NEW DELHI – Terming Supreme Court’s Ayodhya verdict “unjust”, eminent human rights activists including Medha Patkar and Aruna Roy have said the judgment is not only an assault on “the secular fabric of our Constitution but also “legitimises majoritarianism and mobocracy.”
“The National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) condemned the ‘unanimous’ verdict by the five-judge Bench of the Supreme Court. The judgement, instead of holding accountable before law all those who criminally demolished the 450-year-old Babri Masjid, has rewarded the violators. The judgement legitimises majoritarianism and mobocracy and strikes at the secular fabric of our Constitution. Full of contradictions, the verdict only gives sermons on the values of equality and fraternity, but ends up violating these very principles,” they said in a press statement signed by around 90 human rights activist on Thursday.
On Saturday, a bench of five Supreme Court judges headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, in a unanimous judgment, ruled in favor of building a temple at the site where the Babri Masjid once stood and gave alternative land to build a mosque in Ayodhya. The judgement was criticised by experts including former Supreme Court Justices Markandey Katju and AK Ganguly. These eminent activists, who fights for people’s rights and for weaker sections, are the latest to join the group of critics against the apex court’s judgment in the century-old dispute.
Saying that there were logical contradiction in the verdict, they said the judgement did not stand the “test of logic” and the court might be accused of doing “a gross abuse of the due principles of law and natural justice.”
“The judgement conveys an impression to Muslims that despite being equal citizens of the country, their rights are not equal before the law. This is an extremely worrying message from the highest court in today’s times when Muslims are already being targeted and marginalised in many ways,” they averred.
“Another unprecedented and unconstitutional aspect of the judgement is addressing the two sides as ‘Hindu’ and ‘Muslim’ which is clearly in violation to the secular character of the state and can prove quite dangerous. There were no parties with these names before the court. The Uttar Pradesh Sunni Central Waqf Board was a petitioner representing that specific disputed land (and not the entire Muslim community). Nor is ‘Ram Lalla Virajman’ (on behalf of Vishwa Hindu Parishad) a representative body of all Hindus,” they said.
Referring to the implications of the order, they said that based on this judgment, “any community / sect can use their faith to contest the ownership of any structure and forcibly take over and demolish it by vicious campaigning and support from highest powers of state machinery.”
Asking the Supreme Court to review the judgement and give a fresh verdict on “the basis of facts, law and logic, but not on the basis of faith, the activist appreciated the peaceful response from citizens especially Muslims in the aftermath of the court order. They also asked the government to stop filing cases against anyone criticising the judgment on the basis of law and logic.
Full text of the statement and its signatories:
“The National Alliance of People’s Movements condemns the ‘unanimous’ verdict by the five-judge Bench of the Supreme Court in the Ayodhya matter. The judgement, instead of holding accountable before law all those who criminally demolished the 450 year old Babri Masjid has rewarded the violators. The judgement legitimizes majoritarianism and mobocracy and strikes at the very secular fabric of our Constitution. Full of contradictions, the verdict only pays sermons to the values of equality and fraternity, but ends up violating these very principles in its relief.
The judgement also does not pass the test of logic. Despite the Court stating at the outset of the hearing that the judgement in the matter of title dispute would be pronounced based on facts and not faith, the final judgement has ended up privileging faith in a disproportionate way and opening a dangerous flood gate. On the one hand, the Court upheld that a masjid stood at the ‘disputed site’, that there was no evidence of a temple below the mosque (the Court accepted presence of a non-muslim structure), that idols were unlawfully sneaked into the mosque in 1949 and that the mosque itself was unlawfully demolished in 1992. However, on the other hand, while issuing directions, the Court ordered that a temple be constructed at the very site of demolition of the mosque, which not only defies logic but is also a gross abuse of the due principles of law and natural justice. To camouflage this, the Court directs that 5 acres land be given for ‘rehabilitation of the mosque’. There is no clarity as to the legal and constitutional basis for arriving at such a decision !
The invocation of Article 142 of the Constitution in this context would infact give rise to many new challenges in the future. This was a clear title suit where the Uttar Pradesh Sunni Central Wakf Board was agitating for its legal rights and the question was not about ‘finding alternative land for the mosque’. The judgement conveys an impression to Muslims that despite being equal citizens of the country, their rights are not equal before the law. This is an extremely worrying message from the highest court in today’s times when Muslims are already being targeted and marginalized in many ways. It is as if the Court is granting them a favour by offering the land. Further, granting the land (beneath the mosque) as a legal right to the same party which demolished the mosque is a historical insult to the values and principles enshrined in the Constitution.
Another unprecedented and unconstitutional aspect of the judgement is addressing the two sides as ‘Hindu’ and ‘Muslim’ which is clearly in violation to the secular character of the state and can prove quite dangerous. There were no parties with these names before the Court. The Uttar Pradesh Sunni Central Waqf Board was a petitioner representing that specific disputed land (and not the entire Muslim community of the country). Nor is ‘Ram Lalla Virajman’ (on behalf of Vishwa Hindu Parishad) a representative body of all Hindus.
Despite the verdict mandating that the central and state government must strictly implement the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991 which stipulates maintenance of status quo on the character of disputed sites as it existed in 1947, the judgement sets in motion a very dangerous precedent of allowing majoritarian faith over facts. Based on this, any community / sect can use their faith to contest the ownership of any structure and forcibly take over and demolish it by vicious campaigning and support from highest powers of state machinery. And it is no exaggeration to state that in the delicate circumstances that our nation is in today, the majoritarian political and religious forces would fully abuse such a judicial precedent and indulge in persecution of minorities.
Be this as it may, the ‘Ayodhya matter’ itself is far from resolved and accountability is yet to be fixed on those who indulged in the criminal act of demolition. There are many unanswered questions. What happened of the Liberhan Commission’s Report? Why has the CBI been dragging its feet even 27 years after the demolition? Why haven’t the perpetrators of the crime been prosecuted and brought to justice ? Within days of the verdict, we also observe that the All India Hindu Mahasabha has now written to the Prime Minister and Home Minister to withdraw all cases against the karsevaks responsible for the Babri demolition !
It is also a harsh reality that the political leaders, party and their violent affiliates who were behind the ‘Rath Yatra’ and demolition of the masjid in 1992 and the Gujarat pogrom of 2002, are in power in the centre and the state, to who the Apex Court’s verdict hands over the ‘disputed land’ on a platter despite admitting that they were guilty of criminal acts. Ironically, these communal elements are now preaching to others that the ‘bitter past must be left behind’ in the interest of a ’new India’, seeking peace and brotherhood ! With a combination of draconian measures including the abrogation of Article 370 and lockdown of Kashmir for over 100 days, the communal criminalization of Triple Talaq, the proposed Citizenship Amendment Bill and proposals to extend the NRC across the country, the present verdict not only emboldens and encourages these powers but also gives them legal sanctity in the pursuit of their ‘Hindu Rashtra’ project.
If the Apex Court was of the view that such a judgement was the ‘need of the hour to let peace prevail and move ahead’, the judgement should have said so, in so many words that it was depriving one party of their rightful ownership of the disputed site for pragmatic reasons, placing the imposed ‘compromise’ on record and acknowledging the sacrifice expected of the Muslim community. Without such an express acknowledgement, it would be very unjust to call this decision, justice.
We demand that the Supreme Court reviews this … judgement within the framework of the Constitution and decides it again on the basis of fact, law and logic and not on the basis of ‘faith’. This is important since this is not just the case of one ‘disputed religious site’, but is necessary to ensure that hate-mongering elements do not get an opportunity to carry forward their divisive agendas and violate the Constitution. We also demand that the state stop registration of false cases and persecution of anybody who critiques this judgement on the basis of law and logic. All those responsible for the criminal act of demolition must be brought to book at least now.
We hope that in this challenging climate of struggle for justice, the common citizens of the country and in particular, people belonging to both Hindu and Muslim faiths maintain peace. Democracy-loving citizens and groups need to be ever vigilant to ensure that in the garb of ‘temple construction’, there is no further hate and bloodbath. At a time when the very right of citizens to question, reason and expression are trampled upon and all dissent is termed as anti –national, we must be on our toes to defend our democracy.
NAPM deeply appreciates the courage and peace-loving nature of the common masses, in particular the Muslim community, and resolves to stand by them in these trying times. NAPM commits itself to fight alongside those who are wronged and continue its collective struggle for a just society based on peace, equality, reason, freedom, liberty and fraternity.
Let us organise to save our country from right-wing majoritarianism and strive to ensure that the values of the Constitution as well as the aspirations of Gandhi, Ambedkar, Maulala Azad, Bhagat Singh, Periyar, Shubash, Phule, Savitribai, and others are kept alive.
Medha Patkar, Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) and National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM);
Aruna Roy, Nikhil Dey, Shankar Singh, Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS), National Campaign for People’s Right to Information, NAPM;
Dr. Binayak Sen, Peoples’ Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL); Gautam Bandopadhyay, Nadi Ghati Morcha; Kaladas Dahariya, RELAA, NAPM Chhattisgarh;
Prafulla Samantara, Lok Shakti Abhiyan; Lingraj Azad, Samajwadi Jan Parishad & Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti, Manorama, Ant-Posco Movement, NAPM Odisha;
Kavita Srivastava, People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL); Kailash Meena, NAPM Rajasthan;
Sandeep Pandey, NAPM, Richa Singh, Sangatin Kisaan Mazdoor Sangathan; Arundhati Dhuru, Manesh Gupta, Rajeev Yadav, Suresh Rathaur, Mahendra, NAPM, Uttar Pradesh;
Sister Celia, Domestic Workers Union; Maj Gen (Retd) S.G.Vombatkere, NAPM, Karnataka;
Gabriele Dietrich, Penn Urimay Iyakkam, Madurai; Geetha Ramakrishnan, Unorganised Sector Workers Federation; Arul Doss, NAPM Tamilnadu;
Dr. Sunilam, Adv. Aradhna Bhargava, Kisan Sangharsh Samiti; Rajkumar Sinha, Chutka Parmaanu Virodhi Sangharsh Samiti,NAPM, Madhya Pradesh;
Vilayodi Venugopal, CR Neelakandan, Prof. Kusumam Joseph, Sharath Cheloor, NAPM, Kerala;
Dayamani Barla, Aadivasi-Moolnivasi Astivtva Raksha Samiti, Basant Hetamsaria, Ashok Verma, Aloka Kujur, NAPM Jharkhand;
Anand Mazgaonkar, Swati Desai, Krishnakant, Parth, Nita Mahadev, Mudita, Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti, Lok Samiti, NAPM Gujarat;
Vimal Bhai,Matu Jan sangathan; Jabar Singh, NAPM, Uttarakhand;
Samar Bagchi, Amitava Mitra, Pradip Chatterjee, Pasarul Alam, NAPM West Bengal;
Suniti SR, Suhas Kolhekar, Prasad Bagwe, NAPM, Maharashtra; Bilal Khan, Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan, Mumbai, NAPM Maharashtra;
Anjali Bharadwaj, National Campaign for People’s Right to Information (NCPRI), NAPM;
Faisal Khan, Khudai Khidmatgar, J S Walia, NAPM Haryana; Guruwant Singh, NAPM Punjab;
Kamayani Swami, Ashish Ranjan, Jan Jagran Shakti Sangathan; Mahendra Yadav,KosiNavnirman Manch; Sister Dorothy, Ujjawal Chaubey, NAPM Bihar;
Bhupender Singh Rawat, Jan Sangharsh Vahini; Sunita Rani, Domestic Workers Union;Nanhu Prasad, Nirman Mazdoor Union; Rajendra Ravi, Madhuresh Kumar, Himshi Singh, Uma, Aryaman, NAPM, Delhi;
Jeevan Kumar & Syed Bilal (Human Rights Forum), P. Shankar (Dalit Bahujan Front), Vissa Kiran Kumar & Kondal (Rythu Swarajya Vedika), Sajaya K (Caring Citizens Collective), Ravi Kanneganti (Rythu JAC), Ashalatha (MAKAAM), Krishna (Telangana Vidyavantula Vedika-TVV), M. Venkatayya (Telangana Vyavasaya Vruttidarula Union-TVVU), Jangaiah & SQ Masood (RTI Activists), Meera Sanghamitra, Rajesh Serupally, NAPM Telangana;
P. Chennaiah, Andhra Pradesh Vyavasaya Vruthidarula Union-APVVU, Ramakrishnam Raju, United Forum for RTI and NAPM, Chakri (Samalochana), Balu Gadi (RSV), Bapji Juvvala, – NAPM Andhra Pradesh.