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A Delhi court on Wednesday refused to halt the publication, sale, or distribution of former Union Minister Salman Khurshid's new book, 'Sunrise Over Ayodhya,' dismissing a petition filed by Hindu Sena president Vishnu Gupta.

While refusing to grant the ad-interim ex-parte injunction, Additional Civil Judge Preeti Parewa stated that the plaintiff had failed to establish the balance of convenience in his favour, thus declining the grant of interim relief.

INTRODUCTION

Salman Khurshid, a former Union Minister and senior Congress leader, recently released his new book, 'Sunrise over Ayodhya – Nationhood in Our Times.' The book is about the Supreme Court's decision on the Ayodhya judgement in 2019. "The thrust of the book is to promote religious harmony between Hindus and Muslims and highlight the Ayodhya judgement as an opportunity to find closure on the unpleasant past and look forward to a shared future," Khurshid wrote in an Indian Express editorial.

It is a line in Chapter VI that distinguishes Hinduism from Hindutva that has sparked such strong reactions against the book. "Sanatan Dharma and classical Hinduism known to sages and saints were being pushed aside by a robust version of Hindutva, by all standards a political version similar to the jihadist Islam of groups like ISIS and Boko Haram in recent years," it was written, according to a paragraph in the book. When asked to respond to the criticism he's received for his statements in the book, Khurshid told PTI, "I have not called these guys terrorists, I have just said they are similar in distorting religion.What Hindutva has done is to push aside Sanatan Dharma and Hinduism in favour of a more robust, aggressive stance akin to Boko Haram and those other guys."

ABOUT SALMAN KHURSHID

Salman Khurshid Alam Khan is an Indian politician, senior advocate, eminent author, and law professor. He was the Minister of External Affairs' Cabinet Minister. He is a member of the Indian National Congress. He is a lawyer and a writer who was elected to the Farrukhabad Lok Sabha constituency in the 2009 General Election. He is from the Farrukhabad district. Prior to this, he was elected to the 10th Lok Sabha from the Farrukhabad Lok Sabha constituency (1991–1996). In June 1991, he was appointed Union Deputy Minister of Commerce, and in January 1993, he was appointed Union Minister of State for External Affairs (Jan. 1993 – June 1996). He began his political career in 1981 as an Officer on Special Duty in the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) during Indira Gandhi's tenure as Prime Minister.

Salman Khurshid appeared as a defence lawyer for the Students Islamic Movement of India, a group banned in India and frequently charged by Indian authorities with terrorist activities. In an appeal against the 2002 ban; the Supreme Court of India rejected the appeal in June 2006, noting that "the appeal against the ban should first be argued before the tribunal established for the purposes."

Khurshid has been writing and acting in plays since he was a student in Delhi and Oxford. He is the author of the play Sons of Babur, published by Rupa & Co. and staged at the Red Fort in Delhi with Tom Alter in the lead role. Salman Khurshid also edited "The Contemporary Conservative: Selected Writings of Dhiren Bhagat", which was published in 1990. 

Khurshid published Sunrise over Ayodhya: Nationhood in Our Times in October 2021, writing about India's decline in secularism in the aftermath of the Ayodhya dispute. A passage from the book was shared by BJP leaders, sparking a debate about Khurshid's attempt to draw a parallel between Hindutva and radical Islamist groups. His Nainital home was vandalised and set on fire as a result of the controversy. 

Vishu Gupta, President of the Hindu Sena, filed a lawsuit to prevent the publication, distribution, and sale of the book ‘Sunrise over Ayodhya: Nationhood in Our Times’. On November 18, 2021, a Delhi court refused to grant an ex-parte injunction in the lawsuit. "In the opinion of this court, neither a prima facie case nor any exceptional circumstance for granting an ad-interim ex-parte injunction in favour of the plaintiff is made out in the present case," the court stated.

OUTRAGE AGAINST THE BOOK

The book, published by Penguin, has sparked outrage across the country, with political leaders and certain segments of the public condemning it. Several of Khurshid's colleagues in Congress disagreed with the book's assertions. Ghulam Nabi Azad called the contentious section of the book "factually incorrect" and an "exaggeration."

"We may disagree with Hindutva as a political ideology, but comparing it to ISIS and Jihadist Islam is factually incorrect and exaggerated," Azad was quoted by NDTV as saying. The BJP accused him of infringing on religious sentiments and demanded his dismissal from the Congress. The BJP's spokesperson, Gaurav Bhatia, stated that "if Sonia Gandhi values Hindus, she should speak up and explain why. If you remain silent, it will be obvious that your ideology is also anti-Hindu." The BJP's IT cell chief, Amit Malviya, emphasised the alleged comparison between Hindutva and "jihadist Islamist groups like ISIS and Boko Haram" in a tweet, asking, "What else can we expect from someone whose party coined the term Saffron terror just to draw equivalence with Islamic jihad, to get Muslim votes?"

The BJP government in Madhya Pradesh considered outlawing the book. Home Minister Narottam Mishra slammed the book, accusing Khurshid of demonising Hindutva and attempting to divide the majority community. According to a PTI news report, Mishra stated last Friday, "These people seize every opportunity to attack Hindutva and divide Hindus along caste lines. Rahul Gandhi was the first to go there after 'Bharat TereTukde Honge Inshallah Inshallah' (on that path). Salman Khurshid is now pursuing the same idea."

Some people vandalised Salman Khurshid's home in Nainital, Uttarakhand, on November 15.

Khurshid wrote on Facebook about sharing photos and videos, "I hoped to help my friends who had left this calling card by opening these doors. Is it still correct to say that this cannot be Hinduism?" "So far, this is the state of the debate. Shame is a word that is far too ineffective. Besides, I still hope that one day we can reason together and agree to disagree, if not more” in another post, he wrote.

COURT CASE

Aside from the violence at Salman Khurshid’s home, two lawyers have also filed a case against the senior Congress leader for allegedly defaming Hinduism. In his complaint, Advocate Vineet Jindal stated that the statement published in the said book is not only instigating and provoking, but also stirring emotions among Hindus. A Delhi court refused to grant an ex-parte injunction in a lawsuit seeking a halt to the publication, distribution, and sale of Khurshid's book on Wednesday. Additional Civil Judge Preeti Parewa also stated that the plaintiff had not been able to establish that avoiding the book would cause him inconvenience or that the book contained alleged 'offensive' excerpts. On the other hand, the injunction would be difficult for the publishers and would limit the author's freedom of speech and expression.

ABOUT THE AYODHYA VERDICT 

The Supreme Court of India issued its final decision in the Ayodhya dispute on November 9, 2019. The Supreme Court of India ordered that the disputed land (2.77 acres) be given to a trust (to be established by the Government of India) for the construction of the Ram Janmabhoomi (revered as the birthplace of Hindu deity, Ram) temple. The court also ordered the government to give the Uttar Pradesh Sunni Central Waqf Board an alternative 5 acres of land in another location for the purpose of constructing a mosque to replace the demolished Babri Masjid.

On December 6, 1992, the Babri Masjid was demolished during a political rally that turned into a riot. A subsequent land title case was filed in the Allahabad High Court, and the verdict was issued on September 30, 2010. The Allahabad High Court's three judges ruled in the judgement that the 2.77 acres of Ayodhya land be divided into three parts, with 13 going to the Ram Lalla or Infant Rama represented by the Hindu Mahasabha, 13 going to the Uttar Pradesh Sunni Central Waqf Board, and the remaining 13 going to NirmohiAkhara. According to Hindu faith and belief, the disputed land was the birthplace of Rama, and the Babri Masjid was built after the demolition of a Hindu temple, noting that it was not built in accordance with Islamic tenets.

To prevent violence, restrictions were imposed in Ayodhya for 15 days prior to the verdict. Across India, security has been beefed up. Thousands of paramilitary and police troops were deployed in Ayodhya, and the region was monitored using CCTV cameras and drones.

Many political parties in India backed the decision. According to the Bharatiya Janata Party, the verdict will usher in peace and unity in India. The Indian National Congress backed the verdict and urged calm and peace.  Political figures including Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath, and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam leader M. K. Stalin backed the decision. The decision, according to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, should not be viewed as a win or loss for anyone. In a subsequent address to the nation, he stated that there would be peace and unity, and that all issues could be resolved within the framework of the constitution.

WHAT HAS BEEN THE REACTION OF THE VERDICT?

Despite authorities' warnings not to celebrate the verdict, BBC correspondents in court report heard chants of "Jai Shree Ram" (Hail Lord Ram) outside as the verdict was read. "It's a very balanced judgement, and it's a victory for the people of India," a lawyer for one of the Hindu parties had told reporters shortly after the ruling. Initially, a representative for the Muslim litigants stated that they were dissatisfied and would decide whether to seek a review after reading the entire judgement. However, the majority of the litigants have now stated that they will not appeal the verdict. It was reported that outside of the court, things have been relatively quiet.

Hundreds of people were detained in Ayodhya ahead of the verdict amid fears of violence.

Thousands of police officers have also been deployed throughout the city, and businesses and colleges have been closed until Monday. The government issued an order prohibiting the publication of images of the Babri mosque's destruction. Police are monitoring social media platforms for inflammatory content, even replying to tweets and requesting that users delete them. 

RELIGIOUS TENSION IN THE COUNTRY 

India has seen deepening social and religious divisions since the Narendra Modi-led Hindu nationalist BJP first came to power in 2014. Since the BJP took office, the call for the construction of a Hindu temple in Ayodhya has grown particularly loud, with the majority of support coming from MPs, ministers, and leaders of the party.

Restrictions on the sale and slaughter of cows, which the majority of Hindus regard as a sacred animal, have resulted in vigilante killings of a number of people, the majority of whom were Muslims transporting cattle. In other areas, an uninhibited display of muscular Hindu nationalism has also contributed to religious tension.

India has more ethnic and religious groups than most other countries on the planet. Aside from the well-known 2000 or so castes, there are eight "major" religions, 15 or so languages spoken in various dialects in 22 states and nine union territories, and a large number of tribes and sects. Three ethnic or religious conflicts have recently emerged: two in the states of "Assam and Punjab," and another, the more widely known Hindu-Muslim conflict, which continues to rage. The Assam problem is primarily ethnic in nature, the Punjab problem is based on both religious and regional conflicts, and the Hindu-Muslim conflict is primarily religious in nature.

History has cast the deepest shadow on Hindu-Muslim relations of all the religious and ethnic issues in contemporary India. The partition of 1947 was the most critical contemporary period in this history. A Muslim sovereign state of Pakistan was born in the midst of heinous communal violence, but nearly as many Muslims as there were in the newly formed Pakistan remained in India for various reasons. The partition did not resolve the Hindu-Muslim conflict; instead, it worsened the situation of Muslims in India. They were blamed for the country's division, their leadership had left, and their power had been weakened further by the removal of all Muslim-majority areas except Kashmir. Most importantly, the conflict between India and Pakistan kept the roots of communal tensions alive and forced Muslims into the unfortunate position of defending their loyalty to India. Even 36 years after Independence, the problem has not been resolved; in fact, riots between Hindus and Muslims have increased in recent years.

CONCLUSION

The Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision on November 9, 2019, cleared the way for the construction of a Ram temple at the disputed site in Ayodhya. We will be able to see how much we have lost in Ayodhya over the years of conflict as we look back. If the loss of a mosque represents the preservation of faith, and the establishment of a temple represents the emancipation of faith, we can all rejoice in the Constitution's celebration of faith. A step back to accommodate is sometimes several steps forward towards our common destiny. Salman Khurshid's book explores how the judgment's greatest opportunity is a reaffirmation of India as a secular society.


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