Friday, October 1, 2010

Ayodhya Verdict - Ask What Wins instead of Who Wins!

Few things I learned, found surprising and intriguing about the Ayodhya verdict.

  • Ayodhya means "No war" or "Unconquerable"! Neither seems to apply with the legal battle over 60 years old, and the political and religious war started since the 1500s. In those times, it was symbolic for Muslim invaders like Babar to assert political power by replacing a prominent religious structure or renaming cities - Istanbul is an example for both.
  • First, the judges decided the title was not clear based on facts, hence it became a partition decision. Otherwise, the homes you and I own could also end up in dispute with some idols installed overnight! Then, the judges started applying a mix of facts and faith to provide a judgment that they felt could work for everyone.
  • Ram Lalla (Baby) as an infant deity had legal rights and won 1/3rd of it's birth place! A friend or guardian of the deity will act on its behalf! Apparently, this has precedence in Indian courts with several temple deities involved in legal disputes. This is similar to a company as entity, with the board or management acting on its behalf.
  • Justice Khan wrote in his judgment that Ram epitomized tyag (sacrifice). In fact, Ram gave up entire Ayodhya, including the birth place, the palace, the throne and the people, and left to the forests for 12 long years in order to fulfill his father's promise. If the promise was life-long, he would have accepted that and given up Ayodhya life-long as well. However, his followers after several thousand years don't even want to give up a 60x40 feet piece of land in Ayodhya!
  • Nirmohi Akhara won 1/3rd of land. Nirmohi means non-passionate or detached materially from earthly pleasures, and Akhara is an order of saints called sadhus. A non-passionate order of saints have passionately fought for this piece of earth for over a century (they first filed a suit in 1885) - that kind of detachment is mind boggling!
  • Justice Sharma gave a dissenting verdict totally favoring Hindus, but it was based on carefully studying Muslim law! He reasoned it can't have the character of a mosque, since the Quran doesn't allow building over other religious structures, and it doesn't have minarets typical of other mosques. The judge has an impeccable 40 year service record, title expert, and is a reclusive bachelor - makes it difficult for critics to find fault!
  • The judges agreed there was a temple, and the mosque was built over it, based on archeologist findings. But, Justice Khan wrote that there was no demolition, just built on temple ruins! The belief that Ram was born exactly in that site or spot came about only in the 1800s. It was called Masjid-i-Janmasthan (Mosque in Birthplace) back then, so the faith or belief seems several centuries old.
  • A grand temple is not possible in 60x40 site or even in 2.7 acres, though Hindu groups project that as the big idea! The Meenakshi temple in Madurai, or Akshardham in Delhi are more than 10 acres!
All the legal, political and religious opinions notwithstanding, the best solution that would make economic or business sense for both communities is building a Ram temple! It will maximize the religious tourist potential, just as Amarnath, Haridwar or Tirupathi, pull hundreds of thousands of pilgrims. Surprisingly, Andhra is #1 state in domestic tourism partly due to Tirupathi temple - not even Kerala, Goa or Himachal!). In Kashmir, it is said a Muslim actually discovered the Amarnath Ice-Siva-Linga around 1850, and until recently, the cave temple management board included Muslims! A lot of muslims provide services along the yatra (trek), that even separatist groups agreed to leave it alone! Like Haridwar, Ayodhya is listed as one of the seven holiest Hindu cities in ancient texts, and the Muslim population in and around the city with clear title or just residency will benefit from increased tourism. A mosque is unlikely to pull such crowds - in fact, there are very few Muslims and few other mosques in Ayodhya itself, but quite a few Muslims reside 7kms away in Faizabad. So, I think a Ram temple would be a win-win for both communities!

The real losers are Atheists, Rationalists or Evolutionists or such types, as they'll have to do more to influence and pull people out of beliefs and faith. It's a double whammy if both temple and mosque are built! For them the winning solution is like in Istanbul - where the religious structure was converted to a museum, with any worship banned! I think the judges sensed that wasn't quite possible in the Indian secular context!

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