Help us bear the burden of secularism
Recently, a distinguished columnist, T.V.R. Shenoy, made a point in relation to the Babri ‘Masjid’ affair that beautifully summed up the dilemma of the Hindus in India. He said: “Help us bear the burden of secularism.” He was addressing the minorities. It must have come straight from the heart. It was, as the French would say: cri de coeur. The cry of the heart. For no other country in the world from east to west, faces the agony that the Hindus in India have to face. They are the injured party; but they are crucified by the secularists—most of them themselves Hindus—at every stage. No country in the world has been so ravaged and raped by outside forces as India has been down the centuries: Not Japan, not China, not Russia, none of the European countries, neither the Arab nations and certainly not the United States of America. Krishnadevaraya of the Vijayanagar Empire did not send his forces to Portugal to tear down churches, use force to convert Christians to Hinduism and indulge in religious terrorism. Prithviraj Chauhan did not invade Afghanistan nor Central Asia and raise temples.
No Chola, Chera or Pandya ruler sent a fleet to Saudi Arabia to tear down the Ka’aba and build a temple to Meenakshi on its ruins or even next to it to demonstrate Hindu might. India and Hinduism have been ravaged beyond belief. Hindu missionaries did not accompany a conquering horde to Britain and under their benign rule set to convert Scottish peasants to Hinduism—or even Buddhism. Whatever their million faults, Hindus in this matter have their hands clean. When Christian rulers fought back the Moors in Spain, they destroyed every vestige of Islamic influence in the country save the Alhambra in Grenada and no one, not even the most fanatic Hindu, would dream of duplicating Spanish behaviour. All that they have so far asked is the restoration of the Ramjanmabhoomi site that was—it is recorded in history—desecrated by an alien ruler. Even presuming that to say so is historically incorrect—what should count is popular faith, which has kept that belief alive for decades if not a couple of centuries. In their hatred of the Bharatiya Janata Party, the secularists have done untold damage to the Hindu psyche.
The time has come to place the blame for the bloodshed in India because of the Babri ‘Masjid’ dispute on the hands of the secularists. These are red with the blood of the innocents. What happened on December 6, 1992 was not a breakdown of law and order; what happened was a cataclysmic event which was an outpouring of the anger of five centuries that nobody could have stopped. Not Atal Behari Vajpayee, not L.K. Advani, not even God Almighty could have stopped that event. Our secularists with no roots in Hindu society have just no understanding of the Hindu psyche. The bringing down of the Babri ‘Masjid’ was not a physical act; it was an emotional necessity. It has nothing to do with Islam: it has everything to do with a peoples’ self-respect. The gravest damage to Hindu-Muslim unity was done by the secularists by making it a Hindu-Islam issue. That it is not. It was the cry of a people whose wound of being ruled first by Muslims and then by a Christian nation called for healing. The greatest service that Muslims in India can do to themselves and to their Hindu fellow-countrymen is to understand that angst and to make amends by voluntarily agreeing to the rebuilding of the Ram Mandir on the site where the Babri ‘Masjid’ once stood.
Secularism is not a burden to be borne only by Hindus. The Muslim populace —indeed the entire ‘minority’ populace— has divine duty to share that burden. And it is not the Babri ‘Masjid’ issue alone that calls for burden-sharing. There are several issues over which the majority community—and a long-suffering community it has been—would appreciate minority understanding. And such understanding is long due. Sonia Gandhi, as the president of the once-great Indian National Congress—there are no rival Congress factions of any substance today—has a great responsibility to bear. She should realise that had not Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel shied away from tackling the Babri ‘Masjid’ issue way back in the late forties, the dispute would not have persisted. No matter what the jaundiced eyed secularists may say, Hindus have a genuine claim on the Ramjanmabhoomi site. That fact was tacitly acknowledged by the Hindu populace during L.K. Advani’s famous rath yatra and it was that acknowledgement that was reflected in the victory of the Bharatiya Janata Party at the hustings. Atal Behari Vajpayee owes no apology to anyone—least of all the Congress—for saying that the building of the Ram Mandir on the site that rightfully belongs to it, is his party’s unfinished business. Unfinished business it is.
The Muslims must help him in his endeavour, instead of constantly harping on secularism. Secularism is a burden not for Hindus alone to bear. The Muslims have a solemn duty to share that burden. It is a point that cannot be emphasised too strongly. For the Congress and Leftist opposition to lay the blame for the demolition of the Babri ‘Masjid’ on L.K. Advani, Atal Behari Vajpayee and Murli Manohar Joshi is the height of impertinence. Factually it is incorrect. According to Nirmala Deshpande, a Gandhian social activist and former Rajya Sabha Member [quoted by The Pioneer (December 5)] and secretary to Acharya Vinobha Bhave who was present at the site when the demolition took place, “the situation was beyond their control” and she could “see and hear Advani and other leaders shouting on the mike asking people to come down from the domes”. But none of the BJP leaders need feel ashamed of the event. It had to happen because of historical reasons. But how can the burden of secularism be shared by the minorities? It has been pointed out that Nawab Shuja-ud-din in his time donated 50 bighas of land to Hindus to build a temple—the second holy one in Ayodhya—to Hanuman.
According to Mohd Hashim, the Hanuman Garhi always had a Muslim worker in it till 1932 who used to get a share in its offerings. Hashim has been quoted as saying: “The practice, if continued, will improve relations between the two communities.” High-minded though it may be to demand of the majority community to alone bear the burden of secularism, the minorities must do some heart-searching on their own to ask whether their expectations are fair and equitable. It comes easy to damn the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, the Bajrang Dal, the RSS and the BJP and it may warm the cockles of minority—and secular—hearts to run them down as fascists, fundamentalists or whatever. But in their turbulent way they reflect the thousand-year agony of Hindus. The minorities may do well to remember history and give some credit to the majority community for whatever their tolerance—enforced or otherwise—is worth. Secularism is a cross to which the minorities and secularists want to nail the Hindus. It is time they realize the enormity of their intolerance—and crime.