Ram Mandir and the New India
The rebuilding of the Ram Mandir must also follow up with actions to not further alienate the Muslim population of India
I dithered for a couple of days before finally making up my mind to write today's column. Most topics don't fluster me but when it comes to religion, I usually give it a wide berth. Religious matters are deeply personal but in India, it is also one of the easiest ways to offend people. However, given the historic happening of this week, I simply couldn't desist. By now you must have guessed that I'm referring to the 'Ram Mandir Bhoomi Poojan' that took place amid much fanfare a few days ago. After decades of legal fights and on-ground rioting over the 2.77 acres of land, the majority Hindu sentiment was finally assuaged — Hindus in India and all over the world would finally have their holiest place. With Prime Minister Narendra Modi laying the foundation with a 22-kg silver brick and using sacred soil from 2,000 'teerth stans' and water from holy rivers, the construction of the Ram Mandir is now officially underway. By the fervour on the streets, homes, and social media pages, it seemed a major event in the country's history. Even New York's Times Square resonated with Indians at home with a digital billboard of Ram Temple. Yes, 'mandir wahin bann raha hain' but I can't help but wonder, 'at what cost?'
I think many of us hadn't quite realised how much Lord Ram's 'Janmabhoomi' meant to thousands of Hindus. We have grown up enshrined by 'secularism', so much so that 'Hinduism' has been more a way of life for most of us rather than deep religiosity. We have squirmed at the horrific 'goondaism' of December 6, 1992, psychologically relinquishing our right over that hallowed patch of land in Ayodhya because the images of the Babri Masjid demolition scarred us. I was too young to remember most things in 1992 but I can't forget hundreds of 'kar sevaks' screaming as they destroyed the ancient mosque blow by blow. The deafening silence that ensued on the streets where we lived, sitting in darkness as we expected violent backlash of anger. Even now I am uncomfortable when I view the archival footage of the demolition, filled with a sense of dismay at the occurrence. The political class of the 90s, except the BJP, and the common man, also distanced itself from the incident, it was uncomfortable for them too.
As August 5 of this year drew near, social media posts and WhatsApp messages showed that that incident of hooliganism and action by force has indeed been forgotten by most of us. Even as 'Jalega toh Burnol hi chalega' (an ointment advertisement) trended on social media, insinuating the latent yet futile anger of Muslims, liberal intellectuals, and secularists, today's India showed that it's no longer uncomfortable by the 90s'demolition. And with chants of 'Jai Shree Ram', they revelled in the rebuilding of the temple. This is the new India, where the majority is vociferous, having found its voice even through the shadows of the murky past.
The rebuilding of the Ram Mandir is as per the Supreme Court's November 2019 diktat that must be respected. The law has upheld that Lord Ram's temple existed in Ayodhya long before the Babri Masjid came up. Most Muslims have accepted the Apex Court's verdict, some also happy to see the matter put to rest. But it also comes at a time of recent excesses (lynchings, abrogation of Article 370, scrapping of statehood for Jammu and Kashmir) against the minority group. The rebuilding of the Ram Mandir is following the law but let us not forget the shameful events, such as the Babri Masjid demolition, that led up to it. We must now make greater attempts at spreading and maintaining peace and brotherhood with the Muslim community. The victor must be gracious and humble; not gloat at matters that are still sensitive to the other; lest we alienate our own brothers and sisters who may have divergent faiths but remain an integral part of this great country.
The writer is an author and media entrepreneur. Views expressed are personal