Ayodhya And The Future India

Times of India, New Delhi, January 11, 1994
Edit page Comment

Ayohdya Seen From Different Angles

The demolition of the Babri masjid was hailed by the sangh parivar as a great Hindutva awakening. In the book Ayodhya and the Future India, Jitendra Bajaj has attempted to link India’s future to the events at Ayodhya, asserting that the demolition brought “immense relief” to the Indian people. He fails to point out, however, which Indian people is he speaking about. He appears confused about the concept of a secular world and perhaps needs to refer to Babar’s last testament to his son, in which he asks him not to destroy Hindu temples and slaughter cows if he wished to rule over India. Mr. Arun Shourie in the book reveals his ire and then inconsistency by calling the Babri masjid a simple structure and then referring to it as a mosque. He displays his usual animus towards the Muslims, maintaining that the actions of the kar sevaks were spontaneous and only echoed popular sentiment. Yet video cassettes of the event clearly show the kar sevaks doing exercise on the eve of December 6.

Devout Hindu

It is strange that we are asked to believe in the destruction of a five to seven-storeyed temple supported on 84 black kasauti pillars without first having proof of its construction. In order to give archaeological legitimacy to this sangh parivar theory, he speaks of the discovery of the discovery of pillar bases of kasauti stone. But how could a temple that was never built be destroyed? To prove that a temple was demolished one must first prove that a temple was built on that very spot. Historical evidence to this effect has to be produced.

Even if it could be established from historical evidence that a temple was demolished during the regime of Babar, why did it fail to attract the attention of Valimiki? Neither does the Ramayana written by Tulsidas during the period of Akbar and his devout Hindu wife, Jodha Bai, make any mention of the temple. On the age of the black pillars, Dr. Radha Sham Shukla writes: “There is dispute among scholars about the age of the black pillars. Some scholars believe that they belong to the Viramaditya age”. He goes on to add that the logic of those scholars, who do not consider these pillars to belong to the Vikramaditya age, is quite convincing and rational. But how does Dr. Shuka counter this? He says, “we should remember here that the builder of Ram mandir was …Gupta.”

Mr. S. Guhan does not agree with the sangh parivar’s theory of the mosque being demolished “by chance”. He speaks of evidence that it was carefully planned, that people were trained and that they were equipped with implements to demolish the mosque. He agrees that a strong structure covering an area of 6,000 sq. feet cannot be demolished in six hours without planning and suitable equipment.

Mr. S. Guhan even raises the basic issues of whether the birth and the birthplace of Ram have ever been established. He even raises doubts about the exact location of Ayodhya, and adds: “…Vikramaditya Skandagupta, the historians tell us, went around trying to locate Ayodhya. And then Saketa of the old days, on the banks of Sarayu, was renamed as Aydodhya.”

Mr. Guhan adds that it was only in 1857 that the Mahant of Hanumangarhi built a Chabutara outside the Babri masjid. “That was clearly a counter response to the Muslim claims on Hanumangarhi, because by that time the British had set up a committee to go into the Hanumangarhi incidents and to determine whether there had been a mosque at the site of the temple. It is only at this stage that the Hanumangarhi Mahant claimed the Janmasthan, and the claimed spot was still not inside the Babri masjid, but on the Chabutara outside, which was built in 1857.”

In his article, Mr. Abdus Samad hopes for an enlightened and large-hearted leadership which would care for the institutions, sentiments and cultural preferences of various communities. He makes a fine point by arguing that although all religions are equal, it does not mean that all are one.

Mr. S. Gurumaurthy claims that Hindutva is a pluralistic yet integrative concept, but does not argue convincingly on this theme. Respect for diversity is, of course, inherent in the Indian way of life, and this display of openness has not been the result of any civilising inspiration and wisdom from the West. He adds that when “Semitic forces and statecraft, powered by brutally exclusivist religious fanaticism, invaded us and extinguished our states and institutions, our society could still survive and preserve its multi-dimensional life largely intact.”

Mr. Gurumurthy speaks of Hindus providing shelter to the persecuted of the world. But then, as a baiter of Islam, he speaks of what Islam did to the natives of Egypt, Afghanistan and Prersia. He needs to be reminded of the famous Treaty Hudaybiyyah signed between the followers of Islam and the non-believing Arabs. Mr. Gurumurthy also conveniently forgets that, with the arrival of Muslims on Indian soil, whole new vistas of civilisational change were opened up.

Yes, Islam remained unchanged. It is a divine religion. It has a history and is not a piece of fiction. The most sublime form of patriotism is not the wreaking of revenge in the name of religion or past history. Today, we have to stress the spirituality of the Hindus, the pacifism of the Buddhists, the energy of the Christians and the brotherhood of Islam.

Compelling Essays

Mr. Gurumurthy states that the political separatism of the Muslims meant minority-ism. Was the presidential appointment of Zakir Hussain or of Fakhruddin Ali Ahmad a step towards favouring the minorities, and was the passing of the Aligarh Muslim University Act meant to appease the community? The assimilation of the Muslims in Indian culture has already been achieved, and although Muslims will never accept the theory of Hinduisation as proposed by the RSS, they will accept social and cultural bonds with the Hindus.

Mr. K. N. Govindacharya attempts to draw the parallel between the salt satyagraha of Gandhi and the Ayodhya movement. He forgets that the former was responsible for the BJP’s poor showing in the recent elections. As Mr. A. B. Vajpayee, senior BJP leader, pointed out, the Ayodhya issue has lost its appeal. With tensions still persisting between Hindus and Muslims, this is the right time for a dialogue. Talks should be held at the local level, but efforts need to be made to galvanise secular elements in the two communities. As far as possible, the past should not be raked up.

According to Mr. Dharampal, Muslim rule never extended to more than half of India, from which he quite logically concludes that India was not an Islamic State. His conclusion, however, that nothing has moved in the country for 45 years is a gross underestimation. At least the common man has been given his due rights, and whenever the country has been threatened by anarchy, the electorate has brought stability, allowing India to make considerable, if not spectacular, progress in the field of health, education and the lowering of the death rate.

These authors, representing so many different spheres of interest have produced diverse and compelling essays. Nevertheless, there are misconceptions which need to be corrected.

Times of India, January 22, 1994

A Response to the Review of Ayodhya and Future India by Zafar H. Jung:

Sir, – The article, “Ayodhya Seen From Different Angles” (January 11) was no different from Ayodhya seen from the Muslim angle. Mr. Zafar Jung has quoted all those who subscribe to his viewpoint and dismissed those who differ. Thus while Mr. Jitendra Bajaj is challenged for speaking on behalf of the Indian people, the writer does not specify what he means by ‘we’ when he asserts that no temple ever existed at Ayodhya. Certainly ‘we’ cannot include the crores of Hindus for whom Ayodhya as the birthplace of Ram is as much a holy place as the mosque at Mecca is for Muslims.

Historical and archaeological evidence for and against the existence of a temple at the site where the Babri mosque was built can be marshalled depending on which group of historians one is referring to. However, one does not have to refer to the Treaty of Hubabyiyyah to discover how medieval Islam as a religion of the conqueror treated non-Islamic people. Evidence lies scattered all over northern India from Kashmir to Bengal of the ravages of Islam on the people of India, their religious beliefs and their places of worship.

It is true that the arrival of the Muslims opened up new vistas of civilisational changes. But it is equally true that Islam introduced social evils like purdah. If the logic of civilisational change is extended further, Indian should be more grateful to British colonial rule for the scientific and technological advances that were introduced during that period.

I agree that efforts should be made to galvanise the secular elements in the two communities. But do Muslim secularists have a mass following? The Muslim masses may have been motivated in UP to support Mr. Mulayam Singh or Mr. Kanshi Ram. But casteism is even worse than communalism. Similarly the sentence ‘past should not be raked up’ is more easily said than done. Where does one draw the line between the past and present? Is December 6, 1992 the past or the present? How many secularists are willing to consider it the past? Memories stretch to August 16, 1946 when Hindus were killed in the garb of direct action to claim a homeland for Indian Muslims.

N. K. Chowdhry
New Delhi