There was a time, in the early 90s that we believed, with a passion, that adding jhankar beats to a song was as important as adding salt to food, that Farheen (the heroine of Jaan Tere Naam) would become the next Madhuri Dixit, that Vinod Kambli would be a better batsman than Sachin Tendulkar and tie-die, spandex, acid-wash jeans would be the future of clothing. Now we realize how utterly foolish all of it was. In the same way, I hope that when the Babri Masjid verdict comes out, we as a nation can treat it as yet another 90s folly (I personally found the whole spectacle of grown men dressed in costumes, brandishing arrows and moving on automobiles and calling them “raths” ridiculous even then and this is the person silly enough in the early 90s to detect potential in Avinash Wadhawan after seeing him in “Balma”). And, as a nation, display the maturity to move on with our lives, so that we may deal the follies of today—Trinamool Congress, Neetu Chandra and the recall of Sreesanth.
Of course there will be a section of people who will disagree: ” The wrongs of history need to be rectified, even though they may have occured hundreds of years ago.” To them I say—-So Babur knocked down a Hindu temple and built a mosque over it. It happened a long time ago. Get over it. No one, save A K Hangal, is around who remembers what went down. And he is not protesting.
And what about the wrongs taking place now, as we speak? Have we reached a stage that our present is so perfect that we need to look four hundred years back to correct something bad done then? Why worry whether Babur looted us in the middle ages when there are a gang of Commonwealth Master Gogos in Delhi, under the guise of organizing an international sporting event, pillaging the coffers of our country at this moment?
I do not buy this need to address generational hurt argument because it is most frequently used to perpetrate historical wrongs, justifying today’s hatred by citing events that happened long long ago—in essence saying “No matter what you do, I will hate you cause the cause for my hatred happened in the past, even though my grand-dad was not born then. And the past cannot be changed. Neither can I be. ” What a cop-out.
Lest people misunderstand, I am not saying we forget or not care for giving justice to those who died as a result of the riots that happened post-Babri mosque demolition. Those things aren’t history. We saw it. Families who lost a loved one are still alive. They remember and they deserve justice. But whether a Ram temple stood there at the site of the Babri mosque when Babur came a-visiting—-that’s what I do not care about. And I hope none of us do, not enough at least to take to the streets and create yet another crisis, to add to the long list we already have.
There are some others who will say this is a matter of faith and if the Supreme Court does not show sensitivity to the “sentiments” of people, then there will be trouble. I wish I could tell them “It’s the Constitution stupid. What is being deliberated is not the divinity of Ram or whether he existed, but whether a temple stood there or not. And in any case, the law in a secular state is obliged to care two hoots for your sensibilities. There are laws. And you have to obey them. If your sentiments are hurt and the legal framework does not give you remedy for your “hurt”, go suck your thumb.”
I wish I could say that with this aggressiveness but I cannot. Because too many times have our political masters, manipulated the legal framework to respect “sentiments” of those assertive and unified enough to retaliate violently as a group to any “hurt”. This has of course incentivized every group in India to react aggressively to every perceived “insult”, knowing full well that their ability to get “respect” is proportional to the amount of violence they can generate. Too many times have bad precedents like banning books to not arresting personalities been set, and they have happened so fresh in our memory that I may not even ask people to “forget it”.
In this respect, our constitution is also to blame since it says free speech is fine as long as it does not hurt people’s sensibilities. But as I have seen before in this blogspace many times, “free speech” that actually needs to be protected by law is by definition hurtful of someone’s sentiments. This is why India really has no concept of protected speech, unlike say what US citizens have under the First Amendment. Which is why even in any case that can be determined on the basis of the law, “sentiments” will be considered, even though what may come out might well be a travesty of justice.
It will be interesting to see what the political strategies of the Congress and the BJP will be in the upcoming weeks. The Congress will try to play the old game of “delaying justice” on contentious issues, which is what they have been doing with the Parliament attackers and Kasab, since its principal electoral plank is being agreeable to all. The BJP will face the conundrum—-should it try to reprise the old formula like “Dabangg” with a few new twists and hope for a mega “itne ched kar denge” revival? Or will it let the matter slide, maturely, and expend its energies on winning back its relevance in 2010 through a forward-looking agenda based on policies as opposed to costumes and fancy-dress parades?
Now what should be done at the Babri site—I honestly believe (and I am sure I am not the only one) that, in order to please everyone, we should construct a gigantic shopping mall- multiplex complex. Why? Because a mall is the temple of modern India (not dams as Nehru said) as it is constructed in the name of the one God that unites us all—- Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Sikh, Chetan-Bhagatites. The Capitalist God, the most secular of them all. Vulgar and ostentatious He may be but at least when He peddles false hopes of salvation by making you sacrifice your money, He discriminates against no one.
And that perhaps is not a bad thing after all.