On August 5 and Ram Mandir

I am sorry but you can’t be for Americans taking down statues of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson and also be opposed to the tearing down of the Babri Masjid which was constructed over a Hindu temple, whose only significance, given that it was not even being used as a mosque, was that it stood for many who had been subjugated once as a symbol of their subjugation exactly as Confederate statues do in the US.

Personally, I believe history cannot and should not be altered by breaking monuments, that one should recognize and learn from the past, but not try to change, because history can’t be changed, or buried, or pulled down, just because the symbol is gone doesn’t mean the past is too, and all you end up doing by tearing down buildings and monuments is creating bad history to get rid of bad history. But I also acknowledge that there are people who don’t think like me.

Unlike those with opeds in Indian express who think they won’t find Ram in this Ram temple, there are millions who will, for whom this is not about yet another temple for Ram, but about an assertion of their identity. For centuries, Hindus have been conditioned to think of their faith as a faith only and not an identity, and in a world where this is a privilege afforded to everyone else, without judgement, one can’t expect Hindus at large to stay different.

I personally, being an agnostic and not observant and also because of the way I was brought up, do not consider Hinduism as my primary overarching identity, I cling to my Indian and Bengali pride more than my Hindu one, and Ram to me is a lead character in a great epic but not someone I can get emotional on, but as a liberal, I do recognize that not everyone is obliged to think like I do.

The core of liberalism is understanding that your world view is one of many and accept, if not agree with, other views and realize that what is not emotive or important for you does not imply that it has to be the truth for everyone

8 thoughts on “On August 5 and Ram Mandir

  1. “Personally, I believe history cannot and should not be altered by breaking monuments..”. Totally agree, however..

    “I am sorry but you can’t be for Americans taking down statues of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson and also be opposed to the tearing down of the Babri Masjid “..

    Isn’t there a fundamental difference ?

    In the case of slave owner statues and other symbols of slavery, the undisputable fact that black Americans are subject to discrimination and racism TODAY, means that in the cause of striving for basic equality, the removal of symbols steeped in that same racism is intricately linked to that struggle for equality.

    In India’s case, the Hindus are certainly not discriminated against in this country (by any reasonable yardstick) and in fact are the dominant force. Under such circumstances, is there a need for Hindus (particularly the upper castes) to seek redressal ? If anything, it is the minorities in India, particularly the Muslims and Dalits, that should be protected against discrimination.

    Isn’t the removal of a symbol of past suffering, when one is the dominant force in the land, quite different from seeking to remove similar symbols when one is in a position of weakness and merely trying to attain equality ?

    1. « Isn’t the removal of a symbol of past suffering, when one is the dominant force in the land, quite different from seeking to remove similar symbols when one is in a position of weakness and merely trying to attain equality ? »
      By your own words you can not rewrite history.
      Tearing down statues will not bring any new progress to the African Americans ; those who discriminate will continue to discriminate. Unless the Americans change there system as a whole the poor black or white will always suffer, evident from the current covid 19 pandemic. As for the symbols of domination, you can always keep the statues in museums with appropriate indications so that people will always remember.
      Regarding Babri masjid, why do you bring in castes ? As a south indian building Ram mandir is not something close to my heart nor undoing a past wrong. Western journalists retain only the demolition of the mosque as a proof of discrimination against muslims
      I see both situations in US and India as a question of anger .
      Getting equality is something else.
      Why have the successive governments of the past seven decades since Indian independence failed to uplift the poor. Why consider only dalits. We have a big urban-rural divide in all walks of life.

      1. I agree with much of what you say, and I am not in favour of tearing down symbols of the past any where, India or the US. Perhaps my communication skills are poor and I was not able to correctly frame my thoughts.

        My point is that there is a qualitative difference between dominant Hindus erasing the symbols of past sufferings to struggling minorities (African Americans in America) erasing the symbols of past sufferings, which continue to be present day sufferings.

        And why did I mention castes ? If the Dalits of India were to try and erase symbols of their past sufferings, which continue till the present day despite many legal provisions in their favour, that would be the equivalent of Black Americans doing the same. I agree that one could replace the word Dalits with “the poor” in modern India and the point would be just as valid.

        Finally, “Western journalists retain only the demolition of the mosque as a proof of discrimination against muslims”. That may be true. In that case, those journalists would lack a deeper understanding of modern India, where Muslims by and large have suffered and continue to suffer discrimination in almost every walk of life.

    2. @SaikatL.
      You wrote, “where Muslims by and large have suffered and continue to suffer discrimination in almost every walk of life.”

      I’m afraid I have to disagree with your statement above. All Muslims do not suffer discrimination in India. Most-of-the-Muslims do not face any exclusive discrimination (discriminations that other identities do not encounter).

      1. @saikatl

        If the Dalits of India were to try and erase symbols of their past sufferings, which continue till the present day despite many legal provisions in their favour.

        – What are the symbols of their (Dalits) past sufferings in the present day India?

      2. Since you asked, you could start by considering every temple or public building that did not allow Dalits entry or limited entry for decades or centuries. Some still don’t (albeit unofficially).

        Then you could consider statues and other structures devoted to mythological or historical figures whose recorded deeds (true or imaginary I do not know) reflected oppression of the “avarnas”.

        Just to be clear, I am against erasing history by tearing down symbols of oppression. I would prefer they stand as a constant reminder to avoid those same mistakes again.

  2. Imagine having a church on Kaba, holiest site of Islam.
    Or
    Imagine having mosque in bethlehem church, the birthplace of Jesus Christ.
    Similarly birthplace of Shri Ram had temple of Shri Ram. Unlike mosque and church, which are “prathanalaya” place of worship, Hindu temples are Devalaya, where living Bhagvan/God literally lives, breathes. Once we do prana pratishtha, Bhagvan starts to breathe…it is no “murti” that we hindus worship to. For us it is not a “murti/idol”. It is living-breathing-eating Bhagvan. So we put bhagvan to bed, wake him/her with suprabhatum, bathe him/her, put them to sleep then again wake, do aarti, then say goodnite and put them to bed. Even the amount of food we feed to Bhagvan is prescribed in the Shastras. This is how seriously we take this! No joke.
    The mosque that invaders built on top of the mandir, is wrong even for present day practicing muslims of India. It would be similar to doing Hajj on charity or stolen money. So muslims, even logically speaking, would not have a problem in rebuilding their mosque elsewhere. Who would want to pray on stolen grounds? Who would want to have that kind of guilt on their heads while praying?
    Also Islam has many countries around the world where they are majority. The could possibly go anywhere, if they are threatened. Hindus on the other hand have only one country. If you cannot practice your own religion in your own one country, where are the Hindus to go? They should not have fear in “hindustan” in the hearts of Hindus, to practice and go to their temple! In fact I feel that like endangered species they should be protected. The native american indians, aztecs, mayans, inccas, buddists in china…pretty much every native civilization/religion/way of life have been annhilated (by the abrahamic invaders of the two kinds), all major catholic cathedrals (ALL of them) in south america have been built on ancient mayan/inca temple! ALL of them! Their way of life is GONE.
    I do not think analogy with George Washington/slavery etc is appropriate or apt in this case. This is religious issue not a socio-political issue. The more appropriate analogy would be changing name of road (Tarek Fatah and his campaign to remove aurangzeb road in New Delhi) that was named after an invader. Just like having a road called “Jim Crow” near my house here!!
    As far as being “hindu” or practicing “hindu”: Can eater of half fish vs someone who eats 15 fish be less of a connoisseur? In matters of faith, someone who occasionally goes to temple or never worships is no less bhakta to someone who goes to temple three times a day !! So if you think everything is divine. All living beings are Ishwara. if you even do a Namaste, then you are true-blue Hindu! Namaste: The divine in me bows to divine in you! Basically everything is divine. Hence that divine can be invoke in anything. Even in a “murti” and it becomes real for you, slowly there is cognitive shift (if Bhagvan is in the murti, then he/she is inside me, inside everything).
    This Namaste is essence of entire vedanta! Everything is Ishwara. Once you know this, understand this, there is NO way someone can come and market to you the “one” and “true” god. Even if you are atheist, Hindu Dharma accepts that! No one can blackmail you (that you need to be saved otherwise you will go to hell etc), you are innoculated against conversions! This to me is a practicing and pucca hindu! The beauty of Hindu Dharma is even hating god becomes form of worship (Ravana, Hiranyakasyapu etc). There is no blasphemy! There is no permanent hell (or heaven). There is no mafia don like Bhagvan sitting somewhere in heaven holding grudges on you! What is there not to like about Hindu Dharma! Thats why all physicists in the universe are in fact practicing Hindus! All the scientists of the world who cannot buy “one true” god business, have absolutely no objection in accepting that everything is divine/hindu idea of bhagvan. That at the end of the day everything is just energy.

  3. We have progressed they have not….are we ready to face them and help them progress as well. Kalam Azad made religious round table to avoid riots ……but it needs more tweaks. Taking away property of rioters and naming them is good move too. Group violence and population explosion are areas that need more work. Better policing and CCTV are key. Involve them, educate them about their issues and support them find solutions. A major portion of them is never going to change …..and reducing them in numbers by incentives is good way. Giving too much importance is a problem too. They are one of minority but taking too much footage.

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