Thursday, December 16, 2010
Idols in Law
The current issue of the Economic and Political Weekly carries a special section of articles on the Ayodhya judgment. Anupam Gupta, one of the counsel who appeared before the Lieberhan Commission, does a close reading of the suits to suggest that the decision stands on very flimsy legal grounds. Gautam Patel reviews the evidence to suggest that the judgment is politically expedient at the cost of judicial integrity. Historian Kumkum Roy makes a thoughtful argument about how questions of faith can be addressed through a legal discourse, and more importantly, how a person of faith (in her case a practising Hindu) should respond to the court's treatment of Hinduism. To this end, she draws on a survey she carried out amongst women about what Ram means to them. P.A Sebastian makes a fairly rehearsed argument that this is the most recent in a series of judgements by Indian courts undermining secularism. Historians Supriya Verma and Jaya Menon who were observers during the ASI excavation point out the flaws in the report noting many irregularities and outdated methods they observed. Verma and Menon focus on the perception of archeology as an exact science and the role played by the ASI in fostering the impression. They attribute the reluctance of archeologists to critique the ASI, to its complete monopoly over heritage management. "Any archaeologist in India or from outside who wants to explore or excavate sites has to obtain a licence from the ASI. So no field archaeologist is willing to speak out against it or its outdated methods." Yet, instead of being the expert of experts that the Allahabad High Court declared it to be they note "academically, the work that archaeologists of the ASI have produced has little standing within the social sciences in India and abroad."