Even a cursory visit to a country such as Saudi Arabia will show the separation between Shia mosques and those catering to Sunnis. The Babri Masjid was built as a Shia house of prayer, although in a legal manoeuvre, it got reclassified as Sunni just before 1947, through the decision of a judge who subscribed to the same school of theology within the great faith he belonged to, as that which his verdict favoured. To accuse him of bias may be unjust, but from then onwards, Shia organisations were sought to be excluded from activities connected to the mosque. Now they have re-entered the legal arena, seeking to re-establish their historically valid claim to being the actual trustees of the mosque, rather than the (Sunni) Wakf Board, which was given control by the Faizabad judge. A comprehensive review of the historical evidence would almost certainly result in the Shia community being given back legal authority over what remains of a structure that was destroyed in 1992 by kar sevaks. This was as a consequence of a lack of effective protection by the Narasimha Rao government, which went by assurances related to the safety of the structure that were quickly shown to be incorrect. What is not in dispute is the fact that hundreds of millions of individuals believe the Babri Masjid to have been erected on the very site where Lord Ram was born. Similarly, a structure was constructed atop what is almost universally regarded within the Hindu community as being the birthplace in Mathura of Lord Krishna, and (in Varanasi) a mosque was built on what is believed to be the site of an ancient Shiva temple. Those within India and outside with an interest in ensuring toxicity within the Hindu-Muslim relationship would like these three locations to remain as they are, an oozing wound on the psyche of a billion people.
This columnist is clear that the battles and events described in the Mahabharata actually took place, and it is evidence of the persistence of colonial mindsets in a country that won its freedom seven decades ago that historians steeped in the external prejudices that have suffused Nehruvian thought, continue to regard the Indian epics as “myths”. Were Italians to regard Julius Caesar as a fantasy, or Greeks as a historical untruth the life and conquests of Alexander, they would be called insane. Those who acknowledge the truth of the epics of ancient India are not termed mad, merely “fanatics” who seek to invent history. Or in other words, be accused of precisely what colonial-era historians and their successors in post-1947 India did. Which was to create an ersatz history that subliminally ensured that any sense of pride in being sons and daughters of the subcontinent would get stamped out.
Unfortunately, more than a few champions of the Correct History (as distinct from Colonial History) cause are aiming at the wrong target by demanding the extinction, rather than spread of a useful weapon of global empowerment, which is the English language. Such faulty targeting is an error common in the history of India, and which has been responsible for the fact that even in 2017, this country is dependent on foreign sources for almost all its core defence and technological needs. As has been pointed out by worried scientists, even laboratory equipments need to be imported, as very few items are indigenously produced. Were sanctions on such supplies to get imposed, much of R&D would halt. Not, of course, that there is a surfeit of genuinely swadeshi R&D anyway, most of it being re-heated versions of concepts and models from countries that are less dismissive of their own talent than India. The widening trajectories of the indigenous capabilities of India and China show the extent to which the retention of the colonial model of bureaucracy, housing, healthcare and education has damaged the future of India. In the chemistry of a people, history is at the heart, and acknowledging that Lord Ram and Lord Krishna are as real in history as Alexander and Julius Caesar, is essential to historical truth. Such a factual history, rather than continuing with colonial-era myth-making, is a necessary step towards a rejuvenated Indian nation. In this context, were the birthplaces of Lord Ram at Faizabad, that of Lord Krishna at Mathura, and the spiritual centre of gravity that is the former structure in Varanasi consecrated to Lord Shiva, to be gifted to their Hindu brothers and sisters by the Muslim community, such a princely gesture would douse the flames of tension rising between the practitioners of these two noble faiths. Once this transfer takes place, any attempt by individuals to change the status of other houses of worship in this country on historical grounds should be met with police bullets. No further change on the lines of the three already mentioned should be asked for, or granted. Those irresponsible enough to do so should be shunned.
There are fanatics in all communities, even within those that are known for their modernity and rationality, such as the Jains, Sikhs and Parsis. A tiny substratum of believers in the Two Nation theory popularised under the British should no longer be allowed to block the path towards the comprehensive communal harmony in India that will dawn with the building of temples at the three sites mentioned. Also (in Faizabad and Mathura), historical complexes should be constructed in a traditional architectural way that tells the life stories of Lord Ram and Lord Krishna, and to which every individual on the planet should be welcomed. Epic heroes are universal, whether they be from India, Europe or elsewhere. They each belong to all humankind. Additionally, as suggested by the Shia petitioners in the Babri Masjid case, a mosque should be erected in nearby locations in the three centres, which would be visible symbols of the mercy, compassion and peace that so fills the Holy Quran. The gesture of agreeing to the relocation of the three places of worship in order to ensure lasting communal harmony would be the finest 70th birthday gift to the entire nation. It would show the world that Muslims in India are second to none in their respect and tolerance for other faiths.