The wait for the Ayodhya verdict is about to come to an end. When years-old disputes are on the verge of concluding, apprehension of untoward incidents starts to rise. This issue has caused many wounds, so the apprehensions are natural. In such a situation, naturally, the question also arises whether the Indian psyche has become mature enough to accept the apex court’s decision with peace and respect. I would like to cite three examples to show why we should not give up hope.

The first example is from 1984. The anti-Sikh violence was over and peace-loving people were trying to heal the scratches cast on their faith. The curfew in Allahabad had been lifted but the panic and trauma of the victims were still at their peak. An afternoon of those sad days left a lasting impression on my mind. I was going to my office at Leader Road in Allahabad when I saw three army vehicles parked in a row on the side of a road. Near these vehicles were standing about a dozen uniformed Sikh officers and jawans with automatic weapons. They were staring without a blink at the shops across the road which had been plundered and burnt. I paused to try and read their faces. Their eyes were fired with fury, and rage danced on their faces. A question at once flashed in my mind: If they opened fire, then what? The road was bustling with people, what would happen to them? But nothing happened. The reason? The training of the army, and the faith in coexistence ingrained in them, had put an iron curtain on the raging feeling of counter-violence. To penetrate it was not in their control. After a while, they went back to their camp and an untoward incident was thus avoided.

The following few months were surprising. The riot victims had quickly revived and redecorated their shops. They were standing with more strength and respect on the crossroads of a new life. Some people among those who had attacked them were now embarrassed on reading these lines in the newspapers that “those who came from Pakistan to their own country after being plundered there, were looted again by their own people".

This tragedy occurred not only in Allahabad but also in many cities of north India. The national capital region of Delhi was its worst victim. During this riot about 3,000 people were killed in the country. Among them, 2,800 were killed in Delhi alone, according to official government figures. Alas, many victims of this violence are still knocking at the doors of justice.

Here, the Sikh community should be lauded for their will and courage. Despite all the hurt and blows, they have never shied away from fulfilling their duty towards the nation.

While we Indians were recovering from this pain, Babri Masjid was demolished in 1992. Riots erupted, in which about 2,000 people were killed and property worth thousands of crores was destroyed. I used to live in Agra during those days. Once in a gathering, I overheard a well-reputed businessman saying that they had decided not to have any business dealings with ‘them’ nor to give ‘them’ jobs. I felt bad thinking that the cities have changed, times have changed, even the faces of acquaintances have changed, but the mentality of violent decisions is still the same. I felt scared too that if this feeling takes roots in every household of our country, God knows how many divisions, how many Hindustan-Pakistan we might have to witness.

Thankfully, that did not happen. We Indians are deft at the unique skill of falling, stumbling, getting up and walking again. Once again we started walking together. The year 1985 healed the wounds of 1984, this time the responsibility was fulfilled by the initial months of 1993, but one question remained—why has Ayodhya been turning into a symbol of conflict instead of faith?

This is the reason fear prevailed everywhere when nine years ago the Allahabad high court was about to pronounce the judgement. People did not send their children to schools, some did not open their shops and many took leave from work. By then I had settled in Delhi. That day, we reached the Hindustan Times office in New Delhi from Noida a little earlier compared to other days because there were fewer people and traffic on the road. A few hours after the verdict was delivered, it seemed that all the apprehensions were unfounded. Not even a stone was thrown in the entire country. Who says Indians don’t learn from our mistakes?

This is perhaps the reason that when the countdown for the final verdict of the Supreme Court has begun, the optimists have maintained their hope amid all the fears. These people believe that adherence to this decision will be true Rashtra Dharma. Why don’t we also nurture this noble wish that amid this conflict between hope, uncertainty and fear, it’s hope which will finally prevail?

Shashi Shekhar is editor-in-chief, Hindustan. His Twitter handle is @shekarkahin

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