Final verdict on Babri

There can now be no doubt that Advani was the prime mover of the campaign to rouse Hindu communal frenzy across the country and succeeded in doing so by his Rath Yatra from Somnath to Ayodhya. He made an inflammatory speech from the podium facing the ancient mosque emphasising over and over again that a Ram Mandir would be built at the very spot where the masjid stood. He watched the destruction and when the last dome went down, celebrated its collapse embracing others on the dais and during celebration a ‘peda’ was popped in his mouth.

In his autobiography he mentions the jubilant crowds greeting him on the wayback to Delhi and exulting “Sab Safaaya Kar Diyaa” — swept away all of it. With what face can he now say that it was the ‘saddest day of his life’?

It pains me to hear educated, well-meaning people say that while Muslims destroyed so many Hindu temples, why should there be so much hue and cry over the demolition of one mosque.

My answer is that demolition of places of worship of any religion was not one-sided. I quote what Banda Bairagi, better known as Banda Bahadur, did in Sirhind soon after the assasination of the last guru Gobind Singh in 1708. He laid the whole of Sirhind destroying mosques and dargahs that came his way. A Punjabi couplet records:

Marhee Maseet dhah kay
kar dey maidana
Na koee Turk rahey, na
Mussalmaanaa
Destroy every mosque and dargah, level them to the ground
Leave no Turk alive, Nor any Mussalmaan.

When we gained independence in 1947, we decided to forget our past full of communal strife and build a new India where different communities would live in harmony. The process of binding together could have gone on but for the ill-conceived conspiracy to destroy the Babri Masjid. Perpetrators should have known the consequences that would follow.

The very next day Hindu temples and Sikh Gurdwaras (for good reasons Muslims lump Hindu and Sikhs together) were, attacked and many destroyed from Bangladesh to Pakistan to England. And the communal atmosphere in India poisoned as if for ever.
Isn’t it time we punished those who did it and we resume our quest for communal goodwill.

Ramayana retold

My grand-daughter Naina Dayal who recently got a doctorate from the JNU for her thesis on the Ramayana tells me that there are dozens of versions of the epic and we are not sure when exactly they were written.

One was by Valmiki. We also do not know who Valmiki was and when he lived; it could be between 3rd BC to the 4th century AD. However, whatever doubts there may be about its genesis or the authorship, there can be no doubt that it is the only epic in the world which lives in the minds of Hindus wherever they may be.

For them Sri Rama is the personification of God (as it is for Sikhs as well). Sita is the Mother Godess, Lakshman the example of what a younger brother should be and Hanuman the powerful Bajrang Bali, the devoted caretaker of the divine family. Ravana is the incarnation of the devil.

Aryans, who have questioned these assumptions have been severely censured. Aubrey Menon’s ‘Ramayana Retold’ is to this day banned in India (that is one reason I made it a point to read it).

The latest version of the epic shorn of miracles is by Ram Varma. He is a product of Allahabad University, taught English literature in Jodhpur before he qualified for the IAS and was assigned to the newly created state of Haryana. He rose to the highest position of becoming its chief secretary till he retired in 2000. For the last 10 years he has been composing his own version of the epic.

‘Before He Was God: Ramayana Reconsidered Recreated’, illustrated by colour paintings by his daughter Vandana Sehgal was launched on Ram Naumi at a large gathering and was a near sell-out on the very first day. A highly profitable labour of love by a ‘Rambhakta’.

Varma has adopted the traditional way of our ancient poets of dividing the text into 12 chapters, according to Vikrami calendar — Baramasi: one set of episodes for every month. I found the text highly readable without anything that a same person would find offensive. But I have no idea how fundoos will take this retelling of Ramayana.

No smoking here

Ram: It is strange you sell cigarettes in this store but you don’t allow customers to smoke here.

Sales girl: Don’t talk about what I sell. I sell condoms but I don’t permit anyone using them here.

(Contributed by J P Singh Kaka, Bhopal)

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