The Ram Tem­ple ar­gu­ment

BE­FORE YOU GET SUCKED INTO THE TEM­PLE-RE­BUILD­ING DE­BATE, ask your­self how it will change your life

Millennium Post - - Editorial - SHUTAPA PAUL

My mem­ory of the Babri Masjid de­mo­li­tion is of an evening af­ter De­cem­ber 6, 1992. I re­mem­ber an uneasy calm around us; the lull be­fore an im­pend­ing storm. We lived in an es­sen­tially Hindu lo­cal­ity sur­rounded by Mus­lim­dom­i­nated areas. There was a threat of Hindu-mus­lim ri­ots be­cause Hindu kar se­vaks had de­stroyed the 16th cen­tury Babri Masjid in Ay­o­d­hya in Ut­tar Pradesh. The site of the masjid was Ram Jan­mab­hoomi and the RSS, VHP, and BJP wanted a tem­ple built there. There was fear of Mus­lim back­lash in the city and cur­few had been im­posed.

That night, our oth­er­wise peace­ful and cos­mopoli­tan area was di­vided on re­li­gious lines. I still re­mem­ber bricks be­ing piled up on our ter­race by some neigh­bours to pro­tect against an at­tack. All lights in the lo­cal­ity were switched off and the area plunged into dark­ness. The ten­sion in the air, the un­fa­mil­iar sound of ut­ter si­lence, and my par­ents whose worry was pal­pa­ble even in the pitch black of the night are etched in my mind. Neigh­bours sat hud­dled to­gether, chil­dren were asked to keep silent, and the en­tire ‘para’ waited. Noth­ing hap­pened that night, not in our lo­cal­ity. But at least 32 peo­ple died in ri­ots in the West Ben­gal.

When I see clip­pings of the de­mo­li­tion, the an­gry mob of kar se­vaks shout­ing ‘ek dhakka aur do, Babri Masjid tod do', fear grips me - not only of the reper­cus­sions of de­stroy­ing a masjid but fear of the per­pe­tra­tors of the de­mo­li­tion too. Years later, through sev­eral dis­cus­sions, I have tried to un­der­stand what pro­pels peo­ple to de­stroy an­cient struc­tures. The same thought that crossed my mind when the Tal­iban de­stroyed the Bud­dhas of Bamiyan. I have no an­swers yet but I do fully un­der­stand that when break­ing and re­build­ing of masjids and tem­ples as­sume cen­tre stage, it smacks of po­lit­i­cal op­por­tunism.

It is a stan­dard tac­tic of de­flec­tion from the fail­ings of gov­er­nance as well as a de­sire to po­larise the masses ahead of elec­tions. To­day, if we are once again hear­ing chants of ‘Mandir wahin ba­nayenge’, then it shouldn’t sur­prise any­one. The cur­rent dis­pen­sa­tion has failed with de­mon­eti­sa­tion, farm­ers are protest­ing, the com­mon man feels liv­ing is more ex­pen­sive than ever be­fore. With this long list of goof-ups, the po­lit­i­cal party in power is once again tak­ing re­course in the age-old tem­ple-build­ing ruse. There is also the inane, un­nec­es­sary trend of rechris­ten­ing names of ci­ties but while the lat­ter is an at­tempt to re­write his­tory and/or leave be­hind (an al­beit hol­low) legacy, the tem­ple-re­build­ing nar­ra­tive is a dan­ger­ous one.

Be­fore you too, dear reader, get wound up in the ‘us ver­sus them’ ar­gu­ment, be­fore you too start ques­tion­ing the doles given to mi­nori­ties, and most im­por­tantly, be­fore you too are brain­washed to ac­cept that the ma­jor­ity is at risk…please ask your­self: Does a tem­ple or a mosque truly change your life? Your daily lives -- rent, safety, trans­port, chil­dren’s ed­u­ca­tion, old age se­cu­rity etc. Will hav­ing a tem­ple make you feel safer? Will your fun­da­men­tal rights have been safe­guarded? Will fuel get cheaper? Will the cost of your day-to-day ra­tion be less pricey? Will you get that clean air that you’re now dy­ing to breathe? The an­swer is a re­sound­ing ‘No’.

This fear-mon­ger­ing per­pet­u­ated by right-wing par­ties is the great­est scam of all. A scam to fool you into be­liev­ing that you will be sav­ing your­self by de­mand­ing your right as the ma­jor­ity. If you fall for this, you will be only do­ing the politi­cian’s bid­ding who will once again for­get you af­ter 2019 Lok Sabha elec­tions. If you must protest, then de­mand poli­cies and rights that will im­prove your life and those of your fel­low cit­i­zens. In­stead of the Ram Tem­ple, why can’t we de­mand an in­ter­na­tional univer­sity of­fer­ing free ed­u­ca­tion or a state-of-the-art health­care cen­tre? And if it re­ally must get re­li­gious, can’t we say, ‘Mandir aur masjid, dono wahin ba­nayenge’?

(The writer is a jour­nal­ist and me­dia en­tre­pre­neur. The views ex­pressed are strictly per­sonal)

If you must protest, then de­mand poli­cies and rights that will im­prove your life and those of your fel­low cit­i­zens. In­stead of Ram Tem­ple, why can’t we de­mand an in­ter­na­tional univer­sity of­fer­ing free ed­u­ca­tion or a state-of-theart health­care cen­tre?

(Rep­re­sen­ta­tional Image)

Re­li­gious pref­er­ences be­ing given cen­tre-stage is a com­mon method of de­flect­ing from the fail­ings of gov­er­nance, par­tic­u­larly ahead of elec­tions

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