Thursday, 27 October 2011

Lessons from Libya

by Martin Pollard

In a lecture at the Temple of Peace earlier this month, Alan Doss reminded us that the United Nations is not a pacifist organisation. In its search for peace and justice – at least when that is what its members seek – an international alliance will sometimes have to choose a violent way to bring about change. Doss, who worked for the UN throughout his career but saw his greatest challenge at the end of it, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, faced criticism from Congolese refugees who accused him of not doing enough to prevent violence there. But while the Congo’s situation may be unique in its level of depravity, with rape being used as a systematic weapon of war, it is not unique in demonstrating that where international troops intervene in a national conflict, things will inevitably get dirty. Iraq and Afghanistan provide our clearest recent examples of what can go wrong.

However, no-one who is committed to democracy or human rights should doubt that sometimes, the violence used to bring about change is justifiable when weighed against its longer-term benefits. It looks as if Libya falls into that category and, I would argue, provides a case study about which pacifists might think long and hard.

Saying this, by the way, is not the same as saying that we should ignore the abuses carried out by liberators, or that we should applaud Muammar Gaddafi’s swift and bloody execution. Plainly, the former are inexcusable in the context of a fight for freedom and democratic rights; we can only hope that reconciliation with Gaddafi loyalists is not all the harder as a result. The latter is a greyer area, as it’s clear that seeing the dictator’s corpse paraded on national television has been cathartic for Libyans, most of whom frankly had no interest in seeing him tried in court. But the justice seeker in me wishes it had been otherwise.

As many journalists noted, Gaddafi’s end looked like that of Saddam Hussein. Months after losing power, he had lost the country and his name had lost its power to terrorise. He was found in a bolthole, and despite keeping his promise to die in Libya, the end was inglorious. But attempts to draw comparisons with the actual conflict in Iraq are less fruitful.

First, this was a widely backed military intervention, endorsed by the United Nations and, perhaps more importantly, the League of Arab States. The UN resolution that decided NATO’s course stressed that this was a mission to protect Libyan civilians from Gaddafi’s attacks, under the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) doctrine hammered out following the international community’s inaction in Rwanda. Gareth Evans, who co-chaired the commission that developed R2P, said:

"The international military intervention in Libya is not about bombing for democracy or Muammar Gaddafi's head… Legally, morally, politically, and militarily it has only one justification: protecting the country's people."

That was on 24 March, a few days after the action began. In the months that followed there were worldwide cries of “mission creep”, as the intervention evolved from simply protecting civilians into an all-out effort to unseat Gaddafi’s regime. But what remained constant throughout those months was that NATO essentially played a supporting role. This was a genuine popular revolution with nationwide support from those who had seen their communities beaten, starved and denied a voice for 42 years.

Secondly, Libya has seemed remarkably united behind efforts to oust the dictator, with Gaddafi loyalists evaporating to an insignificant (though well armed) minority in a relatively short time. And there seems a real hunger for democracy throughout the country, despite the recent suggestion that sharia law will hold sway. The optimistic view is that Libyans will simply not allow a strongly Islamist government to take root, and that they will prioritise their new freedoms over tribal differences. But even if they do not, Libya is still no Iraq: there is no powder keg of ethnic and religious conflict waiting to be lit, and no comparable regional influences seeking to undermine the new order.

Debate will continue to rage over the way in which NATO plainly exceeded its authority in pursuing regime change in Libya. There will also be voices raised in objection at the UN’s selective protection of Libyan civilians from their own government, when it has done little or nothing in Syria or Burma or Zimbabwe. Richard Falk at Princeton University argues that the UN needs to separate the responsibility to protect from geopolitical considerations, and proposes establishing a UN Emergency Force in future cases – similar, perhaps, to the international standing army sought by Lord David Davies, founder of the Temple of Peace.

But whatever course that debate takes, Libya does remind us that international intervention can work; that military force is a legitimate means of protecting human rights; and that pacifism as a principle is difficult to defend. What happens next will, if the peace is secured effectively over the coming months, be up to ordinary Libyans. And that’s as it should be.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

A bagful of promises

By Martin Pollard

Anyone doing the usual hellish trawl of Cardiff’s shopping metropolis on Saturday will not have failed to notice that something has changed. How much it affects you, of course, will depend on your existing eco-credentials, or at least your penchant for a rucksack. Yes, the carrier bag charge – mighty symbol of a new green Wales – has arrived, and shop assistants everywhere are tiring already of the need to remind us.

Don’t let my soupçon of sarcasm give you the wrong idea: the 5p charge is clearly A Good Idea. We should doubtless be proud that our newly-empowered lawmakers have decided to follow the example of Ireland, albeit at a lower rate and without any of the new funds entering public coffers. It’s just that one might argue – as George Monbiot did at the weekend – that in the grand scheme of environmental sustainability, it isn’t really that big a deal.

The Federation of Small Businesses was determined to makea stand against it all, even though consumers themselves seemed supportive. “There's a lot of confusion and I think it will take a long time for people to get used to the charge,” they noted, a comment which could hardly be translated into rage by even the hardiest of tabloid headline writers. The Western Mail did, however, manage to make a “storm” out of the fact that the Welsh Local Government Association doubted the law’s enforceability.

The real importance of this law is that it will prove, once again, that legislation is better than regulation if you want the nation to change its lifestyle. We’ve seen it with the decline in smoking, and with the ban on using our phones when driving. On the flip side, one look at our hopelessly inadequate response to the obesity crisis is enough to tell us that so-called ‘self-regulation’ by the food industry simply doesn’t work.

But charging for carrier bags is painless. It will take a few weeks, or months at most, for everyone to accept it as a fact of life and take reusable bags wherever they go. No-one makes a big sacrifice. Dealing with the ramifications of climate change on a bigger scale is where the real challenge lies.

Oxfam recently reported that the Horn of Africa, already suffering a devastating drought which has killed thousands and forced nearly a million Somalis to leave their homes, faces a likely temperature increase of 3-4°C by 2080-2099 relative to 1980-1999. Quoting a Royal Society report, they predicted a 20% decline in yields in maize crops and up to 50% in bean crops. That’s just one region of one continent, but Somalia is one of the poorest and least stable countries in the world. The effects of climate change, as we are continually reminded by NGOs desperate for swifter global action, will be felt most keenly by those who have the least resources to cope.

It’s not even as if our governments fundamentally disagree on the science of climate change. Last December in Cancun, nearly every member state of the UN agreed on a whole range of principles including cutting carbon emissions, helping developing countries to deploy cleaner energy, and getting a grip on the destruction of rainforests. But it’s the political leadership back home, after the inspiring words have been spoken on the world stage, that is lacking.

Here in our cosseted world of the developed North, we have still not come terms with the fact that dealing with climate change really is going to mean making sacrifices. We can dream all we like about fleets of electric cars, vast investments in renewable energy, or the wholesale dismantling of global capitalism to make way for some kind of pastoral localist idyll. But in real world politics, what will really make the change will be when world leaders are brave enough to stand up and start saying, “Sorry – this is going to hurt.”

No more cheap flights. Big increases in taxation for private cars and investment in sustainable transport. Public campaigns to eat less meat. Until governments start speaking up for these kinds of steps – and there are many more – we, the public, are unlikely to adopt the wholesale change of mindset that will be necessary if we really mean business. Climate change is likely to be the defining issue of the twenty-first century – politically and socially as well as environmentally – and we need our public figures to face up to it. Like the Poor Laws or the start of the welfare state – but a global issue in an unprecedentedly globalised world – we need a wholesale change in our society’s narrative. Individuals and communities will contribute in important ways, but we need the political weight and financial wherewithal of our governments to make the really big changes.

I do believe that this change will come: it has to. But as mitigation of climate change fades inexorably into adaptation to its reality, we can only hope that it will happen sooner rather than later.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

From one extreme to the other

By Martin Pollard

An interesting article on Tuesday’s Today programme posed the question of whether Anders Behring Breivik – the extremist who has confessed to the mass killings in Norway – should be considered “mad”. There followed much talk of semantics and definitions, of course, with John Humphrys playing his usual role of straight-talking stalwart to the guests’ more cautious undertakings. But the most intriguing point was one that had nothing to do with insanity, but with politics. Rightly identifying that all forms of extremism should be confronted with civic debate where possible, Maajid Nawaz (former extremist himself and founder of the think-tank Quilliam) nonetheless stated that Breivik, a “fascist”, was “the mirror opposite” of an Islamist.

Now, clearly there is a very important difference between Islamic extremism and right-wing extremism. Quite apart from the differing demands of a white supremacist gunman in Norway and a bomb layer in Kabul, there is a gulf in majority-white Britain’s reaction to the two which has its roots in culture, language, religion and – let’s face it – skin colour. That’s why it is so very important that the media get this right. We should all applaud Charlie Brooker’s very eloquent condemnation of the ill-informed speculation that dogged the initial coverage of the Norway killings, a symptom of the must-guess -now obsession that is the unintended consequence of our 24-hour news culture. We must resist the narrative of the post-9/11 world that pushes us towards the view that nowhere in world will ever be safe again, and that this is the fault of Muslims.

But “the other end of the scale”? Something in this doesn’t ring true; in fact, as soon as you start to pull apart those words, you smell a rat, and perhaps an unpleasant and hypocritical one at that.

What precisely is this scale? A political one, with white fascists at one end at Islamists at the other? This appears to have no rational basis at all. Both groups exist primarily out of a hatred for others who don’t look or sound like them, whether the targets are pro-immigration left-wingers or democracy-loving Westerners. In fact, fascists and Islamic extremists essentially hate the same people – liberals. The fact that the latter purport to have religious reasons for doing so seems only to be relevant in terms of how they define the ‘other’. Both support the violent overthrow of those who oppose them; both have demonstrated numerous times that they will act on those beliefs.

Both groups push an extreme ideology, and do not care whether this outrages the majority of peaceful citizens in their countries. They assume that much of this opposition derives from some establishment-driven conspiracy theory, and their propaganda rests on this conceit. It has a degree of success in both cases, trickling down through more mainstream opinion and emerging in street protests that demand the killing of Americans, or in fact-free hate campaigns against immigrants led by national newspapers.

It is a deeply unpleasant aspect of such movements that they equate democracy and freedom with cowardice and immorality. But many of us progressives must accept a part of the blame, for all too often we fail to condemn such voices equally, to stand firm against hatred and fascism in all its forms. For Islamist terrorism is a form of fascism; not the opposite of a right-wing ideology cooked up in a Norwegian’s bedroom, but the same thing seen through a different lens.

The denial of such commonalities is not new. When the US and UK were preparing to invade Iraq in 2003, I condemned it as an illegal act which would kill tens of thousands of civilians and take many years to achieve a resolution. So it has proved, and I stand by my opposition to that war. But at the time, I was also ashamed at some of the company I found myself in. I found it bizarre that fellow liberals – led, of course, by the left’s über-clown of reductivist posturing, George Galloway – could actually support Saddam Hussein, one of the worst mass-murderers of the 20th century, to all intents and purposes a fascist dictator. And there was more: a deeply unpleasant current of anti-American fervour, a blind prejudice against everything the US stood for which should now be named for what it was – racism. (For more in this vein, I recommend reading Nick Cohen’s excoriating What’s Left?. I don’t endorse Cohen’s arguments in their entirety, but he does make a good case that the left is in danger of becoming morally redundant on such issues.)

Of course, there are those who claim that Islamism is different, that it derives from anger at Western economic and cultural dominance, and that this might be righteous anger. But while Al-Qaeda might spin theories about Judaeo-Christian conspiracies to destroy Islam, it makes no claim to be the ideology of the oppressed. Even if it did, we have long seen our way past the failures of the Weimar and the Third Reich’s promises of riches to – rightly – pass judgement on the Nazi foot-soldiers and collaborators. We should do the same with Islamist extremists.

Francis Wheen, in his entertaining survey of How Mumbo-Jumbo Conquered the World, singles out Noam Chomsky among the so-called leftists who are so intent on damning America and all its works that they “abandon reality and morality altogether rather than forgo their comforting choices”. Chomsky gave the benefit of the doubt to Pol Pot and Slobodan Milošević, “strenuously downplaying the scale of their terror”, whereas:

With the United States… no proof is required. In October 2001 he stated as a fact that Pentagon strategists were planning the ‘slaughter and silent genocide’ of three or four million Afghans during their military campaign against the Taliban.

It is vital that we oppose ugly prejudices wherever we find them – and that includes a recognition that hatred and violence can emerge from people of all backgrounds, all ethnic and religious groups. We can all agree that our popular media have a key role to play here, in resisting what often appears to be an engrained prejudice – sometimes subtle, sometimes not – against people who are not Christian or not white. But liberals, lefties and internationalists must play their part too, if those descriptions are to mean anything. We must resist the analysis of world events which divides acts into two broad camps – things which challenge the West, and are therefore good, and things which support its ‘hegemony’, and are therefore bad. If freedom and human rights are to mean anything, then we have a duty to defend them against all their attackers.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

The Challenges of Tackling Torture

By  Ayushman Jamwal

 Professor Malcolm Evans, Chairman, UN sub-committee on the Prevention of Torture, spoke at the Welsh Centre of International Affairs on the measures being taken by international governing bodies to address the practice of torture.

Organised in collaboration with UNA Wales and Cardiff University, Professor Evans’ lecture highlighted the conundrum in international human rights legislation where over the years, a growth in legal human rights mechanisms have been accompanied by a rise in the global practice of torture.
According to him, domestic and international watchdogs lack cohesive measures to address human rights abuse and enforce the 1984 UN Convention against torture. In many nations, he argued, domestic courts are powerless to enforce anti-torture laws due to widespread corruption and the state’s complicity in the practice. Moreover, he explained, as there is an obligation between states to be subject to international law, the enforcement of human rights law is highly relative. To a great extent, it is exercised in an advisory capacity through reports and recommendations, he said.

Concerned with the lack of power wielded by international and national watchdogs and courts, Prof Evans explained the UN’s recent innovation drive to hold states accountable to human rights breaches within their borders.

He first elaborated the UN’s call for “universal jurisdiction” for extraditive punishment. According to this plan, he said, individuals accused of human rights violations could be extradited within a network of domestic courts of member nations to jurisdictions where depending on the crime, human rights law is more powerfully enforced. He cited the interesting example of former US President, George W Bush, who after announcing his authorization for the water-boarding torture technique, cancelled a visit to Switzerland as the Swiss authorities sought to prosecute him under universal jurisdiction.

However, the legal tool has not become a popular exercise amongst member nations due to its potential in souring diplomatic relations, he said.

Prof Evans then described the UN’s Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture, where signatory members are obliged to create a national torture watchdog to monitor human rights violations within state institutions from police stations, prisons, military institutions to childcare homes and psychiatric wards. 

He argued that national organisations know the best means of gathering information, conceptualising domestic mechanisms for the enforcement of anti-torture laws, and mobilising legal action. Moreover, he explained that these national organisations gain support from UN human rights institutions in an advisory capacity in tailoring operational guidelines and strategies. The UN operates a Special Fund, fed by donations from OPCAT nations to help domestic watchdogs and civil society groups in curtailing torture; holds a Universal Periodic review to mount criticism against non-compliant member states on a multinational platform; coordinates with domestic watchdogs to hold surprise visits to catalogue and create reports on human rights abuse through interviews, analysis of state procedures and the conditions of detention centres.
“A victory for the UN has been that 57 states have ratified OPCAT, making it the largest of all human rights treaty bodies”, said Prof Evans.

He concluded his lecture saying that torture cannot be prevented once and for all. The best international and domestic organisations can do is put in place collaborative mechanisms of support to aid in torture prevention, and use the power of the media to maintain the spotlight on breaches of human rights.
“Torture needs to be challenged in member nations, not in Geneva”, said Prof Evans. Measures need to be tailored according to different socio-economic contexts to overcome bureaucratic challenges and to achieve the best possible results, he argued. Overarching rules and stipulations cannot achieve an effective mitigation of torture.   

When asked how to tackle state sanctioned torture in the Middle East, especially in the context of state forces clashing with pro-democracy movements, Prof Evans said that the UN is powerless as Lebanon is the only OPCAT member in the region. However he added that, “It is my hope that the successful pro-democracy movements aim to put in place benchmarks to uphold human rights”. “If requested, the UN will support the emerging governments to set up guidelines and mechanisms for strong and robust national human rights legislation” he said.   

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Behind the day India gasped

Ayushman Jamwal explains the political-communal dynamics leading up to the landmark decision on communal relations in India  

Since India’s Independence and the subsequent creation of Pakistan post partition, Hindu Muslim relations in India have always been a tumultuous issue that have shaped and reshaped the institutions of politics, law and the social fabric of Indian society. Within the area of politics, the relations between these two dominant communities in India have constantly been marked by underlying resentment and outright violence, displayed within the rhetoric of politics and repeatedly on the streets of the nation.

Rampant poverty and the lack of education fuel the ranks of extremist factions, which carry out criminal acts supporting wider right wing political agendas. This hampers the peace and amity enjoyed by the educated and progressive sections of both communities and distances them from the political institutions of the nation.         
In contemporary India, the political destiny of Hindu Muslim relations rest on horse trading and thugs. In such circumstances, two political parties have played pivotal roles in managing those relations, the pacifist Congress party and the right wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) (Indian People’s Party), the political wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) (National Volunteer Organisation), a powerful Hindu nationalist lobby in India.

No other issue has been at the centre of communal strife in India, than the ownership case of the Babri mosque site, which for over a hundred years has been the litmus test for Hindu Muslim relations in the nation. The recent High court judgment regarding the ownership of the site may have changed the course of communal relations in India, but to understand that, I must delve into the history of the case.  

Located in Ayodhya, a city in the populous northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh (UP), the Babri mosque was erected in 1528 under the reign of Babur, the first Mughal emperor of India. At the same time, Ayodhya and specifically the site of the Babri mosque, is considered by many Hindus as the birth place of Prince Ram, the hero of the Hindu epic, Ramayana. It is also believed that the mosque was built after destroying a Ram Janmabhoomi temple, a temple marking the locally believed birthplace of Ram. However, these Hindu beliefs are not without their challenges. 

There are many temples in Ayodhya that claim to be the birthplace of Prince Ram, while many Hindus believe that his birthplace is actually the village of Gharram, near the city of Patiala in the northern Indian state of Punjab. The village housed the palace of his maternal grandfather, and it was customary in ancient India for a woman to return to her parental home to deliver her first child.   

Despite clashes of religious beliefs, under the colonial rule of the British, Hindus, Sunni Muslims and Shiite Muslims, peacefully worshipped separately at the mosque site. However, chief advocates of the Indian independence movement, namely Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, packed strong Hindu nationalist ideologies into their campaign rhetoric. For emerging Hindu political parties, the religious nature of the independence struggle made the dispute surrounding the mosque site, very politically lucrative.             

After India gained its independence in August 1947, taking the cue from the Hindu nationalist freedom fighters, in 1949 the Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha (ABHM) (All India Hindu Assembly) began agitating for Hindu possession of the Babri mosque site. Its members held a prayer meeting at the site for nine days, reciting a poem in Sanskrit (the ancient language of India), depicting the life of Ram.  

On the eight day, idols of Ram were sneaked in and placed below one of the mosque domes. The ABHM claimed a divine hand in the appearance of the idols and strengthened their agitation to claim the site to build a Hindu temple. The police informed the highest authorities in the State government, who ordered the removal of the idols. However, the police authorities refused to do so as they feared the act would ignite riots.
The State Government decided to maintain the status quo, until a court could decide the ownership of the site. In January 1950, the ABHM appealed to the State Government for ownership, but the Government denied the appeal and issued a decree to forbid Hindus from worshipping at the mosque site. The building containing the ‘Hindu shrine’ was soon padlocked and Hindu Muslim litigants camped themselves in court rooms to fight for the ownership of the Babri mosque site. Over the next decade three litigants emerged – the ABHM, the Nirmohi Akhara, a minority Hindu sect, and the UP Sunni Central Wakf Board, a religious property administration organisation for Muslims in Uttar Pradesh.   

In 1986, the Congress Party Central government, led by Rajiv Gandhi, found an opportunity for political expediency, to appease the Hindu and Muslim communities in India and protect its diverse vote bank. Earlier that year, a legal case had stirred the Muslim orthodoxy in India.
Shah Bano, a sixty two year old Muslim woman and mother of five, was divorced by her husband and denied alimony payment. Religious Personal Laws are one of the lasting legacies of the British colonial ‘divide and rule’ policy in India, which co-exist with Indian national law, governing marriage, divorce, inheritance, adoption etc. Under Muslim Personal Law in India, if a man divorces a woman, he only has to pay for her maintenance for up to three months after the divorce. 

As Shah Bano had no means to support herself and her children, she approached the courts to seek maintenance from her husband. When the case reached the Supreme Court, it invoked Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, a secular law which applies to citizens from all backgrounds, and ruled that Shah Bano be given regular alimony payment from her former husband, until she remarries.
Orthodox Muslims in India felt the decision was an encroachment on Muslim Personal Law. Muslim activists created the All India Muslim Personal Law Board and threatened the Central government to agitate across major cities. Coming under pressure, the Central government passed The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act of 1986, nullifying the Supreme Court’s decision and upholding Muslim Personal Law. To keep the Hindu parties happy as well, the government opened the’ Hindu Shrine’ at the Babri mosque. The move signalled the BJP and other Hindu organisations like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) (World Hindu Council), to mobilise their public campaigns to replace the mosque with a temple.
In the 1989 elections, the BJP’s nationwide rallies and faith oriented campaigning, branding the Babri mosque as a foreign victory symbol than a place of worship, boosted its representation in the Indian Parliament from two seats to eighty eight seats. In the 1991 elections, the BJP’s representation went up to 119 seats.
However, it remained short of gaining Central government power when the Congress party received swinging sympathy votes after the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi by a suicide bomber from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam, a separatist faction in Sri Lanka which resented Indian intervention in their nation’s affairs. The Congress victory at the centre ushered in the reign of Narsimha Rao, as the new Prime Minister of India.   
Nonetheless, the BJP won a majority in the State legislature of Uttar Pradesh, placing Ayodhya in its backyard. However, under judicial pressure, it announced that it would protect the mosque site. Thousands of BJP backed kar sevaks (temple volunteers) assembled in Ayodhya, initiating attempts to take over the site. Many attempts were politically hindered as the Central government desperately countered with court orders and bribes to refrain the BJP and its affiliates. It also dispatched central security forces to Ayodhya to protect the mosque site and make sure the BJP ‘kept its word’.  

However, the Hindu parties were not deterred from achieving their aim. The BJP and its associate organisations decided to hold a ceremony of prayers and hymn singing at the mosque site on Sunday, the 6th of December 1992, as a campaign event to lobby for a Hindu temple there.
 A 100,000 kar sevaks assembled at the site, but half an hour before the ceremony, the crowd went critical and rushed towards the mosque. The handful police force at the mosque was unable and unwilling to protect the site as a baying mob rushed towards them. The more numerous Uttar Pradesh controlled Provincial Armed Constabulary had made no secret of their support to the temple building, and stepped aside as the mob used primitive tools and their bare hands to tear the mosque down in the next nine hours. Four people died in the demolition and later the mob ran amok in the streets of Ayodhya and set six Muslim houses on fire.
The demolition sparked violence across India and the sub-continent. In the city of Jaipur in the Western part of India, 21 people were killed in subsequent riots. In the Western State of Gujrat, 20 died through communal violence while 200 were injured. In the central city of Bhopal, temples were set alight and in the southern state of Karnataka, 13 rioters were shot dead by the police. In the eastern city of Calcutta, Hindu men were set alight, while in the southern city of Bombay, 40 rioters were shot dead by the police and 200 were injured in the violence. In Pakistan, 30 temples were attacked while in Bangladesh there were arson attacks on Indian owned premises. 

The scale of the violence led to the dissolution of the BJP led state government of Uttar Pradesh and jeopardized the office of Prime Minister Narsimha Rao. Ten days later, the Prime Minister set up a commission, chaired by retired High Court judge, M. S Liberhan, to investigate into the demolition of the Babri mosque.

After seventeen years and the spending of over 8 crores (1.13 million pounds) of tax payers money, the Liberhan commission submitted its findings in November 2009 to the Lok Sabha (House of Commons in the Indian Parliament). The report accused the top leadership of the BJP and the VHP of meticulously planning the events leading up to the demolition of the mosque. The party and its many affiliates immediately hit back at the Commission staff, arguing that they lacked credible evidence to back their claims. The Congress Party led Central government promised that it would take action on the findings of the Commission, adding that the excessive protest from the BJP reflected a guilty conscience.

However, the political rhetoric surrounding the Commission’s findings were put aside when, towards the end of last month, the High Court in the city of Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh, completed the case proceedings regarding the ownership of the Babri mosque site. In the days leading up to the announcement, shops were shut down, businesses closed and everyone remained indoors as heavy security was implemented across the nation to deal with the violence that could emerge from the decision.

On the 30th of September 2010, the Allahabad High court decreed the division of the mosque site into three parts in favour of the three litigants. The decision was pivotally based on a report from the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), according to which a Hindu temple was destroyed to make the Babri mosque, even though, many Indian historians testified in court against the credibility of the ASI’s findings.
Most controversially, the High court treated the idol placement of 1949 and the demolition of 1992 as fait accompli or irreversible acts, arguing that they had no bearing on the decision.  
While the BJP, VHP and the Nirmohi Akhara have rejoiced at the decision, the Sunni Wakf board has grimly swallowed it. Nonetheless, all parties have decided to move the case to the Supreme Court for complete ownership of the site.

Secular political parties like the Communist Party of India (CPI), have criticised the decision for its basis on faith rather than facts, evidence and the rule of law. According to the CPI General Secretary, Prakash Karat, post the 1992 demolition, the scope for negotiated settlement of the dispute never existed, which had to be resolved through objective judicial process. He fears the ruling could become a dangerous precedent, encouraging the many faith based organizations in India to legally press for the ownership of the many religious sites across the nation.
On the day of the decision, no street protests or violence erupted in India. There was calm across the nation from Bombay to Calcutta. The religious pragmatism of the High Court was essential for stemming any communal violence, but I believe that the greater economic and social security which Indians from all communities now enjoy also played a significant part.

Narsimha Rao, may have presided over the violence initiated by the demolition, but he was also responsible for instrumental market reforms which opened India to foreign investment. India is now a booming economy, untouched by the economic crisis in the West, with a growing jobs market and a stronger education infrastructure. Moreover, the proliferation of the Indian television media in different languages has empowered Indian citizens with information and platforms to voice their opinions and views regarding the state of the nation.  In such an environment, the appeal of religious extremism dwindles as more people are able to afford a decent living and become part of the diverse democratic infrastructure.  
With only 20 years of globalised economic growth, many sections of the nation still need to benefit from the advantages of the economic boom. But I believe that with the steady rate of annual economic growth India is currently enjoying, it is only a matter of time before more of the nation’s citizens prosper economically and socially.

As Indian society develops in this direction, hopefully in the near future, the political-religious calls of the BJP and Orthodox Muslim lobbies, as well as the pacifist incentives of the Congress party, will be countered by questions of reason and demands for secular justice and accountability from the nation’s diverse citizenry. That is an India I am waiting for.