Here is a question. Can you tell me which year it was when the Ram Janmabhoomi / Babri Masjid case was first filed in court?
You know it was a long time ago. But how long?
Perhaps it was filed in the 1980s, when Rajiv was PM? Back when we were all using black and white TVs?
Then, perhaps it was filed when Indira was Prime Minister? Or perhaps in times of Nehru? Wrong again. It’s much older than that!
The filing of the suit predates the Second World War. It predates Mahatma Gandhi’s Dandi March. It predates the Jallianwallah Bagh massacre, the First World War and even the birth of Gandhi. It predates the discovery of the polio vaccine, the discovery of penicillin, the first automobile and first ever powered flight by the Wright brothers.
Would you believe that the case was filed in 1855-56? That is even before the First War of Indian independence in 1857!
They say justice delayed is justice denied. One hundred and sixty-three years later, I wouldn’t say that justice is being “denied.” I would just say that we need a new word for what is happening.
It is time for India as a whole to stop kicking the can down the road. Thus far and no further.
After independence, India did not really take off the way we would have liked. By opting for a (near) Communist destiny, the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty put India on the wrong side of history. The devastated continent of Europe put itself back together. Japan and Germany rose from the ashes of World War 2. The countries of the Middle East transformed their landscapes with gleaming skyscrapers. The countries of South East Asia rose up as “Asian tigers.” And, of course, China took off.
India remained, for the most part, a spectator. Poverty and corruption became endemic and then synonymous with India. The hopes and dreams of the nation remained in chains. The turnaround began in 1991 after Nehruvian secularism imploded spectacularly, coinciding with the collapse of global communism.
Since that lowest ebb in 1991, India has been surging, aiming for its rightful status as a global superpower.
But we know that India is more than just another country. India is an ancient nation, an inheritor of one of the world’s most influential civilizations. What was the ultimate goal of Alexander the Great when he set out of Macedon? He was looking for India.
Eighteen Hundred years later, what did Christopher Columbus set out to do when he bumped into America? He was looking for India.
That is who we are. We are India. The Americans like to say that the USA is the “shining city on the hill.” They are wrong. We are India. We are the shining city on the hill. Throughout the ages, they’ve all come to look for India. The search for India has shaped the history of the world.
This is not an empty, sentimental boast. This is a fact.
And what do we mean by a resurgent India? It means that we recover the position that we had in the world. And today we have the confidence to do it.
Who are we? What is our brand value? Our brand is that we are the sole inheritors of the ancient Hindu civilization. The mentality of the “second-class citizen” has been hammered into us by centuries of conquest and colonialism. But Hinduness will always be our distinguishing identity, even for those whose ancestors were converted by the same forces of conquest and colonialism.
A Ram Mandir at Ram Janmabhoomi is a symbol of rebuilding India. It is the overwhelming will of the people. And even those who are likely to be against the Ram Mandir know that very well in their hearts. Why do you suppose certain lawyers have been begging the Supreme Court to keep deferring the hearing and the verdict?
One hundred and sixty-three years and they still want more delay. Why? Because they are scared. They know that once the Ram Mandir becomes a talking point, their political masters will be crushed at the polls by the overwhelming will of the nation.
Because they know that every Hindu carries within their heart a bit of the sacred memory of who we were. They are scared of that little flame and what it can do.
Seventy years ago, in the euphoric first days of independence, Indians wanted to rebuild the Somnath Temple. At that time as well, there was one particular political master, a darling of the British, who resisted. Because he was steeped in the colonial superstition of the Indian Hindu being destined to lose every single time. But Indians decided to rebuild Somnath anyway.
If that all-powerful master back then could not stop the will of the Indian Hindu, do we really need to worry about what his minions want today? No way.
We need to rebuild the Ram Mandir at the birthplace of Shri Ram. Like all things historic, there is a right way to do this. The right way is for this to come from the elected government that represents the Indian people. Let there be an ordinance. Let it pass in the Lok Sabha, the House of the People.
Any other way to achieve the Ram Mandir will not do justice to the fact that the temple must be a symbol of resurgent Hindu civilization. The will of the people has to be expressed by the House of the People.
We have a had a bad few hundred years, but we are still here today. And we can again be the nation that we were. It is time to rebuild. Time to rebuild the shining city on the hill.
Abhishek Banerjee is a math lover who may or not be an Assistant Professor at IISc Bangalore.