A sym­bol of plu­ral­ism

Ay­o­d­hya is a sign of Hindu faith; make it a site of sec­u­lar­ism too

Hindustan Times (Gurugram) - - Comment -

On Au­gust 5, nine months af­ter the Supreme Court (SC) de­cided in favour of the Ram temple at the dis­puted site in Ay­o­d­hya, Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi will pre­side over the bhoomi pu­jan to mark the be­gin­ning of the con­struc­tion in the holy town. Ay­o­d­hya, in In­dian his­tory and mythol­ogy, is as­so­ci­ated with the Hindu faith as the birth­place of Ram, and the Ram

Ra­jya that he presided over af­ter a long bat­tle against evil. Ay­o­d­hya, in In­dian pol­i­tics, has been as­so­ci­ated with un­prece­dented Hindu po­lit­i­cal mo­bil­i­sa­tion, the rise of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), a pro­tracted le­gal dis­pute, and yes, Hindu-Mus­lim ten­sions and com­mu­nal vi­o­lence.

As the con­struc­tion of the temple com­mences, Mr Modi has a rare op­por­tu­nity to fuse to­gether both these strands of Ay­o­d­hya. The temple is a po­lit­i­cal, in­tel­lec­tual and le­gal vic­tory for the Rashtriya Swayam­se­vak Sangh, for the BJP, for its count­less work­ers who par­tic­i­pated in the rath ya­tra that brought the is­sue to na­tional cen­tre stage, for Mr Modi him­self whose po­lit­i­cal life has co­in­cided with the rise of Hindu po­lit­i­cal con­scious­ness, and for mil­lions of devo­tees who wanted to see a temple at the dis­puted site. This is a vic­tory which the de­vout will, un­doubt­edly, mark with re­newed faith. Mr Modi will not be off the mark in ac­knowl­edg­ing this.

At the same time, the con­tentious his­tory lead­ing up to the temple can­not be erased. The fact that Mus­lims have abided by the rule of law and ac­cepted the SC ver­dict in the spirit of clo­sure is laud­able — but can­not take away from the in­se­cu­rity they have felt at the po­lit­i­cal mo­bil­i­sa­tion around the is­sue. The fact that the Babri masjid was de­mol­ished, and this was il­le­gal ac­cord­ing to the same SC ver­dict that al­lowed the temple, can­not be de­nied ei­ther. It is, there­fore, in­cum­bent on Mr Modi to not only mark the day as one of cel­e­bra­tion for the de­vout, but also a day of so­bri­ety, reach­ing out to those on the other side of the di­vide. There can be no bet­ter oc­ca­sion to enun­ci­ate the “sabka

vish­was” slo­gan of the gov­ern­ment than in Ay­o­d­hya, to mark the end to an era of con­tentious po­lit­i­cal po­lar­i­sa­tion, and in­au­gu­rate a new phase of plu­ral­ism, sec­u­lar­ism and har­mony. Ram took care of all his sub­jects, with com­pas­sion and em­pa­thy. PM Modi must reach out to all cit­i­zens, with the same com­pas­sion. That would be a true trib­ute and re­de­fine the mean­ing of Ay­o­d­hya in In­dian po­lit­i­cal lex­i­con.

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