Unravelling The Ayodhya Knot

Maulana Wahiduddin Khan I February 11, 1993

The issue of Ayodhya’s Babri masjid has turned into one of life and death for the Muslim community. The tragic event of December 6 gave a serious jolt to the conscience of the country. What was deplorable was that it made a mockery of the promises by the leaders of the Ram mandir movement. Given all these factors, the destruction of the mosque was not simply the demolition of a structure; it was akin to the negation of an entire history.

No Announcement

After the Chaurichaura tragedy, Mahatma Gandhi announced the cessation of the civil disobedience movement. Yet in the case of the much more serious violence which took place on December 6, the leaders of the mandir-masjid movement made no comparable announcement about the stoppage of their activities. On the contrary, their extremist elements are still repeating, Ayodhya to bas jhanki hai, Mathura, Kashi baqi hai.

This attitude is undeniably against the teachings of the father of the nation and, if not immediately rectified, will plunge the country into chaos. The least compensation for the misdeeds at Ayodhya would be for their perpetrators and sympathisers to refrain from repeating such slogans, and to make a solemn pledge that a similar step will never be taken at any time in the future.

There are three parties to the mandir-masjid controversy - Hindus, Muslims and the government. This problem could be solved if all three parties accepted the responsibility of abiding by the following guidelines:

(1) The movement launched by the Hindus should be stopped at Ayodhya. Assurance to this effect could take the form of a written declaration signed by all the four Shankaracharyas and by responsible people belonging to those Hindu organizations involved in the mandir-masjid movement. This should expressly state that after Ayodhya’s Babri mosque no mosque’s right to continued existence will ever again be challenged by the Hindus; that all mosques in India, whatever their historical origins, will always be recognised and maintained as holy places of worship; so that Hindus will never seek justification for demanding any change in future.

(2) Muslims should preserve a strict silence on the issue of Ayodhya. If the protection of the Babri masjid was their responsibility, they have now discharged it by the sacrifices they have made. Now they have reached a point where there is very little else that they can do. As such, Muslims should consciously resolve to distance themselves entirely from this issue. Till now they have been forced to take up this cause, but henceforth they should leave it to the conscience of the nation.

(3) The government of India took a step in the right direction by passing the Places of Worship Act in 1991, maintaining the status quo as on August 15, 1947, in order to guarantee the security of all places of worship (barring the Babri masjid). Now the government should take the even more important step of making this Act a part of the Constitution. Once this step has been taken, the security of all other places of worship will have a lasting guarantee.

This three-point formula makes concessions to all the parties and looked at with seriousness, can be acceptable to all. With the adoption of this formula, the present situation will not only be marked by normalisation, but the resultant atmosphere of peace and stability will ensure the unhampered progress of the country.

The change of circumstances after December 6 at national and international levels is extremely perturbing. The demolition of the mosque in order to replace it with a mandir is no simple matter. The December 6 event has proved this. It became a possibility only when the Constitution, law and moral traditions were all demolished along with the mosque. The demolition of a single structure has meant the demolition of the structure of the whole country.

Functioning Anarchy

The truth is that for the extremist leaders of the masjid-mandir movement, the choice lies not between masjid and mandir, but between masjid and destruction. J. K. Galbraith, the former American ambassador to India, once called India a “functioning anarchy". If the present kind of mandir–masjid movement continues, future commentators will be compelled to call it naked anarchy. The present generation of India has to decide what kind of India it is going to bequeath to the coming generation - an advanced, prosperous India, or a poor, ruined India, unfit to be inhabited Hindus, Muslims or any other person.