In September 2003, I was in Karachi, Pakistan, as part of a “Labour for Peace” delegation during Atal Behari Vajpayee’s tenure as prime minister. In the evening, while we were going around the city in a bus, a member of our delegation asked the Pakistan representative about the Ayodhya issue’s impact in Pakistan. He smiled and said, “In Pakistan, it is very common to demolish places of worship of other religions and construct mosques in their place.” From the bus, he pointed to a newly built mosque outside and said it was standing at a place where, until recently, there was an old Hindu temple. “You can find several such examples across Pakistan. That’s why the people of Pakistan do not find anything strange in the demolition of the Babri Masjid,” he said.
Former RSS Sarsanghchalak Balasaheb Deoras had once said India will have democracy and secularism as long as the majority of its people are Hindus. He explained this with the example of our neighbouring countries, which, he said, were part of Indian culture earlier and separated for historical reasons. Because Hindus became a minority in these countries, the concepts of democracy and secularism are conspicuously missing. When many secularists in India raise the cry of “tolerance”, people in those places may ask what that word means!
Politics of Appeasement
In 1992, workers affiliated with the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) from across the country participated in the kar seva at Ayodhya. In the kar seva of the 1990s, even though it involved the participation of lakhs of Hindus, no other masjid was touched and not a single person from the other communities was hurt on the day the masjid was demolished. A Dalit, Kameshwar Chaupal of Bihar, had the honour of laying the foundation stone of the Shri Ram Janmabhoomi temple on November 10, 1989. As a nationalist trade union, the BMS is interested in the temple not as a religious issue, but as a question of national pride.
But today, the issue is used as a part of highly rewarding minority politics by those who could not have sustained themselves in politics otherwise. The question is whether, emotionally, the Indian people should stand on the side of a foreign aggressor like Babar, or with Shri Ram, a symbol of India’s ancient cultural tradition. Such a question rarely arises in any other country. India needs a memorial of Shri Ram and not that of Babar. By no stretch of imagination can Babar, a war-monger, be accorded the status of a religious leader. Even the Muslims of Afghanistan, which is his birthplace, do not own him. It is to be remembered that soon after independence, in the national capital Delhi, the King George’s statue at India Gate and Queen Victoria’s at Chandni Chowk were removed. When Somnath temple in Gujarat was rebuilt at the government’s initiative, no serious secular issue was raised. Any debate on Ayodhya issue raised by the “pseudo-secularists” will ultimately strengthen the nationalist support base and its political extensions.
Crores of Hindus in India believe that Ram was the king of Ayodhya thousands of years ago and Ayodhya is his birthplace. But it looks funny that the leftist historians, academia and intelligentsia are working hard to “prove” that Ram’s birthplace is somewhere else. They have to understand that a question of faith cannot be decided by resorting to reason, or to reason determined on the anvil of faith. Fortunately, they did not make similar attempts vis-à-vis the historicity of Mecca and Jerusalem, probably because that will be against their political agenda. The Allahabad High Court has pulled up “Marxist experts” for not being experts at all.
K.K. Mohammed, former ASI regional director
Dr K.K. Mohammed from Kerala, a product of Aligarh Muslim University and a former Regional Director (North) of the Archaeological Survey of India, was part of the team that excavated the Ram Janmabhoomi site where the Babri Masjid was built. Dr Mohammed’s recent book in Malayalam, Me, the Bharatiyan, includes his memories of the excavations. Dr Mohammed accuses the well-known communist brigade of historians such as Irfan Habib, Romila Thapar, Bipan Chandra and R.S. Sharma of thwarting an amicable settlement to the Babri Masjid issue. Unfortunately, Habib happened to be the then chairman of the Indian Council of Historical Research.
(Clockwise from top left) R.S. Sharma, Romila Thapar, Irfan Habib, Bipan Chandra
Veteran historian Dr M.G.S. Narayanan also supported Dr Mohammed in his allegation against Habib. Dr Mohammed points to a great crime committed by the communist brigade of historians: “The Babri issue would have been settled long ago if the Muslim intelligentsia had not fallen prey to brainwashing by the leftist historians.... It was they who connived with the extremist Muslim groups to derail all attempts to find an amicable solution to the masjid issue.” It is a typical example of how even the study of history can be used as a political tool. Truth meets its travesty in the academic training on JNU campus once it goes through the hands of communist academia like Habib. Innocent students are misled for their political designs.
According to Muhammed, it is now a historic truth that a temple existed at the site of the Babri Masjid as a temple was unearthed there in 1978. “We found not one, but 14 pillars of a temple at the Babri Masjid site. It was quite evident that the masjid was erected on the debris of a temple,” he writes. It also brought to light the longstanding rift between leftist and other historians on various issues. This archaeological report was accepted by the Allahabad High Court, which concluded that the site really belongs to Ram Janmabhoomi and not to any other religious places of worship.
In 1528 AD, following Babar’s orders, his soldiers led by commander-in-chief Mir Baqi destroyed the Shri Ram Janmabhoomi temple at Ayodhya. Between then and 1934, there were around 76 attempts by several generations of Hindus to reclaim it. Later, fortunately, the fight moved to the courts. The Shri Ram Janmabhoomi movement was an expression of the collective consciousness of Hindus, which has been continuing for the past several centuries. It is not at all an issue created by RSS-affiliated organisations.
‘Babar crossing the Son’, miniature in Baburnama, 1585, National Museum, New Delhi
The Babri structure was all along a symbol of barbarism, vandalism and aggression on India’s unique secular tradition. On the other hand, the Ram temple is a symbol of cultural resurgence and identity as well as the great Dharmic values personified by Shri Ram. The foreign aggressor Babar was so cruel that he targeted Hindu temples, women and other innocents, and their wealth, besides engaging in humiliating religious conversions and conquering some parts of India. Otherwise, he would not have ordered the destruction of the old temple, as reported in the Archeological Survey of India report, and constructed the masjid at the exact spot, instead of searching for a vacant place.
Thousands of temples in India are testimony to the vandalism of the foreign aggressors. But the Ram mandir at Ayodhya stands apart and is totally non-negotiable for Hindus, as it stands at the birthplace of the revered Shri Ram. For the past thousands of years, Shri Ram is one of the most prominent gods in the Hindu pantheon and Ram Janmabhoomi is most sacred for Hindu believers—just as Mecca is for Muslims or Jerusalem for Christians. Shifting the Ram temple anywhere outside Ram’s birthplace militates against civilised norms and the sacred beliefs of crores of Indians. That is why the RSS Sarsanghchalak has made it clear recently that only the Ram temple will be built at Ayodhya.
Finally, a Saffron Lining
Indian politics is sharply divided between two sides. Minority appeasement and power politics in the Ayodhya issue have created an unnecessary scare among Muslims. Otherwise, all the Muslims in India would have happily supported the construction of the Ram Mandir at Ayodhya.
Excavation at the site, claimed to be evidence of a Ram temple
There is a heartening rise in the number of prominent Muslims who believe Ram Mandir is to Hindus what Mecca is to Muslims. They accept the rationale that the most appropriate place for the Ram temple is what is believed to be Shri Ram’s birthplace. There are also those who believe that Muslims of this nation have a Hindu lineage. Moreover, many Muslim scholars believe that according to the tenets of Islam, a structure cannot have the character of a mosque if it is built after destroying a temple. They believe Allah will not accept namaz in a forcibly conquered place belonging to another religion. No Wakf can be created on another’s property. Muslim experts like Dr Mohammed were bold enough to declare the truth about Ram Janmabhoomi. Hence Muslim leaders in India should show their magnanimity towards their Hindu brethren and render all assistance in constructing Ram Mandir at Ram’s birthplace at the earliest.
(The writer is president of the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, the RSS-inspired trade union.)