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Mainstream, VOL LVII No 14 New Delhi March 23, 2019

Open Letter to the Chief Justice of India

Mediation Order In Ayodhya Case Is Bludgeoning The Constitutional Polity Which The Supreme Court Must Safeguard

Saturday 23 March 2019, by Shamsul Islam

Honourable Chief Justice of India,

You know more than anyone else in the world that the Indian constitutional polity treats all citizens equally irrespective of their race, creed, religion, language, culture and gender. But the observation of the Bench (consisting Justices S.A. Bobde, D.Y. Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S. Abdul Nazeer) headed by you in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title case that the issue is primarily not about the disputed 2.77 acres of Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid site in Ayodhya, but about “religious sentiments” and thus was looking at a “possibility of healing relationships”.1 The religions of the parties were not named but it was clear that the Supreme Court Bench meant to heal the relationship between Hindus and Muslims. Such a stand presents serious dangers to the principles of the Rule of Law or Due Process of Law on which the Indian Constitution is based.

Sir, the mediation recourse on the plea that “religious sentiments” are involved would lead India to a theocracy. Fortunately, in the past the Supreme Court never raised this issue while delivering historic judgments in favour of women and punishing perpetrators of carnages in 1984 and 2002. When the victims approach your esteemed highest court of justice in India, they do not approach you as persons of majority or minority but as Indian citizens who have been wronged. Regarding the present case, I would draw your kind attention to the following facts.

(1) Ayodhya dispute is not between Hindus and Muslims:

The title dispute has been brought before esteemed Supreme Court as the Babri mosque was demolished on December 6, 1992 by an illegal assembly of Hindutva zealots gathered in Ayodhya by the RSS and its fraternal organisations after a long polarising bloody campaign of hatred against Muslims. It was not and is not an issue between Hindus and Muslims. It is between Hindutva organisations and the democratic-secular Indian polity. The mosque was demolished despite orders of the Supreme Court, assurances by the RSS/BJP leaders to Indian Parliament and the then PM Narsimha Rao. Rao gave solemn promise both to the Parliament and Indian nation (from the ramparts of Red Fort on August 15, 1993) that the wrong would be undone and the demolished mosque would be built at its original site.

(2) Demolition of the Babri mosque by the Hindutva organisations was not endorsed by the Hindus of India:

Sir, I want to draw your attention to the fact that by treating this case as a fight between Hindus and Muslims, the highest court of justice of India is insulting the vast majority of Indian Hindus who did not subscribe to the Hindutva brand of politics and did not join the demolition campaign. The RSS/BJP after demolition of the mosque at Ayodhya believed that their electoral future was secure. However, the enlightened and secular Hindu voters rebuffed the Hindutva politics of hate by defeating the BJP not only in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan even in UP assembly elections but also in the 2004 national elections.

(3) Highly retrograde selection of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar as a mediator:

Sir, under your headship the Supreme Court (SC) appointed three mediators to arrange a compromise between Hindus and Muslims. The penal is headed by Justice (retired) Fakkir Mohammad Ebrahim Kalifulla (one of his landmark judgments related to the ordering of introduction of Vedic astrology as a course of scientific study in Indian universities as a Justice of the Supreme Court) and includes Sri Sri Ravi Shankar (a spiritual guru popular with the Arab rulers) and a legal mediation expert, lawyer Sriram Panchu (President of the Indian Association of Mediators and Director of the International Mediation Institute). There has been no explanation from the Supreme Court Bench regarding the criteria relying on which this selection has been made. It seems that these mediators are not representing religious communities but are neutral persons who are expected to come out with an objective and honest resolution.

Respected Sir, let me draw your kind attention to the highly questionable past and present of this spiritual guru,

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

(not content with having ONE SRI in his name) which makes his selection as a mediator in the Babri mosque/Ram temple conflict a shocking choice.

Sir, this baba is not a neutral ‘mediator’. He is an old pal of the RSS which was responsible for demolition of the mosque at Ayodhya on December 6, 1992. He has been attending all major programmes of the RSS and Vishwa Hindu Parishad. Sri Sri’s modus operandi, operations, gimmicks and close connections with the RSS have been recorded by a renowned South Asia expert and journalist in his book, In Spite of the Gods: The Strange Rise of Modern India. According to him:

“Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has a reputation for being a mystic and liberal. What is less widely known is the guruji’s close attachment to the RSS. He has shared platforms with VHP leaders at public meetings. I asked him whether the Ram Temple should be built in Ayodhya. ‘Suppose,’ he said, ‘that it was the birthplace of Jesus or Mohammed. What would you have done? Would you have tolerated another structure on that site? Let us build a temple to Ram and let the Muslims make this gesture as an act of goodwill and then the temple will also belong to Allah and to all Muslims.’”2

Respected Sir, this guru is an RSS frontman as would be clear from an anecdote shared by Edward Luce. According to him, when he did a story after visiting this guru’s palatial ashram at Bangalore,

“A few weeks later received a telephone call from Ram Madhav, the national spokesman of the RSS. ‘I am calling about Sri Sri Ravi Shankar,’ said Madhav. ‘I was talking to him the other day and he said he was disappointed with your article in the Financial Times. You only quoted his views on politics and the Shankaracharya. He said he was hoping you would quote his views on tolerance and spiritualism.’ It is true my article had lacked space to quote the guruji’s opinions on other matters. But I was surprised the guruji should have chosen the RSS—of all organisations—to convey his complaint.”3

Honourable Chief Justice of India, it was in 2007 when guru Sri Sri took the above stand in favour of building a temple at the place where the mosque stood. With the passage of time this stand got more hardened. In March 2018 in an interview to a leading Indian periodical he demanded that Muslims should “give up” their claims on Ayodhya and warned that if it was not done it would lead to a situation like Syrian civil war. From his blatant threat it was not difficult to understand who would play the role of defender of religion in India which the Islamic State plays in Syria. Despite sounding as a believer in the negotiated settlement he did not forget to warn the courts, “Can any government remove Ram Lala from where he is now, even if the SC says so?”4

Honourable Chief Justice Sir, I would beg that please keep away the highest court of Justice of the country from mingling with the communal narrative of the Hindutva gang about the demolition of a mosque at Ayodhya in 1992. It has nothing to do with religion but is a political issue which the ruling parties of India have kept on the burner for electoral gains. It has come to the courts including the Supreme Court for criminal and civil reliefs. The judiciary should decide the issue guided only by the principles enshrined in the democratic-secular Constitution of India. It should not bother to keep any section in good humour.

Sir, I hope despite your enormously busy schedule, my request would be taken note of.

Yours sincerely,

Shamsul Islam

(Retired faculty University of Delhi)

March 11, 2019

Endnotes

1. https://indianexpress.com/article/india/ayodhya-mediation-supreme-court-verdict-live-updates-5616762/

2. Luce, Edward, In Spite of the Gods: The Strange Rise of Modern India, Doubleday, New York, 2007, pp. 17 7-178.

3. Ibid., p. 178.

4. https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/if-not-resolved-amicably-janmaboomi-dispute-can-turn-india-into-syria-sri-sri-1182073-2018-03-05

Shamsul Islam, a well-known theatre personality, is a former Associate Professor (now retired), Department of Political Science, Satyawati College, University of Delhi. For some of the author’s writings in English, Hindi, Malayalam, Kannada, Bengali, Punjabi, Urdu and Gujarati see the following link: http/du-in.academia.edu/Shamsullslam

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