As the five-judge Constitution Bench reserved its judgment on Wednesday on a batch of petitions after 40 consecutive days of marathon hearing in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babari Masjid case " two days before the deadline given to petitioners by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi to submit their arguments " it is evident that India's longest land dispute case that has for decades resisted a solution will finally get a verdict worth its weight.
It's not just the legal resolution, however. There's a palpable sense that politically too we are reaching the endgame on Ayodhya, and the political solution may finally achieve what no legal remedy can " closure. In the aftermath of 2014, the reawakening of Hindu consciousness and a certain realignment of national consciousness, the state and the polity are now more receptive of a final solution in India's most politically sensitive case, and this receptivity cuts across religious or community-specific boundaries.
In recent times leading to the prospective judicial denouement, more and more Muslim voices have emerged in favour of a solution that leans towards handing over the disputed land to Hindus for "lasting peace". Prominent Muslim figures have come out in support of this position and they express an exasperation that this dispute has gone on for too long, and it's pointless to resist a solution and let the wound fester on India's body politic.
This revision in Muslim viewpoint (at least in some quarters) has been forced by no majoritarian impulse, but it is likely the fruit of a realisation that remaining fixated on Ayodhya title ownership issue doesn't help the Muslim cause in any way, and taking a more accommodative stance may help build bridges over ravines.
To a certain extent, this revision also owes to the tectonic shift in India's political median. This shift has forced political parties such as the Congress, the Left or its regional clones to become more and more disinterested in pandering to minority sentiments.
The formula of pandering to minority sentiments without showing any real commitment to their causes did serve as an effective electoral tool for decades since Independence but the Hindu reawakening and BJP's ideological mainstreaming have reset Indian politics and blunted the tool's effectiveness. This seminal change has taken an unprepared Congress by such surprise that it is now bereft of any ideological clarity and subsequently paying a heavy political price for its confusion.
As an ideologically bankrupt Congress tries desperately to counter political irrelevance, the space for "minority appeasement politics" has now decreased. From a scenario even in the first decade of the new millennium when most political parties indulged in competitive appeasement, parties such as Congress or Trinamool Congress are now trying its hands at competitive Hindutva to stay electorally relevant. This sudden, total and pivotal revision has reduced Muslims' political representation and rendered them disempowered. This may have formed an impulse behind the change in approach but to lay the shift entirely on this door could be misleading.
CJI Gogoi, who had earlier commented that it will be "miraculous if we write and deliver the judgement in four weeks" following the conclusion of the arguments on 18 October, seems determined to achieve the miracle before he retires from his office on 17 November.
The day-to-day hearing in the case had commenced on 6 October following the apex court's declaration that the mediation attempt by SC-appointed panel of Justice FM Khalifullah, spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and mediator Sriram Panchu has been a failure.
The Constitution Bench, headed by CJI Gogoi, Justice SA Bobde, DY Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and Abdul Nazeer heard senior advocates K Parasaran and CS Vaidyanathan (for the Deity Ram Lalla), SK Jain (for Nirmohi Akhara), Rajeev Dhavan, Meenakshi Arora and Shekhar Naphade (for Sunni Waqf Board and Muslim parties) and other lawyers in the second-longest hearing in the history of Supreme Court after the landmark hearing in Keshavananda Bharati case that lasted 68 days, says a report in Live Law.
The churning that has accompanied this exhaustive legal procedure tells us something about the way this could be headed. A Babri litigant, for instance, was heard on CNN- News18 channel telling the reporter that "we are ready to accept whatever the court decides. After all, we are Indian citizens, we respect the judiciary and we shall receive the judgement in all humility sitting in our homes."
This echoes the recent sentiment expressed by Lt General (retired) Zameer Uddin Shah, former Aligarh Muslim University vice-chancellor, that "in case the Supreme Court passes judgement in favour of Muslims. They should hand over the land to their Hindu brothers for the sake of lasting peace in the country. There has to be a solution otherwise we'll go on fighting".
Prominent Muslim scholars and leaders have clarified on Wednesday that Supreme Court's decision, whatever it may be, should be accepted by both sides of the dispute. "It is a title suit, we have presented sufficient evidence before the court and hope we will win, but we will respect the court decision, whatever it will be," a report in Economic Times has quoted Maulana Sayyed Atharali, member of the executive body of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, as saying.
That the wind is blowing in a certain direction became even more clear on Wednesday when the Sunni Waqf Board " one of the key petitioners "sought to withdraw from the title suit. This development, according to reports, was conveyed to the Supreme Court by the SC-appointed mediation panel, but subsequent reports have added to the confusion.
Be that as it may, CJI Gogoi seems resolute in his attempt to take a decisive shot at the trickiest legal dispute before he retires, and he and his Constitutional bench would have noted the direction of the Ayodhya wind while delivering their judgment.