I wrote this article two and a half years back, advocating the idea that Muslims should come out in the support of the Ram temple. Most of the national publications of India refused to publish this article because the idea was against the zeitgeist of the time, or rather way ahead of its time. However, today the article becomes relevant because the idea proposed in this article has finally come true, though partially, in the fact that the Shia Central board has finally come out in the support of the Ram Temple.
For the last thirty years, if any political issue has been the most controversial and influential one in India then it is the Ram temple movement. In terms of its effect, the issue completely changed the political discourse in India and heralded a new era of politics in India. . Riding on the Ram Temple movement BJP had a meteoric rise from two seats (1984) to largest party in the parliament (1996). It marked the onset of the downfall of Congress and today, in India, the BJP which was once considered a communal and fascist progeny of RSS is the ruling party led by a man who is hated and liked equally.
Unfortunately, an informed and nuanced political debate on this issue has been lacking since the beginning. The left-wing historians, intellectuals, politicians and journalists have always held the Hindutva brigade in utter disdain, and their elitist attitude have always tried to banish them from the political discourse as sword and trident-wielding militant and communal scum, violating the sacrosanct secular spirit of India, and unworthy of giving a serious thought. On the other hand, aggressive postures from the saffron leadership have vitiated the political atmosphere, increasing the communal frictions between Hindus and Muslims.
Before I begin to delve deeper into the subject, I would like to state categorically that I condemn the violent demolition of Babri Masjid in the harshest manner possible. But, having said this, I would like to argue that the Muslims of India could consider supporting the Ram temple movement.
If Muslims get offended by the demolition of one ordinary mosque, then they must think of what Hindus might have gone through when their prominent shrines like Ayodhya, Mathura, Kashi Vishwanath and Somanth were being ravaged, and they were being massacred and forcefully converted in thousands. It is a historical fact that some Muslim invaders ruthlessly demolished the temples and took the titles of “butshikan” i.e. the temple-destroyer. If Muslims take pride in Tajmahal and Akbar’s catholicity, then they can also admit the sins of some of the Muslim rulers, going beyond the rigid prism of religious bigotry. In no way, I am suggesting that today’s Muslims be held responsible for what some rulers did in the past. Neither am I suggesting any atonement for the sins of the past. However, as a goodwill gesture, it is expected that Muslims understand the Hindu sentiments when it comes to Ayodhya, Somnath, Mathura, and Banaras, because, the Muslims of present generation consider themselves the inheritors of the great Mughal heritage and the Islamic cultural and religious tradition. Secondly, when Babur’s commander destroyed the Ram temple, he represented an invader force demolishing the Hindu structure out of religious bigotry, to assert their religious and cultural superiority, not out of any political or secular motive, as contended by red-coloured historians (Marxist) in the case of Gaznavi and Aurangzeb.
Very often, the red brigade is vocal against British colonialism and quite frank in its apologetic defence of the Muslim rulers. The argument presented is that unlike the British, the Mughals had settled in India and adopted it as their own country. The case is feeble and baseless. Mughals did not go back because they could not though they tried hard till the reign of Shah Jahan to recover the homelands in Central Asia. Secondly, even after staying in India for a century, if Aurangzeb dared to destroy Mathura and Kashi Vishwanath, then it merely shows the contempt and hatred which he had for Hindus and their religious beliefs. He might have adopted India as homeland because he had been staying in India for long, but he could not develop any respect and tolerance towards Hindus. He and the others of his ilk adopted India as their territorial conquest whose subjects are to be enslaved and forcibly converted to Islam, just like many Islamic fanatics of Pakistan consider India as their country and think of Gajwa-e-Hind, i.e., the re-conquest of India by Muslims. In their attempts to exonerate Aurangzeb, that smack of intellectual dishonesty, biases and communal mindset, they at best, end up proving him a cunning politician with no morals, but not at all a secular ruler. Instead, I recommend that they must use their energies in researching on Dara Shikoh, about whom we hardly know anything and whose secular credentials are beyond doubt. Hindu rulers like Rashtrakutas and Zamorin of Malabar gave complete religious freedom to Muslims and let them build mosques in their kingdoms. Muslims as a sign of gratitude to the above mentioned Hindu rulers who gave ample religious freedom to their ancestors, and as a sign of respect for the sentiments of present day Hindus should voluntarily come out and support Ram temple movement.
We are so hyper-nationalist when it comes to Kohinoor, and when Dr. Tharoor asks for reparations to British in Oxford University, then why can’t we ask the Muslims for a very puny and symbolic atonement for the sins of those rulers who existed just fifty years before the beginning of British empire in India. The argument presented is that how far we go back into history. Well, first of all, the Babri Masjid row did not originate in the 1980s. It has always existed in the minds of people since the demolition, just like the memories of Somnath still haunt the Gujarati conscience. As early as 1859, Hindu-Muslim riots over the possession of the mosque are reported in British documents. Secondly, if Sunni Muslims can continue the 7th-century tradition of fighting Shias, if the clerics can take pride in the invaders of the 10th century then why can’t Hindus ask for the restoration of the temples demolished in 16th and 17th century?
Thirdly, historians have always been using the above logic with discrimination which smacks of dishonesty. When they use the contemporary Marxist analytical frameworks developed in European societies, to analyze the social, cultural and religious phenomenon of the caste system which originated about 2500 years ago in India, then they go against their theoretical foundations. When they are going into the remote past to analyze the present then how can they do it the other way round, i.e., use the present to explain what happened 2500 years ago in a completely different socio-cultural and political context. When Marxist intellectuals are against seeking the compensation for temple demolitions which occurred two to three hundred years ago then on what grounds they can explain their entire anti-Brahmin academic and political narrative for something allegedly wrong that the Brahmins of pre-Christ society did. If this is the case, then there is no justification for any affirmative action also, for the lower castes. Blaming the British as colonial exploiters and eulogizing the brutal bigots who existed 40-50 years before British as benevolent dictators, sounds unfair, dishonest and hypocritical.
Lastly, a mosque is merely a place of worship. It has no religious significance. In Saudi Arabia, many mosques have been demolished including the one where Prophet himself prayed. In Hinduism, the temples are erected after Pran-Pratishtha, and once it is done, they are considered conscious, and of utmost religious significance. Therefore, the Muslims of India should themselves volunteer to support this, movement. It will strengthen the multicultural foundations of India and enhance the bonding of love and harmony between Hindus and Muslims.
Two years back, I was delighted to hear Owaisi saying that Muslims will gladly accept the court’s decision, in his debate with Swamy. Today, when Shias have lent their support to the Ram temple, it seems that wisdom and ethics cannot be held hostage by the vested interests of some political parties. Moreover, if the Muslim support for the Rama temple is possible, it is possible in India only as India has a rich history of Hindu-Muslim harmony. Kabir, Raskhan, Dara Shikoh, Maulana Azad and Shri Abdul Kalam Azad are the products of the syncretic culture of Ganga-Jamni Tahzeeb that appears almost surreal in today’s world. India is the country, where despite the world’s second largest Muslim population, the number of Muslims joining ISIS could barely cross the mark of 100. To conclude, I would like to state that if the entire Muslim community comes out in support of Ram temple, it will be most shining example of peace and harmony to the world community and for that India’s Muslims will deserve nothing less than a Nobel prize.