Proposing an Imaginative Solution to Ayodhya’s Babri Masjid-Ram Mandir tangle

Is India ready for an audacious answer?

The Supreme Court today counselled all parties entangled over the long standing and highly contentious Babi Masjid–Ram Temple in Ayodhya issue to arrive at a solution through out of court talks. This is not the first time that the consensus option has been proposed.

Over the years, many ideas have done the rounds about a neutral solution to the never-ending Ayodhya logjam. It is said that setting up of a peace park, school, hospital, library, museum etc. as possible structures on the disputed site would definitively put an end to the centuries old bickering.

Personally, I find these to be safe but diffident resolutions. Solutions which no one can have any concrete objections too. But is India ready for a more audacious answer?

What I am about to propose is not an original idea. I am plagiarizing it from the respected Muslim cleric Maulana Wahiduddin Khan. It is a solution which holds a great appeal, at least for me.

Given his stature, scholarly leanings and practical interpretation of Islam, Maulana saab has the greatest authority to speak on an issue that has been a virtual live wire between the two communities. What cements the case for his proposal is the fact that it had the imprimatur of eminent constitutional lawyer and the great patriot Nani Palkhivala. With his third party Parsi background and impeccable credentials as a person, late Palkhivala’s support to this remedy would obviously have been well thought out.

Here is the out of the box three-point formula recommended by the Maulana which remains unbeknown to many:

First, Hindu karsevaks and political parties and ideological organizations backing them must stop their campaign at Ayodhya. They must promise to forswear creating volatile or violent conditions at Mathura or Varanasi or, in fact, any other place. A written assurance to the effect must be given by all the Shankaracharyas and other prominent Hindu leaders involved in the Ram temple movement.

Second, Muslims must let the wounds of Ayodhya heal and voluntarily forfeit their claims to the disputed site. Maulana Wahiduddin goes on to add that Muslims must not insist on the rebuilding of a mosque anywhere in Ayodhya, let alone on the disputed site.

I, however, would not go to the extent that he has gone and would rather vouch for rebuilding a mosque albeit at another location in Ayodhya. People of both communities are capable of praying together in Lord Ram’s city.

Third, the Maulana asks for ‘The Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991’ to be enacted as a part of the Indian Constitution. This Act prohibits the conversion of any place of worship and provides for the maintenance of its religious character as it existed on August 15, 1947.

The bold propositions made by Wahiduddin saab can provide a broad framework for an enduring and exceptional settlement in the history of our country.

At the onset, we must admit that the demolition was wrong; and the way of doing it was more certainly so. If Babar’s governors had broken down a temple to build a mosque, it is no excuse for Hindus to demolish a mosque. Two wrongs don’t make a right. Muslims have every right to feel groused. Hindus must admit this.

Having said that, one would have to grant that Ayodhya as a site holds a greater value for Hindus than it can ever for the Muslims.

The Muslims have a legal point that there was the structure of a mosque standing in that specific place. But it also must be appreciated that this particular mosque had no deep sentimental value for them, at least nowhere close to the kind that Ayodhya has for the Hindus.

It was just another mosque built during Moghul emperor Babar’s regime. But for the Hindus, if one were to draw an analogy, Ayodhya has probably the same significance that Mecca has in Islam. Muslims must realize this.

Looking at it from this point of view can help Muslims better appreciate the position of the Hindu community. What would the Muslims have done if a monument of another religion had been built centuries back by grazing the mosque at Mecca?

Largesse shown by the Muslims on Ayodhya would help them win wide appreciation and unprecedented goodwill. Probably it will warrant them the greatest regard ever earned. It will also become a shining example of generosity of the Indian Muslim all over the world.

The Hindus must also pledge that they will never again use atavistic and radical means to bulldoze their way. They must vow that they will not touch places of worship of the Muslims, whether in Varanasi or Mathura, and all premises can be shared by devotees of both the religions. The Hindu community must make peace with history and send all ghosts that haunt them back to their graves. We cannot rewrite pages scripted in another era and context.

The Hindus must also come forth in large numbers and help rebuild the mosque for their fellow citizens. Hindus volunteering money and material to rebuild the mosque at another location in Ayodhya would go a long way in ameliorating the pain that Muslims felt on December 06, 1992.

Such joint action will stump the evil designs of terrorists, who have for two decades, been citing Ayodhya revenge as an excuse for perpetrating mindless violence in India.

It will also undo to India’s reputation the damage done by the scenes of December 06, broadcast by media worldwide.

Ayodhya can become a model when the world debates about how peaceful and effective solutions on contentious issues are possible through dialogues in a democratic forum.

But the most crucial question is whether we are prepared to let bygones be bygones and embrace a compromise in the present for a peaceful future.

Are we brave enough?