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Last Chance for Babri Peace?
|by Dr. Rajinder Puri|
The Supreme Court’s deferment of the Babri case verdict by four days provides one last desperate chance for an out of court settlement of the dispute that has bedeviled Hindu-Muslim relations for the last sixty years. The dispute has its roots in history and in legend. There are four ancient petitions related to the dispute still pending in court. The only remote chance for a settlement of the dispute depends upon whether people can overlook the past and focus on the future. Here is why both Hindus and Muslims should do precisely that and achieve a miracle solution before the court’s verdict. Let us forget both history and legend and determine what the Hindus and Muslims can do to end the dispute retaining honour for both communities.
This is what the Hindus should do. They should accept that the court can only decide on the basis of evidence about who owns the land on which the Masjid is built. The court cannot sift history from legend to decide whether or not the Ram Temple existed on the disputed land. It is true that for millions of Hindus it has been a matter of faith through centuries that Lord Ram was born on that land and a Temple in his honour existed there once. But the courts cannot take cognizance of that. Only Parliament can consider that and enact law to declare the disputed land sacred and therefore reserved for the Hindu community. Parliament has not done that. The Hindus are free to persuade Parliament. They should not expect the court to rule on a matter outside its jurisdiction.
What then is the best option for Hindus?
The Hindus can re-emphasize their feelings of faith on the subject and tell the Muslims that they do not wish to dispute the legal ownership of the land. Consequently they should withdraw their petitions before the court and surrender their claim to the land on the basis of law. After expressing their sentiments and withdrawing their claim they should advise the Muslims to use their good sense and honour the sentiments of the majority. They should renounce pressure. However disappointing the Muslim response might be they should confirm they would respect it. They might seek change only through legislation in Parliament.
This is how Muslims should respond.
They should accept the request of the Hindus and allow construction of a national shrine on that land to honour Lord Ram. A new Mosque may be relocated in neighbouring land. There can be many innovative suggestions on the nature of the shrine. It need not be simply a temple. It could be in addition to a temple a hospital reserved exclusively where children may be born. Children of all communities may have the privilege of being born on the birthplace of Lord Ram. That would be the greatest tribute to the memory of Lord Ram defining him as the symbol of India.
Why should Muslims respond in this fashion? They should do so in recognition of what they have earned from the Hindu community. The extremist Hindu fringe does not represent the Hindu community. There is no single Hindu religion. There is a Hindu family of religions that differ from each other but follow certain core beliefs common to all. That is why the Supreme Court defined Hinduism as a way of life. That is why the late KR Malkani consistently described Hinduism in the same fashion. What is the central belief in this way of life? It is to live and let live. It is to be tolerant of all faiths. It is this way of life that persuaded many foreign conquerors to settle down in India and integrate with Indian society instead of returning to their lands of origin. How has the Muslim community in India benefited from this way of life?
Consider this. Arguably the Muslim community in India is the best Muslim community anywhere in the world. India has the third largest number of Muslims among all nations of the world. It is estimated that 10-13 per cent of the world's Muslims are Shiite, with 154 to 200 million Shiite Muslims worldwide. Although a minority in the Muslim world, the Shiite community constitutes the majority of the population in Iran, Azerbaijan , Bahrain and Iraq. More than 67 per cent of the world's Shiites lives in four nations -- India, Iran, Iraq, and Pakistan. Iran has few Sunnis. Other large Muslim populated nations such as Indonesia have very few Shiites.
What has to be noted is that India has roughly the same percentage of Shiites as does the world’s Muslim population that is 10-13 per cent. But significantly India is the only nation with a large Shiite minority that lives in peace and harmony with the Sunni majority! In Pakistan and in Iraq the Shiites and the Sunnis bomb and kill each other. May not Hindus take justifiable pride in that the unique harmony which exists between India’s Sunni and Shiite is due to the Hindu way of life? Should not Muslims acknowledge this advantage the community has derived from the Hindu way of life?
If this truth is recognized there is tremendous opportunity to capitalize on it. That is why it is necessary to rise above narrow prejudice and exploit this untapped source of influence for the Indian nation. The Indian government can exploit this unique Shiite-Sunni harmony to play India’s Muslim card worldwide. Sunni and Shiite leaders of India should jointly on behalf of the government and in cooperation with the Ministry of External Affairs intervene in the Middle East. They can help reconcile differences between Israel and Palestine, between Hamas and Hezbollah, between Iran and Iraq. India could provide a template for peace and harmony if it first succeeded in defusing Pakistan’s hostility. Before achieving that India must put its own house in order. That is why a resolution of the Babri dispute is urgently required. That is why Hindus and Muslims must think out of the box and come up with a miracle solution.
A united India could help the world. A Babri solution could help India’s unity.
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