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Saturday, Aug 24, 2019

Why can’t Ayodhya become a symbol of our coexistence

The survival instinct that most Indians display connects the Babri demolition with the death anniversary of Baba Saheb Ambedkar

columns Updated: Dec 03, 2017 22:18 IST
Shashi Shekhar
Shashi Shekhar
Hindu fundamentalists celebrate the destruction of the 16th Century Babri Mosque in Ayodhya, December 6, 1992.  It sparked riots in which more than 2,000 people were killed.
Hindu fundamentalists celebrate the destruction of the 16th Century Babri Mosque in Ayodhya, December 6, 1992. It sparked riots in which more than 2,000 people were killed.(AFP file photo)

If you read history after doing away with the clichéd proverbs then all the mysteries of the world will keep unravelling in the manner files used to unspool on an old PC. Consider December 6. The cacophony of voices celebrating it as ‘victory’ day or ‘black’ day may make it difficult to hear or see things clearly. But what you see is not always the entire truth.

The date has a special place in the pages of India’s history. In 1992, the Babri masjid was demolished on this date and in 1956, Bhimrao Ambedkar breathed his last in Nagpur on the same day. Why am I connecting Ambedkar with Ayodhya, you may ask in surprise. From the outside, these two appear unrelated but the thread of the Indian survival instincts connects the two. Let us find out how.

Beginning with Baba Saheb, he left the world 61 years ago. At that time, his opponents may have believed that his story had reached its culmination. But Ambedkar’s revolution refused to die. He was the high priest of a reformist movement which would go on to change the destiny of billions. That is why, even today, Ambedkar occupies a special place in the pantheon of people who influenced India’s political and social discourse.

What Amedkar said and did in his lifetime acted as a beacon of light to guide billions of Dalits. He became a medium for bringing a generation hitherto perceived as “unproductive” to the national mainstream. In a country where one’s ancestors decided one’s profession, bringing in these changes wasn’t easy.

I often imagine how India would have been without the caste system? Expert opinion is divided over the answer. Since the question is linked with tradition, there has never been a consensus on the answer and never can be. Without hurting anybody’s sentiments, I would submit with utmost humility that the system has given more reasons for people from various castes to be ashamed than to be proud. Most scholars agree that owing to the caste system, a number of ancient systems of learning withered away. This provided an opportunity for foreign invaders to subjugate us. Is it essential that the son of an expert doctor will be as skilled in matters of medicine as his father? Will the son of a warrior turn out be as brave as him? If this were the case, all the authority of human civilisation would remain the fiefdom of a few.

It is obvious that a few selfish politicians have attempted to drag Ambedkar’s name into ideological mud-slinging. This involves trying to paint him as a symbol of those who opposed Mahatma Gandhi. Despite all the propaganda around this falsely created dispute, Ambedkar ushered in a non-violent social revolution.

Now let us turn our attention to 1992. The memories of the years from 1989 and 1992 are still fresh on many people’s minds. On one side crowds of kar sevaks raising raucous slogans could be seen heading to Ayodhya. On the other, it appeared the exercise would divide the nation. When riots began singeing the country in the aftermath of the demolition, the naysayers got busy spreading their own insecurities. But they proved to be wrong. In a few weeks, normalcy was restored. Within us, as a people we have a unique capacity to learn from our mistakes and rectify them.

At times we fight with each other and even go after each other’s heads but Indians are firm believers in letting bygones be bygones and looking forward. For a majority of Indians, co-existence isn’t a slogan but a way of life.

Many of us could be evaluating the 25th anniversary of the Babri demolition, which falls two days after today, from our own individual perspectives. Like always, those stoking the fires of controversy and divisiveness will spice up facts and use them to push their own selfish agendas. At the same time, oblivious to these conspiracy theorists, certain people are busy in the background trying to find a solution to the dispute. Don’t be surprised if, within the next two years, you see the temple and the mosque being built at the same time. If that happens, as Indians, we can again proudly declare that our model of coexistence is timeless, eternal and indestructible. If Ambedkar’s life struggle and teachings drive home the message of social harmony, why can’t the city of Ayodhya become a symbol of our coexistence?

This is a lesson that history, too, advises us to follow.

Shashi Shekhar is editor-in-chief Hindustan

First Published: Dec 03, 2017 20:04 IST

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