Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Their Temple, Their Mosque
Today, the customary call from my mom ends with an uncustomary word of caution, ‘be careful and avoid going out between the 24th and the 26th of this month’. I have asked her to do the same. My parents stay in Faizabad. I stay in Mumbai. To the uninformed, September 24, 2010, is the day when the Allahabad high court’s Lucknow bench announces its verdict on the 60 year old case on the disputed site in Ayodhya. To the informed, the connection is evident.
As a student of literature, I have learnt that a comparative study of the private and the public history of a particular event is an interesting exercise in demystification of that event’s absolute truth. Often, there is a conflict between the personal and the public memory of the same event. Fact is permeated by the shadow lines of subjectivity and fiction.
My mom’s call makes me put this theory to test. I decide to have a chat with my nation. Have a look.
NATION: In 1949, idols of Ram, Laxman and Sita mysteriously appear inside the Babri mosque, Ayodhya.
ME: Is it? Do the idols appear as ‘mysteriously’ as the English disappear from our country?
I am hysterical with laughter.
NATION: What? What is so funny?
ME: Nothing. ‘Mysteriously’ has become my favourite word. It gets me cracking!
NATION: In 1950, Mahant Paramhans Ramchandra Das starts the litigation process.
ME: But, our Constitution is just born! The Mahant should have been sued for child labour. Err... in the English court!
Nation is appalled at my audacity.
ME: (With a great sense of achievement). In 1985, I am born!
NATION: (Sarcastically). And, you are not the Constitution.
ME: But, I take birth in the military hospital, Faizabad – Ayodhya’s twin sister!
NATION: Whatever! (Thinks for a while). On December 6, 1992, Babri Masjid is demolished.
ME: A seven-year old me studies at the Central school, Air Force Cant, Agra.
ME: So, nothing! The seven-year old me and my friend Sana wonder what Babri Masjid is and why you seem so worked up!
Anyway, in 1994, my father takes voluntary retirement from the Indian Air Force and re-locates in Faizabad. I join J.B. Academy as a grade four student.
Nation Ignores me, and is busy looking into the security arrangements for the 24th. I continue.
In March-April, 2002, there is an influx of karsevaks in my city. The city is barricaded. So, our home exams are postponed. We are thrilled!
NATION: You are thrilled!
Nation is horrified.
ME: Of course! Your history is easy to study, Chemistry isn’t. I get more time to prepare. (Grinning now). But, won’t you conduct a research on the percentage of thrilled Muslim students?
NATION: (Furiously). Is it a joke for you? I have just witnessed one of the worst riots in my history, the Godhara carnage!
ME: (Quietly). And, you let it happen…
Our dialogue ends here.
I know the idols should not have ‘mysteriously appeared’ in 1949. I know that December 6, 1992 should not have happened. But, we have had opportunities to redeem ourselves 1992 onwards. We can not forgive ourselves for Godhara. Because, the seven year old Sana does not know what ‘Babri Masjid’ is. Because, while the ‘child’ me rejoices at the postponed exams, she is also irritated with the karsevaks for usurping her city to build a temple. She does not want them. She does not want their temple. Her Ram resides in her home, her heart; just as Sana’s Allah resides in hers. Because, when Sana is told :"Zarre- zarre mein uska noor hai/ Jhaank khud mein na wo tujhse door hai/ Ismein usmein aur usmein hai wo hi/ yaar mera har taraf bharpoor hai "; I am told the same:"Ram to ghar-ghar mein hain/ Ram har aangan mein hain/ Mann se Raavan jo nikale/ Ram uske mann mein hain."
The city of my birth, and the city which I now call home are being ‘prepared’ for the 24th. The rest of the ‘sensitive’ pockets elsewhere in the country too, are being put on alert. What kind of justice is going to be meted out on the 24th? A justice that puts the entire nation under scare! A justice that robs our freedom to move! A justice that puts our fundamental right to live, under probable threat! Hitherto, proud of their inter-faith heritage, socio-cultural harmony and long syncretic tradition, the twin-cities of Ayodhya and Faizabad are going to be marked forever by a justice that has long lost its power to be just.
Whatever the verdict is on the 24th, I don’t care. Neither does Sana. Nor do the twin-cities. I hope we have company.
Mandir to ban jaayega
Par Ram kahan se laaoge?
Uss masjid ki deewaron ko
Kya pak kabhi kar paaoge?
Jis chaukhat par log jale
Ram wahan na jaayenge
Jin galiyaron mein khoon gira
Maula kya reh paayenge?