Remains of the day
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Another reason Ayodhya cannot be forgotten is the way a symbol of confluence was turned into an epicentre of division. The city, with its mandirs, akharas, masjids, and its memories of viharas, has meant so much to different people over the centuries. The city is revered by Buddhists, Jains, Hindus and Muslims. Ayodhya should have been a symbol for the Indianness that each Indian (often unknowingly) embodies — a compound of several identities, speaking many languages. A city that should have stood for the plurality of being Indian was turned into a symbol that divided people. Not only can this not be forgotten, it needs to be recalled, again and again, so that we can pick up the signals of another Ayodhya, and stop it from happening.
Ayodhya was also a moment of rupture that gave the right, Muslim as well as Hindu, a chance to vent its grievances and nurse its wounds in public. Even after the moment had passed into history, it left a gnawing imprint, in the way the demolition of December 6 was used to instigate communal tension and violence subsequently, be it in Mumbai or Hyderabad. And in a restless India, people from all sides use these records to buttress claims and counter-claims, some in the hope of turning the politics of exclusion into an ideology yet again.
Most importantly, to those of us who do not fit into any of the relevant religious categories, Ayodhya 1992 matters because of what happened to the rule of law that day. An important promise of January 26, 1950 was run to the ground. Majoritarianism was wilfully confused with democracy. Governments were dictated by the fear of the mob. Those responsible for Ayodhya are yet to be brought to book. The fear of the mob that became ingrained in democratically elected governments that day was underlined by what happened recently in Mumbai. The state government acquiesced to a state funeral for the deceased Shiv Sena chief, the only political leader to be disenfranchised by the court, and functionaries of the state, instead, arrested those who commented on it on Facebook.