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Violent 'Ajodhya' campaign in 1840s after British captured Kabul, destroyed Jama Masjid

Counterview Desk 
Irfan Ahmad, professor at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity, Göttingen, Germany, and author of “Islamism and Democracy in India” (Princeton University Press, 2009), short-listed for the 2011 International Convention of Asian Scholars Book Prize for the best study in Social Sciences, in his "initial thoughts" on the Supreme Court judgment on the Babri-Jam Janmaboomi dispute has said, while order was “lawful”, it was also “awful.”
Also author of “Religion as Critique: Islamic Critical Thinking from Mecca to the Marketplace” (2017), published by the University of North Carolina Press, and co-editor “(IL)liberal Europe: Islamophobia, Modernity and Radicalization" (2017, Routledge), in a Facebook post said, “If democracy and its judiciary encourages killing hopes rather than brightening them, we have to rethink what is democracy in the first place.”

Text:

The Supreme Court Judgment is lawful but awful because in a single stroke it eliminated what is beautiful. Justice, Abul Kalam Azad held, is beauty, which is another name of the Ultimate. The photo you see is the cover of my first book, of the Princeton University Press edition. The Indian publisher replaced the original cover with a dull one. Reason? Possible “trouble!”
Tears dripping from the visually imagined eyes of the Babri Masjid are at once a critique of the Supreme Court judgment and a requiem of the justice the Indian court system – in this case, the Supreme one – is premised on.

Lawful

The judgement, endorsing as it does the unverified/unverifiable claims that Shri Ram Ji was born exactly on the spot where Babri masjid exists/existed, is clearly lawful. There is no higher institution to appeal to. But we know that most things throughout history have been lawful but awful. Apartheid in South Africa was lawful as was racial segregation in the US, not to speak of colonial rule throughout much of the world.

Awful

What is awful is the series of assumptions the judgement is derived from. The SC places the onus of proof on the Waqf board, not on the claimant of the temple. No less significant are assumptions about history and the bogus notions of Muslims as outsiders (see Hilal Ahmed “Two readings of Ayodhya verdict” in “The Print” November 9) and Hindus as indigenous. Here the SC simply reproduces the British colonialism and its intellectual arm, orientalism, which instituted the categories of Muslims as outsiders and Hindus as indigenous.
In a way, British and Hindus loyal to the colonial rule had already staged the violent Ajodhya campaign of the 1980s/1990s in 1840s. When the British captured Kabul in 1842, they destroyed the Jama Masjid of Ghazna and spuriously claimed that its main gate was the gate of Somnath temple. To characterize the Muslim rule as tyranny and consolidate the East India Company’s rule, Lord Edward Ellenborough (d. 1871) presented the alleged gate of the Somnath temple to Hindu princes and chiefs as “memorial of your humiliation”, which was also a “record of your national glory.”
Irfan Ahmad
The so-called Somnath gate was then decorated in a shawl, placed on bullock cart and taken along the route of the river Sutlej and through many places, including Firozpur and Agra. Hindu devotees thronged to see and pay respect to the alleged gate (MA Asif, 2016. A Book of Conquest, Harvard University Press, p 161; Mukhtar Ahmad Makki, 2009, “Hindustan men Gumrahkun Tarikhnavisi”, revised edition, pp 21-23).
The violent rath yatra led by LK Advani exhorting Hindus to destroy Babri masjid had a precedent in history. The Supreme Court judgment is justice lynched precisely because, rather than faithfully judging evidence and striving to secure justice, it reproduces logic and assumptions at the heart of colonialism and orientalism. Welcome to "postcolonial" India, its democracy and judiciary!

Beautiful

I am not a morning person. However, in the night of November 8, I woke up (without alarm set) at five am. Knowing well how judicial system in India has been reduced to as no more than a wing of the ethnifying ideology of the government (to which all political parties now subscribe to), I still expected that the SC might side with evidence and justice to deliver a beautiful judgement.
Alas, it was a hope against itself.
If democracy and its judiciary encourages killing hopes rather than brightening them, we have to rethink what is democracy in the first place. If judiciary is autonomous, as it is believed to be, my point is that the Supreme Court also had the option to side with the beautiful rather than the awful.
In the future, if and when genuine seekers of truth and lovers of justice get a chance to pronounce their own judgement, the Supreme Court will stand in the dock.

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