When we could wait for 70 for a legal decision why not for a few more months? Ayodhya Ordinance

The government should pay no heed to increasingly shrill cries for an Ordinance to build a temple for Ram at the site of the demolished Babri mosque.

Passing an Ordinance on a subject that is under consideration by the Supreme Court would weaken the institutional integrity of the Republic, create further religious division in society and lay the government open to the charge that its commitment to a Ram temple at Ayodhya is an election gimmick that lies dormant for the most part of its five-year term and wakes up, just ahead of elections, all sound and fury.

The sensible thing to do is to wait for the Supreme Court to start hearing the multiple challenges before it to the 2010 Allahabad High Court order dividing the disputed land into three parts, one to the Sunni Wakf Board and two to Hindu groups, and to wait for its verdict.

The dispute dates back at least to the 1850s, when communal clashes occurred over the Babri mosque, which was built in the 16th century, at the site, it is claimed, of a demolished temple. A legal dispute emerged after Hindu activists broke into the mosque and placed idols inside, in December 1949, after which the place stopped functioning as a mosque and ritual worship of the idols was permitted, although the site was off limits for the public.

The cases simmered on, and the mosque was demolished in December 1992, after a seven-year-long campaign led by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and BJP to demolish the mosque and build a temple at its site.

When such an old and contentious case has wound its way through the judicial maze and is approaching final resolution within a matter of months, the normal response would be to say that if we could wait for 70 years for a legal decision as to who owns the plot of land on which the mosque once stood and the temple is proposed to be built, we could wait for a few more months.

An Ordinance to short circuit that legal process would indicate an electoral agenda, rather than one driven by faith. Nothing precludes, however, a compromise among the parties to the dispute, outside the courts.