When I was younger, on the question of Ayodhya, I would have told you, ‘Why bother for a Mandir? Why not build a Hospital or a School and do something good for the society? That would be more godly.’
It was a genuine feeling – so I would like to think, and there would perhaps not be a tinge of guilt in making the suggestion. Today, however, I do see through the convenient hypocrisy of this suggestion.
There are several reasons for saying so – but, they perhaps need to be articulated systematically. It is therefore, important to first dissect the suggestion to understand its fundamental rationale.
The suggestion ostentatiously rests on the premise of the superiority of the services provided by Hospitals and Schools as against those provided by Temples. It would not be presumptuous to extrapolate the argument on behalf of its proponents to include that Temples are a drain of resources and wealth of the nation.
Here is why the argument is hypocritical. Despite the fact that an ‘urbanised’ section of the Indian populace may believe in the futility of temples, it remains a fact that temples do provide an immense amount of support to the large practicing Hindu population of India. Unfortunately, this same population is too subdued and knows no means of making its voice heard. So, neglecting the value temples hold to hundreds of millions of voiceless Hindus is essentially a coup of national priorities by the Urbanised Indians who make their case based on inherited Hindu names that they place no value on.
Moreover, it is also well known that as with any other institution – religious or otherwise, hospitals and schools are breeding grounds of corruption and exploitation of the society as well, if such a case is to be made against temples.
The second argument in favour of building a hospital is the hope that it will bypass communal ill will. However, in reality this is a dangerous appeasement tactic, which has been consistently proven to not work over the history of mankind. It only brushes conflicts under the rug until they resurrect with greater ferocity. This in fact is an escapist and cowardly approach, that runs away from the very fundamental question that India has been facing since independence. The question being – does India (irrespective of religious communities) have the honesty and courage to admit and correct wrongs done by restoring the sites of Indian civilisations to their deserved respect? To suggest there is an iota of communalism in this ask is disingenuous.
Thirdly, there is an inherent insincerity in asking for a hospital at Ayodhya in that it does not rest on a sound, repeatable principle. If the overarching principle substantiating the demand is the superiority of hospitals and similar services over benefits of a religious institution, then it must be universally sought, including as much on Jama Masjid, Golden Temple, St Pauls Cathedral and as on every place of worship. If one were to ask such, it might still be appreciated as a principled approach. But, unfortunately Ayodhya has been made a special case for hospital. A special casing that is sought on account of the first two reasons, and so, is entirely hypocritical.
Also, as someone on social media had asked, will these people be happy if a Ram Mandir is build at Ayodhya with the promise that bulk of the chadhava (donations and offerings by the faithfuls) will be used to fund a hospital and a school? Clearly this solution is not amendable to them, as their motive is not to build a hospital or a school, but to stop building a temple.
Those seeking the building of a temple at Ayodhya do not debate the merits of a Hospital or a School at all. But they do question the wretchedness and lack of courage to admit the ugly pieces of our history and take corrective actions in the restoration of our civilisation. It is too easy to see through the deception inherent in the suggestion. It tries to emotionally distort the question at a very superficial level and obscure the underlying troubling issues for which there aren’t easy answers.
It is absurd to suggest that Indian civilisation stands apart from Ramayan and Mahabharat. The life of Lord Ram is the very essence of the five millenia old civilisation that in the modern day manifests as India. Whether scientific rationality allows one to believe in the historicity of Ramayan is another matter. Irrespective, it is a plain truth that the conception of Lord Ram is a pillar of the Indian civilisation in terms of culture, value systems, as also Indic religions. In the multi dimensional diversity of a country like India that includes differences in languages, dressing, food, music and so many other aspects, the value systems derived from our epics are the singular unifying spirit of the country.