Muslims remain calm after Ayodhya court decision

PUBLISHED : Monday, 04 October, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 04 October, 2010, 12:00am

Contrary to initial expectations, India's Muslims did not react violently to a landmark court ruling dividing a contested religious site between Hindus and Muslims, because they feared they would come off worst in any sectarian riots, analysts say.

Muslims were disappointed that the Allahabad High Court on Thursday allotted two-thirds of the disputed site of a 16th century mosque in the north Indian Hindu holy town of Ayodhya to Hindu litigants, but fears of a sectarian backlash soon faded.

'Muslims felt cheated and disappointed by the court,' said Aziz Mubarki, secretary of South Asia Ulema [Muslim clergy] Council.

'Hindus, including their leaders, celebrated the verdict as their victory. Yet the Muslims have controlled their anger and remained calm.'

In 1992 the demolition of the Babri mosque in Ayodhya by Hindu mobs triggered nationwide riots between Hindus and Muslims that killed more than 2,000 people, mostly Muslims. Hindu-Muslim riots in Gujarat in 2002 - in which about 2,000 people, again mostly Muslims, are believed to have died - could also be traced to the Ayodhya mosque row.

There were fears that anger within either community over Thursday's ruling could have led to new bloodshed. But analysts and activists said the minority Muslims had learned from past experience that they were more vulnerable and would suffer badly in the event of any riots.

Mubarki pointed out that in many places Hindus celebrated the decision, but Muslims did not react to 'those provocations'.

'In Hazaribagh, Hindus inscribed 'Jai Shriram' ['Hail, Lord Ram'] on some copies of the Koran and burnt some of their pages,' Mubarki claimed. 'Yet, Muslims have remained quiet because they know that only they, not the Hindus, would have to bear the brunt, in case riots broke out.'

Shabbir Husain, a mosque leader in the northern Indian city of Aligarh, said police and authorities 'routinely gang up' with Hindus in riots.

'Muslims showed their maturity by controlling their anger against the verdict and other Hindu provocations,' Husain said.

Analysts backed these Muslim leaders' views.

Lucknow-based social activist S R Darapuri, a former inspector general of Uttar Pradesh police, said in all Hindu-Muslim riots that he had witnessed, the Hindu majority police forces sided with Hindu rioters.

'Even judicial inquiry commissions revealed the pro-Hindu role of Indian police in the cases of many riots in the past,' said Darapuri.'The Allahabad court judiciary ignored historical evidence, clearly showed its bias in favour of majority Hindus, and Muslims have justified reasons to be angry with the verdict.

'Muslims did not react violently after the verdict, fearing that they would suffer badly in the case of riots, with police supporting the Hindus.'

Rights activist and analyst Ram Puniyani said the 'Muslim community had shown a remarkable restraint', adding that they knew any violent backlash would hit them badly.

'Muslims comprise 13.4 per cent of the Indian population, but over 80 per cent of victims of almost all Hindu-Muslim riots in the past decades were Muslim. The community seems to have learnt the lesson from past experiences of riots and have refused to succumb to the provocations and irritants after the verdict.'

However, some mosque leaders said it was not fear of bloody repercussions that stopped Muslims from resorting to violence.

'Riots, apart from killing or injuring people or destroying properties, seriously affect the development of a community,' said Abdul Habib, a retired Muslim engineer and mosque leader in Lucknow.

'Muslims are identified as a backward community in India. But in recent years younger Muslims are making good strides for the development of the community. They cannot afford to be involved in any riot at this juncture.'

There had been fears also of a violent reaction from Hindus after the ruling, but they said they were very happy with the verdict.

'The judgment has paved the way for the construction of a grand Ram temple in Ayodhya ... We invite everybody, including Muslims, to help build the temple,' Mohan Bhagwat, chief of the right-wing Hindu group RSS, said on Saturday.

'The court verdict should not be seen as anybody's victory or defeat.'

Raj Kishor Singh, a Hindu sweetshop owner in Lucknow, said the verdict had come as a big gift for him and all Hindus. 'We hope Muslims will give up their claims on the land they have got at the site because they cannot build any mosque in that small area. I am sure we shall see a big Ram temple at the site soon,' he said.