In his interaction with the media last week Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was right to list communal harmony as his government’s first priority, and express the hope that whatever the verdict of the Special Bench of the Allahabad High Court on the dispute over the title suit of the land involving Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhumi at Ayodhya, to be pronounced on September 24, normalcy would prevail in the country. The Bharatiya Janata Party has issued a statement that it would go by the verdict of the court. Of course, whatever the verdict of the special court, all concerned have the right to move the higher judiciary. In the event that one or the other party to the case chooses to move the higher court, all concerned must respect that decision and await the verdict of the highest court of the land. Having waited all these years, a few more years of waiting will do no one any harm. Leaders of both the communities concerned — Hindus and Muslims — and all political parties and religious organisations must come forward and make solemn commitments to ensure that law and order will not be disturbed and communal conflict not ignited.
Nothing would please the enemies of India more than a nation divided. Both Hindu and Muslim religious leaders have a stake in the protection of the best interests of humanity and the nation. It would be a great tragedy if communal passions are aroused and fanned on either side. India would be the loser.
After years of struggle and hard work, India is finally on the threshold of an economic take-off and a global presence. The world looks at India with admiration because this is the only developing country that has pursued development within the framework of a democracy — a pluralistic, secular democracy. From the world’s richest nation, the United States, to some of its poorest, people around the globe admire the record of the Indian people to live and let live, pursuing different faiths. India’s majority community, the Hindus, can derive great pride from their record of pluralism and inclusiveness and their ability to provide a home to all the great religions of the world. Given this track record, it is essential that the Ayodhya verdict reinforces India’s pluralistic and secular credentials and does not result in a resurgence of intolerance.
As the country’s largest opposition political party with strong roots among the majority community, the BJP has a special stake in ensuring communal peace and harmony. At a time when the Indian National Congress is stuck in the morass of dynastic politics, and the polity is awash with regional, communal and caste-based political outfits, the BJP has the opportunity to emerge as a normal political party, offering a platform to all communities and all Indians. India needs more than one mainstream national political party. This was the political project of the BJP’s greatest political leader, former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee. The new generation of BJP leaders owes it to the people of India and to the Indian republic to rise above narrow communal affiliations and voice the aspirations and concerns of all Indians. How the BJP responds to the Ayodhya verdict will shape its political future.
Between now and September 24 every responsible politician and political party must work hard and with dedication to ensure that there is no communal conflict or violence in the wake of the special court’s verdict, whatever that verdict may be. India and the Indian people need a generation of peace — at home, in the neighbourhood and in the world — for the country to realise its destiny and for every Indian to be well-fed, clothed, educated, employed and truly empowered.