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Symbol of an awakened civilisation
February 10, 2003
The real India is waking up to a new, historical reality. This awakening is a result of the unfolding of a mighty creative genius of millions of unknown Indians whose names are not known and whose lives are nothing special to remember otherwise. It is they who can metaphorically be descried as the 'Real Bharat.' They are charting a new course for the future of our country. The historic Ram Janambhoomi movement is but a symbol of that new awakening -- a symbol that reminds the world that India, at last, is becoming alive to its history.
It is not just a movement for a temple. It manifests the innate yearning of a people for self-respect and honour, an urge to unshackle themselves from the humiliations history heaped on it. It happens to every country; in fact it has happened several times in the history of several countries.
'As I have been speaking, some vivid visual memories have been flashing up in the mind's eye. One of these is the picture of the principal square in the Polish city of Warsaw sometime in the late nineteen twenties. In the course of the first Russian occupation of Warsaw (1914-1915) the Russians had built an Eastern Orthodox Christian cathedral on this central spot in the city that had been the capital of the once independent Roman Catholic Christian country Poland. The Russians had done this to give the Poles a continuous ocular demonstration that the Russians were their masters. After re-establishment of Poland's independence in 1918, the Poles pulled this cathedral down. The demolition had been completed just before the date of my visit. I do not greatly blame the Polish government for having pulled down that Russian church. The purpose for which the Russians had built it had been not religious but political, and the purpose had also been intentionally offensive,' says universally acclaimed historian Sir Arnold Toynbee.
In Turkey, they turned the Church of Santa Sophia into a mosque. In Nicosia churches were converted into mosques. The Spaniards spent many centuries re-conquering their land from Muslim invaders.
About India this was what Toynbee had to say: 'Aurangzeb's purpose in building those three mosques (Ayodhya, Kashi and Mathura) was the same intentionally offensive political purpose that moved the Russians to build their Orthodox cathedral in the city centre at Warsaw. Those mosques were intended to signify that an Islamic government was reigning supreme, even over Hinduism's holiest of holy places. I must say that Aurangzeb had a veritable genius for picking out provocative sites. Aurangzeb and Philip II of Spain are a pair. They are incarnations of the gloomily fanatical vein in the Christian-Muslim-Jewish family of religions. Aurangzeb -- poor wretched misguided bad man -- spent a lifetime of hard
Medieval Indian history is replete with instances of wanton aggression on its holy places by Muslim hordes. Innumerable instances of defaced Hindu idols and destroyed Hindu/Jain/Buddhist holy places stare at us everywhere. These destructions were not done just for the sake of fun as some eminent Indian (read Marxist) historians would want us to believe. These were deliberate acts of religious vandalism perpetrated by intolerant Islamic invaders.
However, one would be grossly and sadly mistaken if he confuses the present day awakening in the form of the Ram Janambhoomi movement to an effort to 'avenge the historic wrongs.' Many so-called liberal (euphemism for Marxist) intellectuals spread this canard either deliberately (most probable) or at times out of ignorance (rare).
The movement for the Ram Janambhoomi is basically a movement for the self-assertion of a civilisation. It is a wounded civilisation trying to re-invent its roots. It has to be understood properly, instead of dismissed with contempt. That is what Sir Vidia Naipaul also says: 'If people just acknowledged history, certain deep emotions of shame and defeat would not be driven underground and would not find this rather nasty and violent expression. As people become more secure in India, as a middle and lower middle class begins to grow, they will feel this emotion more and more. And it is in these people that deep things are stirred by what was, clearly, a very bad defeat. The guides who take people around the temples of Belur and Halebid are talking about this all the time. I do not think they were talking about it like that when I was there last, which is about 20 something years ago. So new people come up and they begin to look at their world and from being great acceptors, they have become questioners. And I think we should simply try to understand this passion. It is not an ignoble passion at all. It is men trying to understand themselves. Do not dismiss them. Treat them seriously.' ('The truth governs writing,' an interview by Sadanand Menon, The Hindu, July 5, 1998)
The movement has reached a historic stage after the demolition of the non-mosque in 1992. It was a non-mosque because it was never used by Muslims after 1934. It was never registered as a waqf property by any of the Sunni or Shia boards anywhere in UP or the country. There was no Muttawalli/Imam attached to it. In effect, it ceased to be a mosque at least since 1934. And what is more, it was – and still is – a functioning temple at least since 1949.
Hence, what was destroyed in a very unfortunate incident on December 6, 1992 was a non-mosque and a functioning temple only. The destruction was a result of the pent up frustration caused by the inordinate delays and insensitive approach of a section of leaders.
The dispute reached the Supreme Court in 1993 when the government of the day referred to it the core question of whether a Hindu temple existed at the disputed site before the construction of the mosque or not. Declining to answer the core question, the five-member Supreme Court bench in its judgment in October 1994 said keeping aside the disputed land of 2.77 acres on which the make-shift Ram temple stands today, the remaining land of about 67 acres may be returned to its owners if the government thinks such a step would not hamper the legal proceedings on the disputed site.
It is pertinent to note here that there is no dispute about the ownership of this land or its title in any court anywhere. This undisputed land was acquired by the Union government in 1993 along with the disputed land. There was a move by the central government in 2002 to hand over this undisputed land to its original owners including the Ram Janambhoomi Nyas. The Nyas on its part was willing to give an undertaking to the effect that it would provide a corridor to the disputed site as access in case the judgment on that site went the other way. However, a public interest litigation was filed by a Muslim individual acting upon which a three-member Supreme Court bench asked the Government of India to
All that the leaders of the movement are asking at this point in time is that their part of the undisputed site be returned to them. It does in no way affect the judicial proceedings on the disputed site. The Government of India has moved an application in the Supreme Court seeking vacation of the status quo order so that it can implement the 1994 judgment.
While the facts of the matter clearly indicate the demand of the leaders of the movement is fully legal and constitutional, -- at no point in time are they demanding that the disputed site be handed over to them -- a campaign of calumny full of falsehood and insinuation has been unleashed by a section of intellectuals.
It is a tragedy that these intellectuals fail to understand the movement in its entirety. This is what Sir Vidia had to say about them: 'Indian intellectuals, who want to be secure in their liberal beliefs, may not understand what is going on, especially if these intellectuals happen to be in the United States. But every other Indian knows precisely what is happening: deep down he knows that a larger response is emerging even if at times this response appears in his eyes to be threatening.'
And this is the advice he has for those intellectuals: 'It is not enough to abuse them or to use that fashionable word from Europe: fascism. There is a big, historical development going on in India. Wise men should understand it and ensure that it does not remain in the hands of fanatics. Rather they should use it for the intellectual transformation of India.' ('An area of awakening,' interview by Dileep Padgaonkar, The Times of India, July 18, 1993)
So much transformation has taken place in the intellectual world after 1993 that a large section of our intelligentsia understands and appreciates the significance of this movement today.
Let me end by quoting Dr Rajendra Prasad during the renovation of the historic Somnath temple in 1950 which was vandalised by a 11th century Muslim invader, Mohammad Ghazni.
'By rising from its ashes again, this temple of Somnath will proclaim to the world that no man and no power in the world can destroy that for which people have boundless faith and love in their hearts... Today, our attempt is not to rectify history. Our only aim is to proclaim anew our attachment to the faith, convictions and to the values on which our religion has rested since immemorial ages.'
Just replace Somnath with Ayodhya.
Ram Madhav is joint spokesman for the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh