December 6, 1992 was a usual sleepy Sunday in Madras. For the last few weeks the newspapers had been writing about frantic activity in Delhi, especially in the corridors and the chambers of the Supreme Court. There were also reports of the movement of large numbers of karsevaks from distant parts of the country towards Ayodhya. And, of course, two major leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) were closing in on Ayoddhya from two different directions in their tumultuous yatras. But all this had been happening often enough. Conflicting pronouncements of the courts, mammoth gatherings of the karsevaks and long yatras of the leaders had taken place so often in the recent past that these had become almost routine. These had in fact come to seem like the coordinated stepping exercises of an army column, where the feet and hands keep moving while the column stays at the same place.
It was therefore not surprising that there seemed nothing unusual about that Sunday in faraway Madras. There was little expectation in the air. The world seemed unchanging, like the weather of Madras. And, expecting nothing, many of us had not even cared to switch on the television or the radio. It was late in the evening, around 6.00 p.m., when one of our colleagues at the Centre brought news of the happenings in Ayodhya. The karsevaks at Ayodhya, we learnt, had in fact decided to take matters into their own hands, and had actually demolished the structure at Ayodhya over which so much effort and emotion had been expended over the last few years.
The world it seemed had indeed changed. The columns that were supposed to stand still, merely parading their hands and feet to the complex commands of judiciary and politics, had decided to ignore the tune and move into battle. And, let it be admitted, our first reaction to this display of unbounded initiative on the part of the Indian people was that of immense relief.
From the tentative ways of Indians in most fields of endeavour during the last four decades, it had come to seem as if long years of bondage had deprived us of the will to think and act on our own. We, it seemed, had become prisoners of the situation in which we found ourselves, and maintaining the situation unchanged, keeping the walls of our prison intact, had become our major concern. In such a situation, any effective action by the people of India was bound to bring a sense of relief to all concerned Indians, even to those who later felt that this particular action was despicable and not in keeping with the Indian character and tradition. At that moment what mattered was the historical grandeur and definitiveness of the action. Thoughts about the morality, ethics and politics of the action were to come later.
The series of talks and discussions collected in this volume were held in the wake of this momentous event of current Indian history. We, in the Centre for Policy Studies at Madras, are convinced that this event marks a definite turning point in Indian history. The form and pace of the unfolding of this new orientation however will depend upon different sections of the Indian people coming together and sharing their vision of the future India. With this in view, we approached the leaders of different sections of opinion in Madras and requested them to come to the Centre and talk and share ideas about their perceptions of the current situation and the emerging future.
It is perhaps a measure of the concern about the future polity of India generated by the events at Ayodhya, that everyone we approached readily agreed to speak and participate in these discussions. Most of them in fact were keenly sensitive about the need for establishing a dialogue among different sections of Indian opinion, and many insisted, during and after the meetings, that such dialogue should be continued at different levels and different places.
The representatives of the so-called secular opinion, however, did not seem to share in this general desire for continuing dialogue, and a renowned historian of modern India in fact told us that the country had gone to dogs and there was nothing left to talk about. He even suggested that people like him did not really belong here, and therefore it was best that they kept away from such dialogue.
Arun Shourie happened to be in Madras at the beginning of January to speak at a public meeting in the city and he spared an evening to open the series. Abdus Samad found time from his very busy schedule among his constituents to not only speak at the Centre but also answer wide ranging questions on many sensitive issues. S. Guhan prepared and presented an exhaustive review of the history of the Ayodhya controversy. The Most Reverend, Casimir Gnanadickam, the Archbishop of Madras-Mylapore, managed to fit in a visit to the Centre between his various engagements and patiently answered questions that covered a vast field ranging from international politics to theology. S. Gurumurthy presented his understanding of the civilisational interaction between India and the semitic traditions of the west, and the further unfolding of this interaction in the future. K. N. Govindacharya took pains to present a comprehensive picture of the future India as he sees it in the wake of the Ayodhya movement. And, Sri Dharampal, who in fact had inspired this series by his persistent insistence that to understand the significance of the Ayodhya events it is imperative to listen to and interact with different sections of Indian opinion, concluded the series with a talk of great intensity and civilisational sweep.
The meetings were held on the open terrace of the Centre and every talk was followed by hours of relaxed and generally courteous discussion. Participants in the meetings often numbered around a hundred, and the number and diversity of questions and issues that were raised left some of us with an uneasy feeling that we are a society where nothing seems to have been resolved, where all issues of significance to the functioning of the polity remain open. But it should perhaps be counted among one of the blessings of the Ayodhya events that all these unresolved issues have been brought into the open.
We are thankful to the speakers whose ready willingness to spare hours of their time made these discussions possible. We are equally thankful to the large number of participants who attended these meetings and helped in unraveling various facets of the current situation through their perceptive comments and questioning.
CENTRE FOR POLICY STUDIES, MADRAS
Vinayaka Chaturthi, Kali Samvat 5095
September 19, 1993