November 27, 2018 @ 11:45 am

27 NOVEMBER 2018

Temple timing

The Centre should not create a political crisis over the Ram temple issue

As the Lok Sabha election draws nearer, the Bharatiya Janata Party and affiliates of the Sangh Parivar have begun mobilisation in the name of a Ram temple at Ayodhya. This is part of an attempt to force a political solution to what is essentially a legal dispute over the title of the land where the Babri Masjid once stood. The show of muscle at the Dharma Sabha of the Vishva Hindu Parishad in Ayodhya was clearly intended to pressure the executive, the judiciary, and the various stakeholders in the dispute to pave the way for the construction of the temple. Although the Supreme Court is seized of the issue, the Sabha appealed to the Muslim community to give up their claims to the land in dispute, and urged the government to expedite the process for construction. The court is due to fix in January 2019 a date for hearing the title suit appeals, and a ruling in the case is unlikely before the general election. But the Sabha was told that the date for the building of the temple would be announced at the 2019 Kumbh Mela. Clearly, for the Hindutva outfits at the forefront of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement, the question is when, and not if, a Ram temple will come up at the disputed site. There is no sign of a willingness to wait for, and abide by, the Supreme Court verdict.

BJP president Amit Shah has been reported as saying that the party will wait for the Supreme Court’s hearing in January. But the party has been anything but unequivocal about this position, lending the impression that it is courting a political constituency by speaking in more than one voice. The absence of a clear denial that it is not considering an ordinance as a solution to the legal dispute is another instance of equivocation. Any attempt to bypass the legal process through an executive order will be ill-advised and likely to be struck down by the court. But in a situation where political signalling is what counts, many in the BJP-led government might indeed contemplate such a course. That the government would have liked to have the case decided before the election was made clear by Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself when he charged that the Congress had scared the judges of the Supreme Court from giving an early judgment by threatening impeachment. Mr. Modi gave little credit to the Supreme Court in framing the issue in this manner, but his statement is an indication of the political pressures that are brought to bear on this case. The BJP also faces political intimidation on the issue from its far-right ally, the Shiv Sena, which is calling for action on the issue, saying that the government had slept over it for the last four years. The proper course for all stakeholders in the dispute, including political parties, is to step back and leave the issue to the Supreme Court to rule on, and not to stare down the Muslim community. Any attempt to polarise the country over this case must be resisted at every level.

Magnificent Mary

With a sixth World Championship gold, Kom affirms her place as one of the greatest boxers

M.C. Mary Kom enhanced her already legendary status when she defeated Ukraine’s Hanna Okhota in the 48 kg segment of the Women’s World Boxing Championship in Delhi on Saturday. It was her sixth gold across World Championships, drawing her level with Félix Savón, the Cuban great who ruled amateur boxing in the 1980s and 1990s. Kom has always defied the odds. She has busted gender stereotypes, and overcome the odds posed by the lack of resources and poor infrastructure that hold back so much athletic talent in India. In doing so, she firmed up Manipur’s place on India’s talent map, brought India on the world boxing landscape, and reinforced women’s sport by winning consistently with exceptional determination and grace. Kom, who is now 35 and a mother of three, has had a good 2018, winning her maiden Commonwealth Games gold medal earlier this year. She extended that form in Delhi and cemented her place in the history of the World Championships with an overall haul of seven medals, including a silver on debut in 2001. A bronze medallist at the 2012 London Olympics, Kom said that the latest of her six world titles, secured after a gap of eight years, was the toughest of them all. It has come at a time when the competition has risen manifold following the inclusion of women’s boxing as an event in the Olympics in 2012. Kom, who got past other strong opponents before clinching the bout against Okhota, also had to bear the additional pressure of the expectations of home crowds.

In the event, the victory has fuelled further expectations from this late-career burst. Kom will switch to the 51 kg weight class in the pursuit of a medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. As a Rajya Sabha member of Parliament and idol for many upcoming women boxers, she has a full schedule, and will be aware that it will take all she has to fight with younger and stronger rivals in a higher weight category. Hailed as ‘Magnificent Mary’ by the International Boxing Association, which has chosen her as its representative in the International Olympic Committee athletes’ forum, Kom has been an inspiration globally. Her rise from a humble background to be an international role model has inspired a book and a Hindi movie chronicling her life. Raffaele Bergamasco, the India coach, sums up Kom’s legend with these words, “Mary in boxing is like Maradona in football.” The gender comparison is crucial too — at a time when the women’s competition at diverse levels and different sporting events is being sought to be placed on a par with the men’s, in terms of infrastructural support and remuneration, Mary Kom’s record will indeed give heart to all women athletes.

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