communalism."by pandering thedemandsofsomeopportunistic V. He engagedin a 10.9% of the vote. Singh. June1992.000-strong gathering kar sevaks(holy tried storm BabriMasjid in October1990.and to 119 in 1991 with19. of whichheld only two seats in the EighthLok Sabha.Such stancesgivecredibility theBJPchargethatsomeparties in theMusto see lims nothing but a tempting vote-bank. whose supposedbirthplace site in Ayodhyawas occupied by the Babri Mosque." The Bharatiya Janata Party .and ethnicity achievement-based by calculations. to callingupon thepeopleto demonstrate Ram bhakti(Ram worship)and lok shakti(people power). the BJP decided to liberatethe Hindu god Ram.RAMESHTHAKUR 653 disagreed withMushiron the questionof whether book should have the beenbannedbutinsisted thatMushirhad theright express opinions. "LiberalIslam underChallenge.increased tallyto 85 in the 1989election its with11. The slogan adoptedby the partywas mandirwohinbanayenge (we will build the templethere.and the BJP has been a major beneficiary the progressive of attenuation secularism. in risked causing "immenseharm to the cause of Muslimsin this country. 1989and 1991triumphs on and based on nationalism mainly twofactors:an unapologetic identity of and In of patriotism an exploitation Hindu sentiments. whenthe 100.The party.caste and religion have come forcefully onto the centerstage of public life.4% of the vote.

The two chiefprotagonists thecontroversy the in are VishwaHindu Parishad(WorldHindu Councilor VHP) and theAll-India Babri Masjid ActionCommittee (AIBMAC). Madhya Pradesh. and was the the of on mosqueconstructed theruinsof a temple?The VHP relieson archeologicalfinds. ChiefMinister Kalyan Singhused the absenceof widespread communal riotsas evidenceof fairgovernment.p. thenthesitewouldhave beenconcededto Hindus. AIBMAC pointsto to The historical and otherrecords. of revenue records. arguethat themosquewas notbuilton theremains a temple. Two separateissuesare enin is tangled thecontroversy: Ayodhya birthplace Ram. historical evidence.such as of Memberof Parliament Syed Shahabuddin.JULY1993 In additionto its good performance the nationallevel in 1991. XXXIII. Muslimsbecamesullenand suspicious. in the of of founder the Mughal dynasty-hence. 25 The Ram Janambhoomi-Babri MasjidControversy . 7. wheretensions werenever entirely absentafter installathe tionofa BJPgovernment. BJPgovernment of on the subjected them to much harassment.having But provoked Hindu-Muslim a polarization beforethe 1991 election. Ayodhyalies in UP.and Uttar Pradesh (UP). Rajasthan.NO. But in theend its main argument the unanswerable is logic of religion:Hindus believethe answerto bothquestions be in theaffirmative. While not inflicting a reign terror thestate'sMuslims. the The BabriMasjid was builtin Ayodhya 1528during reign Babur. folklore. As a to result.654 ASIAN SURVEY.VOL. The courtstook possessionof it in 1950 in responseto cross-petitions from Hindus and Muslimsconcerning smallaltarto Ram thathad beenbuilt a insidethecomplex. May 1991. theBJP.the name of the mosque.9 "Moderate"Hinduscommitted theconstruction a templeat thedisto of 9. Its leaders. were on recordto the effect thatifit could havebeenconclusively thatthemosquewas builton proven theruinsof a temple. the at BJP won power in four states: Himachal Pradesh. 6). to such as Babur's last testament. In May 1991four historians-three Hindusand one Muslim-submitted report the a to government the Ayodhyadisputestatingthat therewas no historical archeological on or evidenceto suggest thatany spot in Ayodhyawas venerated thebirthplace Lord Ram as of priorto the 18thcentury (Hindu Weekly. to including pressures convert Hinduism. realizedafterwards that failureto maintainlaw and order would invitecentralgovernment intervention. and records legal proceedings arguethatthe mosque was constructed top of an to on eleventh the of century temple marking birthplace Ram. in reality relative but the calm was attributable a refusal Muslimsto be provoked to by intoan unwiseconfrontation withan unsympathetic administration. India's most populousstate.

Calls on Muslims to boycott India's Republic Day observances and setting firecrackers Muslim localitiesto celebrate off in Pakistan'scricket teamvictories further inflamed Hindutvapassions. was to become a favorite he targetof the Hindutva backlash. Few Indian Muslimsknewoftheexistence theBabriMasjid in 1980. Imam was once again in the forefront. tookthelead in organizing a Muslimagitation protest. too.RAMESHTHAKUR 655 putedsitewereprepared acceptand pay fora careful to dismantling the of mosque and its reconstruction a different in Ayodhya. PoliticalProfit fromReligiousTension Politicians bothcommunities politicalprofit promoting of saw in religious militancy that mobilizedentirecommunities behind them. disputed on Having appeased Muslim fundamentalism the Shah Bano and in to Salman Rushdiecases. Rajiv Gandhiresponded like manner therising tideof Hindu anger. Moderate at site Muslimsrecognized religious the valueofAyodhya theHindusand also to acknowledged thatthestructure notbeenused as a mosquefora very had long time. The doors of the Babri Masjid wereopenedfor the at in worship the Ram shrine 1986. Muslimsecurity.fewwereunaof ware of it by 1990. They argued. was doingthe same withMuslims: "His ambition emergeas the sole leaderof Muslimshas done enough to damageto the safety and security Indian Muslims. But some Muslims insistedthat the mosque had to be left whereit stoodand theHindu imageremoved from underthecentral dome whereit had lain since 1949.SyedShahabuddin 1. "Liberal Islam underChallenge.and in 1989 Rajiv permitted per10." . In thetensepostto dedemolition the atmosphere. The VHP. comingclose on theheelsof theShah Bano conInto troversy. The agitation. the mosque had been elevatedinto a symbolof Muslimidentity.AbdullahBukhari. If theBJP was exploiting Hindus. Indian secularism.An and astonishing number Indiansofall religions of believethatreligious intolerance and militancy provokedand exploited politicians personal is by for and party gain. mandingthe rightof Muslimsto offer namaaz (Muslim prayers)at the site. Engineer. the Shahi Imam of Delhi's JamaMasjid."'0 of When the gates to the disputedshrinein the Babri Masjid were unlockedon February 1986.correctly. rejected moderate a solutionto the dispute. The Shahi Imam went on the offensive 1988 and outmaneuvered in Syed Shahabuddin hard-line in resistance Hindu demands. thatthe structure had notbeenused as a mosquebecauseMuslimshad notbeenpermitted to use it. playedright intothe hands of VHP efforts communalize dian politics. In the decade.At theforefront in demanding ban on a in also The Satanic Verses.

12. The president istrations in in cannotbe conducted that emergency a stateifsatisfied itsgovernment in In accordancewiththeConstitution. India Today."Pampering 1993."Indian Express.In in intoperiodic riotsand killings Meerut. On July tanceto stopthekar seva (holyvolunteer Prime a of theSant Samaj (congregation holymen)rejected proposalfrom of kar Minister Rao to suspendtheongoing seva forconstruction thetemThe following government. Arun Nehru. The last major in werein Sitamarhi Biharin October demolition riotsbefore Ayodhya the is here: Ayodhya themythical historical symmetry 1992.12 almostquadrupling figure the 1970s.500 communal for the incidents.3 January Minority 11. 1990. Thereis a fitting of is "birthplace" Ram's conbirthplace Ram. the to of The BJP government the staterefused countenance use of force interinsteadforcentral government againstthekar sevaksand prepared the vention enforce court'sorders. 1992. 34.000 people were killedin some 4. is as thegovernment seen to be "appeasingtheminority minority funby cannotbe contained pampering Majority fundamentalism 11 damentalism.VOL.The Babri Masjid controversy showedgreatrelucJuly1992 whenthe UttarPradeshstategovernment 21 work)at Ayodhya.p. solution theAyodhya a fundamentalism.As a former couraging fundamentalism elusiveas long problem remain will to commented.morethan 7.governments New Delhi in had been peremptory authoritarian dealingswithstateadministraand tions. As faras the VHP and the Sant Samaj wereconof cerned. Indeed.the disputewas beyondthe competence any courtto decide. JULY 1993 stone). But in the Lok Sabha debate on December21. the 1980s.he performed (layingof foundation formance shilanyas of campaign. Sita (legend has it that Sita was foundin an earthenpot in the up in flared dangerously ploughing fields). Narasimha to was Rao arguedthatArticle356 oftheConstitution too restrictive have Hawks Won't Work. ple and enterintoa dialoguewiththecentral Court'scommenthe day theVHP askedthekarsevaksto ignore Supreme tarieson the dispute." the tension during secondhalfof the 1980sflared Increasing communal Ahmedabad. of nearAyodhya thestart the 1989 election at shilanyas himself electedthat year seemed to believethat it The JanataDal government could forgean unbeatableelectoralalliance of "backward" castes and and for affirmative actionprograms theformer enMuslimsby expanding cabinet minister amongthelatter. XXXIII. 7.656 ASIAN SURVEY. to the is the government Indian federalism distinctive granting central for electedstategovernments replacethemwithadminand powerto dismiss may declare an run directly fromNew Delhi. Sitamarhi the mythical of sort.15 January . thepast.NO. and Bhagalpur.

p.To imposecentral ruleon UP in anticipation untenable constitutional by would have been impropriety its government not was The Rao government guilty.indeed. January Post-Ayodhya . otherwise consistent withIndia's democratic-federal polity. and the VHP are knowncollechasabha. if forces be ordered a situation can in rapidly drifting towardanarchy The necessary. Hence. Some Congressleaders. Weekly. the disenchantment manywithRao's inactionpriorto December6. of Stungbyallegations having measureof distiousin UP."Rao's Credibility 16 1993. Constitutionalists contenof tion that he could not have acted sooner.the youth-based tively theSanghParivar(theSanghfamily). G.13 The deployment central and." Statesman A. believing and inaction ofDecember6. NarasimhaRao tooktheextra-precautionary on Shattered Article356. and as afwerebannedby thegovernment VHP (and two Muslimorganizations) ter December6 as communalorganizations. witha fivevolunteers.The BJP govin ernment UP had been givena popularmandateat thesame timeas the opposiin Congress government New Delhi. operatedas an underground has million-strong of former base as period.The BajrangDal. government gration Councilhad meton November and thecentral warning speciallytrained of squads beingarreceived intelligence reports of rangedduringthe kar seva for purposesinimicalto the security the of Babri Masjid structure. theywerecritical theprimeminister's of putative in not heedingtheircall and putting faithin the words of the BJP. RSS. Students Indianpolitics justifying nonwerethusfacedby the novelsituation a primeminister of rejected prime the minister's use ofArticle356.But the RSS. his This was also thebasis of criticisms the Indian government foreign by of But it remainsdifficult see how Rao could have acted to governments.had demandedits by they had beenvindicated theevents dismissal evenbefore. but of haste and panic afterwards dismissing beentoo cauother BJPstategovernments. NationalIntehad 23. againstthewishesof thestategovernment. duringthe 1975-77 emergency after demthe in The dismissal theBJPgovernment UP was expected of olitionof the mosque.RAMESHTHAKUR 657 permitted to dismiss BJPgovernment him the before mosque'sdemolithe of tionand thatperhapsit neededto be amended. the RashtriyaSwayamsevakSangh (RSS). The BJP. organization before. The BJP was also thelargest of in tionparty Parliament. 13. Noorani. of indecision in the and vacillation tolerating Kalyan Singhgovernment three in untilDecember6. the Hindu MaBajrang Dal. 1. legallyand unsustainable politically. For example.

state But IndiraGandhi arguedthatan independent bulwark judiciarywas the mostpowerful of an entrenched againstthedemocratic elite demandsforequality. JULY 1993 missingall BJP state governments-Madhya Pradesh. RegimeDecay The political exploitation a Hindu senseofgrievance thustheproxiof was matecause oftheAyodhya tragedy.658 ASIAN SURVEY.000 seniorand middle-ranking partyofficials. and Himachal Pradesh-afterthe Ayodhyademolition.15 January 1993. of ridiculing central the government's courtship theintelin ligentsia and theforeign pressat theexpenseofmajority sentiments the Hindi heartland.and not thenarrower of to it. and the police. Havingfailedto seize theinitiative cleansing of in theCongress itsinherited of corruption scandalson a variety fronts. Dursucing her emergency rule (1975-77). of the prime minister in no position claimthemoralhighground was to from the BJP on any issue. BJP the and parliamentary leadershipin New Delhi had been on the defensive went apologetic abouttheincidents December6. In Ayodhya policewerecaughtbetween the their legalroleofprotecting the mosque and the politicalreality a stategovernment was comthat of mitted destroying This. An independent lies and powerful judiciary one of thechiefinstruments theattainment the is to of liberalgoal offreedom from unrestricted authority.thechief responsibility at thedoor of theCongressParty. Otherinstitutions statealso faced of growing politicalinterference.VOL. consideration sym14. is hardlysurprising thereshould of now be a politicization crime. . the BJP would have increasedits representation the 14 Lok Sabha from119 to 170 seats. 7. party of the on theoffensive. the SupremeCourt effectively of cumbedto governmental and pressure abdicateditsroleas theguardian individual rights againstthe state. but The policeare heldin private toward ridicule their for mouse-like timidity in and withthegeneral political superiors lion-like arrogance dealings public. Indian commentators have longpointedto the unholynexusbetweenpoliticians. With a criminals. The dismissals attracted considerable criticism.p. Afterwards. XXXIII. it that steadycriminalization politics. fearedfortheirruthlessness wielding in state power.Psephologists calculatedthathad elections been held at in the end of 1992. Politicians corrupt of are and held in general contempt.But theultimate cause was thecreeping malaiseafflicting India's constitutional democracy. India Today. Beforethe dismissalof the BJP governments the and arrestof about 5.NO. 16. They werean alibi for inaction a CongressPartybereft ideas on how to confront politby of the ical challenge theBJP. Rajasthan.For this.

15 January . to dedication dutyand partialserviceto the groupin power.and it shall go hard.is Party. state tough. decisionto resituation. 1993. Hindu mobthathad destroyed images on temple theruinsand installed themosquehad builta makeshift first ofRam. of The instruction".notto praisehimbutto buryhim.New Delhi responded the multipronged and ineptitude.Havingalloweda majorproblem fester chalto more than forty years. "The villainy Act 3. Cabinetministers descend risk acceptsa substantial well on him.but I will better 15.the Sangh constitutional thanin the rather battleson thestreets its Parivarchose to fight sectarian graspof the courts. mentforthe demolition. Scene I.30.15 Sangh Parivarbettered lessons open disdain for the learnedfromthe Congress. to in no position complainof havingto reap the whirlwind. In a religiously which countrywith an elected systemof government. stategovernment's aware of the BJP of of destruction a mosque that was under the protection the Supreme for havingcreatedthisdilemma thepolice.The government's The BJP was in a win-win was of guilt. the the Like Shakespeare'sShylock. Showingincreasingly and judicial correlatesof Indian democracy.9% blamedboth. India Today. to weresilentonlookers the politics.p. professional about its relationworrying mob without deals witha riotous If an officer and to he stategovernment. The Congress Court. mix lenge of December 6 withcharacteristic of bluster. 1993.RAMESHTHAKUR 659 of withthe sentiments the Hindu mob. 18. So thepolicein Ayodhya. 16. in flush post-demolition buildthemosque.16 Regimedecay was accompaniedby governmental for to ennuiand policyparalysis. A newmosquecould notbe builton thesitewithout destroyin chargedatmosphere a ing the templeand the images. In an opinionpoll conducted fortnight thedemoligovernblamedthe central tionof themosque.But in themeantime. Hindu-majority withthetemple?On January was goingto dare to tamper politicalparty the of administration Ayodhyalifted ban and permit2.2% of the respondents and 29.was thelargerdilemma pathizing the confronting guardiansof law and orderon December 6.Rao beganby talking he and governnments banningorganizations. Merchant Venice.announced thefirst the you teach me I will execute.alongwithdismissing confused retreat. For every an in seniorpolice officer India.thedistrict ted Hindus to worshipat the Ram shrineon the site of the demolished mosque. does little enhancehis prospects shipwiththe will ofcareerdamage. promisedthat the mosque the wouldbe rebuilt. 17.8% blamed the UP state government.The peopleof India wouldappearto have an intuitive cause) and the Congress(the of joint culpability the BJP (the proximate after a ultimate cause). thereis an imbalancebetween impartial.

At thetimeofwriting. theinterests the state. Is Therea WayForward? .NO. loss economists inthecompenbring sation if which states a policy socially that is who principle. the of but timing and thepreciselocationof thenew mosqueweresubjectto further discussion.A mass BJP rallyin Delhi at theend of February 1993was thwarted a massive by policedeployment. 18. should worse than off before change someone the be and should better Forthose caseswhere is unavoidable.7% of Indians. D..660 ASIAN SURVEY.VOL. politlost ical points withtheMuslimswhiletheBJPwon plaudits from Hindus. 7. datesforfresh in elections theformer BJP-ruled states have notbeenannounced. parties a dyadic negotiating arebetter 18 An increase total welfare occurs of withwhen some are off people better as a result a change outanyone being worse off. withthe government allegingan international conspiracy theBJP rushing pin theblameon Pakistanon theprinand to ciple of guilty untilproveninnocent. * Theabove no criterion requires for policy be socially that a to beneficial. p. one be off.With Southwest and South Asia infected withIslamic revivalism. JULY1993 supported only35. seriesofpowerA fulbombblastsin Bombayand Calcuttain March further an complicated alreadyconfused situation. gainfrom remain fully The challengeto secularism India has come fromexternalsources in and fromwithin. Judgand of mentson the properbalance between competing claims mustincludean evaluation theirrelative of urgency and importance. The government muststrive a balance between rights individufor the of als. desirable those it those better even off after compensating wholose.The mosquewouldbe rebuilt.So theCongress. Pareto (1848-1923). XXXIII. Ibid. first proposedby V. task of delegitimizing the in secularism India became easier.17 Whenreports of started comingin from party activistsall overthecountry thatHindusweresolidlyopposedto removing the imagesand tearing downtheir newtemple. government the beganto backtrackon thespecifics itspromise. 20. F. could simply as Opponents pointto Islamicfundamentalism sufficient jusof fervor tification the need fora Hindu Rashtra(polity).I offer propositwo tions: * A resolution thefundamentalism-secularism may inthecriteof dilemma lie rion allocative of efficiency there noother when is achievable result which by in both in set off. Can religious and secularism cohabitwithindemocratic government? Democracyre17. The criterion. alongwithitsbrandofsecularism. Hindus disapproved the decision by of by a margin 59:30. is also knownas the Paretocriterion the solutionas the Pareto-optimal and solution. theinterests collective of entities.

It is timeforthemoderates reassert to leadership bothcommunities. This is wherea practicalapplication of the compensation principle might provehelpful. influence sadhusand of it mustcleansethepolitical processofthegrowing that sants. patriotism lastretreat thebaffled the the defeated. Fourth. of Hindusmustdecideon thesanctity a temple of builton deceitand duplicity.Indian in for the inof culture todayis a composite amalgamof theassimilation successive vadersin thepast. Repeatedappeasement fundamentalist of Muslimdemandsin thepast undercut in religion-blind secularists theHindu as wellas Muslimcommuin nity.RAMESHTHAKUR 661 tolerance dissent. into Third. and a willingness bear any sacrifice pay any pricein pursuit paradisein theworldbeyond and of the time. Whatever Hindusmight flush theinstallation Ram idols in Ayodhya. on Tools.ifMuslimsare notpermitted integrate thenationalmainto will feedon the sense of thena major new terrorist movement stream. ModernIndia and Indians. compromise.ifIndia wishesto avoid a "Khomeinization" itspolitics. accommodation. Events of 1992 in India suggestthe risksof getting mixture wrong: hell on earthas well as eternaldamnation.Largefirst but it scale terrorism Muslims would destroy theircommunity by would eventually destroy India too. a willingness livetogether thetemporal to in world. in to cherishit. and take care to preserve insteadof engaging efforts it wrongs thatgo back sevrewrite Trying undo the past and remedy it.wouldbe if India could be wipedfrom unrecognizable somehow Mughaland British is thecollective The taskof righting wrongs generally past consciousness. of Punjab and Kashmirhave deprivation the country's largestminority.In today's India. Down thatpath lies totalanarchy. thenit followsthat recuperation the Indian body politicreof in think thefirst quiresinstitutional regeneration.Indians of all faithsmust accept the realityof theirhistory.including Hindus. Muslimsare spreadthroughout country. Religiondecreessubto servience authority. If the and then destruction the Babri Masjid was part of a calculatedcampaign. If the diagnosisof the rottenness afflicting Indian stateis correct. createdproblems enoughforthe Indian stateeven thoughtheyare geothe graphically localized. to eralcenturies timewillonlywreck present all concerned. of then Second. skillssuitedto thetaskwereright hand. . religion the first of and refuge scoundrel of politicians. sobering of of the factis that of it was accomplished mob rule of the worstsort: defiance constituby tional authority withthe passive connivanceof the police and the state government. The manner speedofthedestruction themosquesuggest and of the episode was more than a spontaneoussurge by an excitedcrowd. to non-negotiable dogma. is India is fabledforits resilience. implements. of and quiresnegotiation.

XXXIII.the government 24.NO. and ordinance. it was clear that the Ram of by imagescould not be removedfromwithinthe mosque structure the in Muslimsor by the government orderto make way fora functioning mosqueagain. at a is The probability thatbotha temple is discreet from each other. thereis a dangerthat referral the Court will politicizethe judiciary to a whatis essentially politicalproblem.VOL. nance to acquire almost 68 acres of land in and around the Ram Masjid complex at Ayodhya. mythology. and Aurangzeb(1658-1707). The government's BJP tion to long-standing demands.p. JULY1993 to to doomed.thehighest all Muslimsto condemnand oppose the package.the BJP was concernedabout the politicalprofit thatwould accrue to the Congressfrom the decision."19The judiciarycannotcompensate the inadequaciesof governfor mentor the failure the politicalprocess. seemby contemporary how ignobleit might history matter no The Muslimsin India cannotbe held inheritable. Nani Palkhivala. stitution.and perhapsMathuraand Varanasias well. IllustratedWeekly India. but and a mosquewillbe built.Unfortunately. to builda templeand the othera mosque. Even the actions of Khalji normsand practicesof theserulershave to be judged by the prevailing relevance transfor basisor historical their times."Are We Misusingthe Judiciary?" of January 1993.farbetter have the self-confidence take pridein one's past standards.at the same time. actionwas a capitulaThe BJP's reactionwas mixed. too timidor too confused decide foritis self. Allauddin (1296-1316). theAll-IndiaMuslimPersonal rejected land acquisition the directed and bodyofMuslimtheologians scholars. 9.nor cannotdecide upon questionsof belief. The Muslimscould denythesiteto theHindusindefinitely.The judiciary insteadof resolving opinion. for to the cabinetcannot"shift responsibility thecourtsformatters which to the government too weak. 7. ordia promulgated presidential On January 1993. Long beforethe destruction the Babri Masjid. Guiltis notcollectively of to accountfortheatrocities Mahmudof Ghazni (971-1030). SyedAhmedBukhari.or politicalwisdom. The land is to be Janambhoomi-Babri one handedoverto two trusts.662 ASIANSURVEY. and archaeology. Law Board. 2-8 19.The soft optionforthegovernment to distance and the Hinduand Muslimtrusts to refer to delegate construction separate CourtunderArticle143 oftheConto aspectsofthedispute theSupreme since thereis no legal point as such at issue. The Naib Imam of theJamaMasjid. a and pronounce upon questionsof history. But there no religious is Muscleansingfromthemto present-day ferring chargeof religious the lims. . of to have suggested courseof deferring a magnanimity might Pragmatic Hindus on Ayodhya.

it will widenthe the And the act of removing gulfbetweenthe two major communities.21 and line. Rafiq of paredto aboutone-third Hindus. in of mainly Muslims. unemployment. on outcome. with marginalization. The Muslimscould haveacknowledged to importance thethreesitesto Hinduism. Girilal Jain. 20 December 21. illiteracy.The way: of pricehas been destruction the mosque in the mostconsequential by a crazed mob takingthe law into its own hands. J. back the historical of significance the Babri Masjid. comMore thanhalfof India's Muslims."BeyondAyodhya'sWatershed:MuslimsHave to Reckon withRealities. 14 December1992." no bargainof Reducedto a "position self-imposed the away the capacityto influence Muslimshave thrown ing powerleft. in whichcase the disputewill simmerwhile India and sentiments the sense majority becomesan armedpolice statefighting a ofMusliminsecurity Rebuilding mosquewillnotbring keepsincreasing. . the tuallydestroy site.S.but it willdestroy Muslimsin India first. They could have sought sitesis of major religious site the in helpfrom majority shifting BabriMasjid to another without the stemming the and desecration.livebelowthepoverty 20. don the steadydietof non-issues and focuson the real issuesof poverty.20They can insistthatthe mosquemustbe rebuilt theexact spot whereit stood. at a timewhen the need is to build bridgesbetweenHindus and Muslims. Dr." Timesof India. "Let's Give Peace a Chance. temple forcewill lead to killings thethousands. "Principled"dogmatismprevailedover expedientpragmatism. The Hindus could thenhave been held to a posito monuof the tionof secularism and preserving sanctity Muslimreligious ments.RAMESHTHAKUR 663 but only at the cost of keepingalive the disputeand poisoningHinduby was politicized the BJPOnce religion indefinitely. on Muslimscan now agreeto themosquebeingrebuilt a different in after whichcase theywill be seen to have caved in to Hindu militancy againstthe voices of Hindu moderation. Hindus have been in superiority thepowerofnumbers elecand awakened their to numerical toralpolitics. compromise cable. 1992. by To reverse earlier an a to by comment. and the Muslimshave been boxed intoa lose-losesituation. The finalerrorwas to believethatthe disputecould be solvedby the referral thejudicialprocess."Sunday TimesofIndia. Muslim relations impractibecamepolitically solution a VHP and theMuslims.noneof thethree of fundamental to significance Islam. gainingassurancesthatresolving tensions from mosquesin the threeholyHindu citieswould put an end to the the challenges mosques. resort terrorism MuslimswillevenOr the India. Bandukwala. yearsof intransigence Muslimvoicesto be The cataclysm Ayodhyahas enabledmoderate of of A prominent Muslimleaderin Gujaratwrites theneed to abanraised.

1980 (in percent) of Population IAS IPS 11.pp.NO. 7. by on Muslims.4 6. In the spiritof give and take. maybe preparing assertcommunity to leadership order to reclaimthe middleground.VOL. The Babri Masjid Committee called forthe annual RepublicDay celebations January 1993.but theologians the All-India Muslim PersonalLaw Board and the modernist All-India Milli Council declaredtheywould observe 26 for January as a call forrespect theConstitution.the Muslimsof Ayodhyacould build a mosque at an alternative wherethe truly site faithful pray. one society. XXXIII.has reproduced some verytelling as the of showthegreatgap between politicalreality Muslimsperceived a in privileged groupand the social reality theirsituation the publicand of private sectors(see Table 1). . Zakaria."22Instead. 34-35. 22.5 SOURCE: RafiqZakaria.IFS = Indian ForeignService. Quoted in Sunday. JULY1993 1 Position Muslimsin India. Private Sector Services Services Executive 4.0 1. one people.Indian Muslims are not the overjoyed theprospect having moveto Pakistan.7 IFS 3.to be boycotted on 26."The IndianMuslims: Are TheyReallyPampered?" The IllustratedWeekly India. Many Muslims.3 2. "Even thosewho wentover in 1947 are stillbeing treated second-class as citizens.664 TABLE ASIANSURVEY. 19-22. State Govt.farbetter rebuildIndia as to one nation.dismayedby the intransigence traditional of leadersduringthe yearsof the in Ayodhyadispute. NOTE: IAS = Indian Administrative Service.theadministrative secretary thePanel on Minorities of appointed to statistics by Indira Gandhi in 1980. Muslims can musttake specialcare to respect Hindu sensitivities to wrench and themselvesfrom any lingering emotional attachment Pakistan.pp. 2-8 January of 1993.IPS = Indian Police Service.4 3.4 CentralGovt. Said one after at of to Ayodhyademolition. Considering to the fateof mohajirs-thosewho emigrated Pakistanafterpartitionto and of the Bihari Muslims fromBangladesh.3-9 January 1993.

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