|HOME | NEWS | COLUMNISTS | AMBERISH K DIWANJI|
|April 3, 2002||
Amberish K Diwanji
Are we joining the ranks of Bosnia and Rwanda?Much of the violence in Gujarat, which, alas, shows no sign of abating, has been linked to the demand by some for a Ram temple at Ayodhya. Statements have been made that if only the Ram temple were built at Ayodhya, 'all' problems in India would be solved and denial of the temple is proof of the 'majority community' being denied its rights in India.
These temple supporters, led by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (best described as a Hindutva outfit and not a Hindu outfit, to distinguish its demands from the millions of Hindus of India) keep stressing that out of 3,000 temples all over India that were converted to mosques, they only want to 'reclaim' three -- the Ram temple at Ayodhya, the Krishna Janmabhoomi at Mathura and the Vishwanath temple at Varanasi. Some even insist they want only the Ram temple and then ask angrily, is it too much to ask the Muslims in India for three or one temple?
The reasons for not stressing upon Mathura and Varanasi could be that temples already exist in these places, adjoining mosques that the Hindutva brigade would like to destroy. Also, there is now a law in place that freezes religious places -- except the Ayodhya case -- as per their status on August 15, 1947. Lastly, and most likely, it could be a case where the Hindutva brigade prefers to focus its energies on one case at a time to make political hay out of it before moving to the next.
The dispute is not religious, but political. It is of a Hindutva outfit's demand against the existing principles of the Indian State, and which therefore pits the Hindutva's radical demands against the Government of India, and by implication, the people of India.
So why cannot one disputed site be handed over for a temple and peace be allowed to prevail?
The overriding principle is simple: What is the guarantee that no demands will be made in future? What is the surety that such demands will stop with Ayodhya, or maximum, Varanasi and Mathura? Does the VHP speak for its future, that 50 years later it won't voice a demand for another Muslim shrine or structure? Does the VHP (and its paternal organisation, the RSS) speak on behalf of all Hindutva supporters?
The lack of answers to these creates serious doubts and fears. History has tragically shown that giving in to extremist demands only whets the appetite. Allow a Ram temple and we are likely to see scores of similar demands across India for the demolition of countless mosques to reclaim them as temples. Where does it end? It is for these reasons that so many Indians are unwilling to let the VHP get away with its bullying tactics.
There is no shortage of Hindutva supporters, or of Muslims structures that are supposedly built on former temples, or of Muslims structures that some Hindus can claim offend their sensibilities. Thus, Gopal Godse, brother of Nathuram Godse, claims the Qutub Minar in Delhi was built over a Vishnu temple. Similarly, some time ago some persons claimed the Taj Mahal was built over a Shiva temple. The Shiv Sena claims that Haji Malang, the dargah of a Muslim 'pir' located outside Bombay, was once a Hindu shrine called Shri Malang and wants it 'returned' to the Hindus.
Please note: Godse and the Shiv Sena, while Hindutva supporters, are 'not' part of the VHP. Thus any guarantee by the VHP, or even the RSS, does not cover them.
Also, future demands may not even be on grounds of religion: What if someone decides that the Qutub Minar is a shameful symbol for Hindus as it depicts the beginning of Muslim rule over Delhi?
Where would it end? Would it ever end, or will future generations see India become a land of revanchist movements, where sections claiming grievances tear down various structures? [Today it is Muslim sites; tomorrow it could be Christian sites; but dangerously, what if day after tomorrow, one section of Hindus turns against another?]
The Ayodhya dispute is not the reason for Hindu-Muslim problems in India. It is the outcome of the decline of secularism and the shameless exploitation of religion by political parties in India for power.
There is no doubt that the Ayodhya dispute needs to be resolved quickly. But besides just settling this dispute, which has now been reduced to a dispute over property in the courtrooms, the urgent need is to augment India's secular fabric and re-assert the supremacy of the State over all religions.
The more we allow mobs or specific sections of our society to dictate our nation's policy or seek special favours in the name of religion or faith or other such ethnic considerations, the more this nation with awesome potential moves towards joining the ranks of Bosnia and Rwanda rather than becoming the great country that it is so capable of.
Tailpiece: In my last column, I had compared NRI investment in India with that of overseas Chinese investment in China. Email responses from readers made me realise that I was unfair in doing so. Investing in China is easier, higher returns are assured, and the investments came after China's reforms were on the success track. By contrast, investing in India is still an act of faith and love and not of business. And yet, NRIs go out of their way to invest in India, which can only be praised. I regret it if my statement hurt those NRIs who have so willingly invested in India despite the odds.
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