In an Indian Express article (November 15) following the Supreme Court’s Ayodhya verdict, Rajiv Tuli, member of the RSS’s Delhi executive, asks India’s Muslims to ask themselves a question: “Do we want a Bharat which represents the legacy of Babar, Ghazni and Ghori, or do we want a Bharat where the legacy of the nation is represented by Lord Rama, Lord Krishna, Dara Shikoh, Kabir and A P J Abdul Kalam?”
What Tuli follows up with may be viewed by Muslims as a warning: “The call has to be taken by Muslims in Bharat and the ball is in their court now.” He further adds: “Any interpretation of the Babri structure, other than… as a monument of our slavery, will clearly indicate that Hindus are being asked to live with a feeling of humiliation.” Tuli hints of campaigns to come when he writes: “Hindus have asked for a peaceful return. of only three of their holy sites (Ayodhya, Mathura and Kashi) that were vandalised.”
Clearly, the award of 2.77 acres of contested land has not quenched the thirst for avenging history’s presumed wrongs. India’s Muslims are expected to do more to remove “the feeling of humiliation” that 80 per cent of Indians supposedly nurse.
Muslims must declare (even if they don’t believe it) that the Babri mosque was built to proclaim Hindu slavery, and they must take steps of restitution for other ancient wrongs, starting with Mathura and Kashi — “The ball is in their court.”
Actually, the ball is in the court of India’s Hindus, who must ask if they will allow further infusion in their minds of manufactured hate. The immortal Tulsidas lost no sleep when the Babri mosque was built. That structure made not the slightest difference either to his Ram or to his Ramcharitmanas. For centuries thereafter, that structure failed to humiliate other lovers of Ram and the Ramayana.
Thus, there is no record of Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya, who probably held more Ramayana events than anyone else in his time, saying that the Babri mosque offended him and it had to go.
K M Munshi, more responsible than anyone else for Somnath temple’s renovation, was Uttar Pradesh governor for five years, staying in Lucknow — not very far from Ayodhya — from 1952 to 1957. He seems to have made no demand for Babri Masjid’s removal.
Men like Malaviya and Munshi may not have liked the fact that the Babri mosque was raised on or near the site that many believed was Ram’s birthplace. They may not have liked the fact that for a long time the Mughals ruled India, or, later, that the British ruled India.
However, accepting history’s facts, they did not ask for the removal of Mughal forts and mosques, or of British palaces and churches. Such buildings might recall past defeats. But they were also part of India’s assets, constructed — often impressively — by human skill and toil. Hindus were glad that the structures belonged to India.
Political calculation may see value in destroying the assets, but where will you stop? Will you remove the Red Fort and the Purana Qila? The Taj? The Qutub Minar? Will you pull down Kolkata’s Victoria Memorial, New Delhi’s imperial structures, and Mumbai’s Gateway of India?
It’s time for the calm Hindu to speak up, reclaim the Hindu platform, and restore sanity to it. For centuries, the serene confidence of everyday Hindus, as also of exceptional Hindu figures, sprang not from how they were treated by others, whether non-Hindu or Hindu, but from their own peace of mind, and their own creativity.
Loyal to their inner hearts, they were comfortable also with fellow-inhabitants of India and the planet. In our world’s current season, however, headlines and megaphones have been seized by merchants of anger and distortion.
History assures us that seasons change. All Hindus who acknowledge the eternal Ram — who is also the eternal Krishna, the eternal Shiva, the eternal Allah, and the eternal God — can contribute to that change by speaking out in their circles and, where possible, on public platforms.
They can, for one thing, register their horror at the demotion of Ram to the status of a national hero. The maker of the universe, the giver of life and the master of death is greater than that.
Dear Mr Tuli, please do not bracket Lord Ram or Lord Krishna with historical figures, not even with extraordinary ones like Prince Dara, Sant Kabir and President Kalam.
You need not agree with Gandhi when he said, “The Rama whom I adore is God himself, unborn and uncreated” (Collected Works, 86: 427). But you cannot compel other Hindus — or Muslims or Christians — to declare that Rama was born in a particular spot in Ayodhya on a particular date.
You are entitled to your belief. Others have their liberty to disagree. That is a human right, one guaranteed — so far — by the Indian Constitution.
And, please remember, that the Supreme Court has declared unlawful both the sly insertion in 1949 of Ram idols into the Babri Masjid and the 1992 destruction of the mosque.
You have no right to ask all Hindus to defend or celebrate these two acts which will remain an embarrassment to Hinduism. Only an unqualified apology by those involved can begin to erase that embarrassment.
This article first appeared in the print edition on November 21, 2019 under the title ‘Ball is in the majority’s court’. The writer is research professor at Centre for South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign.
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