News

Babri Mosque to Mander

By Dr Asif Channer

January 29, 2024 09:07 PM


Last week, India has witnessed a historic event that marks a significant shift in its socio-religious landscape. The inauguration of the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya, constructed on the site where the Babri Masjid stood until its demolition in 1992, has sparked both celebration and controversy. This development, spearheaded by Hindu far-right groups and inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, raises critical questions about the implications for India's secular ideals, the status of its Muslim population, and the role of the Supreme Court in shaping the nation's identity.

The Babri Masjid-Ram Temple saga is a timeline etched with conflict, legal battles, and political manoeuvring. The roots of the dispute date back to the 16th century, with the construction of the Babri Mosque by Mughal commander Mir Baqi. Over the years, claims and counterclaims by Hindus and Muslims have fueled tensions, leading to the mosque's eventual demolition in 1992 by a Hindu nationalist mob.

The recent inauguration of the Ram Mandir is seen by many as a triumph for Hindu far-right groups, culminating a four-decade campaign. However, it raises concerns about religious triumphalism and the potential transformation of India's secular democracy into a Hindu-first nation. The controversial nature of the temple's construction is amplified by its association with the 1992 demolition, which triggered nationwide Hindu-Muslim riots, resulting in over 2,000 deaths.

The decision by the Supreme Court in 2019, giving ownership of the disputed land to a Hindu trust, has been a pivotal moment in this contentious journey. Critics argue that the court's ruling symbolizes a departure from the principles of secularism and paves the way for religious majoritarianism. The court's involvement in the Ayodhya case echoes a broader trend where religious sentiments sway legal decisions, potentially eroding the foundational values of a diverse and pluralistic India.

The impact of the Babri Masjid's conversion into a temple goes beyond domestic implications. It challenges the perception of India as a secular state and sends ripples across the Muslim world. The Muslim community in India and beyond sees this development as a blow to their identity and a reflection of rising religious intolerance. The global Muslim diaspora closely observes how India, with its diverse population, manages its religious dynamics and protects the rights of its minority communities.

Furthermore, the timing of the temple inauguration, just months ahead of general elections, raises questions about political motivations. The move is perceived by some as a strategy by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to capitalize on religious sentiments, potentially influencing electoral outcomes. The intertwining of religious and political narratives is a cause for concern, as it may deepen divisions within Indian society.

India's shift from secularism to a more overtly religious identity is underscored not only by the Ram Mandir episode but also by the Supreme Court's handling of other significant issues. The court's decision to revoke the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, in violation of UN resolutions, and its perceived alignment with the government's agenda have further fueled apprehensions about the judiciary's independence and commitment to secular principles.

Simultaneously, as India undergoes internal transformations, the global stage witnesses similar patterns. The ongoing Israeli aggression on Gaza draws parallels with the Babri Masjid-Ram Temple controversy, reflecting a troubling trend of religious and territorial disputes escalating into conflicts with global repercussions.

The Babri Masjid-Ram Temple saga has the potential to reshape the religious coexistence landscape in India. The transformation of a historical mosque into a Hindu temple sends a troubling signal to religious minorities, particularly the Muslim community. It raises concerns about the protection of minority rights and fosters an atmosphere of religious insecurity. The long-standing harmony among diverse religious communities is at risk, challenging India's traditional ethos of unity in diversity.

The geopolitical dynamics of the South Asian region are intricately linked with India's internal religious shifts. The Babri Masjid's conversion has the potential to fuel tensions not only within India but also with neighbouring countries. The decision may be perceived as a move toward majoritarianism, unsettling the delicate balance in the region. Nations with significant Muslim populations, such as Pakistan and Bangladesh, may view this development as a cause for concern, impacting diplomatic relations and regional stability.

On the international stage, the Babri Masjid-Ram Temple controversy adds another layer to ongoing discussions about religious freedom and tolerance. The global community is likely to scrutinize India's commitment to secular principles and the protection of minority rights. The controversy may influence diplomatic ties with countries that prioritize human rights and religious freedom. India's reputation as a secular democracy could face challenges, affecting its standing in international organizations and alliances.

The negative consequences of the Babri Masjid's conversion extend beyond immediate repercussions. The rise of religious nationalism can contribute to social polarization and internal strife. The potential for communal violence and unrest may disrupt the socio-political fabric, hindering progress and development. The political exploitation of religious sentiments for electoral gains sets a precedent that could be replicated, exacerbating divisions within the nation.

India's evolving identity as a more explicitly religious state could influence its engagement with the international community. The alignment of domestic policies with religious ideologies may affect diplomatic relations and partnerships. Nations seeking secular and inclusive governance may reevaluate their alliances with India, impacting trade, collaboration, and strategic partnerships.⁰pp

In conclusion, the conversion of the Babri Masjid into the Ram Mandir serves as a symbol of India's evolving identity, raising crucial questions about the preservation of its secular ethos. The impact on the Muslim community, both within India and globally, necessitates a thoughtful reflection on religious tolerance and pluralism. The role of the Supreme Court in these transformative events raises concerns about the judiciary's role in safeguarding India's foundational values. As the world observes these shifts, it underscores the need for nations to balance religious aspirations with the principles of inclusivity and diversity.


Dr Asif Channer


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