A sad day for law in India

CapitolBeatOK Editor’s preface: Minority Muslims in India have been shaken by the erosion of a longstanding understanding built on historic compromises in the post-colonial era that had, until recent months, retained a semi-autonomous status for the Kashmir region. Now, a new judicial ruling allowing or even affirming destruction of a Muslim mosque has eroded confidence in the aspired-for independence of the Indian judiciary. Our friend Dr. Nyla Ali Khan, an educator and scholar of Kashmiri origins who now lives in Oklahoma, shared her  observations in a recent note. Dr. Nyla’s analysis follows. 

With the imposition of Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code of 1973, (which authorizes an executive magistrate to prohibit an assembly of more than four people in any area), in Delhi and Uttar Pradesh, mainland India gets a small smattering of what Kashmir has been facing since August 5.  

A disused sixteenth-century mosque in Ayodhya, the Babri Masjid, was demolished by Hindu supporters of the Saffron movement who hoped to construct a temple, the Ram Janmabhoomi, on that site. Hindu-Muslim riots swept Northern India in the wake of the Ram Janmabhoomi agitation in 1992. 

Both sides attempted to create a new past for the nation. In the case of the majority Hindus, the militant Hinduism that the Ram Janmabhoomi movement incited challenged the basic principle that the nation was founded on: democracy.

Bigotry defined identities and ideologies, treating the idea of a multilingual, multiethnic, and secular nation as if it were a myth.

The Babri Masjid, an obscure little mosque, was destroyed by an unruly mob that rallied around the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which in 1992 was the second largest political party in India. By blatantly advocating and supporting the destruction of the Babri Masjid, the Bharatiya Janata Party and its followers negated the legislation of the highest court of law in the land that sought to protect the site by staying its appropriation by any political party.

Today, the BJP is the largest political party in India, and the Supreme Court of the country has, in recent days, cleared the way for a temple to be built on the disputed site. Brute majoritarianism has superseded the independence and integrity of the judiciary.

National pride in BJP’s India is synonymous with majoritarianism and contempt for civility. 

It also reinforces the claims of right-wingers who label present-day Muslims “outsiders” or “invaders” in India.

 Such claims ignore how communities grow historically within the framework created by a dialogic discourse. 

NOTE: Dr. Nyla Ali Khan, an educator based in Oklahoma, writes frequently about events in her native land, the region of Kashmir that spans the borders of several nations, including India.