When PM Modi performed Bhoomi Pujan in Ayodhya yesterday, it capped a five hundred year struggle for Hindus to reclaim Ram Janmabhoomi in Ayodhya. The temple becomes the most visible symbol of pushback by Hindus in nearly one thousand years.
As every Hindu knows, on a tour of holy places in India, especially in the North, you always come up against the same sad story. So and so was a great temple, but then … destroyed it. You know who. It could be Kashi, Mathura, Ayodhya. Or even a slightly less famous place such as the Shakti Peeth of Jwalamukhi temple in Himachal Pradesh. Akbar ordered the naturally occurring flames of the temple to be extinguished by covering them with iron discs and pumping water. It didn’t work.
I deliberately chose this example, considering that there is a particularly strong genre of fan fiction about Akbar’s “secularism” in our Ganga-Jamuni textbooks.
In India, the evidence of temple destruction is everywhere. The ASI dug the ground in Ayodhya, but you really don’t need to work as hard. There are famous places in India where you can literally see the old temple wall at the back of the mosque. The Indian state deals with this by banning photography of the exterior of the mosque. And most importantly, the phenomenon of destroying places of worship of non-believers can be observed all over the Muslim world even today. A temple under construction in Islamabad was demolished only last month.
In other words, the evidence for temple destruction is so vast and overwhelming that you would have to be a “historian” to not believe it.
At long last, on the 5th day of August 2020, we have a change of narrative. Hindus lost something. And they got it back.
Five hundred years of struggle went into this moment. There would be so many heroes that it is impossible to remember them all. The vast majority of them have been lost to history. But here are three in the post-independence era that we can never forget.
Karsewaks who perished in police firing in Ayodhya
At the Bhoomi Pujan yesterday, one of the guests was Poornima Kothari from Kolkata. For nearly 30 years, she had been offering rakhi to pictures of her brothers : Ram and Sharad Kothari, who were killed in police firing in Ayodhya in 1990.
We don’t know much about the Ayodhya firing incident. The state government led by Mulayam Singh Yadav claimed that 16 people had been killed. If you know anything about India, you will understand that means 16 is just a starting point.
The English language media refused to report on the incident for reasons of political correctness. There is something to be said here about Hindi language media (and in other Indian languages) which created a subaltern network to disseminate information about the brutality in Ayodhya. Back then, there were no smartphones to break the information blackout. And presumably, no conscience either among the Indian and global elite. Otherwise, they would have called it a pogrom.
Godhra carnage of Feb 27, 2002
At least this time, we have an exact number of 59 killed. Aren’t we lucky?
Fifty nine human beings burned to death in a railway compartment. Ten of them were just children. In any other nation, this would have led to an outpouring of grief, sympathy for the victims and outrage against the perpetrators.
But in India, the opposite happened. Vicious rumors were circulated, implicating the karsewaks in their own murder. The most pervasive: that apparently somebody had refused to pay Rs 2 for tea at the railway station. And so the local vendors, who belonged to a peaceful community, had no option but to take 59 lives. Seems like an excruciating rate of interest, unless of course you believe that 59 Hindu lives are not even worth Rs 2.
The humiliation did not stop there. When Lalu Yadav became Railway Minister, he appointed a Commission that found the fire was an “accident.” If Lalu Yadav had become US Secretary of State, Osama bin Laden would have cleared his name as well in the matter of the 9/11 attacks.
In 2011, the Gujarat High Court convicted 31 people for the Godhra train carnage, but the lies have always stayed one step ahead of the truth. Despite the High Court conviction, Indian and foreign media routinely present the incident as if nobody knows who was behind it. It is good that Gujarat High Court commuted 11 of the death sentences from the Sessions court to life imprisonment. After all, 15000 “liberals” showed up to pay tribute in Mumbai when Yakub Memon was executed. If the Godhra convicts has to be executed, who knows how many “liberals” would have poured into the streets…
Kalyan Singh’s resignation
There is one thing we know about politicians. They love power. When they have power, they stick to it no matter what.
Imagine what it takes to surrender your full majority government in India’s most populous state, only a year and half into your term. We have seen politicians fall over themselves to become Chief Minister, even if for six months.
But on Dec 6, 1992, Kalyan Singh resigned as Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh. There was pressure on him to do a Mulayam: to open fire on karsewaks. He refused. He chose to give up his chair instead.
The ecosystem never forgave him for that. In this chilling video, you can see the stone cold face of the NDTV interviewer as he demands why Kalyan Singh let crores of people be divided just to save a few lives. Just a few lives. I would like to ask the NDTV interviewer how much is the worth of one Hindu life.
For what it’s worth, the Central government also dismissed the BJP state governments in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh as soon as Babri Masjid was demolished.
In India, both Hindu life and democracy can be cheap.
The establishment of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya is a victory for the soul of India. It is not just a victory for our generation. It is also a tribute to generations past and a legacy we leave behind for the generations to come.