Ayodhya Dispute: Few Questions

The ruling party BJP is scared by observing the mass reactions against their anti-people policies. Thus, finally, on the eve of 2019 general election, they have decided to take a chance with their age-old political gimmick. The Hindutva brigade is planning to pass a bill for Rama temple construction on the debris of Babri mosque. They also know that it is not possible constitutionally, but it will again create a chaos in their favor and will polarize votes. Last year marked the 25th year of Babri mosque demolition. Throughout the past years, much has been discussed regarding it. However, the necessity of raising uncomfortable questions still persists. Is there any archaeological/ historical evidence in support of BJP’s claim? Even if we found some evidences, should they be considered as necessary and sufficient reason to demolish a religious edifice, especially in a country that boasts of ‘secularism’?

First of all, there is no documentation in medieval sources in favor of BJP’s claim. Archaeological excavations are being done in Ayodhya since 1970s. Till date no one had been able to place evidence of any temple destruction. Many ‘experts’ reported their politically motivated findings. In each case, experienced excavators published rebuttals criticizing these reports. However, they did not receive any rejoinder from those ‘experts’. It also must be noted that in early 1990s even few archaeologists joined the Hindutva-led movement of Rama temple construction which led to the demolition of Babri mosque. In 2003, Allahabad High Court ordered for a fresh excavation to be undertaken by Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), which at that time was entirely controlled by the BJP-led central government. Anyway, even the ASI report did not confirm the presence of any temple or its remains. However, expressing loyalty to its masters, the ASI tried to create a chaos on the eve of 2004 general election by reporting the presence of a massive structure beneath the debris of the mosque. The conduct of ASI during excavation and its final report were also criticized by many, such as Aligarh Historians Society. Renowned Indian archaeologist Sheren Ratnagar correctly said – “The circumstances and content of the argument for a temple and the political context in which they have developed leave no doubt that archaeology has been coopted by some Indians to push sectarian agendas.” [1]

Now, let us assume that we have some archaeological evidence of a Rama temple beneath the disputed land. If this is to be treated as an excuse to demolish the mosque, then thousands of temples throughout the country should be immediately demolished, and steps should be taken to re-built Buddhist stupas on those debris. According to the acclaimed historian D. N. Jha – “the general scenario of Buddhist establishments in Uttar Pradesh was so bad that in the Sultanpur district alone no less than forty-nine Buddhist sites seem to have been destroyed by fire when Brahminism won its final victories over Buddhism.” [2] There are ample archeological and textual evidences of vandalizing different Buddhist monuments during the Shunga period in different places such as Sanchi, Satdhara, Deurkothar, Allahabad. Such assaults on Buddhist edifices also continued in the later periods. Buddhist settlements were destroyed in Uttar Pradesh, North Bihar during Gupta Empire, which the Brahminist forces consider as the ‘golden age’. Nearly, 1600 Buddhist stupas and monasteries were destroyed by the Huna ruler Mihirakula, who was a devotee of Shiva. In southern India, Buddhism faced the vandalism of Shankar and his followers. The Brahmin fanatics destroyed several Jaina monuments also. The most important fact is that all of these destructions had been done before the advent of Islam in India, which naturally does not go in accordance with the century-long conscious effort of spreading Islamophobia among the mass.

Does it at all make any sense to think of a ‘birthplace’ of a pure mythological figure? Even if we think of it by force, then also we cannot provide any kind of evidence in support of this claim. Even, the contemporary Hindu saint Tulsidas – the author of Ramcharitmanas – neither recorded any incident of temple destruction, nor said anything about ‘Ram-janmabhumi’. In fact, the first reference of ‘Ram Janmabhumi’ was recorded around 1853. After the mass uprising of 1857, to break the unity of Hindus and Muslims, the British cleverly used it and annexed the propaganda of temple destruction by Mughal ruler Babur. Even, the present chief minister of UP might feel discomfort by the fact that present-day Ayodhya was known as ‘Saket’ in ancient times. During Gupta reign, the capital was transferred to Saket and the brahminisation of the area started using various cults. Thus, it is hard to find even the cult of Rama before the fifth century. Even a more fundamental question is about which Rama we are talking about? A. K. Ramanujan’s famous scholarly essay ‘Three Hundred Ramayanas’, which was banned from the DU undergraduate History syllabus after facing wrath from the Hindutva brigade, shows us that more than 300 different versions of the story of Rama are spread across India and Asia. There is no such original Ramayana and the popular Valmiki’s Ramayana is one among these versions. For example, in Dasaratha Jataka – a Buddhist Jataka tale – Rama and Sita are siblings, and after the exile life Rama marries his sister Sita. This nicely reflects a primitive phase of tribal society where brother-sister marriage was allowed. However, the present regime cannot digest these facts. This is not because of their myopic view on the subject. Rather, the main reason is these facts constantly challenge their politically motivated propaganda, and do not help them to arouse public sentiments according to their political requirements.

In a nutshell, the politics of Rama temple can be concluded aptly with the words of The Liberhan Commision, which was set up by the GoI, ten days after the demolition. They clearly stated in their report – “The preparation [of masjid demolition] was accomplished with phenomenal secrecy, was technically flawless with consistency and assured results. … The theme was power. It attracted clusters of young men to support the hidden agenda. Leaders know how passions are aroused and how to prevent the same; they however always see what would be beneficial to them rather than what would be good for the nation. This is what happened in Ayodhya.” [3]

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