Political players will keep Ayodhya fires burning

Things have begun to settle down somewhat but the principal political players are keeping the fires of Ayodhya burning. Neither community is likely to be satisfied with any Supreme Court judgment

Political players will keep Ayodhya fires burning
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Sujata Anandan

While the full Supreme Court verdict on Ayodhya is not yet available, I have an issue with the proposed temple in the place where once a mosque stood and was demolished. There was so much rioting and the spilling of innocent blood in December 1992 due to the demolition of the Babri Masjid that I have always felt gingerish about entering that rubble and imagine a temple in that place.

My objections are, however, apolitical - why should I have to pray on a piece of territory that has been so disputed that it continues to cause bad blood among the people? Moreover, my personal question is: would any legitimate god occupy a place where blood had flowed in his wake? And finally, the screams of the innocents killed in the name of the temple and the mosque might still be echoing round the area. Will god ever be able to hear or answer my prayers above those screams of the innocent? I think not.

I have never been a great one for temples, except for some ancient ones like the Mahalaxmi temple in Kolhapur or Tirupati in Andhra Pradesh. But what has interested me more is the architectural and historic value of the places than anything else - though I have observed all the rituals provided for at these temples where a darshan has got so commercial that you barely get ten seconds to fold your hands before the deity and are unable to complete even half a prayer before you are rudely ushered out by the priests and officials.

I am neither a believer nor a disbelieve in god but at those times when I have needed sustenance from an unseen power, I have noticed, my prayers have been answered while praying in my mother’s quiet pooja room where there has always been peace and non-violence and never a cruel or evil thought about anybody.

I cannot say the same of the site in Ayodhya where there has been much political evil in the air and blood spilt on the ground. But now that the Supreme Court has said that a mosque is not integral to Namaaz, several questions arise.

Many Muslims have conceded that perhaps a mosque is not needed for prayers, just like I have never needed a temple to pray to god. But if that is true, why were authorities in Haryana pushing namaazis off the streets of Gurgaon and asking them to pray in a mosque rather than on the streets? That was an issue for years in Mumbai as well where the congregations were too large for the tiny mosques situated on the overcrowded streets of Mumbai. The namaazis spilling onto the roads on Fridays caused a lot of tension between Muslims and Shiv Sainiks. It led to the silly act of holding loud maha-aartis at temples located close to mosques on Friday afternoons - a practice non-existent anywhere in India - simply to annoy and irritate the praying Muslims with the sounds of the loud temple bells and clashing cymbals.

A mosque is not needed for offering Namaaz, says the Supreme Court. Sensible because we do not need a temple either to pray 

The tension ceased only after Shiv Sena-BJP came to power in 1995 and Bal Thackeray realised the folly of his ways and tried to build bridges with the Muslim community. His overtures were two-pronged - locally, he ordered the state government to increase the Floor Space Index of mosques, so that those compelled to pray on the roads would be accommodated inside and, being out of sight, would cause no offence to potential rioters. Second, nationally, he called for a secular monument, like a school or a hospital, to be built at the Babri Masjid site in Ayodhya, so that neither community would have any cause for grievance or feel short-changed.

Although a volley of abuse was let loose on Thackeray by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad at the time, which labelled him a ‘vivekheen Hindu’ (brainless Hindu), Thackeray stuck to his guns and never retreated from that conciliatory position till his death. That is one reason why Muslims still vote for his party today, but they don’t for the BJP, even when it is in alliance with the Shiv Sena.

I always thought Thackeray had come up with the ideal solution that would stand the test of time – and it has. Many others are now suggesting there be a library or museum to communal harmony built over the site. And I guess that is the best.

There is so much bad blood over the disputed site that neither community is likely to be satisfied with any Supreme Court judgment if it swings one way or the other. Things have already begun to settle down somewhat with no one but the principal political players keeping the fires of Ayodhya burning.

Moreover, it is my personal belief that none of us can be sure of the exact spot of birth of Lord Rama – provided he is not a myth (which many think he is).

Then, again, even the Hindutvawadis are now divided over the temple in Ayodhya. Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Pravin Togadia, recently held out nasty taunts to Narendra Modi over his recent visit to a Bohra community mosque. Whatever the reasons or hidden motives for that visit, I believe, for the first time, Modi was exhibiting statesmanship for he has in the past avoided wearing the Muslim cap, gracelessly turning down one offered to him publicly by a mullah when he was chief minister of Gujarat. He has also refused to apologise for the awful genocide of Muslims in his state in 2000. So even if he is unable to mouth apologies and may have taken RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s reprimand over his shamshaan-kabristan comments to heart and may want to demonstrate by actions what he cannot with words, people like Togadia will be lurking around the corner waiting to derail Modi’s efforts at weaving the society together. This time, instead of a Hindu-Muslim conflagration, we might be faced with an internecine war between Hindutvawadis. That cannot but add to the overall communal disharmony in the country.

So, whatever the judicial verdict or political chicanery on the issue, even if the Angkor-Vat look-alike temple does come up in Ayodhya, far from even thinking of offering prayers there, I know right away that I will not even be interested in its copy-cat architecture.

In any case, I do not need a temple to pray and, if I do, my small neighbourhood Hanuman temple is good enough for me and my god to communicate with each other. Political brokers are not telling me where and who to pray to.

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