Politically speaking, the last 30 years in India have been a roller-coaster ride. The fortunes of many political parties in India have drastically changed over the past three decades.
A party rose to power with a one-sided mandate in 2014 after having a measly two seats in 1984. On the other hand, another party which enjoyed an unprecedented mandate and had garnered 415 seats in the Lok Sabha elections in 1984, now finds itself with a meagre 44 seats.
They say that a lot can change in politics in a single day. However, the Ayodhya dispute is something that has not changed in its political intensity for 25 years now.
It is, has been and will always be in the news, and be used for political mileage.
It is significant that instead of solving this dispute, a party has fuelled this issue along lines of religion and risen to power in 2017. All the while, the other parties were wooing the people from socially and economically backward communities.
The writing on the wall, therefore, is that the Babri Masjid-Ram Mandir issue helped change the political fortunes of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Uttar Pradesh in 2017.
People of my age could only listen to news regarding the dispute and its politics. We rarely ‘experienced’ it for ourselves. However, due to the ‘simulative’ effects of religion-based majoritarian politics, we may well experience what it was like for the people victimised by the dispute during the early 1990s.
Evidently, political thought processes in India haven’t changed as we are still fighting over age-old issues.
I am sure that some people from that era do want to ‘relive’ the experiences of the Babri Masjid-Ram Mandir dispute in the late 1980s and the 1990s, today. After all, the BJP did cash on these wishes to rise to power in UP this year.
In the last few days, the dispute has been in the news again, as if this was the only ‘developmental’ agenda and ‘electoral promise’ that required completion and fulfillment. The infants who had only heard of the beginnings of the dispute in the 1990s are now youths who may well experience this dispute, first-hand. At the core, however, everything else remains unchanged.
As a society, are we moving back to those times when citizens were uniformly threatened and oppressed? Moreover, is everything being reduced to the level of political gimmickry?
After all, do we intend to go backwards and still fulfill all our individual wants, as well as the nation’s wants?
The Babri Masjid was supposedly constructed in the 16th century (some sources suggesting that it may have been earlier). The British administration recognised the tension between Hindus and Muslims, built a fence around the site and demarcated the spaces for Hindu and Muslim worship. This policy of appeasing both sides by ‘dividing and ruling’ continued for a long time.
The issue explicitly turned on its head in the 1980s, when claims of building a ‘Ram Mandir’ started to emerge. Thereafter, the policy no longer aimed at appeasing the sides concerned – rather, it divided the communities by asserting the power of one community over the other. Now this issue has been reduced to a matter of ego and pride for both communities.
To my belief, one goes to a religious place to attain peace and be purified, by expressing one’s love of god. This, in turn, strengthens one’s relationship with god.
But, how can either peace or purification be attained on a site stained with hatred, riots and the blood of numerous people?
I wonder – what will be achieved by naming it either as a site for a ‘temple’ or a ‘mosque’?
Why can’t the site be allocated for a quality hospital instead, where people irrespective of caste, religion, race, will be treated and be able to afford quality health service?
For that matter, why can’t it be allocated for quality educational institutions (like IITs and IIMs) either, which will impart knowledge to students from all sections of the society?
Wouldn’t these efforts be true services to the country and to god?
At a time when the world is looking up to India as a global powerhouse, we need to rise above century-old disputes and feuds. We need to significantly broaden our outlook for this purpose. At the same time, we should stay true to our roots and secure our cultures – but not by staining ourselves with the blood of people from other communities!
To sum up, I would like to quote Muhammad Iqbal:
“Sare jahan se accha hindostan hamara/ Hum bulbulain hai iss ki, yeh gulsitan hamara”
“Ghurbat men hon agar ham, rahta hai dil vatan men/ Samjho vahin hamen bhi, dil hain jahan hamara”
“Mazhab nahin sikhata apas men bayr rakhna/ Hindi hai ham, vatan hai hindostan hamara”
We must not let the ghosts of our past haunt us in our present! We must not let the divide widen further. We must unite and work for progress – this time, without masks!