As the sting operation by investigative website Cobrapost on the 1992 Babri Mosque demolition at Ayodhya, is released, I thought I could share this article on Ayodhya which I wrote in 1992 for the Mumbai newspaper Blitz
THE SYMBOL OF AYODHYA
How many of those who have lambasted so many times the “Hindu fundamentalists” and lamented the destruction of the Babri Masjid mosque as the “death of secularism in India”, have been to Ayodhya? (not Faizabad, mind you, which is Ayodhya’s twin Muslim city). When one arrived in Ayodhya before the destruction of the mosque, one was struck by the fact that it was a Hindu town “par excellence”. More than Benares even, it is dotted everywhere with innumerable temples; it has all these old Hindus houses and this lovely river with its ghats which runs through the lower town. And then, forlorn on the top, there was this lone mosque with its two ugly domes, which looked so out of place and unused, that any one with a right sense -and that includes the Muslims- should see that it was not worth making an issue of. The destruction of the Babri Masjid still evokes such fiery reactions, that the importance of Ayodhya has been totally overlooked: Ayodhya is a symbol, through which two India’s are facing each other. And the outcome of their confrontation will shape the future of this country for generations to come.
The first India wants to be secular and unite together through an egalitarian, democratic spirit all the minorities, ethnic groups, religions and people of the country. But the question is: what would be the binding element of this kind of India? Secularism, says the first side. But secularism has a different meaning for each one. For the British, it was a convenient way to divide and rule, by treating each Indian community on par, although some were in minority and others in majority, thereby planting the seeds of separatisms. For the Congress Party, it has always meant giving in to the Muslims’ demands, because its leaders never could really make out if the allegiance of Indian Muslims first want to India and then to Islam – or vice-versa. And for India’s intelligentsia, its writers, journalists, top bureaucrats, the majority of whom are Hindus, it means, apart from belittling its own religion and brothers, an India which would be a faithful copy of the West: liberal, modern, atheist, industrialized, intellectual and western-oriented.
Moreover, what makes India unique? Certainly not its small elite which apes the West; there are millions of these western clones in the developing world who wear a tie, read the New York Times and swear by liberalism and secularism to save their countries from doom. Nor its modern youth, whom you meet in Delhi’s swank parties, who are full of the MTV culture, wear the latest Klein jeans and Lacoste T Shirts, and who in general are useless, fat, rich parasites, in a country which has so many talented youngsters who live in poverty. Not even its political, bureaucratic and judicial system; it’s a copy of the British set up, which is not fully adapted to India’s unique character and conditions. What then?
The second India which is confronting the other through the Ayodhya issue is, of course, the India of the Hindus. When Imam Bhukari states that “we (the Mughals) gave everything to this country, its culture, its manners, its arts, and the Hindus by destroying the Babri Masjid showed how little gratitude they have”, apart from making a pompous declaration, he proclaims exactly the opposite of the reality. Because the truth is that not only Hinduism is what makes India unique, so different from all the other nations of the world, but it is the single most important influence in Indian history. In the words of Sri Aurobindo, India’s Great Sage and Modern Age Avatar: “The inner principle of Hinduism, the most tolerant and receptive of all religious systems, is not sharply exclusive like the religious spirit of Christianity or Islam…it is the fulfillment of the highest tendencies of human civilisation and it will include in its sweep the most vital impulses of modern life..”
And indeed, if you look at India today, you find that Hinduism has permeated, influenced, shaped, every part of this country, every religion, every culture. Be it the Christians who are like no other Catholics of the world, or Indian Muslims, who whatever they may say, are utterly different from their brothers in Saudi Arabia. But Hinduism is too narrow a word, it’s a corruption of the original word “Indu”, for true Hinduism is Dharma, India’s infinite and eternal spiritual knowledge, which took shape into so many varied expressions throughout the ages, be it the Vedantas, Buddhism, or the Arya Samaj and which is today still very much alive in India, particularly in its rural masses, which after all constitute 80% of its population. And the words of the great Sage still echo in our ears: “Each nation is a shakti or power of the evolving spirit in humanity and lives by the principle it embodies. India is the Bharata Shakti, the living energy of a great spiritual conception- and fidelity to it is the very principle of her existence…But we must have a firm faith that India must rise and be great and that everything that happened, every difficulty, every reverse must help and further the end…”
What one has to grasp is that the issue of Ayodhya only makes sense when the immense harm the Muslims did to India is not negated, as indeed it has been and still is today in the official History books in the West – and sadly in India also. The Muslim jehad against Hindus, alas, continues even today, whether in Kashmir, where the last Hindus were made to flee in terror, or in Bangladesh and Pakistan, where the crowds still regularly go on rampage against Hindus and their temples (as told by a Bangladeshi Muslim herself, Talisma Nasreen). It is in this light, that it becomes extraordinary for an impartial observer to see today that when for once, the Hindus wanted to displace, not even to destroy, ONE mosque and rebuild the “temple”, which they believe was built in this particular place, for one of their most cherished Gods, the one which is loved universally by all, men, women, children, THEY were treated as rabid fundamentalists. The great Mughals must be laughing all the way down their graves! What a reversal of situation! What a turnabout of history! And when the mosque was destroyed, it evoked such fiery reactions, such pompous, overblown, sanctimonious, holier-than-thou, atrocious, ridiculous, sly and totally undeserved outrage, both within India and in the Western world (who should be the last one to give lessons to India), that the importance of Ayodhya as a symbol has been totally overlooked.
The obvious trap is to think that the demolition of the mosque in Ayodhya is something to gloat about and that it is the duty of all good Hindus to see that other important mosques at Mathura, Vanarasi, or elsewhere, be also razed to the ground; or that all cities with a Muslim name be renamed with a Hindu one. This is not true Hinduism, which has always shown its tolerance and accepted in its fold other creeds and faiths. Indeed a true “Indu” India will be secular in the correct sense of the term: it will give freedom to each religion, each culture, so that it develops itself in the bosom of a Greater India, of which dharma, true spirituality, will be the cementing factor.
Nevertheless, the destruction of the Babri Masjid, however unfortunate, has made its point: the occult Mughal hold over Hindu India has been broken and centuries of Hindu submission erased. Hindus have proved that they too can fight.
* The author, is the correspondent in South Asia of Le Figaro, France’s largest circulation newspaper.