In the whole Ayodhya episode of recent years, in the flood of statements, no one has perceived that there is a global problem of every religion finding it hard to come to terms with the modern world. Christianity is troubled with abortions, women clergy, modern genetics, apart from the old Catholic/Protestant divide and numerous sects.
The Papacy has straggled for 400 years to come to terms with Galileo’s conception of the universe. Islam seems to have been in rage and frustration against the whole non-Islamic world, a modernizing Satan. Now Hinduism, as calm as evolution for millennia is off balance. This hurts scientists and buffets States.
And now the world is reverting to its atavistic past: China to the ways of Celestial Empire behind a Marxist façade, Africa to tribalism, Eastern Europe to ethnic Balkanization, Islam to foundationtalism, India to caste and communal societies. Therein is reality, thereto and promise. There are no dilemma-free choices.
Let us probe the whole Indian situation in its majority-minority, communal and secular aspects, on both sides of the coin; the subjective and the irrational, which is no less a part of reality than the other side, the rational and objective, If Ajodhya was the work of “ghosts” of the past, those ghosts have had sufficient power to sick Indian society and the State, with internationals repercussions.
The first subjective yet realistic recognition has to be given to the fact that, if Hindu society is uniquely emerging from 800 years of Islamic domination, and 200 years of foreign rule, all non-Hindus, especially in India, should appreciate that emergence calls for sympathetic understanding. And especially because the predominantly Hindu society has been a tolerant host to so many other religions over centuries.
In all human history, no society has been in that position for so long. And if this basic historical fact and the consequent feelings are treated with understanding, it is still capable of being a good and tolerant host to other minorities.
If Hindu society has fallen from its great pre-1000 A.D. civilization, the Hindus themselves, from Topsides to Ram Mohan Roy to Vivekananda and Gandhi, hover been excursive about it. Let us also remember that after 1947 the same Hindu society gave equal constitutional and democratic rights to the minorities, and even set up a Minorities Commission to look after interests. This overall goodness must be seen beyond the traumatic vandalism of Anybody on December 6, 1992.
The second subjective reality is that Indian Muslim society, by and large, has made a conscious self-wounding choice- post -1857 and post-Side Ahmed Khan- out to follow a progressive modernizing path in the last century and a half. It has been a fundamental mistake of Muslim leadership, inflicting poverty, suffering, and alienation from the mainstream on the Muslim masses. Modernizing, liberal, mainstream Muslims have been too few, too weak, and too shortsighted in both political and economic terms.
Long, before, “Hindustan”, the Muslim League and Jinnah exploited the backwardness of the Muslim masses; even after Gandhiji held out a cooperative hand in the Chairlift movement, and eventually sacrificed his life for Hindu-Muslim amity. The seeds of hatred, militancy, and an unrealistic Pan-Islamic view of the world were sown, as if these could have revived the Afghan or Mughal empires of the 12th century. The recent Hindustan distortions of pristine Hinduism were matched earlier by the distortions of Karani Islam is a man who tore India apart and became the president of Pakistan. The seeds of the double distortion have produced a poisoned harvest on both sides in our time.
The third subjective factor was produced by Nehru and the Westernized intelligentsia. Apparently rational, it was an unclear secularism, which no one has been able to translate into any vernacular meaningfully for child or adult. One hears it translated as “respect for, or tolerance of all religious” by the State. But when the polity politicized it for the purpose of building up vote banks, it has been transformed into nothing but the sordid exploitation of religion, the opium of politicians of all parties.
Secularism is a kind of Western ghost looking after an Indian soul-in a country where religion and its symbols have been external, where Vivekananda clearly divorced ‘politics from his Ramakrishna Mission, and where Gandhi saw no separate worlds of religion and politics. And then came state secularism in a society which Netaji described as “a government less civilization”. Could such a transplant take root here?
Where is the ghost of the secular Sate in the West, its apparent source? The U.K. is an Anglican State, with the sovereign as “Defender of the Faith” since Henry VIII. In Germany, public funds are disbursed to various churches. Poland was “liberated “by the Pope. All Catholic States and societies owe as much allegiance to the Papacy as Tibetan Buddhism owes to the Dalai Lama.
The USA is the unique exception, being a recent melting pot of all societies and religions. SO, on any objective reckoning, the modern secular State is largely rootless myth, and yet in this country and elsewhere it has become a vague intellectualized subjective assumption. Clearly, the modern secular State needs and indigenized soul.
And so a myth-creating Indian State now finds itself gripped by multiple contradictions and dilemmas. The first of these is the dilemma of weak and small modernizing sector faced with a still-predominant traditional, fundamentalist sector of both Hindus and Muslims.
Every thrust towards modernization or globalization is met with a strong reactionary pull towards temple, mosque and a lumen traditional culture, producing no great work of art, architecture, literature or painting comparable to the subcontinents contribution in either the pre-1000 A.D. or the Mughal period.
Secondly, there is the Muslim dilemma of the Shari at and Civil Code; of covert pan-Islamic and Indian loyalties; of a strong monotheistic faith in a land of the widest polytheism; of the slaughter house of the cow; of a dying Urdu and rising vernaculars and English. And all these facets are subsumed by the illusion of a demographic war of survival in the long-run.
Thirdly, there are the more recent contradictions and dilemmas of Hindu society; between the higher castes and the Canalization forces; between the backward Hindi speaking belly of India and the more progressive limbs elsewhere; between resurgent fundamentalism in both Hinduism and Islam, now ironically producing a cast of reversed roles. With the “Singh Parivar” infected with the Pakistani complex, a complex which loses its own intrinsic identity and acquires the aggressive, militant identity of an adversary constantly seeking an enemy to justify its-existence.
This un-Hindu complex lives to kill, not to live and let lie. The demolition of the Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992, was an act of revenge against Babar and, symbolically, all invaders from Ghazi to the domiciled Aurangzeb. And in that single flush of instantly was lost the best heritage of Akbar, ram Mohan Roy, Vivekananda, Dadabhaii Nauroji. Gandhiji, Maulana Azad, et al, what can a Marashimha Rao and the rest of us do with these inherited subjective factors, these living ghosts of the past, these awesome contradictions and dilemmas? Even Marx would have been perplexed by this primitive accumulation of the Mythological capital of the past, which is so hard to demythologize. Is India now a melting pot of earlier peoples, myths, cultures, angst’s, refusing to melt into modern, molten steel?
To turn to the more rational, pragmatic side of the coin, it may be a good idea to challenge straightaway a question posed by a letter-writer in a national daily “can you tell me a higher common denominator than Ram to keep the country united?” This is indeed too simplistic a construction for human reality. Neither Christ nor Allah has kept Christendom and Islamic societies united. Nor in all the ages oaf Hindu history has Ram kept even Hindus united far from it.
An over-centralized state in India (primarily the work of Mrs. Gandhi and the higher bureaucracy) is an important culprit in any rational reckoning, a state which has acquired immense legislative and ordinance power but which is impotent in either saving targeted place of worship or the lives of its citizens. Modern societies have lost control over their gargantuan Governments, and Governments have lost control over their affairs. Both the recent bank scam and Ajodhya have shown that, despite, laws, guidelines and a plethora of controlling authorities, there have been no control and no effective action.
The Centre, smug in Delhi, is out of sync with the periphery. One result of this is the proliferation of dehumanized role-players inside and outside the establishment. This has been the dismal transition between the strong hand of Patel who rebuilt the Dwaraka temple in as table state; and the hordes of ineffective, confused men and women in and out of authority who created the Ajodhya debacle in a very unstable state.
This situation calls for a new, stable balance between the centre and the states, between Hindus and minorities, between the liability of misgoverned Hindi-speaking states and the assets in much of the rest of India. Insecure politicians are afraid of change; mindless politicians are nor capable for giving such problems. The statesman like thought do they require. We are electing plundering villians and making mockery of democracy in the world’s most plural and poor society.
The next rationality factor is that in the world’s most plural society, extremism of any faith or ideology is dysfunctional, disastrous, and insane. Co-prosperity has to be preceded by a sprit of co-existence, a reasonable give-and-take, and the third aspect lire in the formation of a new, more credible leadership in all parties, especially the Congress (1), the BJP, and the splintered Muslim and Sikh minorities. Without stability, in India as perceived by the world, the jack of much melded trade, technology and investment will leave the country in the 188th century back water of poverty, illiteracy and disease.
The Muslim community in particular needs to throw up a 21st century leadership, modeled on the Aga Khanm with a forward-looking vision to lift 120 million people from poverty, malnutrition, illiteracy and ill-health, apart from promoting the culture, art and architecture of Islam in India to its highest traditions. Nor should this be accomplished in isolation. It ought to be the legitimate demand of 120 million Muslims on the remaining 730 million Indians and the Indian state.
As for the Sikhs, they are entitled to feel grievous hurt it their psyche after the golden temple, issue and the massacre in Delhi after Mrs. Gandhi’s assassination. This should weigh on the Hindu conscience as mush as the demolition of the Babri Masjid. Indeed, it is time for the 80 per cent majority Hindus to show magnanimity to be 11 per cent Muslims and two per cent Sikhs if they themselves wish to transform an earlier formative Hindustan to amore united India, taking its rightful place in world politics, economics and culture.
So, whether of the Congress (I), BJP or Janata variety, will the Hindus throw up new or reformed leaders who will not either profess a hollow secularism on the one hand, or propagate minority-ism and pseudo-secularism on the other? Can “Hindustan” shed its Pakistani complex? If 80 per cent Hindus are themselves a self-confident people, they should perceive no threat from the Muslims and Sikhs. Once the political complexion of the leaders of all three communities changes, the ballot box, the polity, and the economy will change for the better too.
Yet all this may be wishful thinking if we did not expose the real politic of money, the scam of religious institutions in Indian society. In the Watergate episode, the advice of Deep Throat was ‘to follow the money”. When the Washington post heeded that advice, they could pin down the head of State and all his henchmen.
The Indian public needs to heed that same advice. After being so closely integrated with the Hindu community for three centuries, Master Tara of the rising revenues of the Gurdwaras. Separatist politics of the name for the Khalsa concealed the pursuit of money. Sim8ilarly, the vast funds of Hindu temples fuel narrow, chauvinistic urges. The influx of petrol-dollars has had a similar influence in Muslim Mosques and Madras’s.
If we are fundamentally concerned, spiritually or secularly, with the human condition, the License-Permit Raj also needs to be removed for two basic social objectives first to lighten the burden of inflation and inefficiency on the poor and, second, to lift the additional burden of mounting government expenditure from the back of the people. “Follow the money”, and we will uncover the root causes of problems, political, economic, social and communal.
So the stagnant License-Permit Raj is also a conditioning factor in the exploding socio-economic malaise, which finds an outlet in a growing lumen participation in communal riots.
One last suggestion about the erased Babri Masjid site. First, the court verdict must be adhered to quasi facto and de facto. Then with consensus of both Hindus & Muslims let there be a national memorial dedicated to (a) the memory of all those irrespective of religion who have lost heir lives and suffered injuries in communal disturbances anywhere in India, and (b) to the poor of India of all faiths whose human condition is basic in the teachings of Christ, Muhammad, Guru Nanak, Vivekananda and Gandhi. And let its architecture match the blend of Mughal Rajput architecture, which we treat as a great national heritage. Let mosque and temple be healingly and mutually built close by in Ajodhya. Let there be undenominational intercession for India’s integrity and interfusion by religious priests and let them initiate steps to interconnect Indian masses. That will be the true test of the human concern of all faiths and their protagonists; and the test of the recognition of the inescapable reality of the co-existence for Hindus and minorities.