Resolve Mandir/Masjid Mess – learn from secular mosquitoes
It’s that happy time yet again! When, inspired by a cerebellum that is as overflowing with originality and creativity as Rahul Gandhi’s is, I reach into the dusty shelves of decade-old works and re-inflict them upon my hapless and rapidly dwindling readership.
The reason for committing this latest atrocity on thee, O dear and innocent reader, is to defend the initiative taken by Sri Sri Ravishankar—the Indian spiritual leader, head of ‘Art of Living Foundation’, popular among Hindus, Muslims and other communities for his teachings, cosmetics and other rejuvenating products—to engage with Muslim community leaders in an effort to settle the gangrenous, 30-year-old Ram Mandir/Babri Masjid dispute out of court. Sri Sri’s initiative is being met with violent opposition from many rabid, self-styled leaders of Hindu and Muslim communities.
An important disclaimer: I am no ‘follower’ of Sri Sri. In fact, I have severely criticized him in speech and in writing (and still do) for hosting his ‘World Culture Festival’ on the Yamuna floodplains in March 2016; an event that led to the de-vegetation and flattening of a vast area on the floodplains. The repercussions of that ecological assault are still being directly and painfully felt by the undersigned and other residents of East Delhi in the shape of year-round attacks by assorted species of mosquitoes (all of them entirely secular in their choice of prey); because with the denudation of bushes and scrub on the floodplains, these bloodsuckers have lost their traditional breeding and brooding grounds on the said floodplains.
But I still believe Sri Sri and his associates, Hindu and Muslim, are doing the right thing, indeed a noble thing, by trying to solve this hideous mess over Mandir vs. Masjid; a mess that’s led to mass murder in the past – and threatens mass murder in times to come.
If Sri Sri succeeds in his mission, I am even willing to forgive him for the mosquito bites he has caused me, and countless others of every faith.
And so, in good faith, I present here an article I wrote for the edit page of Indian Express nearly 15 years ago, when the Kanchi Shankaracharya launched an identical ‘reconciliation’ initiative in 2003—and was met with the same violent opposition and ridicule by so-called leaders of Muslim and Hindu communities. In fact, the man was even charged with murder in 2004, arrested, jailed and tried…only to be absolved of all charges and released in 2016!
You’ve taken on formidable forces, Sri Sri! Victory be thine: Jai Vijaye Bhava!
Listen to the Kanchi seer
R P Subramanian: Jun 14, 2003
It is heartening that the Muslims of Faizabad-Ayodhya see the Kanchi Shankaracharya’s initiative to resolve the Ayodhya tangle as a ‘‘good beginning’’ (‘Local Muslim leaders find some hope…’, IE, June 11). Ironically, the sincerity of the Kanchi seer’s efforts is proven conclusively by the heated opposition he has drawn from the lunatic fringes — both Hindu and Muslim! Organisations such as the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Bajrang Dal, All India Babri Masjid Action Committee and Sunni Wakf Board will never solve the Ayodhya problem because they are the problem. While the common citizenry of both faiths only want peace and harmony, these bodies comprise bigoted, self-serving individuals who not only claim to represent their religions, but have obtained enormous fame and political power precisely by keeping the Ayodhya issue simmering. Any solution to the dispute would threaten their very existence. Quite naturally, then, they have resisted, and will resist, any attempted solution. Remember how the Kanchi seer’s initiatives for dialogue were rubbished by both the VHP and BMAC in 2002?
Let us face it: the Ayodhya issue will not be resolved by the much-bandied ‘‘court decision’’ (assuming it ever comes). It will be solved only by mutual understanding between the Hindu and Muslim communities at large. After all, any court decision will be interpreted in only one of two ways: as favouring the building of a temple, or of a mosque. If the verdict favours a mosque, the VHP et al. will shriek that Hindus have been ‘‘betrayed’’. On the other hand, Muslim bodies such as BMAC will become redundant at a stroke; their very raison d’etre would be gone! So the VHP and similar self-styled ‘‘Hindu’’ bodies will incite violence across the country; the members of BMAC and similar ‘‘Muslim’’ bodies, threatened by redundancy, will find fresh reasons to project themselves as ‘‘defenders of the faith’’; the outcome will be chaos and bloodshed.
And what if the verdict favours a temple? Alas, these dreadful organizations would merely switch roles. The BMAC would shriek that the Muslims have been betrayed, the VHP would assume the mantle of ‘‘defenders of Hinduism’’, and chaos and violence would follow.
The only way to unravel the Ayodhya tangle is to shun any political, executive or judicial involvement — precisely what is being advocated by the Kanchi seer and by the Muslims of Faizabad-Ayodhya. Let us not be misled by the rabble-rousers, Hindu and Muslim, who have no religious or intellectual authority whatsoever to represent the laity; who number no more than a few thousand; yet who have held a nation of one billion hostage to their narrow-minded agendas for decades. Let us leave it to learned men and women of both faiths to sit together and agree on a simple way by which the country can finally discard the communal baggage of the past.