By Vivek Pattanayak in Bhubaneswar, November 12, 2019: My old colleague from the public relations and information domain, a known national level journalist and a columnist of eminence Shri Nageshwar Patnaik, wanted my views on the recent judgement of the Supreme Court on the Ajodhya matter. Instantly, I was reminded of the age-old Sanskrit sloka (verse) which said “Satyam Bruyat Priyam Bruyat, Ma Bruyat Satyam Apriyam”.The English rendering of the same is “speak the truth but do not speak the unpleasant truth”. It is also relevant to quote a saying in Odia language, ‘Kahibi Nahin Kahibi Nahin Kahile Ee Ghare Rahibi Nahin”. This means, ‘I won’t speak, I won’t speak. I won’t stay in this house’ if I speak.

In this context, I am reminded of an interesting anecdote in Bargarh during a visit of the former Chief Justice of the Odisha High Court, Shri Gati Krushna Mishra in the mid-sixties when I was a young Assistant Collector calling on him when both of us were staying in the same Inspection Bungalow. Around the same time a delegation of lawyers came to meet the Chief Justice to express their grievances. In the course of conversation, a lawyer reminded him that recently a judgment of the Odisha High Court had been set aside by the Supreme Court. His calm and dignified but prompt and laconic reactions were that if there was another appellate body like Privy Council (as was case in the past) the judgement of the apex court could also have been set-aside. The central theme of his response was that the decision of the Supreme Court is final not because it is always right but because it is the highest court of the country. It is final but that does not mean it is infallible. Although more than half a century has elapsed since that day those words are still ringing in my years.

In the latest case of Babri Masjid, the Supreme Court has given its verdict and therefore it must be respected by all parties. Disobedience of the order of the highest rung of judiciary would mean anarchy. It would be tantamount to what Hobbes described as the state of nature. A civilized society cannot exist, thrive and continue if the final decision of the court of last resort is not implemented.

One would, however, hasten to add at this stage that in a healthy democracy and in a matured society there can be debates and discussion. It is heartening to note that so far, the aggrieved parties and their supporters have not done anything to suggest that there is defiance to the order.

Sum and substance of the judgement as reported in various print and electronic media is that there is no conclusive evidence that there was a temple on the sight, placing idols in the mosque in 1949 amounted to desecration, demolition of the mosque which stood for centuries was flagrant violation of law, weight of evidence was in favour of the Hindus to entitle them to have ownership over the land and five acres of land would be given elsewhere to the Muslims to construct their mosque.

Although this case is technically a title suit where ownership is decided based on law and evidence, as in million such cases but from the beginning the politicians, media, both print and electronic, and in recent times unregulated social media have made the case highly emotional, starkly political and even unfortunately communal based on which elections have been fought bitterly, communities have resorted to violence passionately leading to loss of innocent human lives and senseless destruction of properties both private or public leaving behind incalculable misery in the society.

During my lifetime I have seen the unfoldment of events in India and world for three quarter of a century. As a student of history, political science, an erstwhile administrator, also a former international civil servant, a holder of constitutional position and now as a member of the civil society at this juncture I fervently appeal to all politicians whether in ruling dispensation or in the Opposition, members of media both electronic, print and social media, public servants and also all citizens to abjure hatred, bias and prejudice on the grounds of race, religion, language, sect, caste, social and economic status, ethnic and geographic origin. I most sincerely and earnestly feel that while the past should be our eternal guide, we should not be its prisoner. We should think of the present and the immediate future. Distant future is unknown, uncertain and unpredictable.

No solution can satisfy all parties. Wounds of the past cannot be healed. Now and in future all must recognize that respect for each other no matter to what category one belongs is of paramount importance for civilized existence. The State comes into being for life, as Aristotle famously said, and continues for good life. If the foundation of State is shaken it cannot protect life and good life will be elusive.

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