Seven lessons from Ayodhya
There’s excitement in the secularist air: The court’s decision to frame charges against senior BJP and VHP leaders in the Babri Masjid demolition case is said to have put the saffron brigade on a defensive. Apparently, the lust for power, along with the influence of the minorities, had moved them to soft-pedal Hindutva, and this raking up of old wounds wrecked all their plans of gaining wider acceptability.
I agree. Last week, BJP spokesman K R Malkani alleged that unknown, unruly elements had infiltrated the kar sevaks and destroyed the mosque to defame the Sangh Parivar. He said that there was celebration in the Pakistan high commission when the destruction occurred — thereby also implying an ISI presence. What a cop-out.
But somehow, [grin] nothing seems to affect Balasaheb Thackeray. For instance, Gulzar Azmi, chief of the Jamiat-ul-Ulema (which had opposed the creation of Pakistan on the basis that it would limit “the glory and sway” of Islam to one area when the whole subcontinent was a sitting duck) exonerated him with, “Bal Thackeray only tried to take credit for the demolition of Babri Masjid. The real culprits are the Congress and the BJP. The Sena leaders only talked about it, while the Congress succeeded in razing the shrine by inciting the BJP”. Tiger with 900 lives…
Mr Azmi almost inspires me to run into the Congress’s arms. Which obviously suggests that I approve of the razing: Typical, knee-jerk divisive-communalist-fundie. But, this is how I felt about it in December 1994: “As I write this on the eve of the second anniversary of the Babri Masjid demolition, I still do not comprehend the issue which gave the impetus to Hindus. As supposition, even if I take the VHP’s belief of the Ram Janmabhoomi as the gospel truth, how does it justify the destruction of a masjid? What has the common man gained, and what other ancient, historical monuments are to be brought down while invoking the names of gods? Is the Taj Mahal safe?”
Shocking, eh? What happened in the interim was that I made an effort to comprehend the core issue. Result: I sailed from knee-jerk Hindu defensiveness smack into an aggressive Hindutva awareness. I am not interested anymore if there was a Ram Mandir in Ayodhya or not — actually, I don’t care whether Ram existed or not. The question is not one of history or theology or archaeology or jurisprudence (but if you want me to expand on that, I can). To me, it’s a matter of psychology, period. This is a good time to revisit my mental processes and deliberate on the crime of Hindutvawadis: We will be awash in its ramification for years to come.
In an intellectual clash, it’s futile to be polite when the adversary is intractable; and if he also lacks ethics, it’s absurd to be virtuous. All defense and no attack never did win a war — and the Ram Janmabhoomi affair is nothing but a battle. In an ideological conflict, people must learn to wield the weapons the foe employs. Which, in context, are critiquing the systems of Islam and Marxism (just as they criticise caste, sati, etc), and using their tactics to expose the religious, political and social prejudices which motivate them. Lesson #1: Just as Muslims use the rod of feeling offended if Islam is challenged, it’s alright for Hindus to feel god-damn outraged when Hinduism is.
So, did Ram or the Mandir exist at all? Not if Muslims can verify the authenticity of Abraham’s having built the Qabah. Not if the Al Aqsa mosque of Jerusalem is built over a footprint in rock caused by the Prophet’s having landed rather hard on the ground — after having flown through the heavens on a winged horse. Not if it can be proved that the hair in Hazrat Bal belongs to Mohammed. Point is, the belief that the only true God is Allah is intrinsic to the Hindu-Muslim cleave. Just as Christianity (with its Shroud of Turin and Weeping Virgin icons) pickled the Greek pantheon into a mythology, Islam and Marxism would do the same to Hinduism — and hence their denial of Ram Janmabhoomi. Lesson #2: Take the fight to the opposite camp — let them first establish Islam’s credibility.
Now, did Hindus have the right to appropriate the Babri Masjid in 1949 if it was indeed in use? Once we accept the belief of pre-Parivar Hindus — eg, in an 1858 document, one Muhammad Asghar demands the removal of a platform outside the masjid, complaining that Hindus performed worship there — this is easy-peasy: Internationally (but excluding the pillage by colonial Britain), even stolen art is restored to its original owner, regardless of status quo; and if the buyer should be dead, his descendants are duty-bound to return it. If they don’t, the law forces a restoration — like the litigated ancestral property returned to Native Americans and Australian Aborigines. But if the State refuses to take cognisance, what then? If the original owner has spunk, he finds his own ways to repossess it — like Spain recovered its churches after driving out the Moors. Lesson #3: Reclaiming one’s heritage is normal, customary and desirable — claim the Krishna Janmasthan, too.
Next, couldn’t the dispute be settled amicably in a court of law? Easier said. In October 1990, Imam Bukhari of the Babri Masjid Action Committee declared that if a court ruling went against Muslim demands, an “agitation” against the verdict would be launched. Then, the Muslim Personal Law Board announced: “The Shariat does not allow the shifting or demolition of the Babri Masjid as it has not been built on a temple or illegal land” (Times Of India, 9 December 1990). Then, realising that they’d lose the debate, appended it with: “The law protects it even if built on a temple” (Syed Shahabuddin, Indian Express, 13 December 1990). Why V P Singh scuttled the agreement with the VHP, why the suit of possession was postponed, do Hindus have constitutional rights, is immaterial. Lesson #4: When secularism comes to mean different strokes for different folks, it’s time to cry, “Garv se kaho hum Hindu hain!”
The tricky question is, what justifies the destruction of a house of worship? In a word, nothing. But do not forget that masjids and mandirs are of the same genera — and the first stone was cast down by a Muslim. I once believed that two wrongs don’t make a right — but that was when I confused revenge with redressal and before I grasped the basis of the Mahabharat: Even after the Pandavs offered to cede the whole kingdom save 5 villages, the Kauravs refused to grant them “a speck of land the size of a pinhead”. Upon which, Krishna said that such self-righteousness and intolerance would brook no compromise, that war was inevitable… The VHP had been asking for just “three age-old sacred places” of the thousands converted to mosques — which were to be relocated, not destroyed. Lesson #5: Stop apologising for Hindutva — recognising, confronting and defeating Muslim fanaticism is practical and required.
So what has the common man gained from the demolition? Nothing that our pointy-headed intellectuals who can’t even park their bikes straight will understand. Nothing that our Leninists, for whom the solutions to ALL problems begin and end with roti-kapda-makaan, will grasp. After all, how can the ideologically servile be expected to know the psychological benefits from the effacement of the most offensive symbol of Hindu slavery? I attribute the Hindu society’s negative self-image and utter lack of self-respect to the moral damage wrought by Nehruvians and leftists who have distorted history by projecting marauding conquerors as protectors and Hindu nationalists as villains to, supposedly, “ensure communal harmony”. And look where it led us. Lesson #6: History is not the jahgeer of vested interests — no matter how inconvenient the Truth, it releases: Satyam muktye.
And so to the present predicament: Who demolished the Babri Masjid? In 1990, when Mr L K Advani undertook the Rathyatra to amass support for the bricklaying of the mandir, everywhere, the common devotee’s response was enthusiastic. Meanwhile, in UP, chief minister Mulayam Singh had suspended all public transport, blocked roads, imposed curfews, sealed the borders and arrested Parivaris and kar sevaks after hounding them out from houses. On October 22, Mr Advani was arrested. But on October 30, thousands of kar sevaks defied police cordons and planted flags on the masjid’s domes. Eventually, the police overcame the crowds, arrested thousands and killed between 10 to 50. Human and religious rights exist only for minorities.
And yet, on November 2, the kar sevaks came back in droves. But this time, Mulayam’s police, greatly out-numbered and probably under specific orders, skipped the usual procedures of warning, lathi-charge, tear-gas, firing in the air and shooting in the legs, and fired straight into the crowds. Most of the dead, of whom many were sadhus, had bullet wounds in the head and chest. As usual, the death toll is a matter of dispute; Koenraad Elst writes, “many of the bodies have been carried off in army vans and unceremoniously disposed of in an unknown place.” Press figures vary from 9 to 25, Mulayam says 16, the home ministry claims 30, the BJP cites 168, the VHP alleges 400, and eyewitnesses quote thousands.
Whatever the number — logically, it has to be in hundreds — there has been no badgering for a probe à la the Srikrishna Commission from our tender-hearted intellectuals, who, of course, also support a government with Mulayam as its defence minister: Islamic bricks, too, are more precious than Hindu lives.
So Mr Malkani… who demolished the masjid? Were the people who congregated for kar seva, who faced bullets in the name of Ram, who joined the Rathyatra from Karnataka, all agents of the ISI? Also, unruly or not, the thousands who brought down the structure couldn’t all have been card-holders of the saffron brigade, could they?
Truth is, most were people without political affiliations, bairagis and sadhus too, who had followed their trust in the Ram Janmabhoomi. They were of the stock that had rioted around the Babri Masjid in 1934 when a cow was slaughtered in its vicinity. If at the first shake of the chair, the BJP is Congress enough to turn its back on all that *those* kar sevaks died for, then I turn my back on the BJP. A party without principles is no Hindu party — shape up or ship out. Lesson #7: It was just another election plank, after all.