It would put to rest a fractious controversy and restore harmony between Hindus and Muslims.
The Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid imbroglio is no run of the mill controversy; it is a unique conundrum; a recalcitrant altercation that stretches out over half a millennium and spans the tenure of two historical empires and a modern democracy; an ethical perplexity that seemingly tugs at the secular fabric of present day India, but one that also embodies a deep historic existential gash and questions the moral clarity of a nation: namely its ability to empathise, assuage and do justice to the hurt and faith of its majority community—the crux of this stubborn national impasse.
As the uncertainty over the Ayodhya dispute continues, with the Supreme Court deferring its hearing to 29 January and a government ordinance unlikely prior to a court verdict, it is imperative that we revisit this overarching complexity to obtain a practical, comprehensive and authentic perspective of the matter.
Ayodhya has been irrevocably and definitively associated with the Hindu deity Shri Ram since time immemorial. The ancient epic Ramayana, whose oral tradition goes back to 5000 years BC, identifies Ayodhya as the capital of the Ikshvaku kings and the birthplace of Shri Rama. The celebrated Sanskrit poet Kalidasa (4th-5th century CE) refers to Ayodhya in his poem Raghuvamsa.
Negativists out to demean and trivialise the Hindu religion claim that the legendary Ayodhya is a myth and deem Shri Ram to be a mere caricature from a fairytale. Moreover, these scholars contend that modern Ayodhya came into existence only in the 4th-5th century CE when the Gupta King Skandagupta moved his capital to Saket (site of present day Ayodhya) and renamed it as Ayodhya.
Skandagupta is supposed to have consecrated 360 temples in Ayodhya and the subsequent 11th century Gahadavala dynasty erected numerous temples for Vishnu here that survived till the reign of Aurangzeb.
So even if we take this contorted timeline to be valid, it cannot negate the fact that Ayodhya was sacrosanct to Hindus for at least a thousand years before Babur’s general Mir Baqi allegedly demolished a Ram temple and erected a mosque in its place in 1528.
Circumstantial logic provokes a pertinent question: Of all the places in the vast expanse of India why did Mir Baqi home in on Ayodhya to build this mosque? Was it to symbolically and brutally stamp the domination of Islam on one of Hinduism’s most sacred sites? The nefarious intention is self-evident.
Therefore, the historical veracity of Ayodhya as a venerable Hindu location for thousands of years prior to the Muslim invasion is incontrovertible; a reality which no twisted theory can deface.
Second, archaeological evidence lends credibility to the Hindu point of view. The final ASI report commissioned by the Supreme Court categorically concluded that a massive Hindu temple lay beneath the ruins of the area in dispute.
Thirdly, coming to the element of faith: historically there is ample evidence to indicate continued Hindu obeisance at this site. In 1768, an Austrian priest, Joseph Tiefenthaler, who lived in India for over 30 years averred in his book Description Historique Et Géographique De L’Inde, that Hindus routinely celebrated Ram Navami in front of a mosque. Analysing this ostensibly inexplicable behaviour, he wrote: “The reason is that here existed formerly a house in which Beschan (Vishnu) took birth in the form of Rama and where it is said his three brothers were also born. Subsequently Aurangzeb and some say Babar destroyed the place in order to prevent the heathens from practising their ceremonies. However, they have continued to practice their religious ceremonies in both the places knowing this to have been the birth place of Rama by going around it three times and prostrating on the ground.”(Translated from French version.)
In 1885, Mahant Raghubar Ram moved the courts for permission to erect a temple just outside the Babri Masjid premises. Despite validating the claim of the petitioner, the judge dismissed the case citing the passage of time: “It is most unfortunate that a Masjid should have been built on land specially held sacred by the Hindus, but as that event occurred 356 years ago, it is too late now to agree with the grievances.” (Court verdict by Colonel F.E.A. Chamier, district judge, Faizabad, 1886)”
In short, the Hindu point of view is bolstered by tradition, archaeological findings and historical documentation and point to a grave moral and religious infraction inflicted on Hindus.
The notion that it is inadvisable to rectify historical wrongs is a fluid and flawed argument. A wrong is a wrong; the passage of time cannot dim the monstrosity of an evil deed. Historical wrongs can and must be rectified as long as they do not endanger human lives and conform to the norms of current times. The building of the Ram temple falls into this category.
To build a Ram temple at Ayodhya would be a celebration of all that is good and right. Who can have an argument against the glorification of deity who personifies the perfect man—a composite of empathy, justice and rectitude?
Paradoxical though it may seem, this almost militaristic drive to build a Ram temple is an attempt to reinstate the guiding principles of our ancient land, of justice and pluralism and negate the forces of religious compulsion and domination that the Babri Masjid signified; a warning to the invaders of tomorrow that evil will not stand: the righteousness of this ancient land will eventually prevail.
In practical terms, the building of a Ram temple would put to rest a fractious controversy, restore the harmony between Hindus and Muslims and bring peace to a nation. Several Muslim groups are also of this view.
That, in the face of such overwhelming faith, significant archaeological findings and reasonable historical documentation, there exists such strident opposition to the Ram temple, is inexplicable. It can only be interpreted as a blatant example of schadenfreude; a perversion that seeks to undermine and denigrate Hindu sentiments: a warped attitude that must seriously question the integrity of the moral compass of a people and a nation.
With all due respect to the Supreme Court, one must acknowledge that the judiciary has its own limitations, restricted by official rules and regulations, hemmed in by existing social norms and constrained to work within the ambit of a mundane Constitution. Whether it can sit on judgement in matters of faith or redress the civilisational hurt of a people or pass a verdict on an issue that existed even before modern judiciary came into existence is an open-ended question.
Only an ordinance by a government given a massive mandate by the people has the power to resolve this dispute. The Modi government must issue the ordinance; it is the conscientious thing to do.
Whether the BJP wins or loses the forthcoming Lok Sabha election is irrelevant. A Ram temple ordinance will cement its place in history as the entity that had the courage and determination to restore the dignity of the Hindus and reinforce the principles of Shri Ram that have made this ancient land what it is and hopefully what it will be: a pluralistic open society.
Ekam sat vipra bahudha vadanti—“that which exists is One: sages call it by various names.”