Statement on the Indian Supreme Court’s Ayodhya Verdict

Radical Socialist

November 26, 2019

The Babri Masjid (Mosque of Babur) before it was destroyed by Hindu supremacists in 1992

This statement from the Indian organization Radical Socialists is in response to a recent ruling by the Indian Supreme Court. The ruling cedes to Hindu supremacists the right to build a temple on the site where Babri Masjid, a mosque in the city of Ayodhya, once stood.

In the 80s and early 90s, Babri Masjid became a rallying cry for Hindu supremacists who charged that the mosque stood on grounds where a Hindu temple once existed and where Rama, the Hindu god, was born. In 1992, the mosque was destroyed by the forces of Hindutva (Hindu supremacy) who had organized for years under the umbrella organization of the Sangh Parivar to demolish the mosque and build a temple in its place.

This article appeared on the Radical Socialist website on November 11, 2019 here.

The Supreme Court’s verdict on the Babri Masjid title dispute will live in infamy. While spoken in the voice of India’s highest court, the verdict rings with the chants and slogans of far-right Hindutva mobilisations. Radical Socialists rejects the Supreme Court’s decision to award the entire premises of the Babri Mosque to Ram Lalla. While we prepare a more detailed analysis of the verdict, some things are already clear: this is a defeat for secularism and democracy, and a clear danger to the interests of not only religious minorities but also workers, peasants and ordinary people in India.

Announced under the watchful eye of a Hindutva government, the verdict represents the victory of a decades old agenda,achieved through relentless organisation and the most significant mass mobilisation in independent India. The Prime Minister has compared the decision to the breaking of the Berlin Wall and L.K. Advani, architect of the mobilisations of the 1980s and 90s, has declared it a complete vindication of his role. It is a reminder that there is no short-cut to confronting the mobilising capacity of the Sangh Parivar which has paved the way for the current strength of the BJP and the continuing spread of the RSS, who have changed the commonsense of the country, and systematically isolated religious minorities. A steady communalisation of society and state (including the judiciary) has paved the way for this judgment.

The SC judgment acknowledges the following illegalities. a) That there was a functioning mosque on the site till 22/23 December 1949. b) That this was unlawfully stopped by an illegal ‘desecration’ caused by the surreptitious installing of Hindu idols. c) That on December 6, 1992 the mosque was unlawfully and unjustifiably destroyed. The logical course of justice, following these criminal acts, is the restitution of the mosque. The SC verdict however, while acknowledging the criminal illegality of what was done, rewards the perpetrators and their supporters. This sets a chilling precedent for the future.

The judgment has opened up considerable new space for Hindutva forces. They are likely to develop a mobilisational politics towards the construction of a temple in Ayodhya. This will be painted as a ‘national’ task. Working people will be asked to join in through kar seva and volunteer initiatives. Moreover, this verdict has given an impetus tothe creation of disputes at other contested sites.As one of the RSS activists’ slogans of the 1990s and 2000s puts it “Ayodhya to bas jhanki hai, Mathura-Kashi baki hai” (Ayodhya is a mere glimpse, Mathura and Kashi are to follow). The vitriolic mobilisation of Hindus against Muslims will worsen. This judgment has vindicated the basic Marxist theory of state in a class divided society, where the judiciary is an integral part of its superstructure and not neutral, independent or sacrosanct vis-à-vis the ruling elites. It has also exposed and reaffirmed that none of the constitutional political parties, including the Left, pose any challenge to the current descent into darkness, let alone reversing the Hindutva-isation of state and society. Difficult questions of political strategy no doubt lie ahead but one thing is clear: equivocation on the Babri Masjid verdict will be a disaster for the longer term effort to build up the power of workers and peasants against the Hindutva and capitalist onslaught. The failure of a single non-Muslim political force to condemn the verdict reveals the extent to which the Sangh Parivar is setting the agenda, with the full backing of the ruling classes.

There is nothing in this agenda which addresses the real issues in lives of the masses. Constructing the Ram Mandir and carrying forward other parts of the Sangh Parivar’s aims will draw out more contradictions in the political project of Hindutva, offering points of active and structure intervention. Revolutionary, democratic and independent progressive forces have to actively add this principled perspective and long-term vision to all possible initiatives, no matter how small.

We cannot, however, forget the pusillanimity of the so-called secular parties – demonstrated once again in their responses to the verdict. The Congress and SP have suggested that they support the construction of the Ram Mandir and believe that this will strengthen the secular fabric of the country. BSP and CPI statements have tried to evade the issue by praising the constitution and calling for peace. Mamata Banerjee’s silence is evidence of an even deeper paralysis. The CPI(M) statement, while calling for punishment of those guilty for the demolition of the Babri Masjid, has gone no further than talking of the “questionable premises” of the judgment. In short, the bourgeois parties have variously surrendered, evaded, or embraced the verdict and the mainstream parliamentary left has shown itself unable to stand up and fight in a principled and consistent manner, even in terms of its own rhetoric of the past three decades.

Revolutionary, democratic and progressive forces will have to navigate these troubled waters care-fully. While insisting on our principled position, we must join in all efforts to provide help and assistance to beleaguered members of the Muslim community in every place they are present; including those carried out by a vacillating left. Provocations and incitements must be met with solidarity, joint fronts and, given the current balance of forces, maintenance of peace. The Left everywhere, through its statements and actions, must stand against efforts to socially isolate Muslims.

But more long term questions also remain. Activists at the frontlines of organising initiatives will have to work determinedly to strengthen working class unity, against those who equate religion and nation. Workers and peasants must realise that genuine emancipation will only come through a politics of class unity and a secular democratic public culture. Often this will mean confronting efforts to paint organising activity as anti-national. But any hesitation on the issues of secularism and communalism today will damage the long run task of building a progressive working class movement. The lie, already finding wide circulation, that this is a balanced judgment must be defeated a thousand times. Skills and analysis in the academy, professions and elsewhere must coalesce into efforts to defeat the gathering consensus.

The immediate prospects on all these fronts are bleak. The Hindu Right is well organised in all these arenas. For some considerable time this will be a seemingly losing battle. We are in a period of what Gramsci called ‘war of position’. Only by standing steadfastly for our key principles – a just, dignified and equal order for all – and supplementing them with a long term strategy, does any hope for the future exist.