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Let us no longer bicker over temples and mosques

india Updated: Oct 17, 2010 01:08 IST
Khushwant Singh
Khushwant Singh
Hindustan Times
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I believe Sikhs are an integrated part of the Hindu family of religions. So, being a Sikh my bias in Hindu-Muslim conflicts should be in favour of the Hindus. It is not so. Whenever such conflicts take place, my bias is on the side of 'the' Muslims. I learnt this from no less a person than Mahatma Gandhi.

Having said that, let me come to the Allahabad High Court's verdict on the Hindu-Muslim conflict over the small piece of land on which the Babri Masjid once stood.

The mosque was knocked down on the pretext that it was built over the ruins of a destroyed Ram Mandir. We have to find answers to two questions: Was Shri Ram really born in Ayodhya? And was there a Ram Mandir which was pulled down during Babar's four-year rule?

There are other towns along the Ganga which claim to have Sitaji ki Rasoee (kitchen). However, a preponderant majority of Hindus believe that Ayodhya was his birthplace. There is no need to dispute that.

However, there are over a dozen versions of the Ramayana which differ in essential details. But how much do we know of Shri Rama? We celebrate his birth anniversaries with great fervour but no one knows the year he was born, nor the year he died. These are serious lacunae in our knowledge of the most revered figure in our history.

The more important issue is whether or not there was a Ram Mandir which was pulled down. The archeological evidence produced of its existence is flimsy and motivated. It has been rubbished by our top historians like Romilla Thapar (Hindu) and Irfan Habib (Muslim).

I suggest all those interested in the subject take a look at a small booklet entitled Ayodhya: Archaeology after Demolition by D Mandal (Orient Longman). It is no more than 74 pages long and will take less than an hour to read.

I quote a few sentences: "Archaeology has become implicated in the Ayodhya controversy. It has been claimed that archeological evidence provides irrefutable proof of the existence of Ram Temple at the site of the Babri Masjid and the destruction of this temple by Babar."

The author uses standard archeological procedures to question the claim.

He examines the structural and artifactual evidence and analyses the stratigraphic information of B B Lal's (then head of the Archeological Department) of Excavation Exploratory, possible alternative interpretation of the available data.

He concludes that "there was no temple of stone or brick lying below the mosque, and that there is no evidence of any act of destruction."

You will have noticed that the judgment has been lauded by right-wing Hindu leaders — Mohan Bhagwat (head of the RSS), Bal Thackeray of the Shiv Sena, L K Advani, M M Joshi and Uma Bharati of the BJP, Vishwa Hindu Parishad and other like-minded. There has been much jubilation in their ranks because they believe it is a victory for Hindu fundamentalism.

It has been received with dismay by Muslim organisations.

The case now goes to the Supreme Court. It should be heard soonest and the final verdict given to end the controversy once for all times to come. It has hung like a poisoned sword of Damocles on our heads for too long a time. We have more important things to do than bicker over temples and mosques.

Commonwealth PostScript

A park for beggars and homeless
On a short holiday
That stray dogs can call home
For food and water no more roam
A group of panic-stricken monkeys
Chased by a grinning langur
Collapsing building and corroding morals
Political antics and a city frantic
For God's sake where's the food and the water?
Even the snakes are out of their holes.
Where are the open-air loos?
Everything cleaned to a shine
But India shines anyway
For all such great efforts
The tickets are pretty cheap
Just rupees fifty thousand apiece!
India's flooded head deep
In Uncommon Wealth Games
Sorry! Commonwealth Games.(Courtesy: Sami Rafiq, Aligarh)

God be Praised
Close friends Santa and Banta met every other day. Once Banta went out of town for a fortnight. As soon as he was back, he went to see his friend.

"So, how is it going yaar?"

Santa raised his hands skywards and replied: "Rab thee Mehr hai (thanks to God, all is well)."

"And how is bhaabee (your wife)?" asked Banta.

Santa again raised his hands skywards and replied: "Rab kol challee gayee (she has gone)!"

What? Asked Banta, "Why didn't you ring me and tell me?"

Santa replied: "I wanted to give you a surprise."

(Contributed by Mrs Harjeet Charanjeet Singh, New Delhi)