History will not forgive us if we fail to seize the opportunity now and resolve the vexatious Babri Masjid-Ramjanmabhoomi dispute. The hopes of a judicial settlement of the decades-old title dispute have brightened with the Supreme Court setting October 18 as the deadline for both sides to conclude arguments. The final verdict is expected before the end of November when the Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, who is heading the five-member constitution bench conducting daily hearings, will retire. Given the long, tortuous course that the agitation for Ram Mandir and the litigation have taken, the ongoing hearings in the apex court represent the best opportunity to settle the dispute for all time. This may well be the last lap of what is one of the most historic and complex cases ever handled by Indian judiciary. The final verdict, whichever way it goes, will be Gogoi’s swan song as well as his legacy. The judgement is bound to have a major impact on the course of national politics in the backdrop of the rising forces of Hindutva and nationalist narrative being amplified by the policies like the abrogation of Article 370, National Register of Citizens (NRC) and the renewed push for Uniform Civil Code. The construction of Ram tempe at the disputed site in Ayodhya has also been a core element of the BJP’s election promises. Since the matter is in the court, the saffron party has been constrained from taking any executive decisions relating to the matter, despite having a full majority in the Parliament.
Though Prime Minister Narendra Modi has appealed to the political leaders to show restraint and have faith in the judiciary, his own party ally Shiv Sena has been making belligerent statements on building Ram temple. All the stakeholders must abide by the apex court’s verdict without any ifs and buts. Since the four-month-long mediation efforts between Hindu and Muslim claimants failed to yield any result, the matter must now be left to the judiciary. The case is less about the land and more about healing the wounds, bridging the hearts and restoring communal harmony. The country has seen a lot of bloodshed over Ayodhya and endured deep wounds that are yet to heal. India cannot hope to meet the aspirations of the post-liberalisation generation if it continues to cling on to the painful baggage of the past. Unless the ghosts of the tumultuous history are exorcised, it is not possible to build a secure and prosperous future. The mood in the 21st century is one of optimism and hope. There is now an overwhelming yearning among both Hindus and Muslims for a peaceful resolution of the dispute and for putting the bitterness of the past behind them.