Wednesday, Dec 11, 2019 | Last Update : 08:44 AM IST

Ayodhya: Seek compromise, don’t stoke fires

The writer is a senior journalist and commentator based in New Delhi
Published : Nov 22, 2019, 2:38 am IST
Updated : Nov 22, 2019, 2:38 am IST

After the Supreme Court verdict, its merits or demerits notwithstanding, one imagined that the tumult would subside.

A replica of the proposed Ram Mandir on display at Karsewakpuram in Ayodhya. (Photo: PTI)
 A replica of the proposed Ram Mandir on display at Karsewakpuram in Ayodhya. (Photo: PTI)

“Has the tumult of the Day of Judgment ended?
I half opened my eyes from the sleep of death.
But I found the tumult was still continuing.
I went back to sleep.”

— Shah Sarmad

After the Supreme Court verdict, its merits or demerits notwithstanding, one imagined that the tumult would subside. But lawyers and sundry busybodies clustered around the clergy have obviously got accustomed to the limelight which, in their case, will only last as long as the tumult does. So they are busy stoking the fires. “We shall appeal, we shall appeal.”

The mandir-masjid dispute was a clear case of politics exploiting faith. In other words it was for Hindutva “the bird that lays the golden egg”. The Sangh Parivar, it would follow, would like to keep the “bird” alive until its larger purpose had been served. The Ayodhya verdict is only a brick in the larger architecture. Leaders whom Muslims would listen to were duty bound to explain the “politics” of it to the community. They did not. Religious leaders and lawyers took over.

A great deal of forethought and strategy had gone into building up the Ram Janmabhoomi movement. “Shila pujan” or the “consecration of bricks” for the Ram temple was brilliant marketing, never mind if it generated anti-Muslim hate all along the route from even the most far flung villages all the way to Ayodhya. The Bhagalpur anti-Muslim pogrom was one of the many eruptions the “shila” processions of 1989 provoked. So seamlessly had religious faith been amalgamated with political purpose that a critical mass of Hindus were over a period of time firm in their belief that Ram was born on the “disputed” plot. All the brownie points of these Hindus went to the BJP.

Watching its Hindu vote haemorrhage consistently, the Congress too began to weakly raise its voice for Ram Rajya. While the Muslims ran helter skelter in search of alternate political protection, the clergy and their gang pitched it on pure religion — shariah, shariah. They don’t know how the National Register of Citizenship will plague them, but let the Uniform Civil Code come up, and a frenetic chant will rent the air. “Shariah, shariah”.

Whatever the archaeological evidence, a large number of Hindus had expressed their faith that the mosque stood on Ram’s birthplace. In such a situation, protection of a medieval mosque, one of the thousands in the country, was not tenable. After all, Muslims were not claiming it as a place associated with revered figures in Islam. Trust the myopic religious leaders to have misled the community so comprehensively. Nothing has harmed the Muslim cause more than continuous harping on Shah Bano, Salman Rushdie and Babri Masjid.

In my disgust, I generally revert to poetry: “Beautiful Aheliya, who had turned to stone because of a curse, came back to her gorgeous self when, you, O’Lord, touched the stone; you transformed one from the animal kingdom into your most trusted, Hanuman; you humanised a demon. I have no attributes that you have to undo. When will you ever bestow your boon on me?” The one seeking a boon from Ram is, a pious Muslim, Abdul Rahim Khan e-Khana (1556-1627), one of Mughal Emperor Akbar’s most powerful courtiers and a contemporary of Tulsidas, author of the Ramayana. What is more, this shloka by Rahim is in Sanskrit. The two were in correspondence on subjects of common interest, including a poetic metre, much favoured by Tulsi –– Barvai chhand. There is an abundance of poetry on Ayodhya.

How would Rahim, a remarkable poet in Awadhi and Sanskrit, have contemplated the events of December 6, 1992, or the Ayodhya verdict? Indeed, what would have been the reaction of my late mother, who accompanied me to Ayodhya in 1989 to watch the shilanyas, or brick-laying ceremony, ordered by Rajiv Gandhi? She found Ayodhya a temple town where a mosque on the ground claimed by Hindus as the birthplace of Ram was an “incongruity”.

According to her, a Muslim could spread out his prayer mat in the direction of Mecca anywhere and say his “namaz”. A Hindu consecrates his “idol”, which then “lives” in the temple eternally. Muslims must withdraw from a “masjid e fitna”, or a mosque of conflict. Likewise, the Gyanvapi Masjid in Kashi and Shahi Idgah in Mathura.

If any Muslim accompanied me to Varanasi, he would require minimal sensitivity to see that the Gyanvapi Masjid insults the Hindu. It sits on the shoulder of one of Hinduism’s most important shrines — Kashi Vishwanath Mandir.

The temple lights must have cast a spell on Urdu’s finest poet, Mirza Ghalib. He wrote his longest poem “Chiragh e dair”, “Mandir ka diya”, or the Lamp in the Temple. He wrote:

“Ibadat khana e naqoosian ast Hama na kaabay e Hindostan ast”

(This is the place of worship for those who make music from conch shells This, truly is the Kaaba of Hindustan)

The march towards the Hindu Rashtra has quickened, but sensible folk have not given up. They are still talking of compromises. The ailing cleric, Saiyid Kalbe Sadiq has repeatedly said, “Muslims should gift the land for the temple even if they win the case”. This mood of generosity and compromise should be encapsulated for the opinion poll on which my friend, pollster Ranjit Chib, is working. The basic question Muslims should be asked is simple. Does the Supreme Court judgment, good or bad, enable you to move on and focus on real bread and butter issues — jobs, education, women’s upliftment, recruitment in services? Or would you rather keep fighting for a mosque which can never be built and, in the process, lose all else?

Can anyone spot a chink of light?

“Bada maza us milap mein hai Jo sulah ho jaaye jung ho kar.”
(There is exceptional pleasure when warring sides, compromise and embrace each other.)

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