Let me make clear at the outset that I support the building of that temple in Ayodhya whose consecration takes place next week. It should have happened decades ago. It did not because of the pseudo-secularism that the Congress party has long adopted as its creed. The founding principle of this evil creed was that under the safety blanket of ‘secularism’ it was alright to abuse all secular tenets and principles if this helped win elections. It is important here to remind you that this is the second time that a shilanyas is being done of a Ram temple in Ayodhya. The first one was done by Rajiv Gandhi in 1989 when he began his election campaign in Ayodhya with the promise of Ram Rajya.
Not a secular slogan at all, but considered necessary at the time because of his foolish decision to allow Muslims their own personal law based on the Shariat. This decision enraged even secular Hindus, so the promises of a Ram temple and Ram Rajya were made in the hope that Hindus would fall back into the Congress party’s ‘secular’ arms. Rajiv ended up losing the election. But this was a last-ditch attempt to show that although he had pandered to the very worst kind of Islamist Muslims in the Shah Bano matter, he was still a good Hindu. Actually, he was a Parsi because in India it is the father’s religion that counts. Had the Congress party been truly secular, it would have shown the courage to resist the pressure from the Islamists who demanded that they be allowed to use the Shariat as their personal law. Had Rajiv Gandhi stood by the principles of real secularism, he would never have interfered in the Supreme Court’s order that said divorced Muslim women had the same rights as divorced Hindu women.
If the Congress party believed in real secularism, the Ayodhya movement would never have happened. It was after it started mixing religious fundamentalism with politics that the Bharatiya Janata Party realised that this was a game that they could play much better. So it was that in 1990 Lal Krishna Advani converted a Toyota truck into ‘Ram’s chariot’ and set off from Somnath for Ayodhya with the demand that a temple be built where Ram was said to have been born. Millions of Hindus believe that this Ayodhya is the same as the Ayodhya of antiquity, and that where Babur built his mosque is the exact spot where Ram was born. So, there should never have been a dispute at all and instead of a demolition the mosque could have been respectfully moved, stone by stone, onto the other bank of the river Saryu. But, this would have deprived many political leaders of electoral gains, so it was not allowed to happen.
Political leaders were not the only culprits. Religious leaders were just as bad, and it needs to be said that Muslim religious and political leaders, who took such an implacable stand against the Ram temple, did more to harm their community than anyone else. They were obdurate, unyielding and unreasonable and many still are. The same Muslim leaders who insist that they will continue to fight for restoration of the Babri Masjid at the very spot where it once stood said not one word when the magnificent Hagia Sophia cathedral in Istanbul was converted into a mosque just last week.
Asaduddin Owaisi has objected publicly to Prime Minister Narendra Modi going to Ayodhya to attend the shilanyas. He argues that it would be against the secular principles of the Constitution for him to attend a consecration that is specific to one religion. What intrigued me about the certainty with which he argued his case in TV debates was that he seemed to forget that Islam puts secularism in the same basket as apostates, heretics and heathens. It is only Indic religions that do not make any distinction between believers and unbelievers and only Indic religions like Buddhism and Jainism that are fundamentally atheistic.
When Congress leaders behave as if secularism was their personal gift to India, they forget that it was not an idea needed in India because the king was always not just secular but above caste. And, there has never been a Shankracharya who had his own army like the Pope once did. As a result of so much muddled thinking and a political culture that allows anything to be done for the sake of winning elections, we have now come to a pass when in these Hindutva times the supporters of Narendra Modi openly spread hatred against Islam and Muslims. The distinction between Pakistani and Muslim has been slowly erased in the past six years and the word ‘Paki’ has become a term of abuse. It is an ugly time but if our political leaders still have in them a modicum of honesty let them make the Ram temple in Ayodhya a symbol of healing.
Let Muslims join in building the temple and when it is ready let both communities come together to build a mosque on the other bank of the Saryu river. India needs a process of healing now almost more than it ever has before. Let it begin in Ayodhya next week and let the Prime Minister show us that he truly believes in his own slogan ‘Sabka saath, sabka vikas, sabka vishwas’.
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