Much blood has flowed, tears too. Many insecurities have drowned, fears too. Enough political capital has been wasted, narratives too. Abundant inter-religious divisions have been created, riots and killings too. The 491-year-long religious battle behind, the three-decade-old political skirmish resolved, the victory for what had degenerated into a property dispute in hand, and the supremacy of the Constitution established, it is now time for India to live the ideals that Ram stood for.
If we are to examine avatars from the prism of spiritual goals, Ram’s transformative role was to deliver to the world the ideal of sattwa through action. Unlike the next avatar Krishna, Ram neither gave any spiritual discourse nor announced to the world his avatarhood. His role was to live like a man and raise men towards the sattva ideal through his actions, sacrifice, valour, justice and above all, love. Actions were his teachings, victory a legacy. At the point society then stood, Ram delivered the highest ideal by slaying Ravan and establishing Ram Rajya.
Ram’s business was “to fix for the future the possibility of an order proper to the sattwic civilised human being who governs his life by the reason, the finer emotions, morality or at least moral ideals, such as truth, obedience, cooperation and harmony, the sense of humour, the sense of domestic and public order, to establish this in a world still occupied by anarchic forces, the Animal Mind and the powers of the vital Ego making its own satisfaction the rule of life,” wrote Sri Aurobindo. “Rama and Sita are the ideals of the Indian nation,” Swami Vivekananda said in a 31 January 1900 lecture.
Taking that as a civilisational context, the battle for a plot of land measuring 2.77 acres seems statistically insignificant. But before the force of faith that sees the timeless, spaceless eternal in holy premises, this small plot of land had become one of the central points of division between Hindus and Muslims over centuries and in a formal court of law over decades. With the Supreme Court finally ruling favour of Hindus, but with caveats that include giving Muslims a five-acre plot to build a mosque in Ayodhya, we hope this clash of political religiosity, is behind us.
The five-judge verdict – comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, next Chief Justice S.A. Bobde and justices Dhananjaya Y. Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S. Abdul Nazeer – is unanimous. Spread over 1,045 pages, this has been one of the most closely-watched judgments and will be among the most closely-tracked orders of the Supreme Court over the next few decades. The scope for error and hence a revision, therefore, is limited. Judicial orders are technical and pivot around points of law and the Constitution, and hence, this judgement will set a precedence for future disputes on and around properties of faith.
Apart from the order per se, we laud the administrative planning between Gogoi and the government of Uttar Pradesh. Sensitive to potential troublemakers who could enflame peoples, the two institutions, the judiciary and the state executive, took pre-emptive measures to prevent violence. At the time of writing, we see no flashpoints. Hopefully, there will be none going forward. We also commend the maturity of political parties, all of which are standing firmly behind the judgement.
Above all, we see the rise of a mature India, a society that has been honed to peace on the hot anvil of religious violence, a nation worthy of the time. No triumphalism, no victory marches, no needling by Hindus. No violence, no threats, no anguish by Muslims. A general sense of peace and calm prevails that tell us that we are more than what the media headlines expect, that we can surprise ourselves in what cynics see as the most dire crisis of faith. Exhausted by years of suspicion and fighting, perhaps we are turning a new leaf in Hindu-Muslim relations, a leaf that the rest of the world could emulate.
There is dissonance, of course. But barring stray comments by political leaders, it is not coming from Muslims. The source of this frustration is the predictable Left-illiberal ecosystem. Already a diminishing ideology and receiving only contempt and whataboutery with every tweet, Leftist ideologues are attacking not merely the judgment but the Supreme Court itself. In their minds, the judicial process works only when a verdict is in their favour. Not for them the multiple hues of democracy where among other things, finally we argue differences out in a court of law and bow before the majesty of law. In a civilisation that stands high above suffocating Left-Right-Centre boxes of Western thought, this ecosystem is best ignored. Stepping back, we see this group of people and their ideology expressions of tamasic forces that have been and continue to weaponise victimhood.
Irrespective, having won this long-drawn battle that has sucked out the energies of several faith warriors, the arc of action is now in the hands of Hindus. How they behave and what they do with this victory will decide the future course of India. Having fought for Ram, they need to follow Ram. Had the verdict been in favour of Muslims, Hindus should have embraced sacrifice and walked away, like Ram did, when asked to forego the kingdom and live in the forest for 14 years by his father. Along with Sita and Lakshman, as Ram walked into the forests, away from the luxuries of palace life, he didn’t look back, harboured no regrets. A sattwic detachment guided his actions.
Winning the case, however, has placed the yoke of morality on the shoulders of Hindus. And as Ram bhakts they need to follow their faith. Despite defeating Ravan and killing him in battle, Ram installed Ravan’s brother Vibhishan as the king of Sri Lanka. He needn’t have. Nobody would have raised any question had he taken charge of the kingdom. But driven by the sattwic ideal of righteousness and justice, Ram did what he did. No great discourse, no lecture. A simple act decided the course of the island nation’s future. He handed the throne to Ravan’s brother and flew to Ayodhya. Again, Ram didn’t look back and despite a spectacular victory, remained detached in sattwa.
To complete this judicial-physical win and turn it into a moral-religious victory, Hindus must learn from and follow Ram. If the Muslim leaders agree, for instance, Hindus could help build their mosque. They could help finance it. They could participate in several ways and celebrate its completion. All this without the smallest political grandstanding. Simple actions, silently executed would go a long way in not merely imparting dignity to the victory but even creating a virtuous cycle of Hindu-Muslim unity, a model for 21st century India.
This would mean the people shunning vested political interests from both communities. Politics in the area of religion has repeatedly proven to be a tool that has short-changed the people. Religion in the premises of politics has failed to harmonise collective interests. On the contrary, political religiosity has created rifts and fed on and profited from them. It is perhaps time to reverse the cycle. That is, allow the sattwa ideal in individuals – each being harbours some aspect of sattwa within – to engage one another and create a new and harmonious India. From that sattwic ideal, that unity, that spiritual oneness will emerge India’s 21st century Ram Rajya.
Finally, we see the pyres of hatred and potential rebirth of an aspired-for harmony. Now that the people have shown the maturity that political leaders ought to have had in the first place, perhaps politics will follow through and pick up the pieces of destruction – physical and psychological – and rebuild the nation as per the new will of the people. The people are done with faith-based, religion-driven lives of mutual suspicion. We look at this verdict as the beginning of new political alignments in tune with a new India.
The temple is a body, Ram an eternal ideal. The body in control, now embrace that sattwic ideal.
The author is Vice President at Observer Research Foundation.
This article was first published on ORF.