Maps of the Hindu Rashtra typically depict the Indian subcontinent drenched in a uniform saffron. Some see a lofty vision of unity in that colouring, but I see the violent and painful erasures of buildings, cultures and people that such uniformity would require. On 6 December 1992, a Hindu mob enacted one such purge by ripping apart a historical monument, a rare sixteenth-century mosque, brick by brick. This year, what the mob began extrajudicially, the Supreme Court finished through judicial opinion.
On 9 November, a panel of five judges concluded that a modern Hindu temple ought to be built atop the ruins of a Babur-period mosque, because some modern Hindus believe that exact spot is the god Ram’s birthplace. The apex court’s final decision is based on modern faith and has nothing to do with history before the nineteenth century. However, much of the judgment’s text explores and misstates the precolonial past. Consistent with Hindutva ideology, the opinion abjures both historical reality and any pretense of equal treatment of religious communities.
The verdict opens by comparing two views that are fundamentally unequal. In the opinion’s own words: “The Hindu community claims it [the disputed Ayodhya property] as the birthplace of Lord Ram, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. The Muslim community claims it as the site of the historic Babri Masjid built by the first Mughal Emperor, Babur.” The judicial opinion positioned these two perspectives as comparable, which, historically speaking, is entirely unmoored from reality.