Exactly a year ago India was on the edge of a communal precipice. After 60 years the Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court delivered its verdict in the Ayodhya title suit that was to decide a basic question: whose land was it anyway.
The judges – in separate judgements – skirted the issue and instead came out with various suggestions, the most unworkable among them being a three-way split of the land. A year later, the dispute is predictably stuck at the next level of jurisprudence.
Last year there was palpable tension in the weeks prior to the verdict. It was expected that the judgement would not be acceptable to at least one section of community leaders and social strife accompanied by violent outbreaks was a distinct possibility.
There was anger at the verdict – within the Muslim community and even among one section among the Hindus who felt that the judgement was at best a pyrrhic victory. Fortunately this anger did not spill out on the streets which suggested two things: India had moved on from the temple-mosque dispute and that if the State wanted it could actually prevent communal conflagration.
In the course of the Ayodhya agitation, after the Bharatiya Janata Party took charge of the movement in 1990 with LK Advani’s Rath Yatra, the BJP strongman used to say that the agitation was not just about a temple but for the greater idea of Hindutva.
Events of the past year have shown that this has met with a considerable degree of success. While India does not get charged up on the issue of a half built Ram temple at Ayodhya, the basic idea behind the agitation remains a popular draw among the majority community.
The biggest change in Indian polity in the past two decades is in regard to the approach towards religious minorities. Social prejudice had been replaced by political and administrative suspicion. Until that time Hindus personally steered clear of Muslim dominated areas or did not eat or drink at houses of Muslims, it was in the realm of personal choice.
But now it is communal profiling. This is considered inevitable by most. If there has been a blast in the city, then it is perfectly ‘legitimate’ to view anyone who ‘looks’ a Muslim with suspicion. In the past two decades or so, every Muslim has realised what it means to be a believer in Islam.
This is the most significant fallout of the Ayodhya agitation. In the last decade this has been greatly aided by the global war on terror that has seen one European country after another banning the Burqa as a legitimate security necessity.
India no longer needs the temple-mosque dispute to keep its secular framework constantly under scrutiny of significant sections of its populace.
India has actually moved on – the calmness on Ayodhya in the past year shows. But this India is not the one that existed before.