Indian politics has recently devolved into two diametrically opposed battle crys; ‘Mandir yahi banega’ and ‘Masjid tha, Masjid hai, Masjid rahega’. The Mandir-Masjid conflict has morphed into a proxy war for the soul of our nation. Are we a secular nation, or are we a Hindu Rashtra?
August 5th 2020, marked a decisive victory for one side. An affirmation of religious sensibility, coming from the highest office in the land, very clearly demonstrated who’s winning. Fascinating as the debate around the secularism (or lack thereof) of the government’s overt approval and involvement in the Ram Mandir is, let’s not focus on that side of the issue, for it tends to bring out the worst in us.
I’ll get snarky, and you’ll get lynching.
Instead, let’s focus on the Supreme Court’s decision, and the method they took to reach it.
In October 2019, the Supreme Court finally reached a verdict in the Ram Mandir case. Steeped in historicity, they argued that the ASI Report showed the existence of pillars and other structures, thereby proving that at some point in history, a Mandir stood in the disputed territory. This is obviously in contradiction to the Historian’s Report to the nation, which sought to demonstrate that there was no plausible case to be made for the historical existence of a Mandir.
Whether you wish for a Mandir or a Masjid to stand tall in Ayodhya, you agree with one of the above arguments.
Buried in them is a premise, largely seen as uncontroversial. Though why, I couldn’t tell you.
If at some point in history, one group had the land, then they should be given access to the land now.
Fundamentally, this is the case both sides of the debate make. It’s a ludicrous one.
All of human history has been conquest and war and strife. Kingdoms have killed and captured other kingdoms for the sole motive of expansion. Humans have fought countless wars over countless arbitrary distinctions.
History is replete with injustices done by one group to another.
Are we now to embark upon a ‘solve’ of history?
Will we attempt to redress every injustice committed by one group upon another? Will we start handing out random plots of African land to Black Americans, since their ancestors were ripped from their homelands and enslaved in a foreign nation?
What of internal conflicts in the land we now call India? Are we to snatch land from Marathas and hand it back to the Rajputs?
How far back should we go? Are the humans living in 5000 BC the upper limit of our quest for historical justice? Or are those wronged by them also to receive their fair share?
What of the other humanoid species that we, as Homo sapiens, wiped out? Do we need to genetically re-engineer Cro-Magnons and Neanderthals and give them back the land that was originally theirs?
The answer, I’m relieved to tell you, is no; to all of those questions.
A modern day Mandir or a Masjid, is not justified by the existence of one half a millennia ago. Even if the structure in question was destroyed by those with evil intent.
Controversial as it may be, we must hold this same standard for the destruction of the Babri Masjid in 1992. While it is obviously difficult for us to separate ourselves from the time in which we live, and look at this from a purely historical perspective, it is required.
The year 1992, while extremely close to our own, is still a part of history. Decreeing that a Masjid must be erected because there was one in 1992, is no better than arguing there must be a Mandir, because there was one before Babar arrived.
Handing the land to either religious group does not solve the issue. Having given it to Hindus, India has seen massive riots in Delhi take place because of the communalist sentiments that such a decision necessarily stirred.
Had the Court decided to give Muslims the divine right to the land, Hindus would have responded in kind.
Giving the land to both groups is appeasement, and a failed attempt at that. Each group feels as though the ‘other’ is encroaching upon their divinely ordained land. By handing one group the land, the other is angered. By handing them both the keys to the kingdom, they both are.
The only plausible solution is to give it to no one. Regardless of Mandirs or Masjids, human history has been a journey, wherein humans have finally matured enough to realize that historical injustices do not justify the modern-day implementation of the reverse.
Now that we have matured, let’s not go back.