Remains of the day

Twenty years after the demolition at Ayodhya, what India must not forget

On December 6, it will be exactly 20 years to the day the Babri Masjid was demolished. Much has happened to India and the world in between it is also about 20 years since the first SMS was sent. New countries have been formed. The caste cauldron in north India has swirled in this time and also cooled. The economy has changed beyond recognition since the 1990s. The Uttar Pradesh electorate, in 2012 at least, did not seem to be that taken by either the Uma Bharti brand of BJP politics or the Congress's lure of Muslim reservations. Ayodhya 1992 should not, perhaps, elicit much of a response.

Twenty years after the Babri Masjid was pulled down, under the watch of the BJP state government and the Congress government at the Centre, should it not be forgotten as a blip in time? Of course, simmering communal tensions in several UP districts, especially in Ayodhya-Faizabad, make the business of forgetting a little harder. For those interested in the sunnier theme of "India Happening", forgetting Ayodhya is a starting point. Yet if India is to genuinely transform into a modern republic, remembering the darker moments is as important as commemorating pleasant anniversaries, partly to preempt such horrors from recurring in future. Here are a few reasons why Ayodhya must not be forgotten.

If Jinnah fought for a homeland for "wronged" Muslims, a similar case has been made for Hindus and with some success since the 1980s. Equating faith with nationalism, using a three-domed mosque as a symbol for excluding a large minority, worked wonders for several political fortunes. That L.K. Advani, the leading proponent of such rhetoric, went on to praise Jinnah a decade and a half after Ayodhya should not have come as a surprise. But certain realities cannot be brushed aside that a politics can be built by creating a sense of injured pride, that personal belief can be turned into political slogans, that the idea of Siyapati Ramachandraji (Ram as the husband of Sita) can be morphed into the narrower idea of "Shri Ram". This new interpretation was centuries removed from Gandhi's Ram of the "Ram rajya" invocation. A religion does not make for a nation, as other countries, especially neighbouring Pakistan, are discovering at high cost. In this context, re-reading Ayodhya could prove to be valuable.

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