Is India changing, slowly maturing or adjusted for Attrocites

Independent Media

It is a big relief that the country as a whole has responded maturely and peacefully to the rather complicated verdict delivered on Thursday by the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad high court on the Ayodhya title suits. Under the watchful eyes of armies of securitymen and alert administrations, cities and towns across the land by and large went on with their lives: even in so-called trouble-prone metros like Mumbai and Hyderabad it was mostly just another normal day. In fact, it almost seemed like a pacifist’s dream come true when, compared with the unseemly days of the early ’90s when the Ayodhya controversy spilt much blood on the streets. This sedate reaction did have much to do with the nature of the verdict, which had something for everyone. This ensured that disappointment and elation remained at manageable levels. While some legal brains have poked fun at the verdict as “panchayati” justice (though since when did the word ‘panchayat’ become such a slur in mostly-rural India?), the fact remains that it was clever and nuanced enough to keep extreme reactions at bay.
Praise is also due to the governments at the Centre and in the different states who, for once, coordinated and cooperated in an effective manner to ensure that things did not go out of hand. All governments, including those rules by stakeholders in the Ayodhya dispute, stayed focused on preventing trouble in the streets, and they succeeded. This makes it all the more evident that when governments decide to act effectively, they can ensure that peace is maintained even in the most trying circumstances. The political parties and religious organisations too kept their promise (though some were clearly itching for a session of chest-thumping or breast-beating) and spoke in a reasonable manner about their misgivings and or indeed satisfaction over the verdict. But all this would have come to naught if the country’s much-touted but rarely-understood aam aadmi had not cooperated. It were ordinary citizens, whose main interest always lies in making a living (unless insidiously provoked otherwise), who ensured that the verdict on the decades-old Ayodhya dispute did not trigger violence. The candid photograph of a Hindu and a Muslim in Ayodhya having a quiet laugh is a snapshot of the way India’s citizenry reacted to the verdict. They may have their opinions, and sharp ones at that, but they did not allow these to disrupt the lives of their neighbours. All this is a pointer that India might have changed, perhaps very substantially, from the early ’90s when communities eyed each other with suspicion and were ready to jump at each other’s throats at the slightest provocation. It is not that religious identities don’t have significance any more. They do. But in election after election in recent times, people have shown that what matters to them more are the “sadak-pani-bijli” issues rather than disputes about shrines. Also, a new generation has grown up after the Babri Masjid was demolished in December 1992 that subscribes more to dreams engendered by liberalisation rather than apocalyptic visions of religious fervour.


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