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Beyond religion, there is an intellectual argument for a Ram Mandir at Ayodhya

Mainstream historians have deliberately suppressed facts in textbooks. Medieval period was not about the idyllic Ganga-Jamuni tradition they want us to believe.

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India’s Marxist historians have told us many times that Islamic conquerors took control of Hindu temple sites for wealth. However, they have conveniently suppressed the fact that it had a lot to do with Islamic religious zeal.

So, trying to reclaim the ownership over such temples is not an act of conflict. The idea of conflict arises when you are taking what is not yours. In reclaiming the Ram Janmabhoomi site in Ayodhya, Hindus are not being greedy or fanatic.

Most secular commentators lapse into the fallacy of moral equivalence. There is no equivalence between one’s aggression and another’s self-respect – regardless of the time period in which such an act is committed.

The reason for rejecting Islamic claims over the Ayodhya temple site cannot be nationalism or religion as proffered by the Hindutva ideologues. It must be intellectual.

Also read: Hindutva rise must be pinned on historians who told us Hindus, Muslims lived peacefully once

Revenge vs restoration

Rebuilding of the Russian churches – the Communists had destroyed them and built swimming pools at those sites when they were in power – was not an act of fanaticism. Communists demolishing the cathedrals was in line with their motto: ‘Religion is the opium of the masses’. After the collapse of Communism in 1990-91, the Russians went on to build more majestic churches on those sites over the next 10 years.

If religious sites can be rebuilt to erase political acts, why is nobody making an intellectual argument for a grand Ram Mandir in Ayodhya?

Islamic aggressors destroyed thousands of temples in India because as per their dogma ‘worshipping idols is kufr (unIslamic) and has to be eradicated’. The present-day inheritors of such dogma are the Taliban and the Islamic State. Why, then, are the victims expected to forget such acts of aggression and move on?

There is a difference between revenge and restoration. And liberal discourse that avoids questions of religious doctrine (or dogma) fails in convincing Muslims to be more Hindu-friendly in India. On the contrary, the discourse only offers new reasons for being intransigent.

Learnings from Ayodhya struggle

The Ayodhya struggle has been very educational. The Muslim side has tactically changed its stance from asking for proof of a temple underground to a court verdict to saying no court has the locus standi to undo something done by a valid sovereign in the 16th century. Overall, it has remained steadfast in refusing the place to Hindus, although the Babri Masjid had not been used as a mosque since 1949 and was of no importance to Muslims.

In contrast, the site has been one of the holiest places for Hindus for thousands of years. But appealing to Muslims’ good sense has remained futile, even if Hindus asked for only three places of highest regard, leaving out hundreds of others for good.

Now, the Hindu position should not be focused on real estate disputes anymore. The most important lesson from the Ayodhya debate over the past few decades is that the real fight is over a fundamental religious-philosophical-intellectual obligation.

Also read: What the last imam of Babri Masjid told me a few months before the demolition

Secularism-pluralism vs temple

Beyond Hindu-Muslim claims, the sustained campaign of intellectual dishonesty needs to be called out as well.

Kashi, Ayodhya and Mathura are all well-known as holy cities, so much so that every house there is said to have a temple. To be asked to provide justification for a Ram Mandir in Ram’s place of birth, a place known by his name for centuries, is bizarre. Such a situation indicates that no argument Hindus provide will be found satisfactory.

Amit Jayaram in the book A Temple in Ayodhya and Other Poems (Rupa, Delhi, 1993) takes a philosophical, seemingly advaitic, stance that in Hindu dharmic tradition, having or visiting a temple is not necessary to become a dharmic Hindu. On the face of it, the argument is correct. Swami Vivekananda had also underlined that worshipping at a temple is just the starting point to moving up the ladder of Hinduism (at an open-air meeting convened at Dhaka, 31 March, 1901). But how is this a justification for not having a temple and for overlooking the everyday faith of millions of Hindus?

Then, there are Leftists who dismiss the need for a temple in the name of secularism. But India is uber-secular and one of the most culturally diverse countries in the world, precisely because it is sustained by the Hindu ethos.

One should also note that of the thousands of temples destroyed by the Islamic invaders and rulers over centuries, the Ram Janmabhoomi in Ayodhya is the only site that Hindus never gave up on. They have been fighting and dying for it. This only shows that Ayodhya is indeed a very special place (Hindu Temples: What Happened to Them, Arun Shourie, Harsh Narain, Jay Dubashi, Ram Swarup, Sita Ram Goel, 1990).

Liberals who cite pluralism say that India doesn’t belong to Hindus alone. But concern for pluralism can be inauthentic if only one group is told to be accommodative – one that has suffered humiliation for centuries.

Which other dominant community in any other country can tolerate such obvious aggression as the one at Idgah-Krishna Janmabhoomi in Mathura or Gyanvapi mosque-Vishwanath temple in Kashi?

In fact, as Marxist historians demonstrated in their 1989 pamphlet The Political Abuse of History: Babri Masjid-Rama Janmabhumi Dispute (by Romila Thapar and others), the academia tried to fudge the memory of centuries of savage destruction. The half-destroyed temples (the back of Kashi’s Gyanvapi mosque has Hindu figurines, as does the Qutab Minar in Delhi, just to give two examples), frozen in various states of destruction, still tell the story of unimaginable devastation that India witnessed at the hands of Islamic invaders. But over time, historians and scholars have said things like Babur did not order the demolition of the temple in Ayodhya  or that Tulsidas’ Ramcharitmanas did not mention destruction of a Ram Mandir in Ayodhya.

Constitutional expert and author of three volumes on the Babri-Masjid dispute A.G. Noorani even wrote that “the theory of a Hindu trauma is a motivated myth”.

Noted historians like R.S. Sharma and Irfan Habib and archaeologist Suraj Bhan repeatedly told the media that there was no Ram Mandir under the Babri mosque (Sharma and Habib in The Times of India, circa. 1989; Bhan in Asian Age on 18 June 1990).

A wound that’s still fresh

Mainstream historians have consistently and deliberately written textbooks that do not highlight the Hindu-Muslim angle of the Mughal rule or the invasion before that. The medieval period was not about the idyllic Ganga-Jamuni tradition that they want us to believe.

“Such a thesis was always going to struggle against the overwhelmingly contradictive evidence – from the ruins of Hindu liturgical buildings to the ballads of dispossession passed from generation to generation – arrayed against it,” wrote Kapil S. Komireddi in Malevolent Republic: A Short History of the New India.

“But pick up a history textbook taught at state institutions and you will find no explanation of what happened,” Komireddi added. “It was the mission of ‘secular’ historians and public intellectuals of India to locate mundane causes for carnage by religious zealots.”

One such example can be found in historian Romila Thapar’s book Somanatha: The Many Voices of a History (2004), where she writes that Islamic invading armies did not have the time or the resource to build mosques and towers of Islam on the land they conquered. And that is why they worked with the building material that was available from the temples they demolished.

Those who really want to have a lasting solution to the Ayodhya issue must recognise this civilisational wound, which is still fresh. But first, we must confront and acknowledge the problem, only then can we arrive at an intellectually honest solution.

Also read: There are 3 claims to Ayodhya — law, memory & faith. It’s not a simple Hindu-Muslim dispute

The author is a Hindi columnist and professor of political science, NCERT. Views are personal.

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  1. Most of the historian is on the consensus that Ram Mandir temple being there has no historical mentions.If this was in the 1500s,we surely should have.Historian such as R. S. Sharma, state that such claims of Babri Masjid site being the birthplace of Rama sprang up only after the 18th century. Sharma states that Ayodhya emerged as a place of Hindu pilgrimage only in medieval times, since ancient texts do not mention it as a pilgrim centre.

    Me personally I dont care about the place and the Hindus can have it however its morally wrong to destroy a historical site on a false presumption. If Leaning tower of Pisa is built on top of a demolished church,does this mean that the tower of pisa should be destroyed?

    • Your analysis is totally wrong as there have been several evidence that Ram Mandir was present their of 10th and 11th century CE too
      You can go check the pannel discussion on Ayodhya in Arth Cultural Fest they gave enough evidence

      • Ram is MYTh so how their can be evidence.

        plz answer.

        Babri Mosque was built in 1529,
        at that time biggest Ram bhakt Tulsidas was writing Ramcharitramanas , and he didnt mention of demolition of his GOD birthplace. Guru Nanak was contemprary to BABAR . Guru nanak wrote a lot of thing against BABAR, but nowhere he mentioned demolition of RamJanmbhoomi .

        ur hatred against muslims is himalyan.
        Muslims ruled over india for 600 yrs. if they really wanted to demolish temples, then not a signle temple would have been suvived. Instead Muslims rulers donated land, Jaageer, Money, and wealth to a lot of temples. Today same temple people are spitting venom against Muslims.
        It is called feeeding mailk to snake.

        plz answer,
        If U can

  2. How about restoring the Jagannath temple to the Adivasis from whom it was appropriated by the Brahminical adherents?
    How about restoring all the Buddhist stupas destroyed and viharas converted into Hindu temples?

  3. Of course. Correct. If the Russians can build the churches again, certainly the Hindus can rebuild the temples destroyed by the conquerors. Turkey has to give back the St Sophia cathedral back to the Christians and the Palestinians have to give back the Al aqsa mosque to the Jews. But here India plays the double game. It recognises the Palestine but not the Kashmir of China or Pakistan. It will not ask the Jordanian wakf board to give back Al aqsa to Israel but would want the Adam bridge of ravana from Lanka. So when India plays the double game Sri Lanka, Pakistan , Nepal, etc object India destroying the mosque. Whenever there is elections, India orchestrates Pakistan infiltration. So who knows whether it was some Islamic organization of RAW blasted out the churches in Lanka for getting votes to Mr modi?

    • This is the silliest notion to have ever exist. If ur mindset is this,surely Indonesian Hindus must give back their temples to the original religion they have which is Animism. The problem with people who is like u is that theyre destroying another old monument to built a new one which has 0 historical meaning.Al Aqsa mosque is a historical mosque that was built in 1035 on top of a destroyed temple(by Romans btw).Destroying an old monument to build a new random building is erasing history.

      Secondly,most historian is on the consensus that Ram Mandir temple as pilgramage site account only existed in the 1800s and it did not exist before that.If this is true,destroying Babri Masjd would mean that they destroy a historical place just so they can build a plain building.

  4. I am convinced after reading the privileged comments of liberals and aggressive unmoving comments of Islamists here…that the second rate BJP leaders will keep winning elections for the next 30years and Deobandi Muslims in UP and Kashmiri Sunnis will have bigger things to worry about than these three mosques. BTW, I am a secular, ex-Hindu atheist.

  5. I am amazed at the depth of the writer’s intellect. My points:

    1- All mandir-masjid issues are property issues and property issues are between legal entities. Hindus and Muslims are not legal entities. In Ayodhya land dispute, there are three legal parties — Sunni Wakf Board, Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla Virajman. The legal owner of the land has the right to make a temple or a library or a toilet or to keep the land fallow. So, the writers contention of constructing a temple at Ayodhya is bogus as the landowner is not bound to make a particular structure. Hence, he is misrepresenting the debate.

    2- The key point of law is that one can be punished only for one’s mistakes. I cannot be jailed for my father’s debts. So, how can Wakf body be deprived of its ownership of a land just because some person of Islamic faith broke some temple hundreds of years ago.

    3- Who is the VHP to decide which of the three, among the hundreds of destroyed temples in India, need to be restored. And how did they assign first priority to Ayodhya when the historical evidence for destruction of Kashi Vishwanath and Krishna Janmabhoomi temples is much better documented. Wasn’t Shiva the God of Rama?

    4-The writer rants about Marxist historians. Why not recover Kailash, the eternal abode of Shiva, from Communist China, the biggest enemy of all religions today? Isn’t Kailash the holiest place? Has Chinese military might dampened his faith?

    5- Who is a Marxist historian? What is the criteria for identifying them? What is the acceptability of these criteria?

    I have no problems if a committee of high-level historians of impeccable learning and integrity is set up to identify the monuments built by forcibly destroying earlier monuments of different faith and based on the committee’s decisions, ownership of the land is transferred to universally accepted representative body of each faith. But unforunately most of the best historians in India, in terms of academic reputation and citations, will be called “Marxist” by the author and there are no universally accepted representative bodies for most faiths.

    As I mentioned earlier, the Ayodhya land dispute is a property dispute and should not be treated as anything more. Like any property issue, the supreme court’s judgement in this issue is the final word. I have still not fathomed the objective of the Ram Janmabhoomi agitation. At best, it was a frivolous waste of resources and at worst it was a diabolical attempt to incite riots and sway the courts. If anything, the agitation has delayed the judgement. And irrespective of the final judgement on ownership, the destruction of Babri Masjid was a criminal act as it went against the court’s explicit injunctions. The guilty must be punished.

    The real civilizational wound on India is the educational system that produced the above writer whose “intellectual” arguments are a parody of the term “intellectual”.

  6. I think the author is absolutely spot on , historical wrongs should be corrected and a splendid mandir built and since historical wrongs are being corrected ,all the pujaris should be from dalit castes and the cleaning and upkeep for the Varna castes

  7. There is no religion called Hinduism. It’s just Aryan cult which made castes and started ruling over lower caste by higher caste. I was born in Brahman family, but I never got satisfied in worshipping anything like, my family used to worship one naked old man as avatar of fictional character from scriptures. But when I met hindu people from different states and enquired about the old guy my used to worship then they said there is no god like that. This incident shook my life. Then I started wondering how can this old man be god, when no one outside the my states know this man. I started asking pandits basic question about the faith. Honestly, they couldn’t answer my single question. Then I went to Muslims scholars and ask them about God and his characteristics. Even though I didn’t believe that time in Allah, honestly my I couldn’t stop my tears after listening to Quran. Then I bought English translation of Quran and started reading it. It answered all my doubts like how the idol worship started, why man was created. And I can proudly say that my entire family is Muslim. The most motivational person who inspired me study Islam was Balbir Singh( The leader of Babri Masjid demolisher) who later accepted Islam with 70 people. He told us it was just hatred against muslim and politician gave us money to do it.
    Thanks Allah
    Thanks Balbir and his family for motivation

      • Thanks for asking the question. I would love to answer all of your queries unlike you. There is no concept of virgin , it’s actually the word Hoor which heavenly woman, created for people who devote their life for sake of God Almighty and stay away from bad actions. It’s not only mention in Hadith, it’s also mention in Vedas.
        Atharvaved says that there will be plenty of them.

        “Boneless, pure, cleansed with the wind, brilliant, they go to a brilliant world. The fire does not burn their male organ. In Swarga they get plenty of women.” [Ref: Atharvaved 4:34:2]

        I invite you to read Quran or at least listen and understand it with your open mind.

    • There’s no such thing in Atharvaveda you liar you just saw it in WhatsApp university and is writing the same.

  8. Firstly one has to establish if Ram was a real person or a character out of fictional mythology.
    Then we would like EVIDENCE if there was a RAM temple on the site, which was demolished by Babur.
    The BJP/RSS historians lack credibility ANd So does the archeological survey of India which examined the site.
    There is no such thing as Hinduism only a number of religions and the caste system.
    The RSS Brahmins invented Hinduism a hundred years ago appointing themselves on top to continue to rule the roost.

    • Going by your rhetoric
      You first need to prove if your Allah actually existed.
      I can also say that Islam was invented by congress 60 years ago.

    • Go and first proved your Allah. If it is he or she. And whether your popat was terrorist or not. How can a rapist of 6 yr old be a popat.

    • We will not accept ASI report which is factual evidence. But we will accept a “aasmani terror manual of Arabia”.

      What a logic of Muslims.
      And what is Islam by your logic ?
      It is nothing arabic imperialism involving primitive nomadic culture which has no basis to be in Non-Arab land as well as in 20th century. So, India should get rid of it then.

    • Wherever Muslims become majority, get assured there won’t be peace forever there. Muslims fight among themselves and kill other Muslims. Islam makes them robots who take instructions from Quran.

      • I appreciate your concern brother. I am thankful to you that raise the right concern. As a new Muslim I studied why this is happening. The right reason for all that havoc even in a Muslim majority country is they are going away from Quran. The day they will start following the teaching of Quran, there will be absolute peace. Like what happened during the period of Omar(May Allah be pleased with him). He spread the Islam by showing his justice among the people in all the gulf countries. Look at the history all those countries were pagan and used to worship anything like hindus, christian and jews now they are muslim. And I want tell you brother, no one can forcefully make people accept their religion. Because it’s the relation between God and his servant.

        • Congratulation you have developed yourself as a perfect t word now. BTW its a wish of people of this country to have a ram mandir in that place. Its people’s belief that ram existed and was born there. And babur demoliahed and built mosque over that. There are 40000 such mosques which were built over demoliahed temples. Aurangzeb was champion of it. Visit ellora to witness it.

    • 1st things. There is nothing called as hinduism. Kashmir was once a throne of all the cultures and seekers once. Later it turned out to be sufi land and many followed sufi tradition. Now it has turned out to be hard liner. Your surname is bhat which is actually a hindu brahmin surname. So it was basically a natural seeking of humans. And with islamic invasion started a forced beliefs..

  9. Perhaps. But it should have been planned to achieve that object lawfully, peacefully, through patient negotiations and suitable compensation. What happened on 06121992 could not possibly have been the foundation of such a noble – almost sublime – enterprise.

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