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Babri Masjid and India’s Muslim-Hindus

November 23, 2009

There has been an up-roar in the Parliament today. The reason was that the Indian Express has published a story saying that the Justice Liberhan Commission report that was submitted in June of this year has indicted Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Lal Krishna Advani and Murlai Manohar Joshi in the Babri demolition case. This has seen the opposition in an expectedly belligerent mood. The Treasury Benches were sitting pretty, most of the senior leaders including Pranab Mukherjee and P. Chidambram had a faint smile on their faces. Politics was what was being played in the galleries of power. The Congress Party has hit two birds with one stone. While they have been able to put the opposition on the back foot with the good old ‘communal stick’ and the Liberhan Commission report was as good a stick as they could get they have also reminded the voters in Jharkhand of their secular credentials. The other more important need for this leak was that the Congress Party being the ruling coalition was being seen as anti-farmers. It is another matter that Rahul Gandhi met the Prime Minister and impressed upon him the need to revise the decision on the minimum price of sugarcane.  Suddenly the huge farmer’s rally that was organized in Delhi has been pushed to oblivion and Babri demolition is in the news headlines. Now the Congress can claim that it was the Yuvraj, Rahul Gandhi who made the government change their decision and that it is the Gandhi family that cares for the farmers and the poor of this country. The more I look at the sordid politics being played in the name of religion and crass parochial issues being raised again and again, it hurts the sensibilities of ordinary Indians.

Babri Masjid prior to 1992

The fact is that this whole issue of the shahadat (martyrdom) of Babri Masjid is a creation of those forces that were out to pander to the basest sensibilities of the ‘minority community’ (read Muslims).  The Muslims were not as aggrieved as the ‘secular brigade’ that has not stopped crying hoarse trying to bully the Bharatiya Janata Party and their affiliates. This is an old Congress ploy to cow down any time the Hindus try to assert themselves. This has been done so many times so successfully that it amazes many as to how can a people be targeted so blatantly for so long so brazenly. The innate lackadaisical attitude of the Hindus who are divided in castes and sub castes is to be blamed. The Muslims were understanding the sentiments of their Hindu brethren and were even ready to help Hindus build a temple at the place where the Babri Masjid stood. It is the place believed to be the birthplace of Lord Ram. The Muslims were large hearted enough and would have willingly given that place for a temple to be built. The Hindu organizations had even decided that as a token of their benevolence a respected Muslim or a Muslim child would be requested to lay the foundation stone for the proposed temple. But the ‘secular’ forces would have none of this and they went to town at their absolute ‘outrage’ at the shahdat of the Babri Masjid.  Bloody riots broke out in Mumbai. Hundreds of temples were demolished in neighboring Bangladesh and Pakistan. Hindus were targeted in both these countries. Reminds me of the times when the country was facing an imminent partition. The Congress could easily have decided on a peaceful transfer of population. But they did not. They even refused to acknowledge that they were signing the document of the acceptance of partition as representatives of Hindus. What followed was carnage on both sides.

The shahadat of Babri Masjid was of little consequence. The Muslims of India just did not care a fig for a building that was a decrepit structure that was in disuse and nobody had offered namaz for decades.  Politics was at a premium and what the nation got was chaos and bloodshed in the name of ‘secularism’. This rabblerousing of the Congress and their socialist Left partners has cost the country a lot. These are the people who are just not secular and do not want that the two major communities live in peace. Because if there is brotherhood between Hindus and Muslims they will not be able to garner votes and win elections. They have therefore instilled a fear psychosis among Muslims. It is a known fact that till middle of the nineteenth century the Babri Masjid was a place where both Hindus and Muslims would pray together. It was a symbol of brotherhood among the two communities. It was after the 1857 gadar (uprising) that the British started their policy of ‘divide and rule’ and the Muslims were encouraged not to let the Hindus pray there. Then they built what is called the Ram chabutra. The locks to the Ram temple were opened during Rajiv Gandhi’s reign. What happened next is well known.

There is this other fact about the Muslims of India. They are unlike Muslims anywhere else. They are Indian Muslims and they have traditionally been liberal. The question is why? For the simple reason that Muslims have imbibed a lot from the Hindu culture. Most of the terrorists are foreigners. Indian Muslims resorting to terrorism is uncommon. They may get swayed by the religious rhetoric from time to time but by and large the Indian Muslims are what one may call with a lot of respect ‘Hinduized’. They see themselves as an extension of the majority that is Hindu. The Pakistanis therefore do not like Indian Muslims and scornfully call them names insisting that they have been ‘Hinduized’. It is true that Indian Muslims are different. The Ganga-Jamuni tehzib is omnipresent and vibrant. Were it not for radical ranting of some of the extreme elements among the Muslims (as there are among Hindus too) the Muslims will be willing to be a part of the Hindu mainstream. They would not shy away even from going to Hindu temples, as a mark of respect. But that would be anathema for the secular intellectual press and those self proclaimed ‘secularists’. What a few bulldozers should have done in broad daylight with the express permission from the district authorities and with the active participation of the local Muslim leadership has been turned to a monster called the shahdat of Babri Masjid on the dreaded 6th of December, 1992. I am told half a dozen people died trying to break the structure with their bare hands and some rudimentary axes and iron rods, till the dome collapsed killing a few!! What could be sillier? Had the two communities been allowed to confer, the Muslims would have initiated the demolition of the structure. Babri Masjid was not something that the Muslims cherished and more so when they knew that for their fellow Hindu brothers it meant the world as the belief is that Lord Ram was born there. They are magnanimous enough. And we know it. The brouhaha has led to riots and setting up of a commission that has taken all of 17 long years to submit its report. The Congress has not stopped playing politics. They are now using this report to further browbeat the right wing parties. This has vitiated the atmosphere like nothing has. It is time the Muslims of this country tell the secularists in no uncertain terms that they do not need the largesse from their ‘secular’ friends and that they know their Hindu brothers enough that they will not be pushed into a corner fearing the ‘Hindu fundamentalists’. For the Muslims of this country have as much respect and reverence for Hindu gods and goddesses as do the Hindus themselves. They want to be a part of the mainstream and want to be accepted as such. They demand it as their right and will refuse any special privileges and any special treatment. This is already happening, but this will hasten were the Hindus more forthcoming and welcome the Muslims in their festivals and cultural activities. As for the BJP and the rest of the opposition, they must make sure that the focus does not deviate from the welfare of the farmers and that the people who feed this nation get their due. Rather than stalling the House insisting on tabling the Liberhan report they must insist that the issues of the farmers must be addressed and the government must reply as to how they decided on the ridiculous price of Rs 130 per quintal for sugar cane when the retail price of sugar is Rs 40 per kg. The government is responsible for the price rise and that is the issue. Babri is an old hackneyed story that the people of India have consigned to the dustbin of history. Indians, whether Hindus or Muslims need food on their table, and that is the issue. Muslims do not care a fig about Babri Masjid. What they hate is the blatant manner in which they are used to score political points. What the common Indian is concerned about is that their kids sleep with a full stomach at night. And on this basic issue, the government has failed miserably. The opposition would not be doing their duty were they to allow the government to get away on this core issue yet again. Neither the Hindus nor the Muslims of this country would forgive them then.

Addendum: Much as the Hindus would like to build a temple, it is also true that the Babri Masjid was a beautiful structure that should have been taken lock-stock and barrel to another place. It was an archaeologist’s delight and beautifully made.  An archaeological treasure has been lost. There is technology available that could have easily moved the Masjid to another place where Muslims could have prayed regularly. This would have been the best solution. We need to be more sensitive to our own heritage.  But such obvious solutions do do not register on our political leadership.

Update 25.11.2009: The precious Muslim votes it seems are laid on the table for the one that makes the most noise and panders to their ‘needs’ the most. Mr. Amar Singh of the Samajwadi Party indulged in fist fight with Mr. Ahluwalia of the BJP on the issue of tabling the Liberhan report and the contents therein. It was a grandstanding of sorts by Amar Singh in the most ugly manner, trying to win over the Muslim votes. Mr. Ahluwalia was, it seems cementing the Hindu votes. I am sure they are very good friends and this was just a show for the TV cameras that are installed in both the houses of parliament. They think that they have made a smart political move, it also shows their desperateness especially after receiving a drubbing in the recently held by-polls in UP. Later Amer Singh apologized to the house for his behavior, but he made a political point which he believes will pay him rich electoral dividends next time around. Naviety, thy name is the politicians of our country.

Update 30.11.2009: There was this one case of a Hindu boy marrying a Muslim girl. His parents were so incensed that they tortured their son to death. The poor girl reported the matter to the police unable to fathom as to what wrong had her husband done. This kind of cruelty and barbarism cannot be tolerated in an open society like ours. Such acts must be condemned and the perpetrators brought to book.

Update 18.02.2010: The new BJP president Nitin Gadakari has called on the Muslims to come forward and help build the Ram temple at Ayodhya. This is a welcome move and the Muslims of our country must come forward and take up the cudgels, regardless of what some of the so called ‘secular’ parties are saying. There must be a consensus on this among the Muslims and they should participate in this endeavour with enthusiasm and bhakti, which they do not lack. Let the divisive forces be shunned such that they cannot raise their ugly head ever again. Gadakari must also call on the Jamiat -i- Hind Ulema so that there is a consensus and a precedence is set and the ball is set rolling. And yes, the Ram temple should be open to all, irrespective of the bhakta’s religious affiliation.

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