A lot of emotion is attached to the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi issue. The Muslim believes that it is his mosque. The clerics hold that once a place becomes a mosque, it cannot be sold, surrendered or transferred. Its nature cannot be altered. It is the house of Allah and no human has the right to sell it.
Given this situation, the Muslim organisations and lawyers fighting the case in the Allahabad High Court gave the impression that we are on the right and truthful side, and we would get the entire piece of land in Ayodhya. The judgement gave only one-third of that land and was way short of expectations. The Muslim is shocked, feels cheated. I don’t yet have the feedback to say what is the popularly accepted course of action now.
What I can say is that I’m proud of how Indian Muslims have conducted themselves. Despite feelings of shock and lost honour, they did not resort to extreme responses, did not take the law into their hands. Had the decision gone the other way, I think the Hindus would have reacted with similar patience.
One reason: people who were young in the 1980s are now middle-aged. Their place is taken by a younger generation that comprises 40 percent of India. This younger lot may have emotional attachment to this issue but is not willing to fight and die for it. I cannot say how, but there is now an understanding.
Both Hindus and Muslims have tried out their leaders and their organisations, and realised that they are in it more for personal stakes than for the sake of faith. Both sides have, more or less, lost confidence in the leaders who were championing faith and devotion.
For a long time, this dispute — whether the legal battle or the public face of it — was local to Ayodhya, with local people fighting it. Today, it has become an emotive issue for the entire nation, in fact, internationally. The debate is widespread now. Going by the self-control people exhibited after the verdict, the debate seems good. It may produce something good, something sober. Perhaps, a fresh look at existing cultural understanding.
One thing that could do with a better understanding is the impression in society that Hindu temples were destroyed by Muslims. Even if we were to accept that all this did happen, we need to remember who were responsible for it. They were foreign invaders, not Indians. They ruled over this country, and during their reign they did many things that were good and many that were bad. Intoxicated with power, they demolished temples and overran settlements.
It is obvious that people who were brought up on such narratives would regard them as enemies, as people who wanted to destroy temples and convert others forcibly. This is a complex, debatable subject best left to historians. I don’t want to enter into this debate. Because then it would seem as if I am trying to defend those people so long ago. Of all those who ruled India, nobody is my hero. My first role model, as an Indian Muslim, is my Prophet Mohammad. Then, in India, it will be Gandhiji. Then it would be my elders who opposed the two-nation theory and the division of India along the lines of religion.
I have nothing to do with the foreign invaders of the past. If we were to settle scores of their faults now, and talk about destroying mosques and building temples, or any other such vengeance, would it create friendliness in India or enmity?
If their creations are labelled emblems of slavery, then there is the question of several similar emblems, such as the Parliament House. If buildings signify honour and disgrace, then what about the Red Fort, the Taj Mahal, the President’s Estate?
We should avoid twisting history. That is a recipe for hatred. If our children are brought up on these narratives, we will remain stuck in history forever. How will we plan our future? I do not understand the need to be defensive or offensive on matters of the nation’s history. If I’m aggressive and raise issues that excite feelings, I will perpetuate communal stereotypes. If I act defensive, I’ll start listing archival material of all the lands that Aurangzeb gave for temples. I don’t want either of that.
I want to talk about the role of the Muslim community in India’s freedom struggle. Unfortunately, children seldom get to hear of that; somewhere, somehow, history got changed. Children grow up instead with accounts that hold Muslims guilty for the creation of Pakistan and, now, demanding reservations, which adds to the older narratives of Muslims being foreign invaders and being troublemakers generally. It is dangerous that children learn such such things from a young age.
People who teach all this call themselves nationalists and patriots. I don’t understand what national service do they perform by humiliating India’s second largest religious majority, by destroying the country’s confidence in them. They would be ineffective if the Muslim contribution in the freedom struggle was reflected accurately. Instead of feeling victimised, Muslims would then feel proud of their ancestors’ sacrifices.
There is a long list of freedom fighters that does not begin and end with Maulana Azad. It includes the likes of Maulanas Hussain Ahmed Madani and Mahmood Hasan Deobandi. In 1916, they created a government of India in exile in Afghanistan. All of them were moulvis, and they were in Afghanistan, a Muslim area. But whom did they appoint as president? A Hindu: Mathura’s Raja Mahendra Pratap, with Maulana Barkatullah Bhopali as prime minister.
This is history, too, but it gets ignored. The Jamiat Ulema-i-Hind put its everything behind Gandhiji. All that is forgotten; and all that gets remembered is Jinnah. The Jamiat never got its due and politicians marginalised this moderate outfit, which would have provided assurance to Muslims and prevented their incitement.
While self-appointed Hindu champions create a sense of fear and threat in Muslims, there are also those who provoke and incite them. They foster the feeling of victimisation among Muslims. Ghettoisation of Muslims is a reality in India.
The real threat to both Hindus and Muslims, however, is the western culture we are being served. We don’t understand how it threatens Bharat, Bharatiyata and Bharatiya culture. People have lost respect for their elders, which is a hallmark of the culture that people so proudly claim is 5,000 years old. We are losing a sense of our languages in this rush; people who forget their language cannot save their culture.
A secular State does not rely on atheism. In fact, true believers — Hindus and Muslims — would make the best secularists. People situated in their faith, rather than their narrow interests, would not be communal. What we have, instead, are communal people dressed up as religious people.
(Courtesy: Tehelka Magazine, Vol 7, Issue 42, Dated October 23, 2010 'Had the verdict gone the other way, I think Hindus would have reacted with similar patience,MAHMOOD A Madani, Rajya Sabha MP, RLD)
---Mahmood A Madani, leader of Jamiat Ulema-i-Hind and Member of Rajya Sabha (RLD), can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org