Updated: November 12, 2021 7:31:21 am
The Congress Thursday was left grappling as a controversy erupted over Salman Khurshid’s latest book equating political Hindutva with “jihadist” Islam of groups like the Islamic State and Boko Haram of Nigeria. Senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad called the comparison “factually wrong” and an “exaggeration”, even as partymen rued in private the timing of the row ahead of the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections.
Khurshid’s book Sunrise Over Ayodhya explores in detail the Babri Masjid-Ram Janambhoomi issue and its impact, the legal battle on the matter, and the judgments of the Allahabad High Court and Supreme Court.
Whatever the rationalisation, Khurshid writes, the Ayodhya saga was about one faith trumping the methods of another. He adds, “Sanatan dharma and classical Hinduism known to sages and saints was being pushed aside by a robust version of Hindutva, by all standards a political version similar to the jihadist Islam of groups like ISIS and Boko Haram of recent years. Since the political content was clear, the term inevitably found place in election campaigns.”
Azad talked about “the composite culture of Hinduism” and said that while they did not agree with Hindutva, comparing it with “ISIS and Jihadist Islam is factually wrong and an exaggeration”.
Khurshid also writes in the book about the divergence of views in the Congress over the issue of Hindutva. “There is a section that, with growing assertiveness, regrets the fact that our image is that of a pro-minority party and advocates the janeu-dhari credentials of our leadership; this section responded to the Ayodhya judgment with the declaration that a bhavya (grand) temple should be built on the site, bypassing any further politics over this issue. That position, of course, overlooked or sidestepped the part of the Supreme Court order, directing land to be given for a masjid as well,” he says.
In 2017, the Congress had referred to Rahul Gandhi as a “janeu-dhari” Hindu, in the wake of a controversy over his visit to the Somnath Temple in Gujarat.
Interestingly, Khurshid also observes that the Congress was of the view that implementing the recommendations of the Justice B N Srikrishna commission, set up in 1993 by the then Maharashtra government headed by the Congress to look into the causes of riots that rocked Mumbai in 1992 and 1993, will only make the wounds fester and bring greater problems for Muslims. “… the considered view in the Congress has been that some wounds should be allowed to heal with the passage of time”, he writes.
Khurshid says this ironically proved right and may have laid the foundation for the Shiv Sena-Congress alliance government in Maharashtra. However, he adds: “The jury is out on whether this experiment would inevitably fail as a form of power-seeking hypocrisy, or mature into an evolution of ideologies past their sell-by dates.”
Khurshid also gives a glimpse of some of the conversations within the Congress and the P V Narasimha Rao government at the Centre before and just after the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992. Khurshid was a minister in the Rao government.
On the night of December 6, he says some young ministers, including him, gathered at the residence of Rajesh Pilot, who was in-charge of internal security, to take stock, and then went together to meet senior leader C K Jaffer Sharief.
“Thus, two bold voices in the government were roused. Calls were made to Principal Secretary A N Verma, who suggested that we speak to the PM. We got through to the PM and suggested to him that Rajesh Pilot be included in the group that was flying to Faizabad. He in turn asked us to speak to A N Verma again, and thus the chase continued for a while, until we were told that the PM would not be available, having turned in for the night,” Khurshid says.
The urgency, he says, was “for a senior functionary of the government to intervene before the idols, which had been shifted during the demolition of the mosque, were reinstalled on the site”.
Writing about a meeting of the Council of Ministers a day after the demolition, Khurshid writes: “Understandably, most were at a loss for words, but Madhavrao Scindia broke the ice to say how we all felt for Prime Minister Narasimha Rao. The reaction of the embattled PM took us by surprise when he retorted, ‘Please spare me your sympathy’. I do not recall the meeting having lasted long or indeed any substantive further steps being discussed.”
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