The Ayodhya verdict came in the expected lines. Except the self-proclaimed intellectuals, the verdict appears to have been accepted by all the parties concerned.
There are odd noises here and there, ironically not from the litigants, but from the onlookers who have almost zero stake in the dispute. It does not matter to these armchair critics that the Supreme Court had taken years to arrive at the verdict, after considering all the evidences possible.
When the wounds of Partition were raw, Sardar Patel, with the blessing of Gandhiji, set on the path of restoring the Somnath Temple.
Gandhiji’s only condition was that the temple had to be built with the contribution from the public. Somnath Temple in Gujarat, one of the 12 most important Shiva temples of India, had repeatedly bore the brunt of iconoclastic Islamic invaders. The structure was in ruins, with a dilapidated mosque functioning in it, when Patel decided to restore the temple.
Though neither Patel nor Gandhiji lived to see the restoration of the temple, it must be noted that Nehru was the prime minister at that time. The mosque in the site was shifted away without demolishing it. There were no notable protests either from the Muslim community or from any other citizens. Despite Nehru’s misgivings, President Dr Rajendra Prasad inaugurated the restored temple.
Notwithstanding the desperate attempt by the Hindu right to appropriate Sardar Patel to their fold in the recent times, no one would accuse Patel of being a Hindu fundamentalist.
He was a true-blooded Congressman and stood shoulder to shoulder with Nehru. One of Patel’s first act after becoming the deputy prime minister was to ban all the Hindu right-wing organisations.
He didn’t lift the ban until he obtained written declaration from them that they accept Indian constitution, national anthem and flag and would not resort to violence.
Why did a man like Patel go out of his way to rebuild an old temple? The answer perhaps lies in his understanding of Indian history and its people.
India has a bloody history of invasion and religious persecution. The invaders like Babur or Mahmud of Ghazni used jihad as a tool to gain political power. Politics of any era has always found fanning religious sentiments an easy way to power. The temples of Somnath, Mathura, Ayodhya, Kashi etc were razed down and mosques were built over them to humiliate the vanquished.
There is no point judging the past with the ethical and moral standards of the present. However, the memory of religious wounds continues to fester for thousands of years.
One must see this issue from the point of view of an average Hindu. Kashi, Ayodhya and Mathura are as holy to him as Mecca is to a Muslim or Jerusalem is to a Christian.
For many common Hindus cutting across language, caste, and geography, visiting these holy cities are the most important aspect of their lives.
When they visit these cities, they see a mosque built by an invader staring at them back with all the weight of the history.
These mosques do not represent Islam. They are just political statements made by tyrants of a bygone era. Why should any citizen of India, irrespective of their religion, identify themselves with the invaders?
The thought that an average Muslim citizen of India would like to identify with an invader like Babur or Mahmud of Ghazni than an Abul Kalam Azad is an insult to our Muslim brethren.
Often, the liberals appeal to the masses that we should forget history. In countries like Germany, the denial of Holocaust is a criminal offence. Ironically, the brutal invasions that India faced and the millions who perished in such invasions in the last thousand years (as per the sources of the invaders themselves) are routinely denied in the history texts and public discourses.
The same liberals are in a hurry to point out the inhuman atrocities of caste system at every conceivable opportunity.
The caste system deserves all the criticism heaped on it and it is India’s eternal shame. Would we keep the symbols of caste system alive and advise the victims not to be concerned about its historical wrongs? Would anyone shame Jews as fanatics if they talk about the Holocaust?
The pilgrim goes back to his home from these holy cities with a heaviness in his heart, only to be lectured to build a school or a hospital in that site.
Why they should be built specifically on a few acres of land that most people in this country consider holy is beyond his simple mind.
It is easy to forgive historical wrongs, but to forget them, such symbols of humiliation should not be there. An average Hindu, who consists of almost 80 per cent in the voters list, can be easily swayed by what he perceives as injustice.
These are fault lines in our democracy which the militant Hindu right wing is exploiting for political gains. A sensible Muslim leadership would have handed over these three holy sites to Hindus as a gesture of goodwill.
That would have finished the Hindu right. Patel had foreseen the danger and had effectively stalled the Hindu right for many years by the restoration of Somnath Temple. Had destiny given him a few more years, he would have perhaps respectfully shifted the mosques away before building the temples, like how Somnath was restored.
The Supreme Court has effectively taken the wind out of the Hindutva fanatics’ sail by this judgement. The criminal act of destroying Babri Masjid while the matter was sub-judice is another matter. Let us hope that this criminal case under the court’s consideration is taken to the logical end and all the culprits are punished as per the law of the land.