As the nation braces to observe, with a heavy heart, the 25th anniversary of the demolition of the Babri Masjid, there are some lessons that we must learn from this momentous event that has done more to polarize the two major religious communities in India than all the riots that have taken place since independence put together.
The first of these lessons is that any attempt to resurrect history and ‘correct’ the ‘aberrations’ is fraught with grave danger. Let history remain history. Lessons certainly need to be learnt from it; but avenging past slights, defeats or humiliation can be disastrous for the country, especially one of India’s heterogeneity. After all, how far back in history can you go to get even? If Babri Masjid was demolished because it was supposedly built after demolishing a temple, shall we now demolish all mosques – or churches – to see if there are remnants of a temple buried somewhere beneath? Or attack Samarkand – present day Kazakhstan – where Babar came from? Or go to war with Greece because Alexander the Great invaded our country? The search for the ‘glorious’ past that India once was is a mirage not worth chasing.
The second lesson we must learn from the demolition is that it is a blot on the great religion of Hinduism, which has taught compassion, tolerance and camaraderie (as exemplified in the principle of “Vasudhaiba Kutumbakam”) to mankind through the ages. It is perhaps the only recorded instance in history of Hindus demolishing a place of worship belonging to another religion. Every Hindu should hang his/her head in shame for this wanton act of religious vengeance. It is highly unfortunate that a section of Hindus – the votaries of Hindutva – see this act as a ‘victory’ over the ‘enemy’. Support for or acquiescence to this mindset would prepare the grounds for a second vivisection of the country, which could well be even more violent than the one that took place in 1947. One only has to recollect the riots that took place in the wake of the Babri demolition to realize the disastrous consequences of supporting the fanatics, who claim to represent the interests of the Hindus. We must also realize the role the demolition has played in the radicalization of the Muslim youth, which has further vitiated the already fragile religious atmosphere in the country. After all, every action, as they say, has an equal and opposite reaction!
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The third lesson from the Babri demolition and its aftermath is that faith can – and should – NEVER be allowed to supersede the Rule of Law and the Constitution. It is instructive to note that the forces of Hindutva, which demolished the Babri mosque, are busy preparing for the beginning of construction of a temple at the precise place where Ram Lalla is believed to have been born sometime next year even as the Supreme Court is seized of the matter. More ominously, it is the constitutionally elected Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Yogi Adityanath, an ardent votary of the Ram temple, who is leading the charge. With BJP governments in both UP and the Centre, the idea clearly is to polarize votes along religious lines ahead of the next general elections in 2019, ‘vikas’ be damned!
The fourth – and perhaps the most important – takeaway from the Bari demolition is that once out, the genie of religious bigotry is well nigh impossible to put back into the bottle, as Lal Krishna Advani, the architect of the Ayodhya movement, found to his dismay during the incident. Reliable accounts from the ground at the time recall how the thousands of kar sevaks, who had assembled in the holy town on that fateful day on his call, simply refused to pay any heed to his feeble plea to refrain from demolishing the mosque. The BJP veteran went on to describe it as ‘saddest day’ of his life later!
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It is easy to be wise after the event. The challenge is to be wise well in time to prevent the occurrence of any such event in future. And that is what all of us – Hindus as well as Muslims – must strive to do to foil the design to tear asunder the syncretic and secular fabric of the nation.