SIXTH of December is always a special day for me, and, I suppose, for millions of Hindus across the world. It is a day of joyous celebrations, on par with Diwali, which is also a day of triumph and celebration. On that day, eighteen years ago in Ayodhya, the Hindus at last asserted themselves, something they had not done for a long, long time.
I observe 6th of December almost like Diwali. I get up earlier than usual, as I do on Diwali day, take a bath, and walk all the way – about two kilometers – to a Ganesh temple. Pune is full of temples – nearly all of them established by the Peshwas – and the one I go to was founded by Nanasaheb, eldest son of the great Bajirao, the founder of Pune, and the son of the founder of the Peshwa dynasty. The idol was donated by Nanasaheb, whose portrait hangs in the main hall or mandap.
I spend at least an hour in the temple, along with so many others. We sit quietly on the marble floor, watching devotees come and go, though at that time of the morning, when the sun is barely up, and even the birds are sleeping, there are not that many people in the temple. For me, it is also a day of prayer, though I am not a very religious man, and do not know very many prayers.
In Ayodhya eighteen years ago, the Hindus did what even the great Bajirao, the real founder of the Hindu empire of the Marathas could not or did not do. Bajirao was essentially a conqueror but also a great Hindu. He had repeatedly said that he wished to drive the Moghuls out of India and was always looking for opportunities to take the fight to the north right into the Moghul heartland. In fact, there was a time when the Marathas had become so powerful that they were acting as protectors of Moghul emperors, and some of the Maratha chieftains like the Shinde’s (or Scindias) had actually captured the Moghul throne. Why they did not dislodge them from power remains one of those mysteries that says a great deal about the Hindu character, and also about Hindu history.
This has happened again and again. At the last moment, Hindus seem to lose nerve and give in. This happened in Panipat too in 1761 twenty years after Bajirao’s death. At Panipat, the Marathas were led by Bajirao’s nephew, Sadashivrao Bhau, and things were going pretty smoothly until, at the last moment, Maratha forces suddenly lost control and lost the will to fight. Sadashivrao Bhau was perhaps too young to give battle so far away from home, but there were other Maratha generals who could have assisted or advised him. At the last moment, the Maratha forces started fleeing from the battleground and the two young Peshwas – rather sons of Peshwas – were killed on the spot. It was the end of the great Hindu dream to eventually drive out the Moghuls, and establish Hindupadapadshahi once again, though the Marathas were not fighting the Moghuls but a would-be usurper called Ahmed Shah Abdali from Kabul.
Why do we Hindus buckle under at the last moment? It is a grave weakness of character. It happened again under Jawaharlal Nehru sixty years ago, though Nehru was not much of a Hindu and was a weak man. I am referring to Kashmir, and how, at the last moment, when we had not only stopped the Pakistani marauders but were about to mount assault on them, Nehru turned turtle and called for a truce, though our armies could and should have taken the fight right into Pakistan and smashed Jinnah & Co. into permanent submission.
For some reason, we seem unable to sustain an offensive for long and always make excuses for inaction or retreat. Take some recent examples. A Booker prize lady called Roy had been making seditious speeches in Kashmir along with some men who are nothing but traitors, but what does the government do? Precisely very little. When asked about it, the Home Minister, a timid little character called Chidambaram, who, I suppose reads newspapers if not anything else, and knows what is happening, said that no action was necessary, since no action was also a form of action. This is typical of us Indians. We can philosophise about anything, including cowardice. Chidambaram should have been sacked at that very moment, for the man has been inactive in the face of every threat to the country, whether it is Islamic terrorism or naxalites. Like his Prime Minister, he is a gutless man, but that is understandable since he is a Congressman.
Congressman, almost by definition, are a gutless lot, and incapable of action, particularly against traitors or aggressors like China, and, of course against corrupt politicians.
Those who gathered in Ayodhya on December 6, 1992 did not just stand there and twiddle their thumbs, caught in Shakespearanan inaction, mumbling to themselves, “To be or not to be.” They just went ahead and did it. I was not present at Ayodhya on the occasion as I was busy minding the fort in Delhi. But we could see it all on TV, and I sat there, almost paralysed and transfixed, as one by one, the men – there were no women – climbed the domes and hacked the thing to pieces. They did not say, “the matter is sub judice and we should not touch it,” and went ahead and did what they had to do, even if they seemed to be breaking the law.
In this, they had good precedents. Gandhi broke the law everytime he did something against the British, whether it was picking up a handful of salt at Dandi, or asking the British to quit India. There are moral laws and there are immoral laws, and there are times when it is your duty to break the latter, no matter what the consequences. We, Hindus, have been inactive for too long, always trying to keep on the safe side of law, which means on the side of timidity. Even when Bajirao fought the satraps of the Moghuls, there were Hindus, like the Rajputs of Jaipur, who fought on the side of the Moghuls, many as his commanders. The Hindus technically broke the law on 6th of December, 1992, but they did the right thing in breaking it, for which I salute them.