At the risk of earning the judiciary’s ire, I can comment with a fair amount of certainty that the designated sessions judge in Lucknow is unlikely to pronounce BJP veterans LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Uma Bharti, Vinay Katiyar and other Sangh Parivar leaders guilty of criminal conspiracy in the demolition of the Babri Masjid.
The fact that the events which brought down the disputed 16th century structure, in Ayodhya on 6 December 1992, are being viewed as a criminal plan, reveals a failure to comprehend the deep-rooted political impact of the Ram Janmabhoomi agitation. Interpreting the apex court’s directive for beginning daily hearings and concluding the case in two years as a sign that the wheels of justice are moving, reflects poor understanding of the political impact on the order.
A Larger Conspiracy
Those arguing that the demolition of the Babri Masjid would not have happened if not for a larger criminal conspiracy, confuse the ‘desire’ of the spearheads who led the movement, and their active involvement in conspiring to destroy the structure.
Undeniably, every leader associated with the Ayodhya agitation favoured its eventual demolition, some more than the others, and maybe at a different time. A few may have ‘aided’ the act but even if it was scripted to the minutest detail, it can never be proved for lack of evidence.
It is important to understand why Joshi and Bharti were ecstatic when they saw the three domes being razed to the ground, one after another. But it is also necessary to comprehend why Advani remarked that 6 December 1992 was the “saddest day” of his life.
Politically, it was a moment of intense loss because thereafter, the Parivar forever lost the ‘red flag’ – or the symbol of Hindu ‘subjugation’ – that it waved to mobilise support for the Hindutva idea.
After the Babri Masjid was erased from the political horizon, the Parivar never succeeded in assembling people in such large numbers for the promised Ram temple.
Daily Proceedings and Fiery Debates
To that extent, the Supreme Court’s edict will benefit the BJP and its larger Parivar. The development will herald the onset of a fresh cycle of Hindu upsurge. Daily hearings, that will begin shortly, will force the issue out of the closet once again. The debate over whether Muslim rulers were anti-Hindu or not and if India was a golden bird before their invasions, in the backburner for several years, will stage a comeback. Social prejudices will deepen and will undoubtedly secure greater support for the Hindutva idea.
Daily court proceedings are immensely theatrical and television channels will undoubtedly go ballistic during coverage. Because there will be little to ‘show’, emphasis will be on ‘recreating’ events as they happened.
It is also the 25th anniversary year and the attempt will be to set up verbal fisticuffs among the most virulent voices in both camps. Debates will be held on every conceivable aspect – even on whether 6 December should be celebrated as ‘Shaurya Diwas’ or ‘Valour Day’ as the VHP has done since 1993, or as ‘Black Day’ like Muslim groups have marked the day.
Hardliners and the Moderates
The return of Ayodhya to the centre stage also has the potential to add to the headaches of the ruling establishment, at the Centre and in the state. Since the launch of the agitation, there has been clear competition between moderates and hardliners within the Parivar on proactivism over the issue. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Advani was the hardliner and Vajpayee the moderate.
At some point, Modi became the hardliner when Advani moderated his stance after 2004 and made the infamous Jinnah statement. Modi himself was challenged during the 2014 campaign by the likes of Pravin Togadia.
There was a time when Yogi Adityanath was the aggressive face of Hindutva. Now, he will be weighed down by the responsibility of maintaining law and order.
He will have to balance between the party’s stated position that a Ram temple must be built within the framework of law, and growing impatience within the ranks. The challenge is not just Yogi’s or Modi’s, but also Mohan Bhagwat’s. How will they, and other seniors, convince the masses that the Ram temple is but a small objective in a much larger campaign – one which aims to alter the fundamentals of the nation?
If Yogi Wasn’t the UP CM...
Given that the SC ruling was in the making for long, it can be stated that Adityanath’s selection was possibly guided by this eventuality. Consider for a moment the scenario if he remained a firebrand MP, the Hindu Yuva Vahini had not put a moratorium on new members, and if one of the leaders who were considered as possible chief minister had indeed made it to the gaddi.
Would the Yogi then have become the gravitating personality for all belligerent leaders within the Hindutva fold? If this had been the case, how would the UP government, or for that matter Modi himself, have reacted? Even now, what guarantee is there that elements in the Sangh Parivar will not promote leaders to counterbalance the ‘moderation’ of the prime minister or the chief minister?
Faint Chances of a Settlement
Just as the Ram temple is not an end in itself, the election of this government did not mark the fruition of the Sangh Parivar’s ultimate objective. More than anyone else, Modi would be aware of this. The pressure, therefore, will be to devise means that address both development issues and the Ram temple discourse, without neglecting either.
There is little doubt that the Supreme Court’s 19 April order effectively shuts down the theory that Modi will pay gurudakshina to Advani by sending him to Rashtrapati Bhavan.
Along with Joshi, it is finally curtains for him. As far as Bharti is concerned, there is no legal necessity to resign because she is yet to be convicted. But because she is trapped in a mutually uneasy professional relationship with Modi, it remains to be seen if either uses the development as a ploy to get out of the working arrangement.
As far as the Ayodhya dispute is concerned, there is little chance of a settlement and the stalemate is likely to continue. The apex court’s order will keep the candle burning, and Modi and his nominee in Lucknow will have to ensure that this does not ignite a major bushfire.
(The writer is a Delhi-based writer and journalist. He authored ‘Narendra Modi: The Man, The Times’ and ‘Sikhs: The Untold Agony of 1984’. He can be reached @NilanjanUdwin. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)