The rise of Populism, a step further towards Autocracy

5th August, 2020 marked itself as a momentous day for the followers of the Hinduism as they finally get to witness the "Bhoomi Poojan" in Ayodhya. The tradition has its roots in Hindu mythology and include worshipping of the land and gods before construction of any temple or an infrastructure.

The emotions are high and blessed they feel. All the believers finally get to see what they hailed as "Ghar Wapsi" which translates to "The return of Ram to his kingdom, Ayodhya". The return was long awaited and "Why lord Ram is living under a tent? " was highly debated. The devotees all across India, now finally get to see their lord Ram in a colossal shrine. The day is being observed as the rightful and holy return of the lord Ram to Ayodhya akin to the one mentioned in the epic. The Prime Minister himself attended the event and commemorated his belief and faith in the religion which then was followed by fourteen consecutive tweets made by the official twitter handle of the Prime Minister's office. Covert implications were made about the victory of Hindus over the Muslims as some of the tweets tried to immortalize these events as an end to the Hindu religious struggle and the victory of Hindutva. Provided that we live in a secular country, it is a tragedy to see that in some of the tweets, the Prime Minister exclusively said that there have been many attempts to ‘annihilate’ the very existence of Lord Ram but lord Ram lives in our heart. Tweets like these clearly show that the Prime Minister follows the ideology thriving on the ‘Us vs. the Other’ enmity that hails the so-called victory of Hindutva over Islam in this context.

The demolition of the Babri Masjid on 6th of December, 1992 is marked as a black day in the history of secular and democratic India. Let us further probe into the legal aspects of the matter. A suit was filed by Nirmohi Akhada from the side of Hindus and Hashim Ansari filed it from the Muslim side. The suit was originally filed in 1949 after the appearance of idols of lord Ram inside the premises of the Mosque. The disputed premise was then locked by the government.  Further in the future, Mr. L.K Advani was engraved as the face of Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) and in 1984 he was made the leader to look after the construction of lord Ram’s Temple. In 1986, the district judge in Faizabad exclusively orders for the opening of gate so that the devotees can pray. Just days before the elections, the Rajiv Gandhi government grants the permission for ‘Shilanyas’ in November of 1989. The Places of Worship Act was then enacted by the parliament in 1991 to freeze the status of places of worship as they were on the day of Independence. But the act excluded the “Ram Janm Bhoomi” dispute from its purview which shows the religiously driven motive behind it. Mr. Lk Advani, the former president of the the Bharitya Janta Janty (BJP) then conducted a Rath Yatra and made the first attempt to demolish the Babri Masjid. The Uttar Pradesh police is ordered by the UP government, Samajwadi Party (SP) at the time, to open fire on the mob claiming life of 16 rioters. However, unfortunately on 6th of December the extremist of the BJP and VHP decided to settle the dispute on their own once again. Instead of believing in the judiciary they formed a mob of 1,50,000 with the motive to demolish the Babri Masjid and then they eventually did it; just because they are a majority and can do so, thereby establishing the rule of "might is right" and defying the constitution itself. Partisan politicians of the time that took responsibility of the illegal demolition of the Babri Masjid are now members of the parliament and has painted themselves as a devotee of the lord Ram. This also showed the failure of the former central and state government in maintaining the law and order in the state of Uttar Pradesh. This Hindu-Muslim riot claimed 2,000 lives and is also one of the major causes for the rise in Hindu-Muslim chasm, further in the future.

Two separate FIRs were registered, FIR 197 against the thousands of Kar Sevaks (every sole member of the assembly is to be held liable under sec 147 IPC, rioting sec 149 IPC) and FIR 198 against the eight big leaders of BJP, VHP, RSS and Bajranj Dal ( promoting hate on grounds of religion sec 153A IPC, Assertions prejudicial to national integration sec 153B IPC and outraging religious feelings 505 IPC). Big political leaders like LK Advani, Uma Bhartri, Murli Manohar Joshi, who at some point, have held ministries in the government, were among the accused in the FIR. Both the trials were held separately in different court and until 8 October, 1993 when UP government issued notification that FIR 197 is to be tied with the other 49 cases in special court of Lucknow. The CBI added the criminal conspiracy angle in FIR 197 and the chart sheet for FIR 197 and FIR 198 were combined. The UP government was supposed to join the FIRs after consulting with the High Court but the UP government failed to follow the desired process. This was further used by the lawyers of the accused in 2001 to argue that the criminal conspiracy charges were indeed wrongfully framed and the reason being the lapse of administration in UP. No attempts were made by the CBI to challenge the judgment of High Court for technical correction of the time lapse rather a new supplementary chart sheet was filed by CBI. As a result, both the FIRs were to be treated separately again and the Rai Bareli court discharged the accused in 2003 because of the lack of evidence.

The matter then finally gets in the hands of the Allahabad High Court in 2005 and the court says that these are two different cases and should be treated differently and thus upholding its previous judgement of 2001; freeing the accused of criminal conspiracy charges. This was further challenged by CBI in the Supreme Court of India in 2012. Meanwhile, a bench comprising of three judges passed a judgement on 30th of September, 2010 regarding the ownership of the land. All the judges weren't exactly congruent on the issue that the mosque was built on a pre demolished temple but agreed on the fact that a temple like structure existed long before the mosque as per the evidence provided by the Archaeological Survey of India. The land was to be distributed in three parts and each of the three claiming parties (i.e., Hindu Maha Sabha, Sunni Waqf Board and the Nirmohi Akhara) were supposed to get one third of the land.

This verdict of Allahabad High court was challenged in Supreme Court. On 9th of December, 2019 the Supreme court of India passed the long awaited Ayodhya verdict and finally broke the Hindu-Muslim tensions in a lawful manner. The bench of five judges of the supreme court including the former Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi unanimously ruled out the previous decision of the Allahabad High Court and the land was given for the construction of Ram Mandir and the Sunni Waqf Board were given 5 acres of land elsewhere. The court also agreed that the “destruction of the Babri Masjid was breach of the order of status quo” and “Obliteration of the Islamic Structure was an egregious violation of law”. The Supreme court in 2017, had already ruled against the judgement of High Court of Allahabad and induced criminal conspiracy charges in the demolition case and also clubbed all the cases together to be treated as a single case. The trial is supposed to end on 31 of August, 2020. The judiciary also advises the administration not to celebrate the judgement of December, 2019 as a win of one religion over another rather it should be seen as it is, i.e., justice delivered.

It took the Judiciary 25 long years to just bring down the accused to a trial. It also shows the inefficiency of the administration as well as the judicial system of India. The previous administration of UP was incapable in maintaining law and order and also didn’t comply with the legal procedure for clubbing of the two FIRs, which eventually was used as a loophole by the lawyers of the accused to escape a fair trial until 2017. The previous High Courts lacked efficiency as they failed to bring down the accused to trials regarding all the charges filed under both the FIRs. Major political figures from the RSS and the BJP had been seen on multiple occasions boasting about the demolition of the temple. The politicians seems to take pride in the act of demolition and the judiciary is keeping quiet which also give rise to certain suspicions regarding the independence of the judiciary especially at the time when the former Chief Justice of India, Ranjan Gogoi gets a place in the Rajya Sabha.

India’s struggle for independence which claimed the blood of our freedom fighters as an oblation, bears testimony to the secular and democratic vision of the nation which was further enshrined in the very preamble of the Indian constitution. The rise of a majoritarian authority is against the very feeling of the Indian constitution. The world has seen its fair share of majoritarian authoritative forms of government; for instance, the regime of Hitler believed in racial and religious superiority and what ensued was a catastrophe,  a macabre dance of death in the form of killing of Jews in Germany which further culminated into the Second World War.

The fundamentalist mentality of Hitlers regime reflects in Sangh's (Rashtriya Swem sevak RSS, the parent body of the BJP) ideology today. This is the reason for the vengeance narrative. This superimposition of their ideology over others is a further step towards the annihilation of the secular spirit enshrined in the Constitution. On multiple occasions the BJP is seen to be walking in the same shoes as those of Hitler's to attain the majoritarian authority and the illegal demolition of the Babri Masjid, by the majority was just the first step. From the time the BJP held its office in 2014, there has been an increase in hate crime over religion and mob lynching of minority is increased significantly as per the report of the National Human Resource report in 2019. This was further followed by suppression of free speech and media in the state of Jammu and Kashmir after the revocation of article 370. India now hold the world record of most internet blackouts in the whole world exceeding hundred days without the internet.

The biggest problem that is seen over the years is that the present Prime Minister of India shows a tendency to avoid question over his policies. The PM has given absolutely no press conference in his tenure. A government that is not answerable to its people will eventually move towards a totalitarian form of government thus destabilising democracy in the nation. The people of India need to realize this now more than ever, that asking questions to the government and judiciary will keep the power in check thereby continuing the republic of India to be secular and democratic thus maintaining the feeling of the Indian Constitution.

You can share this post!


Siddharth Shekhar

By Blogger

A law student.