‘I think in terms of civilisations, and not territorial states’, remarked Girilal Jain (1924-1993), the legendary Editor of The Times of India (hereafter TOI). This distinguished and accomplished professional ruffled so many feathers with a posthumous publication titled The Hindu Phenomenon (1993). This brief book, containing six essays, was compiled and edited by his historian daughter Meenakshi Jain. The response to the publication was vicious. Two examples would suffice.
Reviewing The Hindu Phenomenon in TOI, author Mulk Raj Anand proclaimed, ‘All emergent hitherto rejected peoples, Nagas, Bodos, Jharkhand Santals and a large number of Muslims’ will reject Jain’s thesis. Khushwant Singh was more horrid and nasty in an India Today review alleging that towards the end of his career Jain showed ‘a distinct anti-Muslim, anti-Christian and anti-Sikh bias’ in his writings.
These hostile reactions reveal how Hindu views of Jain like ‘Bhakti movement was a form of resistance and not an attempt at synthesis or compromise’ did not go well with ‘Delhi-based’ intellectuals. His open advocacy and support for Shri Ram Janmbhoomi was seen as an act of betrayal! For the first time, breaking away from the Lutyens’ consensus, an established intellectual had defended, and more crucially, advocated for the Hindu Rashtra. Jain was unambiguous that Hindu Rashtra cannot be translated as the Hindu Nation, rather it is the Hindu Polity.
Why was this event so monumental in the history of Shri Ram Janmbhoomi movement? To answer this question, we need context. In the 1980s, Girilal Jain’s tenure in TOI as its Editor-in-Chief witnessed a lot of “pro-Hindu” writings in the pages of the premium English daily for the consumption of the Indian middle-class, which otherwise might not have found any space. Op-ed articles by Arun Shourie, Swapan Dasgupta, Harsh Narain, Jay Dubashi, and others countered scores of historians and sociologists from JNU and DU, who were writing about the illegitimacy of the Hindu claim on Ayodhya. So, while karyakartas of Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) were fighting on the ground, a group of ‘dharmik intellectuals’ in Delhi were fighting for Ram Lalla against those who were rebuffing Him.
Intellectuals as a social group, even though a miniscule minority, exercise tremendous social control. Shri Ram Janmabhoomi movement in the mid-1980s sparked public debates on Ayodhya. Left-Liberal and Congress system-nurtured intellectuals took to arms to refute the Hindu claim and faith. They did their best to prove that Shri Ram was born in Herat (Afghanistan), Banawali (a Harappan site), Nepal, and even ancient Egypt, but not in Ayodhya. A group of historians with direct links to Communist Party of India (Marxist) sided with Babri Masjid Action Committee (BMAC) to secure and shield the disputed structure. The main purpose of the drill was to deny any and every claim, be it evidence-backed or faith-driven, that Ram Janmbhoomi is a reality!
In 1989, JNU historians published a pamphlet titled The Political Abuse of History: Babri Masjid-Rama Janmabhumi Dispute which was an emphatic attempt to fudge the memory of centuries of savage destruction of Hindu temples by Islamic imperialists. Later, a full-length book also followed (1991). Usual suspects like EPW, Social Scientist, Seminar, and whatnot were flooded with articles denouncing Ram Janmbhoomi’s myth, and the movement as a pinnacle of “communal” politics. Noted historians like Irfan Habib, RS Sharma and archaeologist Suraj Bhan repeatedly told the media that there was no Ram Mandir under the Babri mosque.
This time, however, the myth-making machinery of the Left was not allowed to prevail. As the Shri Ram Janmbhoomi Movement will conclude with Pran Pratishtha on January 22, we must remember that beyond faith, there was always an intellectual argument for a Ram Mandir at Ayodhya.
We started with Girilal Jain. Let us add more names to the list of dharmic intellectuals who in their limited but effective ways did their best to fight for Ram Lalla. Sita Ram Goel (1921-2003), Ram Swarup (1920-1998), Kishore Saran Lal (1920-2002), Braj Basi Lal (1921-2022), Kewalram Ratnamal Malkani (1921-2003), Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul (1932-2018) and a few others ardently wrote and worked to counter the Leftist and Congress disinformation. These dharmik intellectuals were few and rare, but they never ceased to fight. They produced monumental books, collected primary evidence, contested Leftist half-truths and popularised the civilisational narrative.
What Happened to Hindu Mandirs?
In the two-volume Hindu Mandirs; What Happened to Them, Sita Ram Goel, Arun Shourie, Harsh Narain, Jay Dubashi, and Ram Swarup affirmed that their intellectual excursion exercises complete fidelity to truth; unlike secularist and Marxist writers, and they do not believe in rewriting and fabricating history. They showed how Mahmud of Ghazni robbed and burnt down 1,000 temples at Mathura, and 10,000 in and around Kanauj. One of his successors, Ibrahim, demolished 1,000 temples each in the Ganga-Yamuna Doab and Malwa. Muhammad Ghori destroyed another 1,000 at Varanasi. Qutb-ud-Din Aibak employed elephants for pulling down 1,000 temples in Delhi. Ali Adil Shah of Bijapur destroyed 200 to 300 temples in Karnataka. A sufi, Qayim Shah, destroyed 12 temples at Tiruchirapalli. Adding up the temples destroyed by just six Muslim rulers gave the stupendous figure of 15,212. Such exact or approximate counts, however, are available only in a few cases.
Goel and his co-authors compiled what is the most exhaustive work on temple destruction and desecration in Bharat and its near abroad. They cited from 80 histories spanning a period of more than 1,200 years, starting with the Baghdad historian Al-Biladhuri, who wrote in Arabic in the second half of the ninth century, and coming down to Syed Mahmudul Hasan who wrote in English in the 1940s. “Our citations mention 61 kings, 63 military commanders and 14 sufis who destroyed Hindu temples in 154 localities, big and small, spread from Khurasan in the west to Tripura in the east, and from Transoxiana in the north to Tamil Nadu in the south, over a period of 1,100 years. In most cases the destruction of temples was followed by erection of mosques, madrasas and khanqahs, etc., on the temple sites and, frequently, with temple materials.”
Ram Swarup reminded us in 1990 that “Hindu Mandirs” in the present context include temples belonging to all sects of Sanatan Dharma – Brahmanical, Buddhist, Jain, and the rest. Girilal Jain, Sitaram Goel, and others always thought about the Hindu in its most comprehensive sense. The counterarguments which Left and Congress made in the late-1980s- early 1990s remain the same today. They have persistently divided the Sanatan Dharma in sects, communities, creeds and castes.
The struggle which dharmik intellectuals manifested outlined three significant issues for us to remember and practice. They never discredited evidence in favour of faith. They never gave up on intellectual battles by only indulging themselves in name calling. And they always thought in terms of civilisation and not territorial states. They showed that calling somebody a “Marxist” is insufficient to discredit them; one must locate themselves in a more informed and reason-based battle.
Historian Meenakshi Jain and a few others today follow the same path. The follies of Left intellectuals get brilliantly documented in landmark Allahabad High Court judgement of 2010. Meenakshi Jain provides a summary of those intellectual misdeeds and the court’s observations on them in her brilliant book, Rama and Ayodhya (2012).
Finally, in 2004, VS Naipaul speaking to BJP leaders had remarked, ‘Ayodhya is a sort of passion’, he said. ‘Any passion is to be encouraged. Passion leads to creativity.’ That remark could mean different things to different people and groups. To an intellectual who is dedicated to Bhartiya civilisation, it means (re)constructing a history of civilisation with credible evidence as dharmik intellectuals did in the case of Ayodhya. Afterall, Kashi and Mathura await a new movement. We don’t need to fabricate history to counter Left’s half-truths. We must dig out new information and truthful facts and report those which were kept hidden for decades. That would be a real tribute to the tribe of Jain, Goel, Swarup and Naipaul.