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18 Oct 2019: The Hindu Editorial Analysis

1) On Ayodhya dispute: Awaiting the verdict

  • It has taken 70 years for the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi litigation to come close to finality.
  • The appeals against the Allahabad High Court’s judgment on the title-suits filed by both Hindu and Muslim parties have been heard by a five-judge Bench of the Supreme Court for 40 days.
  • The court has reserved judgment after hearing impassioned, sometimes acrimonious, arguments.
  • The embers of competing claims, which remained alive well into the 20th century, were stoked by the surreptitious installation of Lord Ram’s idol on the night of December 22/23, 1949 under the structure’s central dome.
  • Suits were filed over the years by both sides. It was not until the 1980s that the Ayodhya dispute was used for political mobilisation by Hindu nationalist groups.
  • After a court ordered the reopening of the structure’s doors in 1986, the Bharatiya Janata Party saw the scope for a national movement that would one day catapult it to power.
  • With the VHP and Bajrang Dal launching a movement for the ‘retrieval’ of the site for the construction of a grand Ram Mandir, a dispute over title and the right of worship transmogrified into an intractable litigation predicated on faith.
  • It is possible that the case’s emotive nature and its potential for dividing society prevented its early disposal. The matter was ultimately disposed of by the High Court Bench in 2010.
  • The decision - a three-way division of the disputed area among the deity, the Nirmohi Akhara and the Muslim side - satisfied no one and the matter went up to the Supreme Court.
  • As the final verdict is awaited, it cannot be forgotten that the demolition of the disputed structure in December 1992 was an egregious crime against the country’s secular fabric and its constitutional ethos.
  • The purported evidence of a Hindu structure beneath the mosque came up only in excavations made after the structure was razed.
  • Any decision made on such evidence, which would not have been available to the court if the suits had been disposed of in earlier decades, might amount to the judicial system legitimising the demolition.
  • Even otherwise, the fact that a modern democracy should have been saddled with litigation motivated by historical revanchism is execrable in itself.
  • There can be no judicial standards to settle a faith-based argument. There is some talk of a “settlement” based on mediation efforts at the court’s behest.
  • A mediated settlement would be welcome, even though it is not clear if all sides are on board. However, if the outcome is not to be based purely on the rule of law, it would be better there is a mediated settlement.


2) On rainfall behavior: The secondary monsoon

  • India’s most torrential monsoon in a quarter century officially ended on Wednesday.
  • This has been the most delayed withdrawal of the monsoon since 1961 but both the quantity and the timing have had no effect on the onset of the northeast monsoon, which officially commenced on Thursday.
  • The NE monsoon rains contribute about 20% of India’s annual rainfall and span October-December.
  • While the southwest monsoon has been obsessively studied for centuries and there are well established correlations - for instance, temperatures in the Central Pacific, or land surface air temperature in north-western Europe - between them as well as the quantity and distribution of monsoon rainfall, no such determining parameters exist for the NE monsoon.
  • At best, meteorologists have now progressed to giving a broad outlook of how the rains could pan out over the next few months. This year, however, is particularly significant.
  • Monsoon rains in south India have been 15% above normal. In Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, where the Central Water Commission monitors over 30 reservoirs, their water levels were 44.2 billion cubic metres, or 84% of their total live capacity, and much higher than the 10-year average of 66%.
  • This means that excessive rains in the coming months could contribute to the saga of urban inundation. Among the signatures of global warming is intense rainfall being concentrated over short spells and pockets and long periods of drought.

  • The El Niño phenomenon, which has been linked to the abnormal warming of the equatorial waters off the central and eastern Pacific, has been connected with the failure of the southwest monsoon.
  • However, researchers over the years have noted that this had an opposite effect on the NE monsoon leading to more voluminous showers in the winter and particularly over South India.
  • This summer, the IMD, along with other meteorological agencies around the world, bet that monsoon rains would be on the lower side due to the possible emergence of an El Niño.
  • Even after the threat of El Niño had waned, it didn’t indicate that rains would be torrential in August and September. Conditions in the Indian Ocean turned favourable and led to the excessive monsoon activity this year.
  • This shows that there is a paucity in understanding the behaviour of the Indian Ocean and its influence on the monsoons. India is moving to a system where dynamical models that run on powerful computers will become the mainstay of monsoon forecasting.
  • However these too are heavily reliant on the behaviour of the Pacific Ocean and El Niño-related swings. India needs to step up research to improve the performance of these models.
  • With climate change set to inescapably alter the ocean temperatures around the Indian neighbourhood, giving more importance to understanding the vagaries of the NE monsoon ought to be among India’s key prongs to adapting to climate change.