The Ayodhya Dispute – a Perspective

(This article is inspired by the thoughts expressed by Sadh Guru in an interview broadcasted on 15 October 2019 on Times Now).

It is a pity that the Ayodhya dispute transformed into a Hindu – Muslim dispute over the years and today the court is seeing it as a land title dispute between the litigants. In reality it is none of these. For Hindus it is an issue related to their religion, heritage and history. Therefore it is primarily a strong emotional issue for Hindus that has roots going back to more than six thousand years. There is no denying that all Indians today, irrespective of their current religious beliefs, share the same heritage and history. Any denial of this hard truth amounts to denying one’s identity as an Indian.

The question that needs to be answered is why has this dispute become a Hindu – Muslim problem when actually it is not that by any stretch of imagination. Mughal invaders like Babur were against idol worship. When they came to India they destroyed thousands of temples to pursue their crusade against this practice. In this process they also forced many to convert to Islam while a few may have done so willingly so as not to invite the wrath of these invaders. History bears testimony to this destruction and conversions that were carried out across the length and breadth of India. It is important to understand that these invaders were outsiders who neither shared our history nor our heritage. However, those who were part of this nation but converted to Islam cannot shrug off their history and heritage. It is important for today’s Muslims in India not to project themselves as decedents of the Mughals or custodians of their legacies. On the other hand it is important that Hindus should not see Indian Muslims as outsiders.  We all were Indians and continue to be so irrespective of any changes in the choice of our religion. Once this distinction is understood and accepted by all of us then Ayodhya problem will not be seen as a Hindu Muslim issue.

If we accept that our history and heritage are equally important and dear to all Indians, then Ayodhya dispute is no more a Hindu – Muslim problem as every Indian has a stake in Ayodhya. That only leaves the religious angle of the dispute to be resolved. To do that it may be necessary to establish the comparative importance of Ayodhya, as a place, for Hindus and Muslims. There is no doubt in any one’s mind that Lord Ram was born in Ayodhya. Any doubts in this regard will actually turn the whole Hindu belief and mythology that is over 6500 years on its head. As far as Muslims are concerned, the Masjid came up only in the sixteenth century AD as part of Babur’s drive to destroy Hindu temples and spread Islam. Archaeological surveys and findings have established that a massive structure existed under the Masjid site in Ayodhya. The diggings have unearthed strong evidence that points towards this structure being a temple. Archaeological evidence and thousands of years of faith and belief do make an irrefutable case for the site being a religious place for Hindus that has high emotional connect. On the other hand Islam or Muslims cannot boast of a similar belief or emotional connect with Ayodhya or the site under dispute.

At the expense of being a bit controversial one may add that as events have unfolded, today the Ayodhya problem is more an issue of ego and pride for Muslims as opposed to faith or belief. This is so because Ayodhya does not hold any significance for Islam. The mosque built at the site is just one of the thousands built by Muslim invaders wherever they went. In fact the small town of Ayodhya itself has more than fifty mosques apart from the one on the disputed site. In absence of any religious importance attached to this particular site, today ego and pride have become the only issues for Muslims. They do not want to be seen as if they backed off and allowed Hindus to have their way. Perhaps it is time for Muslims to understand that by doing so they are ignoring and foregoing their heritage and history of thousands of years for the sake of some false ego and pride. It may be more prudent for Muslims to take a high moral ground and state that they are as interested in preserving the history and heritage of the nation as anyone else. Therefore the need to correct the wrong that was done a few centuries back. This is not to say that ego and pride are not a part of the stand taken by Hindus. But there is a difference. While for Muslim it is perhaps the only issue, for Hindus the real issues are faith followed by history and heritage. Ego or pride are only subsets of the main issues and therefore less relevant.

One question that is often asked by those opposed to the Ram temple at the site is about the veracity of the claim that Lord Ram was actually born at the disputed site. However, the fact that he was born in Ayodhya is undisputed and accepted by all. Does it make any difference if he was born a few hundred meters this side or that side of the disputed site? Does anyone know the exact spot where Prophet Muhammad or Jesus Christ were born? It is believed that the Prophet was born at the site where presently there is a library in She’eb Banu Hashim in Makkah. Christians have identified a site about 10 Km South of Bethlehem where Jesus is believed to have been born. No amount of historical records or excavation reports can ever determine the exact spot where anyone of them was actually born. But that neither makes these sites less revered nor does it raise any doubts if they were actually born there. These are beliefs that have stood the test of times and will continue to do so in future too. So this whole argument regarding the exact spot where Lord Ram was born is just a ploy to derail any settlement.

There is school of thought in Islam that believes that as per Sharia law a mosque cannot be built on disputed land or a site where earlier there was another place of worship. If this be so then does the whole stand of the Muslim side fall flat? There is no doubt that interested parties tend to interpret religious scriptures as it suits them and this case is no different. But still it does raise some uncomfortable questions on the stand of Muslim litigants.

Is it not a tragedy that an issue that is emotionally dear to over 83% of the nation’s population has been reduced to a title issue for piece of land measuring 2.77 acres? Does the court have any mechanism to quantify or measure the emotional content involved in the dispute? Will it be correct to pass a judgement that ignores the important aspect of emotional connect? Whatever be the outcome of the case in the court, one party will be a loser. And chances are that it will be a bad loser as opposed to being a dignified loser.

It is quite likely that Muslims may have a feeling that if they give in at Ayodhya it may open a Pandora’s Box. While these fears may be justified, the chances of this becoming a reality are very remote. It is neither feasible nor practical to reclaim thousands of such sites across the country. In principle these sites cannot boast of the same emotional and religious connect for Hindus as a whole. The only site that may come up for consideration in future is the birthplace of Lord Krishna in Mathura since that would be at par with Ayodhya. But that hopefully it is not as complicated as the one in Ayodhya and may be more amenable for an amicable resolution. But then as they say we will cross that bridge when it comes.

There is still time for better sense to prevail and parties concerned should come to an understanding before the court delivers its verdict. Sometimes it is important to see the writing on the wall and if required one should take a step back for overall good. In reality that one step back by a few would actually be many steps forward for the wellbeing of the nation as a whole. Such an approach will resolve the Ayodhya problem once for all and our future generations will certainly thank us for the same. Who knows it may be the tipping point that may result in better communal relations in the future which is certainly the need of the hour.

Saroj Chadha, an engineering professional, is a successful entrepreneur. Having retired from the Indian Army after having served for over 23 years, he has also been a consultant for leading Indian and Multinational electrical companies. He lives in New Delhi.

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