Here’s a question: What if there had been a woman — even one would have done, two would be pushing my luck — on that Constitution Bench which delivered the historic Ayodhya verdict? Sorry for bringing gender into a crucial judgment, but this question must be asked. Do we not have a single ‘ladyship’ worthy enough? Five learned lordships have done what they were mandated to do — end a 200-year-old dispute. It was perhaps the toughest case in India’s contemporary history, after the devastating, heartbreakingly tragic consequences of the Babri Masjid demolition in 1992. India has never been the same again. Now comes the judgment that, in all fairness to the eminent judges, will be debated for decades to come.
Had there been a female representation arguing and discussing the complexities of this extraordinary case, would the verdict have been any different? Perhaps. Perhaps not. I guess, now that it’s a fait accompli, there is no point in speculation. Even so, future historians are likely to deconstruct and reconstruct, dissect and argue over what will undoubtedly lead to yet another rejigging of our collective consciousness. And why not? Nothing remains static. Change has its consequences. Deal with it…
As of now, most citizens are plain bewildered. This is not a simple land dispute. And we know it. Ayodhya has connotations that go way beyond title deeds and ownership issues. How many of us knew the exact meaning of the word ‘Shebait’? I certainly didn’t. Well, this is what a dictionary says, “A shebait is that person who serves the deity consecrated in the temple as a devata.” Another puts it more succinctly: “A shebait is an agent of the idol.” So much for that. Their lordships shot down this claim stating the Nirmohi Akhara’s suit is ‘barred by limitations’ adding ‘they are not shebaits for worship of Lord Ram and the Ram Mandir.” So much for that. But hey, the disputed site has been given to the Ramjanmabhoomi Nyas. Okay? The Sunni Waqf Board has been granted five acres of land at a suitable site. Hmmmmm. We remain baffled!
In the parallel world of Mumbai, this long-awaited resolution to a troubling conundrum barely registered. Well-meaning friends from distant cities kept sending warnings and messages, advising parents to keep their kids at home, avoid crowded locations, and generally stay put. “There could be rioting on the streets,” warned a relative, while life on our crowded, potholed roads carried on without missing a beat. People were busy making weekend plans — brunches and movies won over Ayodhya and Babri Masjid. Don’t get me wrong. This is not a reflection of indifference or apathy. This is Mumbai at its most pragmatic. Ayodhya is miles away. Our city and state are headless as of now. Onion prices have soared to Rs 100 per kilo. But how will we cope, huh? Ayodhya can take care of itself.
Can it? Will it? What about all those festering wounds? Is the judgment a salve … or more salt? Forget Mumbai, what about over-burdened citizens across the rest of the country? How many were holding their breaths and praying for a judgment that would go ‘in their ‘favour’? Who decides and defines ‘favour’? Emotive issues do not understand logic, reason or even what’s ‘fair”. The word ‘fair’ itself is loaded and open to interpretation. Their lordships have done a stupendous and very difficult job – one that will define their individual legacies. They have stuck their necks out and placed their heads on the chopping block of public judgement. Always a risky business which involves large reserves of moral courage. We respect them immensely for taking on one of the worst legal battles on earth. They did it! And did it to the best of their ability. Alas, lordships are as human as you and me. We don’t possess their erudition or wisdom. But we all have our hearts and minds which raise painful questions and desperately seek answers.
So, bhaiyon aur behenon…and mainly, Mitron…the judgment is here. The only way to move from this point on, is forward. Mandir ho, ya masjid. The Ayodhya matter has been ‘settled’. Let us go on with the tricky business of living the best we can. With optimism and hope. Nobody can stamp on our longings, and our yearnings for a secure future — nobody. Not even the learned lordships. We own our lives, and we own our dreams. Kaafi hai. And please, next time we constitute a bench for something as significant as the Ayodhya verdict, let’s get women on board. The outcome is bound to amaze!
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.