Let apex court take final call on Ayodhya
In ‘War on Sacred Grounds’, Ron E Hassner investigates the causes and properties of conflicts over sites that are both venerated and contested; he also proposes potential means for managing these disputes.
In 'War on Sacred Grounds', Ron E Hassner investigates the causes and properties of conflicts over sites that are both venerated and contested; he also proposes potential means for managing these disputes.
Hassner illustrates a complex and poorly understood political dilemma with accounts of the failures to reach settlement at Temple Mount/Haram el-Sharif, leading to the clashes of 2000, and the competing claims of Hindus and Muslims at Ayodhya, which resulted in the destruction of the mosque there in 1992.
He also addresses more successful compromises in Jerusalem in 1967 and Mecca in 1979. Sacred sites, he contends, are particularly prone to conflict because they provide valuable resources for both religious and political actors yet cannot be divided.
The management of conflicts over sacred sites requires cooperation between political leaders interested in promoting conflict resolution and religious leaders who can shape the meaning and value that sacred places hold for believers.
Because a reconfiguration of sacred space requires a confluence of political will, religious authority, and a window of opportunity, it is relatively rare.
Drawing on the study of religion and the study of politics in equal measure, can we at least read such scholarly work of historians like Hassner to gain an insight into the often-violent dynamics that come into play at the places where religion and politics collide.
It is said that sacred sites offer believers the possibility of communing with the divine and achieving deeper insight into their faith. Yet their spiritual and cultural importance can lead to competition as religious groups seek to exclude rivals from practicing potentially sacrilegious rituals in the hallowed space and wish to assert their own claims.
Holy places thus create the potential for military, theological, or political clashes, not only between competing religious groups but also between religious groups and secular actors. Now this is the problem with the Ayodhya/Babri dispute pending in the court.
It is surprising that when the apex court decides to conclude the hearing and pass judgment in a time bound manner at the earliest, there are objections. A section which claims to be liberal does not seem to be interested in the settlement of the dispute. It seeks the communal cauldron burning.
A party to the dispute is questioning the Hindus to prove that Rama was born on a particular date and place. It seeks historical proof for a mythological faith. Research has established that temple precedes the Masjid at the site.
Let us keep the personal beliefs and preferences aside for a while. Let the apex court pass the judgment. It would be binding on all. Alas, going by the politicians and their politics that we have been witnessing in this country in the recent times, it is difficult to presume that peace would prevail over the issue after the judgment.
There are any number of vested interests operating in this country and none of them is interested in normalcy in this country. Whether we agree or not, the BJP has come to power through a democratic process twice.
Bigotry and blind hatred towards Narendra Modi need not shape our opinion. Of late, we have seen some quarters blaming the judiciary too. Let sense prevail.