Handover of Hindu shrines will ensure that fringe moves get treated with derision.
Contrary to the views expressed by opposition parties, the Narendra Modi government is the effect, and not the cause, of changes in societal attitudes that need to be addressed. What is taking place at Sabarimala in Kerala is just a mild foretaste of what can happen across the country, were past (and still largely present) societal policies to be continued. Several times when the UPA was in office, this columnist warned friends in the Congress Party about the risks of backfire of their policy of treating what in India is quaintly known as the “majority community” the way minorities get treated in some countries. For decades, the way in which successive governments discriminated against large sections of the Hindu community in their policies remained unchanged. It was the overreach of this policy by the Sonia Gandhi-led UPA that caused the blowback which resulted in the installation as Prime Minister of Narendra Modi, who refused to wax apologetic about Hindus being the majority community. Since taking office, however, Modi has moved with extreme caution on the necessity of ensuring that the scales of administration be level as between members of one community or the other, refusing to take steps to equalise sacrifice in the Right to Education Act or to free Hindu temples from state control. Indeed, even the recent decision of the Kerala government to remove the proviso that those administering (Hindu) temples should be Hindu, was met with silence from the Union Ministry of Home Affairs. Whether it be in choosing those in the BJP who had (and have) cosy relationships with the Lutyens Zone, or in selecting for important assignments those officials who were the favourites of Sonia Gandhi and her key ministers (such as Sushil Shinde and P. Chidambaram), the Narendra Modi government has followed a hyper-cautious policy towards the past that has done little to lower the sense of insecurity and injustice prevalent in the Hindu psyche as a consequence of decades of “Nehruvian secularism”. This, by definition, posits that only Hindus are “communal” and every other community “secular”, no matter how extreme their views. An abortive UPA-era legislation sought to anchor this tenet even more firmly than before, explicitly implying that only Hindus would be found guilty in communal incidents.
It is essential for double digit growth that the social stability necessary for rapid growth (the other requirement being sound policy) be nurtured. This should not be expected from government, as the colonial baggage carried by the administrative apparatus (and its compliant political overseers) makes the structure both unwilling as well as unable to remedy the festering fault line that has been created as a consequence of discriminatory policies over the centuries, added on to, rather than reduced, by the dawn of Independence in 1947. Fortunately, the innate moderation of the Indian spirit is sufficient to ensure that steps get taken within civil society itself to heal rifts in perception and to ensure that a sense of shared destiny permeates the 1.27 billion people of the Republic. After all, both the RSS as well as the Jamaat-e-Islami-Hind were opposed to the 1947 partition of India that was agreed upon between M.A. Jinnah together with Nehru and Patel. As for Gandhiji, he must have been heartbroken, for it had been his life’s mission to bring together Hindus and Muslims in a way that would make partition impossible, a goal which impelled him even to support in 1919 the Wahhabi project of the Ali brothers to bring back to life the Turkish caliphate, a decision that had the opposite effect of promoting religious extremism and separatist impulses. Whether it be his decision to be neutral during World War II (thereby ceding public opinion in the UK to Jinnah, who backed the Allies against the Axis), or to make the Congress ministries in the provinces quit and thereby boost the power of both the Viceroy as well as the Muslim League, there were several decisions taken by Mahatma Gandhi that will need to await fuller examination in an era when even mildly critical comments on the Mahatma are not seen as immoral or indeed illegal.
98% of Hindus and Muslims are moderate, and to ensure that this percentage does not dip in future, a gesture of divine benevolence on the part of the Muslim community needs to be taken to ensure that the Ram Janmabhumi, the Krishna Janmabhumi and the ancient Kashi Viswanath temple in Varanasi be restored to the condition they were in before the Mughals. The three sites are to the Hindus what Mecca, Medina and Al Aqsa mean to Muslims, or Bethlehem to the Christians (and the Vatican to the Catholics among them). Except to Wahhabi and Khomeinist zealots, this should be obvious. There may be intemperate minds within the Hindu community who say that not just this all-important trio, but some other places of worship as well should be similarly restored. The atmosphere of love and trust that will get created between Hindus and Muslims after the handover of these three shrines will ensure that such fringe moves get treated with derision. Any attempt by elements of the Hindu fringe to take over any other place of worship (once the three mentioned above have been restored) should be met and thwarted with armed force by the state. It is not for nothing that the ISI has for long ensured that more than a few Hindus form part of its stable of agents. Indeed, those Hindus who kill in the name of cow protection play a role welcomed by the ISI, which is to commit acts that portray India as a country similar to a Pakistan that has been relentlessly Wahhabised since the 1970s. The Congress and the Left need to stop efforts at preventing a resolution even of the Ram Mandir issue. There are those who claim that the Rahul Gandhi Congress is simply the Sonia Gandhi Congress in a tracksuit. This is being unfair to the new Congress president, although the anti-Hindu remarks of some of its (Sonia-era but continued into the new period) senior leaders do seem to indicate that nothing has changed. Such a perception would be to the benefit of the BJP, a party that has a less than stellar record in economic and social policy during its nearly five years of rule. In India’s Muslim community rests the power to carry out an act of supreme beneficence that would be entirely in keeping with the words repeated multiple times in the Holy Quran, words that stress the divine qualities of mercy, compassion and beneficence.