Saturday, October 2, 2010


I too have something to say to add to the debate that has begun in the wake of the Ayodhya verdict which, in sum, accepts the core Hindu claim over the garb griha where idols of Ram Lalla are presently installed, and respects the fact that a mosque stood over the disputed land for centuries.

The verdict has surprised everyone because they were all expecting a judgment that would lead to Hindus being asked to remove the idols. That is perhaps why the media was tasked to prepare Hindus to accept the expected verdict, by coining catchy slogans like "India has moved on," "India first" etc. The poorly camouflaged idea of the campaign seemed to be to create a division between ordinary, disinterested Hindus and strident Hindu religious and political groups so that adequate pressure could be brought to bear upon the latter to compel them to accept the verdict as well as blunt their efforts to mobilise Hindu opinion to thwart any move to shift the idols. So isolated, it was thought, such groups could then be conclusively defeated by berating them 24/7 as the 'lunatic fringe' etc, and the land handed over to Muslims after tempers had cooled down.

This strategy was, undoubtedly, formulated by non-Hindus who have little connect with and understanding of the religion of their birth, and the feelings of the hundreds of millions whose faith remains unshaken despite centuries of oppression and even ridicule.

Can the idol of Ram Lalla really be shifted from the sanctum sanctorum? When asked this question during a TV debate, Najeeb Jung did not take more than a second to say: "impossible".

This is the central point that has escaped attention of the 'secular' brigade. That is why some of them are busy trashing the verdict on all kinds of specious grounds and spewing venom that can only lead to communal polarisation and violence, something that will politically harm only the Congress, the very party they believe they are trying to protect. Why have they missed the core? In my view, it is primarily because they are looking at the dispute in narrow contemporary political and electoral terms alone.

The movement to reclaim what many Hindus believe is the birthplace of Ram has a near-unbroken history almost ever since Babar built the mosque in 1528. Whenever an opportunity has presented itself as a result of the decline/fall of Muslim rule, Hindus have attempted to re-claim the janmasthan. According to some accounts even Shri Guru Gobind Singh and the Marathas were connected to it. 'Secular' records from the time the British conquered Avadh are also available, the most famous being the 1886 ruling of British judge who euphemistically observed: "It is most unfortunate that a mosque should have been built on a land specially held sacred by Hindus." One can imagine what he would have said and ruled had the land been sacred to Christians.

Unfortunately, present day secularists have tried to re-invent this centuries-old deeply religious movement to suit their ideological and political predilections. As a result of their efforts and the falsification and sanitisation of India's history by historians hungry for government favours and global recognition, many young Indians are being misled into believing that the Hindu view is a primarily a political creation of the Sangh Parivar while the Muslim one is religious; the faith of Muslims is being hurt, not that of Hindus! What better example can there be of this grotesque distortion than that of Vir Sanghvi who wants India to believe that "Ayodhya movement was a farce designed to win votes for a declining BJP by focusing on a Ram Janmabhoomi which few of us had ever heard of."

It is mostly due to this belittling, even dismissing of the history of the struggle and faith of Hindus and its reduction to a petty electoral fight that positions of some Muslims have hardened over time and an amicable solution has not been found.

Thankfully, all the three judges of the Allahabad High Court did not lose sight of the larger canvas, most of which lies outside the small window that some analysts have been expending all their energies in. They have individually recognised in their own way that the garb griha has been, is and will remain almost as sacred to many Hindus as the Kaaba is to Muslims. That being so, there is no way that any mortal court can order removal of idols of Ram Lalla from there and expect the order to be carried out. If anyone thinks the Supreme Court will do it and Hindus will simply forget the history they know and the sacrifices that many generations have made over centuries, then he is only setting the stage for destroying the very secularism he is trying to build on a false base.

Secular historians would do well to remember that, despite their efforts, Hindus have not and will not forget the wounds of history, even though they have moved on more than we patronisingly give them credit for. As Madhu Trehan said during a TV debate recently, thousands of temples were destroyed by Muslim invaders who built mosques over what she called "sacred Hindu space". Evidence is available and visible even to the unlettered everywhere. But, barring tiny voices, Hindus of Free India have, on the whole, healed their wounds on their own. No one is asking for the return of all such places whose real estate value alone will run into many lakh crore rupees. The Parliament, representing the voice of the Hindu majority, has also shown great magnanimity and given the healing touch by unilaterally freezing the status of all places of worship as on August 15, 1947.

Muslims really have little to give or fear.
That is why I am among those who believe that the wise and pragmatic Ayodhya verdict offers a real opportunity to Hindus and Muslims to close an unpleasant chapter of India's history and push ahead together in the real sense. Isol voices proclaiming triumph or crying defeat will always be there in any society. Rather than maliciously use them as excuses to prolong the agony of both communities and create fresh fissures, we should ignore them and use the base provided by the truly learned judges to truly "move on".
Readers may also like to read:
1. Ayodhya: a matter of faith
2. Is India not free yet?