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Calcutta Diary

Total inactivity, the government has decided, is what nirvana is about The government should not see any evil, hear any evil, give diplomatic recognition to any evil. If evil nonetheless chooses to stalk the country, the authorities could not be held responsible. Should the nation, as a direct consequence of this seance of make-believe, be reduced to nothingness, the prime minister could only be philosophical about the denouement.

THE nation waits for a catharsis. So many alternative conjectures are possible of the form it might take. The prime minister resigns in a great gesture of con-trition, begging forgiveness of the nation for the immense harm he has done to it. The ruling party is rent by an upheaval; forces are unleashed who insist that it returns to its roots of uncompromising secularism. The parties in the opposition, united in their determination, come hell or high water, not to let the fundamen-talists make a bonfire of the motherland, mobilise millions and millions of ordinary men and women, belonging to all denomi-nations and no denominations, and guide these millions into active combat against the barbarians; there are pitched battles, gory beyond description, but, in the end, the point is clinched, dignity and civilisa-tion are restored to India. Or the justices constituting the Supreme Court, with not one dissenter amongst them, resign en masse to express their scorn and anguish at what the established government had wrought to the Constitution of the land and its highest judiciary.

It is indeed child's play to construct umpteen imaginary scripts culminating in the triumph of nobility and rectitude. For instance, the authorities approached the Supreme Court praying that it sends an unambiguous message to the Allahabad High Court with the following content: the twojudge bench considering the writ petition for allowing darshan of the makeshift Ramlala structure be reconstituted and the honourable judge, who, before his elevation to the bench, had, as a practising advocate, argued in a cognate case, way back in 1986, on behalf of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, be excluded from it. Or consider this slight variation of the same theme: after the judgment of the Allahabad High Court had been delivered, the very same evening, the government prayed to the Supreme Court for an immediate interim order; as midnight approached, a judge belonging to the highest judiciary held court at his residence, and, taking into account the circumstances issued a directive injuncting the implementation of the high court order

The government, as has been its wont, stayed inert. It did not even adopt the line of least resistance; it opted for no resistance. By bamboozling the Left, it succeeded in gathering enough outside support to defeat the Lok Sabha motion of no confidence against it. Since it survived, and survived without exerting itself to any appreciable extent, there was little reason to deviate from its stance of noninvolvement and nonperformance. This total inactivity, it decided, is what nirvana is about. The government should not see any evil, hear any evil, give diplomatic recognition to any evil. If evil nonetheless chooses to stalk the country, the authorities could not be held responsible for such a development. Logical positivism is the essence of the matter; what the government does not perceive, it has decided, it is under no compulsion lo acknowledge as reality. Pretence, it is convinced, makes it perfect. Should the nation, in the course of this seance of makebelieve—or, for the matter, as a direct consequence of this makebelieve—be reduced to nothingness, the prime minister could only be philosophical about the denouement. A similar attitude of the mind has earned for our cricket team laurels in the international arena. Youwinsomeyoulosesome, say our cricketers with a shrug; having said it, they take the next available plane to participate in a masala match in Edmanton, Alberta— or is the name of the town Calgary? In the patois of nineteenth century diplomacy, demeanour of this genre was described as sang froid. Certainly you cannot fault the government on other counts too. The sophistication with which the BJP leaders were arrested, treated royally during their incarceration and finally honourably discharged by a judge of some remote subordinate court, could not but evoke the highest accolade.

It was as if a dress rehearsal was going on of a coming event, and the authorities were dealing with leaders of the inevitableforthcoming government; the only historical parallel of the charade was Charan Singh's genuflections at the time of Indira Gandhi's arrest way back in 1978.

None of these instances of purposive dcscent to bathos however fail to generate an adequate momentum for catharsis, and the stupendous release of emotions one almost hankers after remains a nonevent. The nation stews in meanness and malevolence. At one particular juncture, unable to bear the heat any more, the simmering pot will, one dares say, instead of melting away, explode; the gruesome bits and pieces of the happenings in Bombay and Surat and Ahmedabad are the notsoearly warning signals of that final act. An alternative possibility could not be ruled out either. Or in lien of one singlepoint explosion, forces might chip away, perseveringly, at the integer described as India: tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow would creep in this petty pace to the last syllable of recorded nonnationhood; all our yesterdays would, dutifully, light the way to dusty death.

The ordinance the government has promulgated bears testimony of the death which is already a de facto proposition and therefore does not require to be foretold. By virtue of the ordinance, the government empowers itself to take over the 'disputed area', including those parts till now constituting wakf property. But care is taken not to declare the area as a protected premise. Members of the minority community are refused admittance to it; there is no question of offering them the opportunity to offer namaz either. It would be silly to refer to Article 14 of the Constitution and demand parity of treatment visavis the majority community. The authorities are being bloodymindedly realistic: since the mosque has been comprehensively destroyed, the site where it was situated has ceased to be a place of worship. The transformation of being into nothingness is already a fait accompli; there could therefore be no question of permitting the Muslims to flock in and say their prayers; that would be regarded as a pointless act of provocation of the majority community, giving rise to awkward problems of law and order. The reasoning is impeccable. The makeshift Ramlala structure, even the logical positivists could not but agree, is now a datum. It may be illegal, but reality is reality. The idols installed under the garish pink canopy are equally a part of datum, so too the fact of priests offering prayers every hour on the hour to the deity/deities. Muslim prayers are out, but Hindu darshans should be in. Restituting the honour of the Supreme Court and the dignity of the Constitution do not quite belong to the agenda of present considerations. In any event, sleeping dogs, as per received wisdom, should be allowed to continue with their indolence. Meanwhile, have not the authorities gone out of their way to seek the opinion of the Supreme Court on the question whether the mosque had in tact been built, five centuries ago, on the ruins of a temple? This reference to the nation's highest judiciary should establish, once and for all, the government's credentials; it has kept an open mind, it wants to get to the root of the matter The judges are of course neither archaeologists nor historians. Even a moron knows that. But the judges, whose objectivity is beyond dispute, despite the caveat entered into by the West Bengal chief minister, should be able to adjudicate between the claims of the warring factions of archaeologists and historians. The judges would presumably take their time to reach their decision. This could not be helped. The judges must be permitted to deliberate on the concerned issues in a tranquil and nontimebound frame of mind; justice hustled is justice denied It is a matter of some sorrow and concern that, with the arousal of people's baser instincts, some hundreds of our countrymen belonging to the humbler species are being killed or maimed every week, some thousands of jhoparpattis where they lived a submarginal life are being set aflame, and the railway stations in the disturbed towns and cities are chocabloc with fleeing humanity who cannot quite believe that it is not the darkest of the dark age but only eight breathless years away from the twentyfirst century. In the context of five thousand years of civilisation this nation is rightfully proud of, these incidents are however not worth getting worked up over.

Now suppose, much to the government's satisfaction, the Supreme Court offers the judgment that there was actually a temple at the spot where the mosque had been built in the sixteenth century, Hindutva would then be vindicated in no uncertain terms. The lawabiding authorities, one can set one's mind at rest, would proceed to take on hand arrangements to ensure that the original temple, the existence of which has been validated by the nation's highest judiciary, is rebuilt post haste. Mind you, this regime does not deviate from its position of nonalignment though. So, to balance matters, a mosque too would be constructed in reasonable proximity to the spot where the Babri mosque stood prior to the high noon of December 6. Peace, the government lias the right to expect, would then gushingly descend on this segment of earth known as the secular, democratic, socialist Republic of India.

There is just one fly in the ointment Legality is mostly a corpus of citationsand precedents. If, on the strength of supposedly archaeological evidence, permission be given to reconstruct a temple, after a gap of four hundred and seventy years, on a particular site, why could not an empire too reclaim its right to be reestablished given the concrete historical evidence that it had existed as late as fortysix years ago? The British are having a rather lean time: what with the capers of the royal children and their spouses, the economy in deep decline and a government unable to determine whether the Maastricht Treaty is a garland of charm beads guaranteed to take care of all difficult problems or a mere rope round the neck to be hanged by, they do not quite know how to provide for their next square meal. Once the government of India decided to grant the right to construct a Ramlala temple on the debris of the Babri mosque, British hearts would go pitapat. Since the purport of the GOl decision would be that not only should history be honoured but that it should be restored, the great Indian empire, dissolved on a date which is yet short of even its fiftieth anniversary, would fully deserve to be revived. The decision would in fact supplement the Galbraithian doctrine of confiscation of sovereignity of nogood nations. The British, it goes without saying, would be most keen to come marching back, and they would have both the Galbraith theorem and postDecember 6 legality to support them to the hilt. The people of India, the bulk of them, would be unlikely to demur; they would be much too busy tearing one another apart. And even were they against the proposal, there would be, once more, the United Nations Security Council to fall back upon. The Security Council, on a request from Her Majesty's government, would convene at an emergency session on the midnight of August 1415 next or even earlier and pass a resolution to the effect that since the evidence of archaeology is the ultimate determinant of the corpus of law in India, historical antecedents should be held to be equally sacrosanct in that country: since India was, halfacentury ago, a Britishowned territory, she should revert to the British; dust thou art, to dust thou returneth. In other words, a legality, which holds internally, should have external applicability as well.

The Indians nonetheless are an unpredictable lot. Some amongst them could refuse to accept the implications of the acts and decisions of their own government. They might raise a conscientious objection to coming under the umbrella of a British protectorate for a second time in two and a half centuries. They could even offer physical resistance, which could take the form of a vague cross between260Economic and Political Weekly February 13, 1993satyagrahu and waging battle with AK47 guns. That would be some bother, so much so that the United Nations Security Council might have to meet again and pass yet another resolution, this time for setting up a UN expeditionary force to enforce the earlier Security Council resolution. Mind you, all such resolutions would be passed on behalf of the international community. It could not be helped if such an expeditionary force were to be overwhelmingly manned by United States military personnel. At least one section of the Indian citizenry—the upper classeswould be deeply grateful for the UN/US intervention. Some of them might be in a desperate hurry to welcome back the foreign masters. Why must the latter wait for a Security Council resolution even? In the latest excursion into Iraq, the US fighter planes did not wait for a fresh UN resolution; they proceeded on the legitimate assumption that the United States of America is the embodiment of the international community.

A final thought. Once these preliminaries are over and they are firmly back in the saddle in India, the British, as a mollifying gesture, might consider despatching Nirad C Chaudhuri, MBE, as the first Viceroy and GovernorGeneral following, the Restoration.

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