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|Ram is a mythological figure. Valimiki wrote the epic with Ram as a Hero. Interpretations and worship for Ram are not uniform in different sections of Hindu community. There is no archeological evidence to show that at the time when Ram is supposed to have been born there was any human habitation around Ayodhya, argues
RSS resolution at the end of Banglore convention asked the Muslim community to buy the goodwill of majority community for its own safety and good. Similarly many a spokespersons from this Sangh Parivar have been asserting that since the Hindus are the majority, and Ayodhya is a holy place for them, the Muslims should strike an out of court settlement with VHP and hand over the 'site' to Hindus for building the temple of Lord Ram. Many an advisers have gone on to say that it is the Muslim arrogance, which is responsible for the Ayodhya imbroglio and the accompanying violence in the society.
The assertions made on this wavelength are manifold. To begin with it states that Ram is a symbol of Indian Nationalism, that Ayodhya is to Hindus what Mecca is to Muslims and finally since Ram was born precisely at the spot where Babri mosque was standing so the site must be handed over to Hindus i.e. to VHP, to Ram Janam Bhumi Nyas, controlled by RSS. In this scheme of things RSS is synonymous with Hindus. Most of these are constructs which have very little to do with truth.
Ram is a mythological figure, Valimiki wrote the epic with Ram as a Hero. Interpretations and worship for Ram is not uniform in different sections of Hindu community. There is no archeological evidence to show that at the time when Ram is supposed to have been born there was any human habitation around Ayodhya. Archeology does not substantiate the Ram legend in any way. The popularisation of Ram cult began with Tulsidas who wrote Ramayana in Avadhi dialect of Hindi and people at large could access this book. Before that, story of Ram was available only in Devbhasha Sanskrit so its prevalence was restricted to the upper caste only. As such, Ram is not the only holy figure in Hindu pantheon. Lord Krishna, Brahma Vishnu Mahesh and a large number of Holy figures are prevalent in Hindu mythology and in Hindu psyche. The choice of Ram as THE holy deity may be a bit deliberate. The other side of this praise for Ram is seen in the interpretation of Ram legend by Phule, Ambedkar and Periyar. Phule saw Ram as the representative of the conquering Aryans, one who was the upholder of gender and caste hierarchy. The story of Shambuk as upholder of upper caste ethos is more than obvious. Just to recall Shambuk was killed by Lord Ram as he was doing penance, an act, which was not permitted to the low caste. Similarly Ram had no hesitation in oppressing Tadaka to insulting Shurpnakha or banishing his pregnant wife Sita on the suspicion of her fidelity.
Ram was never accepted as a symbol of Indian Nationalism in the struggle for Indian independence. This struggle based on the secular values kept the holy deities in their sacred precincts while concentrating on the issues of this world, freedom from the clutches of British colonial powers etc. To say that Ram is THE prophet of Hindu religion as Mohammad is the prophet of Islam is not true. All the Prophetic religions have one prophet, while Hindu pantheon has innumerable Holy figures competing for the Number one slot. So whatever is the birth place of Ram it can not be compared with the Holy places like Mecca, Bodh Gaya or Jerusalem as those places are the one's belonging to the 'sole' holy place for the believers of those religions. This can be done only by undermining the status of other holy deities like Lord Krishna, Vishnu or Shiva, which may not be acceptable to many Hindus who follow them.
Coming to Ayodhya if one spares some thought to the issue, the manipulation of the Hindu Right in raising this as an 'issue of faith' etc. will make it clear that history has not much to do with the issue and what is of paramount importance for the Kar Seva politicians is the political benefits rather than the religious sentiments. Mir Baqi who got the mosque built could not have gone against the sentiments of his chief, Babar. In Babar's reign there was a strong growth of syncretic traditions, while he got the Jain temples of Gwalior demolished on the grounds of nude idols being there. Babar's' will to Humanyun advises him to respect other religions especially, Hinduism, as his subjects are Hindus. Babar himself was no bigot and he gives a good account of his respect for other religions in his Baburnama. During his reign, in the Guru-Khattri shrine in Peshawar Hindus offered their hair as an offering, and in Kachwa Muslims lived among Hindu Yogis and there was a lofty idol house standing next to a Mosque in Gwalior.
Even Tulsidas, one of the greatest Ram Bhakta's of all times could not have missed the Ram Temple demolition, had there been one. He lived just a quarter of century after Babar and it is totally unlike for him not to have mentioned this had this taken place as recently as 25-50 years. Also many a Hindus may claim that since Ram was first son of Ayodhya, Kaushalya, Ram's mother, must have gone to her mother's place for delivering Lord Ram.
The claims, which have been made for demolition, also do not mention the reference source of that time. Ram Gopal Pande's Ramjanmbhumi ka Rakta Ranjit Itihas mentions that during Babar's reign Hindus attacked the Babri mosque four times, during Humayun's reign ten times; during Akbar's reign 20 times, to recover the site of temple. In this popular book no mention is made of the source of this ‘information’. As a matter of fact the first confrontation took place at the instance of the British who succeeded in driving a wedge between Hindus and Muslims.
The minor tit bits apart British did want to propagate that Muslim Kings had destroyed Hindu temples and at every point they went on adding this as matter of practice. The British chroniclers sowed the seeds of controversy. P.Carnegy's Historical Sketch of tehsil Faizabad, Zilla Faizabad, Lucknow-1870, and H.R.Neville's Faizabad District Gazetteer ( Allahbad 1905) are a good example of this. Without citing any concrete evidence the Gazetteers just put the probability of a hypothesis that the temple might have been destroyed to build the mosque. The underlying current of British officials is best manifest in translation of Babar's memoirs by Mrs A.F. Beveridge. She suggests in a footnote that Babar being a Muslim and 'impressed by the dignity and sanctity of the ancient Hindu shrine would have displaced at least in part' the temple to erect the mosque.
The events after the night of 22-23 January 1949 are too well known. Some miscreants placed the Ram Lalla idols and the district magistrate K.K.Nayyar sealed the place. Till that time Namaz was being offered regularly. After this the matter again was in the deep freeze till the Margdarshak Mandal of VHP decided to revive it. Till this time RSS was trying to use the cow protection as the emotive issue to build up hysteria. It failed. After the social changes which had taken place. Now a big constituency was there which supported this campaign and BJP itself came forward to reap the fruits of seeds of Ram Lalla idols installed by force. And rest is (or should be hopefully) history. Court injunctions-making the Masjid into disputed site, its demolition under the leadership of Advani, Joshi and Uma Bharati and declaration of this day as Hindu Shaurya Divas need not be recounted. During the whole process a large section of population came to believe the lies spread by Sangh Parivar. A new 'faith' came into being. This new faith dictated the politics and continues to dictate the politics to quite some extent.
With the recent failures of Chetavani Yatras and other campaigns launched by Sangh Parivar, it is clear that this issue will not succeed in mobilizing the gullible any longer. Now to build a Mandir is not like demolishing a mosque. Sangh could demolish it in five and a half hours, but construction will take much longer, so the brute force, which is the hallmark of Parivar may not work now. Also if people don't vote around this issue, if they do not come forward to support the illusions created by Sants and company any longer, (barring of course the lunatic fringe) what is to be the face saving formula? How to convince the core supporters without loosing face? Advice the Muslims to give up their claim and the line that law of the land should prevail. So tell them subtly that there has been anti-Muslim pogroms and that they are insecure in this land, tell them they need security (from its goons) and 'advice' them to give up the claim from the 'disputed site'! One has come around full circle. Manufacture a faith, agitate around it, destroy the secular fabric around manufactured faith and seeing that there is no exit from this dastardly path, threaten the minorities to behave, to surrender or else!
And that's where we stand today while reading the resolution of RSS at the end of its Banglore meeting. Hope the sanity of the society will prevail over these machinations to break the unity of Indian Nation. Hope India will prevail over Hindu Rashtra and we can witness the decline of the fascist maneuvers of the Sangh
Prof. Punyani works with EKTA,
Committee for Communal Amity, Mumbai