While most of Indian Twitter, media and political analysts stayed cautious about articulating the political implications of the Ayodhya verdict by the Supreme Court of India, the New York Times pulled no punches. Though the homepage of their website had no mention of Babri or Ayodhya when this article was published, the NYT did publish a piece on one of its inside pages titled “Court Backs Hindus on Ayodhya, Handing Modi Victory in His Bid to Remake India”.
That the Supreme Court’s verdict will be trumpeted as a political victory for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) scored through commitment to the Hindu ‘cause’, is not a difficult deduction to make.
The piece begins by stating: “India’s Supreme Court ruled in favor of Hindus on Saturday in a decades-old dispute over a holy site contested by Muslims, handing the prime minister and his followers a major victory in their quest to remake the country as Hindu and shift it further from its secular foundation.
The piece also mentions that senior government officials reportedly reached out to journalists to ‘promise’ no more mosques will be destroyed and “they, too, wanted to move on and focus on building the nation”.
The Ayodhya news was not on the homepage of The Washington Post website either. However, like NYT, their article on Ayodhya pointed out how the verdict fulfilled “a long-cherished goal of Hindu nationalists”. It also pointed out that the building of the Ram Mandir was a “key objective of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party”. The piece is titled: “India’s Supreme Court clears way for a Hindu temple at country’s most disputed religious site”.
In the context of the verdict, the piece sought to remind its readers what the Narendra Modi government and the BJP’s political objective has been in the past few years: “Modi won reelection in a landslide in May and has moved swiftly to implement his agenda. To Modi and his party, India is fundamentally a Hindu nation, not the secular republic promoted by the country’s founders.”
The Wall Street Journal explained how this judgment cannot be seen in isolation and especially after Kashmir lost its special status two months ago. “For decades, various political parties have tried to use the emotions surrounding the case for political advantage, none more effectively than the BJP. Since winning a landslide victory in national elections in May, Mr. Modi’s government has stripped autonomy from India’s only Muslim-majority state and pushed to deny citizenship to some Muslim immigrants who have long resided in India,” the WSJ piece said. The piece is titled: “India’s Top Court Rules in Favor of Hindus in a Long Feud With Muslims Over Religious Site”.
The Ayodhya news found place on the home page of the Guardian website and had an article titled: “India’s top court gives Hindus site claimed by Muslims.” It was one of their most-viewed articles as well, as listed by the website. Like the articles on the US-based news organisations, the Guardian too pointed out: “Since Modi and the BJP took power in 2014, the rebuilding of a Ram temple at Ayodhya has been at the forefront of their Hindutva agenda, which has pushed India away from its secular roots and toward a strongly Hindu identity.
“This has led to growing hostility and violence toward the country’s Muslims, who number 200 million. Muslim history has been removed from school textbooks and there has been an increase in reports of vigilante Hindu mobs murdering Muslims suspected of killing cows, which are sacred in Hinduism,” the piece said. The piece also referred to the slew of lynchings were mobs attacked Muslims shouting ‘Jai Shree Ram’.
The Daily Mail also pointed out how the verdict will be seen as a huge victory for the Narendra Modi government. Their website carried a slideshow of Ayodhya.
Pakistan’s leading newspaper Dawn had a bunch of articles on the Ayodhya verdict, including reaction from Pakistani civil society and politicians. Their anchoring piece on the Ayodhya verdict said: “The court’s unanimous decision is likely to have a significant impact on fraught relations between India’s Hindus and Muslims, who constitute 14 per cent of its 1.3 billion people.” Expectedly, Pakistani politicians unanimously dissed the judgment in favour of the Hindus and some called it ‘disgusting’ and ‘immoral’. Pakistani human rights activist Shireen Mazri was quoted saying: “So basically Hindutva wins as SC creates a Trust to be handed land to build temple saying mosque cannot be on that site! End of facade of secular India. Indian SC in tune with Hindutva narrative of Modi!”
The Express Tribune reported the news and carried an opinion piece by Farah Khwaja, identified as someone who works with a New York-based think thank, titled: “The Ayodhya verdict and the veneer of Indian secularism.”
The piece begins with quoting Iltija Mufti, daughter of former chief minister of Kashmir Mehbooba Mufti. “In an interview with Christiane Amanpour earlier in the week, Iltija Mufti, daughter of the former chief minister of occupied Kashmir Mehbooba Mufti, stated that India is “turning into a cesspool of bigotry, selective persecution, of hatred against minorities, and this is not the country I grew up in.”
“It appears that the Narendra Modi government has been doing its best to ensure that it continues to lend validity to these claims, however, in light of the Ayodhya verdict, it seems that the Indian Supreme Court has also joined the party. Now, let me first preface this by saying that highlighting the great disservice the Ayodhya verdict does for minority rights in India is by no means an attempt to ignore or try to paper over Pakistan’s own abysmal record with regards to ensuring that the rights of religious minorities are safeguarded in the country. Criticising the decision of the Indian Supreme Court does not absolve Pakistan of its own sins when it comes to ensuring minority rights. Yet, the judgement does go to show how the veneer of Indian secularism is now rapidly slipping away,” Khwaja wrote.
Interestingly, Bangladeshi newspapers were comparatively more cautious and the Daily Star even called the Supreme Court judgment ‘balanced’. However, the article titled, “Indian SC finally puts Ayodhya case to rest”, also pointed out the Kashmir angle. “The ruling comes months after his government stripped the Muslim-majority Jammu and Kashmir region of its special status as a state, delivering on an election promise to its largely Hindu support base,” a piece, attributed to ‘agencies’, said.
China Daily published a piece reported by Bloomberg about India’s ‘bitterly disputed Ayodhya site’. It said: “The verdict will test secular India’s ability to deal with the sensitive case at a time when Hindu hardliners are feeling increasingly empowered. The promise to build a grand temple at the Ayodhya site was a key part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist agenda that risks fueling social divisions in the country, which has a history of religious riots.”