By Mushtaque Rahamat
There is nothing holy in plunder and destruction of one’s place of worship, neither today nor it was in past. Our immediate past governed by modern, secular law as well as the bygone centuries have had been witness to such ignoble and horrendous crime. Historians and the faithfuls never ever agreed on the numbers and purpose of such acts of the medieval and ancient history. We are, though, sure the brute majority disregarded law and with almost no scientific proof (of underlying Ram temple) demolished Babri Masjid in the broad day light and got away without punishment rather rewarded. The organisations, leaders and the foot soldiers have, many times, in private and in public accepted and boasted of their role in bringing history down to dust. Such audacity demands scant regard, respect and care of the fellow weak, improvised and marginalised, both economically and political citizens, who had no role in the first place in the construction of this historical building. They are as strange to their so-called ancestor as the zealots of Hindu faith who now demands nothing less than life from them.
I agree that Quran especially warn Muslims not to damage the place of worship, priests, intellectuals, weak, women, children and those who do not fight with you and Muslims in general has observed this. Unequivocally, also, Muslims do believe that any structure made with ill-gotten money or money earned through illegal (haram) means or by indulging or trading (prohibited) haram activities/trading can’t be consecrated a mosque. However, there is no definite proof saying otherwise of many mosques under question (including Gyanvapi) in India and for which Hindutva forces are calling for expropriation.
There is no gain in denying that places of worship and meditations had been desecrated in medieval India. Much of the information, regarding desecration of temple or places of worship were translated, from primarily Persian sources, to English by Sir Henry M. Elliot in the eight volume book called History of India as Told by its Own Historians. As Professor Richard M. Eaton says in his essay “ Temple Destruction in pre-modern India “ …keen to contrast what he understood as the justice and efficiency of British rule with the cruelty and despotism of the Muslim rulers who preceded that rule, was anything but sympathetic to the “Mohammadan” period of Indian history. Professor Mohammad Habib remarked: “The peaceful Indian Mussalman, descended beyond doubt from Hindu ancestors, was dressed up in the garb of a foreign barbarian, as a breaker of temples, and an eater of beef, and declared to be a military colonist in the land where he had lived for about thirty or forty centuries…. The result of it is seen in the communalist atmosphere of India today”.
As a matter of fact the destruction and desecration of religious places of vanquished kings, communities and sects had been accepted by the society in the Medieval India. Prof.D.N.Jha has laboriously captured this essence in his essay Brahmnical Intolerance in Early India, how stupas of Buddhists and places of worships of Jains were the target of Hindu kings and lords in pre-Muslim period. So much so there are evidence of Jain monks prefer to travel at night to avoid being labelled as spies and tortured.
In early and medieval India temples were not only the place of worship but it was where power derived, divested, gained and lost. Usually temples were located in the capital and tend to contain the cosmic overlord of the dynasty and these were highly political charged place, to quote from Professor Richard Eaton. Plenty of Sanskrit and inscriptional evidence have recorded the instances of Hindu kings would attack the rival’s royal temple to undermine the sovereignty of the rival kings much before the arrival of Turkic- Muslim rulers and they continued this obnoxious tradition from today’s vantage point. Prof. Richard M Eaton has estimated and recorded the destruction of some 80 temples, though it can’t be the definite numbers in the absence of records and evidence, during the Turkic-Muslim rule.
The argument of handing over sites demanded by Hindutva forces is naïve and fraught with grave unintended consequences. Some memories may not die of its own but for society to come out of past cocoon and rebuild future it is important to dislodge and bury the past and move forward. This is as much applicable to Muslim as to Hindus. By righting the past’s wrong of one community we won’t be able to stop rather wheel will hurtle down farther in the past with no stopping in sight. It should not be expected for Muslims to atone for their ideological forefathers’ wrong doing, Hindus must come forward to repent and handover holy sites of Buddhists and Jains for the good of their progenitors. In present times, Muslims in Haryana and Punjab will also lay claim to abandoned mosques-now-occupied-and-turned into Hindu temples and Sikh Gurudwaras.
Why righting of the past wrong be restricted to building and structures only? Wars in the middle ages usually tended to be brutal especially for women, children, elderly and the weaker section of the society. Who are going to walk this path? This tendency to correct past’s wrong today is untenable and will give rise to the problems unknown to us.
The earth under the feet of an ordinary Muslim trembles with the war cry (Jai Shri Ram) of militant Hindutva forces. The ascent of current ruling dispensation has exacerbated the living experience of an ordinary Muslim in India. The core of Hindutva is to hate Muslims in his life and blood. As Aakar Patel has rightly has summed up Hindutva need Muslim to survive as it is based on hate of Muslims. The penchant for hate gradually morphed into killings, lynching and genocidal calls.
This year alone there have been numerous calls from the pulpit of Hindu Dharam Sansad for ethnic cleansing of Muslims, India’s Home Minister termed “illegal” (however, there is no definite proof to label people with no documents as illegal immigrants) Bengali migrant mostly Muslims as termites. In Delhi and other states poor Muslims’ home were demolished on mere allegation of stone pelting. Muslim girls were denied Hijab in Karnataka and there were drive by Hindu organisation to boycott Halal meat & food and the calls for economic boycott. The main stream visual media doesn’t stop even to breath in order to berate and demonise Muslims. Muslims are passing through worst kind of alienation and demonization.
Muslims have been given raw deal by judiciary, administration and executives of this country especially for the last 8 years. The parliament; the people’s representative body had no qualm in passing discriminatory law singling Muslim out through the filter of CAA and NRC combined. The Home Minister, Amit Shah took upon himself to explain the chronology of CAA and NRC combined mechanism. The most glaring and shameful of all these have been the judgement on Babri Masjid; the Supreme Court though criminalises the demolition of Babri Masjid but was mute on when no one got punished for its demolition. The foot soldiers and their masters have owned up this crime many times over in public meeting, press conferences and on camera. In fact Hindutva leaders are trying to outdo others in the race of confession. Without adequate archaeological and undisputed documentary evidence the Supreme Court decided matter on faith rubbishing reason and principle of judgement. Surprisingly, all through the judgement the honourable judges held reason above faith but made sure faith has the last laugh.
The same august house of legislature- Lok Sabha has the lowest Muslim representation partly thanks to majority Hindu sentiment and partly to unwillingness of political parties of different hues, colour, size and denomination to field adequate number of candidate in election from the Muslim community for the fear of loss of Hindu vote. The world’s largest political party doesn’t deem fit a single Muslim to get its ticket for a largest state’s election.
Triple talaq, was a horrible practice, held dear by very minuscule number of Muslims and even less were those who practiced it; nevertheless the judiciary and the parliament thought necessary to criminalise a yet- to- happen civil crime for Muslim men only. The law experts and sane minds of the society are yet to comprehend the efficacy, of this useless legislation, which only lies in finding any excuse to incarcerate Muslim men and leave Muslim women distraught and hapless in most cases.
There is hardly a day passes without Islamophobic statement or action by Hindutva rouble rousers, their political masters and the godi-media. Some enterprising and ambitious Hindutva leaders of late are throwing gauntlet to all and sundry by threatening rape of Muslim women, auctioning of Muslim women online, posting disgusting comments and suggesting disenfranchisement of Muslims altogether.
The police has the stellar performance when it comes to fomenting riots and communal clashes and seek to practice their shooting and killing skills by aiming at Muslims or siding with Hindutva criminals. The latest being Delhi riots which broke out after a BJP leader threatened agitating Muslim ladies against CAA and NRC in the presence of senior police officer.
Honesty is the best policy when it comes to resolve complex social issues. It is time for the majority of India to come forward with compassion, open heart and genuine love for their Muslim compatriots. The absence of care, the haughtiness of majority and the air of invincibility are not the right ingredients of a progressive society, and won’t induce generosity among Muslims in general to think and act on righting the past of few centuries. Hindutva forces, who are unfortunately in the driving seat today, must accept Muslim and other minorities like Christian as equal and full Indians as they see themselves.
The lead has to be taken by the government of the day, political class of all hues, civil and judicial administration along with mainstream media to stop vilification of Muslims and help create an atmosphere of respect and dignity for an ordinary citizen of India including Muslim. I do not see any hope of rapprochement on major issues between Hindus and Muslims anytime soon if the expectation is to exact revenge from the beleaguered community.
At the end I must say it is a dangerous and morally wrong precedent to judge past centuries’ events with today’s lens, laws, sensibilities and judgement. Human society is living and constantly evolving organism, trying to hold it and back-flip few centuries past won’t help us become a civilised and progressive nation.