Moving on from conflict to transformation

Nonetheless, the destruction of temples in the distant past and the demolition of the Babri masjid in the recent past are faits accomplis.
South African anti-Apartheid icon Archbishop Desmond Tutu
South African anti-Apartheid icon Archbishop Desmond Tutu(Photo | Express)

As expected, the inauguration of the Ram temple in Ayodhya by Prime Minister Narendra Modi elicited a profusion of diametrically opposite reactions. For some, the pran pratishtha marked the consecration of Hinduism as a political religion. For others, the new temple augurs a new Bharat and a new planetary consciousness centred in India.

Several foreign publications made it a point to remind their readers that the new temple was inaugurated on the site of the “razed Babri mosque”.

Interestingly, in an article published on the inauguration day, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat too spoke of the destruction of religious places. But he limited himself to describing how “foreign invaders destroyed temples in India” to “demoralise Bharatiya society” and rule it. “The demolition of Shri Ram temple in Ayodhya was also done with the same intention and for the same purpose,” Bhagwat asserted.

Some Muslim rulers indeed destroyed Hindu temples. But it must be mentioned for the record that the final, November 2019 Supreme Court judgement in the Ayodhya dispute found “no evidence” to declare that “the pre-existing structure” below the Babri masjid “was demolished for the construction of the mosque”. Contrarily, the Supreme Court held that the “damage to the [Babri] mosque in 1934, its desecration in 1949 leading to the ouster of the Muslims and the eventual destruction on 6 December 1992 constituted a serious violation of the rule of law”.

Nonetheless, the destruction of temples in the distant past and the demolition of the Babri masjid in the recent past are faits accomplis. Hindus, Muslims and social commentators must understand that raking up these issues would only keep the pot boiling. We need to move on for at least three reasons. One, present-day Muslims are not responsible for the crimes of their ancestors committed centuries ago. Two, Muslims have displayed full faith in the judicial impartiality of the Supreme Court and accepted the finality of its ruling even though it went against them. Three, the Ram mandir at Ayodhya is a recognised reality.

The way forward

Although the consecrated temple came up in contentious circumstances, the fact remains that Lord Ram has always been held in high esteem by Indian Muslims. The poet Allama Iqbal called him the spiritual leader of India (imam-e-Hind) and praised his valour (shuja’at) and purity (paakeezgi). Most importantly, the Babri masjid case was not against Lord Ram. It was a property dispute.

The progress of India, therefore, depends on the moral sensibility and political sagacity that Hindus and Muslims are willing to display to accept these realities. This is what Bhagwat meant when he wrote that “enlightened people of the society must see that the dispute ends completely”. He emphasised the need to build a “courageous society based on equal justice without exploitation, endowed with strength as well as compassion”.

The prime minister, too, in his speech pointed out that January 22 was “not only a moment of celebration” but “also a moment of realisation of the maturity of Indian society”. He wanted Indians to know that “Ram is not a dispute, Ram is a solution”, and in this spirit, dedicate themselves to nation-building using their “collective and organised power”.

Unfortunately, there are people who disagree. On January 22, a group of Hindus allegedly hoisted saffron flags atop a mosque in Agra district to celebrate the new temple. Around the same time, communal tensions were triggered in Maharashtra when another group of Hindus raised slogans of ‘Jai Shri Ram’ opposite a mosque.

Not long ago, clamorous calls for the annihilation of Muslims were issued by a group of saffron-clad Hindus during a dharam sansad (religious parliament) held in Haridwar. One of the speakers also sought the conversion of India into a “Sanatan Vedic Hindu Rashtra”.

Thankfully, senior BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad has assured that “we would not go in for a theocracy”. In 2016, RSS General Secretary Dattatreya Hosabale had also made it clear that “India will never be made into a theocratic State and will never become one”.

Nonetheless, the inciteful behaviour of some Hindu groups goes against the prime minister’s belief that the “prestige of Ram Lalla is also the prestige of the idea of vasudhaiva kutumbakam”, and could possibly destroy India’s reputation as an inclusive democracy.  If the prime minister’s vision is to be realised these groups must not be allowed to deny Muslims their constitutional rights, especially the right to coexist with Hindus peacefully.

Muslims too must summon the courage to extricate themselves from the narrow-mindedness of some of their religious leaders who want them to live in mental ghettoes by wrongly advising them that it is un-Islamic to even greet non-Muslims on their festivals such as Deepavali or Christmas.

India is a multi-religious and multi-cultural society, and any attempt by Muslims to isolate themselves and seek refuge in religious identitarianism would be counter-productive. Similarly, attempts to impose a single culture across the country would fail.

The Promotion of National Unity and Reconciliation Act 34 of 1995, which established the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in post-apartheid South Africa, speaks of the need for what it calls ubuntu. It comes from the Zulu phrase “umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu”, which means that a person is a person through other people.

Let the idea of ubuntu inspire Hindus and Muslims to go beyond conflict resolution into the realm of conflict transformation, by which both communities join hands to work towards the larger goal of making India an epitome of peace, stability and progress.

(Views are personal)

A Faizur Rahman, Secretary general, Islamic Forum for the Promotion of Moderate Thought

(themoderates2020@gmail.com)

(On X @FaizEngineer)

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