THIS article is written more in sorrow than in anger. Sorrow because neither our secularists nor our fellow citizens, Muslims, seem to understand what the Ramjanmabhoomi issue is all about and what should be their response.
Our secularists want to keep Hindu-Muslim tensions going so that they can lay the blame on Hindus as a non-accommodating people. They are the main culprits. They are the ones who have been making it difficult for the coming together of Hindus and Muslims by supporting rabid Muslim fundamentalists by putting up all kinds of ridiculous arguments why they should not ‘compromise’ on the Ayodhya issue.
Two aspects of the theme call for attention. One is the matter of coming to terms with history. The other is the total lack of grace among the Muslim community. What does coming to terms with history imply? India-the India of the pre-Ghaznavi period-was an India at peace with itself. No Hindu prince would have dreamt of taking his armed forces beyond the mountains with two purposes in mind: to loot the riches of alien lands and destroy their religious centres. That is what Ghazni Mohammad did as did many of his Islamic successors. And that is what Islamic rulers thereafter settled in India did to enforce Islam on Hindu India in many repellant ways.
From the beginning of Muslim rule in India in the 14th century, top government posts were regarded as the “preserve of Muslims”. Sacred structures of other faiths were edged out of view. Islam dominated the towns. Except at Rohtas, the headquarters of Raja Man Singh in Bihar, virtually no temples existed in any of the Mughal palace towns. The Capital, Shahjahanabad was a typical ‘Islamic City’. An archaeological Survey conducted in the early 20th century listed 200 mosques constructed in the city between 1639 and 1857. No temples were constructed in the era of Mughal dominance (1639-1739). Hindus were subject to ridicule and contempt. As a Mughal grandee explained to the British, Hindus were a subject people and the law of the land could be only Islamic. Wajid Ali Shah’s reign is best remembered for the bloody confrontation that took place in 1855 at Hanumangarhi in Ayodhya. Only British pressure forced the Nawab to frustrate the Sunni bid to take over the temple. The mahants at Hanumangarhi had to declare that “if it is attempted to build a mosque adjoining the Hanumangarhi, they will vacate the place and at the same time would desert every one of their temples of Oude”. Such was the desperation they were pushed into.
Ayodhya has been one of the holy cities divested of virtually all its prominent shrines and sanctuaries between the 13th and mid-18th centuries. One gets an idea of the list of Hindu shrines that were destroyed from a book authored by Meenakshi Jain entitled Parallel Pathways: Essays on Hindu-Muslim Relations (1707-1857). Insult after insult was heaped by Muslim rulers on Hindus. Aurangzeb even had made an endeavour to rename Mathura as Islampur and Brindaban as Muminabad. Such was his contempt for Hinduism. Will our pseudo-secularists kindly name such instances of Hindu rulers treating Muslim subjects so shabbily? So cruel was Muslim rule that Jain reports that “Hindus in Rohilkhand had to accept a considerable degree of inferiority in matters of religious display. All their wedding and festival processions had to give precedence to Moharram parades and it was expected that during this period they would not exhibit any signs of merriment”.
Leaders of the Muslim Personal Board and others in the Muslim community do not obviously want to remember all these – and much worse-examples of Islamic tyranny. In 1827, James Burnes, Residency Doctor at Bhooj in Kutch visited Sindh at the invitation of the Talpur Court. In a detailed account of his experience he noted the harsh treatment of the Hindus in the state. He wrote: “it is really difficult to conceive how any Hindoos should have continued to reside in this country … The indignities they suffer are of the mist exasperating description. They are even forced to adopt the Mohammadan dress and to wear beards.
“Till lately, none of this class were permitted to ride on horse-back; merchants of wealth and respectability may be seen mounted on asses and mules, animals considered so unclean that none but the vilest outcasts in other countries can touch them with impunity and even from this humble conveyance, they are obliged to descent and stand aside when any bloated Mussalman passes by. The Mohammadans are encouraged and exhorted to destroy all the emblems of idolatry they may see in Sinde. The degraded and unfortunate follower of Brahma is denied free exercise of his religion…”
Hindus want to forget the past and start life anew. They want to come to terms with history, but then, so must today’s Muslims. Hindus are not vengeful. Nobody demands an apology from Muslims. But Muslim leaders of today must accept what their ancestors have done to Hindus in the past and make appropriate amends. The argument that today’s Muslims are not responsible for what their co-religionists have done in the past is no excuse. But no matter. They have to be reminded of it in the context of the current Ayodhya – Ramjanmabhoomi – issue. They must show grace, even if they won’t accept what their barbarous predecessors did to hurt Hindu sentiments, in their time.
There is clear evidence that the Babri masjid was built over a temple destroyed. Even from a strictly Islamic point of view, the Babri Masjit has no relevance since it was built on land where once a temple – and a giant structure besides – existed. The best way to make amends for past sins is now to show grace and concede that the Hindus have every right over the disputed land and give up all claims to the 2.7 acres of Janmabhoomi land and help build a temple to Sri Ram. That way one would make recompense for past crimes.
For the Muslim Personal Law Board to appeal to the Supreme Court is an act of singular disdain to Hindu feelings. It will only exacerbate Hindu anger, at the Muslim community’s lack of respect for their sentiments. The disputed land can be given to the Hindus as an act of atonement and as a sign of respect for Hindu feelings. Conceding the land to the Hindus will serve as an anodyne and help in Hindu- Muslim reconciliation. Challenging the verict of the Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court merely shows lack of sensitivity towards Hindu feelings and still further expand the distance between the two communities. Is that what the Muslim Personal Law Board wants? Think it over, friends.
(The writer is a senior columnist)