I thought it was insensitive, even shameless. Today, 20 years later, instead of keeping quiet, since he cannot show any empathy, he sent a note about ‘The case for the Shri Ram Janmabhoomi movement’. At least today, he should have spared a thought for those 900 people killed in cold blood, hunted down because of the faith they were born in. Cops who took part in the pogrom were promoted; no politician was asked to resign.
But, then, he did not walk through those lanes, he did not smell the rotting flesh and the blood flowing in the sewers, he did not see broken homes, people fleeing, 200,000, mostly Muslim.
He is a man who matters, but he could be you. Yes, you. You, who talk about moving on, but are still stuck with a temple. You, who want Muslims to become part of the mainstream, but holy shit, you’ll point them out as beardos or pseudo seculars, depending on what you think of them at a given time. You, who talk about temples destroyed don’t even realise that we did not do it. You, who tell us about how Hindus suffer in Pakistan don’t understand that we are not Pakistani, we can’t do a thing about their Constitution. You, who tolerate us, cry about appeasement - when was the last time you appeased us by keeping your vile words against the ordinary Muslims to yourself? And you, who want us to be silent and not get so emotional: what about your hysterical pronouncements?
In the subsequent revenge bomb blasts, orchestrated by an underworld don and not by the local Muslim population, unlike what happened in Gujarat in 2002, 250 people died.
In the popular imagination of the 2008 attacks, people recall 1984 and 2002. 1992-93 has become a blip. You might remember it as an anniversary token, a hashtag. But, it has little political resonance. Unless, you want to send me that letter.Here it is, and my rebuttal (I have skipped untruths that I had earlier put forth in 'Uma Bhartiji, may I show you the light?'):
- "The issue is not one of bricks and mortar, i.e. it is not merely an issue of a temple. One more or one less temple does not give Ram bhakts any more or less opportunity to offer their prayers. The issue is related to our nationalism and our culture. Hindus have been making continuous effort for the recovery of the site. In 1885, a judge of the British colonial regime accepted that the site was holy for the Hindus. In the post-independence period, too, legal cases have been continuing for the recovery of the site."
Isn’t culture larger and more encompassing? How does a temple qualify as nationalism? Where was this nationalism centuries ago? Why were those cases not pursued or reached a conclusion? Why was there no move to demolish the Babri Masjid then? Why were there no riots for this all those years? Because the saffron parties got some national legitimacy at a time when the other political parties were fractured. So Hindutva was built over those ‘ruins’. Get it?
- "The Hindus believe that the place where the Babri structure stood is the birthplace of Shri Ram. This belief has a continuous tradition of more than 3000 years, as has been established by the archaeological investigation at the site. Such a long belief has to make it into a fact."
If belief could make things a fact, then the world ought to have ended. Even if one were to believe that archaeological investigations are right, how important is it for a temple to be constructed there? It can be proved that a temple existed, but there can be no foolproof evidence that Shri Ram was born there.
- "If the birthplace was somewhere else, there was no need for people to hold this place as sacred. After all, no one could imagine that some 2500 years later the holy site would be vandalised."
So, why did they wake up after 500 years? Is there any way to gauge that all those years ago people held it as sacred? People have shrines in their houses; they do not imagine it will be destroyed. Yet, it could well be. Will they return to it and want to rebuild it? What if that temple had been destroyed in a natural disaster?
- "In 1528 AD, the temple that stood at the site was deliberately destroyed with an objective of constructing the Babri structure in its place. The purpose of the construction was not religious but political, and the purpose had also been intentionally offensive. The intention was to give the Hindus a continuous ocular demonstration that Islam was reigning supreme, even over Hinduism's holy places."
I will not dispute this, as I have stated often that an invader does not come with an olive branch. But if it was not a religious act but political, then you are getting trapped in your own argument. That Hinduism was a political movement and has to be. Isn’t that why Hindutva cannot manage for long without raising this issue? Forget 1528. This is 2012. And you are yet at it. This is even more political because not only do you want to establish Hindutva supremacy over a democratic secular country, you also want to push the minorities into a corner for something they are not responsible. You are playing pathetic political games.
- "As a second best option, within 50 years the Hindus constructed a Ram Chabootar within the compound of the Babri structure. This was with an intention of keeping their claim to the site alive. Continuous pooja were being undertaken at the Chabootar. Now it is happening where the Shri Ram deity exists."
This is a makeshift structure and those who are offering prayers there are political activists. It has not become a pilgrimage site. And it is protected, not because it will be vandalised by Muslims (remember how the Shri Ram Sene men played dirty by hoisting a Pakistani flag at the secretariat in Bangalore hoping the Muslims would be held responsible?), but the saffron slaves to get some mileage when it is opportune to do so. It is also protected to give the impression that it is in grave danger.
- "All these efforts were frustrated not so much by an obscurantist Muslim leadership, but by the political and intellectual community who wear the label of secularism on their sleeves."
After all this, you exonerate the Muslim leadership. This is a really smart strategy. For, the case is sub judice. The courts have already decided on the distribution of the land. The Muslim leadership has stayed quiet because they can’t do a thing. I’d like to know how the intellectual community has prevented a temple from being built when they could not prevent the mosque from being demolished.
- "The issue has become politicised not because of the demand for the return of the site, but because of the denial of the holy significance of the site for the Hindus, and of the deliberate destruction of the temple in 1528."
This is going round in circles. If it is conceded as a holy site only, and the return is not significant, what do you want to prove? That it was destroyed? It was. Now what?
It is really simple. The Ram Janmabhoomi movement does not want a temple to be built because that would put an end to the dispute, and without the dispute they will not have a calling card to flash.
In all these years nothing has changed.
This is a small portion of what I wrote in 2008. The full piece is here at ‘1992 vs. 2008’:
In 16 years nothing has changed. A week after this carnage, a flight attendant serving on a private airline was pointedly asked by a passenger what religion she belonged to. He spewed out, "Why the bloody hell are you Muslims doing this to our country?"She calmly replied, "Sir, this is my country too."He shot back, "I don't think so, because people from your community are behind these attacks."She was on the verge of tears but said bravely, "Sorry Sir, they don't belong to India. They are not Indians."I have had 16 years of practice, yet sometimes the tears flow; sometimes I am taken aback.
It is 20 years now. I believed in nothing particularly. You foisted a faith on me so that you could aim darts. Now you say I should be like you. So stand right there. Let me take aim. But, no. I don’t want to deal with your demons. I don’t want your ghosts to haunt me.
Babar is long dead.
Lord Ram does not live there anymore.
You and I have to share space. You and I were born here. Millions do not have a roof over their heads. Gather some bricks for them. Let us call this nationalism.
© Farzana Versey
Images: Guardian, Frontline, Indian Express