VHP Claims

 

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BABRI MASJID:
HISTORICAL FACTS Vs. VHP's CLAIM
Prem Vora

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Since 1984, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and other fundamentalist Hindus have been waging a battle against the Babri Masjid. The VHP unequivocally claims that the present Masjid was once the site of a magnificent temple which the Mughal emperor Babar demolished in the 16th century. The VHP also asserts that the Babri Masjid stands on the "undisputed" spot of Rama's birthplace. Thus, in order to redress the wrongs committed by the Muslim rulers, the VHP plans to destroy the Masjid and build a "new" Rama temple.

The VHP's position is obviously highly contentious. This issue of Babri Masjid / Ram-Janam-Bhoomi has indeed aroused the passions of a large section of the Hindu and Muslim population. The dispute has exacerbated communal tensions leading to countless riots throughout northern India, including such tragedies as the Bhagalpur massacre late last October. Yet, a cursory glance at the evidence would show that the VHP's Ram- Janam-Bhoomi campaign is based on nothing but false propaganda.

The VHP refers only to records compiled by the British in the l9th century. Yet, this "evidence" is only a myth created by the colonial authorities. They propounded and popularized the belief that an anti-Hindu Babar demolished the Ram temple. This myth was created to divide the Hindus and Muslims. The British have not collected any historical evidence to justify their claim. In fact, the Archaeological Survey of India has concluded that a "temple to mark his (Rams's) birthplace was not built on the site of Babri Masjid." There are over a dozen temples in Ayodhya that are claimed to be the true birthsite of Rama.

In addition, contrary to the VHP's assertion, the Hindus have not "struggled for centuries to regain complete control of their pilgrimage place. Before 1949, in fact, not a single Hindu leader claimed that the Babri Masjid was the location of Rams's birth! Yet, on December 22-23, 1949, certain individuals illegally entered the Masjid and installed an idol of Rama. The court declared the Masjid a disputed structure; it did not remove the idols as it should have. Muslims were prohibited from worshiping in the Masjid. Meanwhile, however, Hindus were granted permission for a priest to perform daily rituals to the installed deities. The court never issued a verdict on the title of the disputed structure.

Thirty-seven years later on February 3, 1986, a certain Hindu filed a petition in the court requesting the unrestricted right to perform worship to the idols. The judge ignored the sentiments of the Muslims. Instead, he granted permission to unlock the gates, providing he received a guarantee of no disturbances. The police chief gave him an explicit assurance that there would be no threat to law and order. The Government in this case, which had the right to appeal the controversial decision, remained silent. All evidence seems to point that this was a stage-managed decision; "that the actual unlocking could have been carried out without the approval of the highest political authority is difficult to believe." In fact, within twenty minutes after the judgment was passed, a television crew from Doordarshan (Indian) state-owned television network was at the site, filming the "historic" breaking of the Masjid locks as a victory for the Hindu "community."

Undoubtedly, the religious rights of the minority community have been violated. The VHP, of course, does not agree. The VHP believes that the Hindus who allegedly constitute 85% of the Indian population, have become second class citizens. Thus, the Ram-Janam-Bhoomi campaign signifies an end to this reverse-discrimination. The VHP's argument is analogous to a white racist in white-dominated America, claiming that the Black minority suffers no discrimination. Equality is exactly what the Muslims want and have yet to completely receive. In fact, the VHP's Ram-Janam-Bhoomi project is part of a larger campaign to build a Hindu state. As VHP General Secretary Ashok Singhai has proclaimed, "the beginning of the Shilanyas ceremony (laying of the foundation stone) is a powerful expression of the Hindu spirit to see Bharat (India) resurrect herself as a Hindu Rashtra (Nation). This reference to Hindu Rashtra means nothing less than a nation in which all the policies and laws reflect a single cultural norm -- Hinduism. Obviously this movement has grave implications for the secular order of the present Indian state.

Unfortunately, however the Ram-Janam-Bhoomi movement has not been terminated. The VHP says there is no room for compromise. It claims that the Ram-Janam-Bhoomi issue is a religious issue, not a legal issue; thus, in the Parishad's view, no verdict of the court will be binding. The governing Board of VHP of America has even written that "if (the Indian) Government will interfere again, if the court rule will stop constructions, we are not going to hold back....without completing the construction we will not return (from Ayodhya)."

Without a doubt, unless steps are taken to resolve this issue soon, greater conflict seems imminent. The Indian Government must intervene to reach a peaceful and just solution; it must not keep silent. In the past, the State has played a significant role in supporting communalism; yet now, the State must demonstrate its firm commitment to secularism by not bowing down to any such communal forces. In addition, all parties concerned must be willing to settle this issue by non-violent means; bloodshed will only create even further divisions. Most importantly however the VHP must be willing to accept the verdict of the courts. In refusing to abide by the court's verdict, the VHP is undermining the very foundations of India's secularism.

It is important to state that preventing the VHP from erecting the temple is not the same as prohibiting the expression of religious freedom. A Hindu does not have to deny his religious identity in India. It may not even be practical to totally separate religion and politics in India. However, what is not in the interests of the nation is this dangerous mix of Hinduism and politics that is emerging gradually. November 9, 1989 was a day that this lethal mix manifested; it was not a day of celebration as the VHP proclaims.

Courtesy, Message International, New York, December 1990.
Prem Vora is a graduate from the University of California at Berkeley and works for a law firm.

 

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Last updated: October 29, 2000 .