Vir Sanghvi takes an (un)welcome break from his culinary columns and embarks on a noble mission of educating fellow Indians about the virtues of secularism in the tenor we are familiar with. The occasion is rather fitting: December 6, the 17th anniversary of the Babri Masjid demolition. His heartwarming approach actually melted my heart. Really. For all your characterization of this blog as full of hate-spewing “right-wing” writing, I must confess that this singular piece by Vir Sanghvi converted me. December 6, Ayodhya for dummies, made me realize what a dummy I have been all these years.
Vir Sanghvi is the Guru I have been looking for. And in the true spirit of the Indian tradition, I must present my Guru Dakshina, my debt of gratitude to Vir Sanghvi.
Presenting, December 8, Vir Sanghvi for Dummies.
1. Was there the concept of temples in India to begin with?
A: Hard to say but we can trace the origins of temples to the Aryans. The Aryans were nomadic tribes who wandered into India, massacred and drove away the native population. Once they were well-settled in India, they began to enslave those of the natives that were left. They invented animist rituals, which eventually became a tool for the priestly class to oppress the weaker sections of the society. Temples were a later growth of this, originally, priestly phenomenon. They needed Gods to embed superstition and fear firmly into the minds of the lower classes. They kept the knowledge of these rituals and mantras to themselves and thereby exerted enormous influence over kings and businessmen who contributed generously to these temples.
2. Whatever, but how does this justify Muslim invaders destroying temples?
A: Like I said, Muslim invaders destroyed temples to loot their riches and also for religious reasons. Justification of their act is not relevant here. Again, like I said, they lived in different times and their primary aim was money. You see, all religions are equal and as I have shown, nobody’s hands are entirely clean in this matter.
3. So are you willing to admit that Islam is intolerant?
A: No. What I’m saying merely is that all religions are inherently intolerant.
4. But I have read somewhere that more than most of the mosques today stand on sites of or were built using the materials of the temples Muslim invaders destroyed?
A: Yes and no. Much of this is disputed. When there are ideological differences among archaeologists, the less said about historians, the better.
5. Let’s assume that the Kaba was destroyed and the Hindus wanted to build a Rama temple on that site. Isn’t this is the same phenomenon?
A: There’s a difference. It is yet to be proven that Rama was actually a historical figure while it is beyond doubt that Mohammed is a historical figure. Besides, the followers of every religion have a right to decide on matters concerning their religion.
6. But that means you’re granting different principles to different religions.
A: No. In case of Mohammed, he has the weight of history behind him while Rama is mostly a mythological figure. Moreover, as I said, there are many birthplaces of Rama.
7. How about all those destroyed temples, which have no such controversies?
A: Point taken. But you forget that we’ve not resolved just one controversy. Who knows what issues will crop up when we examine them! Which is why I said it’s best to bury these frivolous topics.
8. Fine but your reasoning doesn’t make sense. How does historicity matter? We’re talking about applying a uniform principle in dealing with such matters.
A: It’s not that simple. It takes a secular bent of mind to understand the historical, religious, and societal complexities involved in such matters. The fact that you’re asking this question shows that your understanding is tinged with the motivation of avenging historical wrongs.
9. If you say it’s a question of avenging historical wrongs, doesn’t it also imply that the Muslims of today are somehow responsible for the wrongs committed by their forefathers?
A: Oh! I see I have been talking to a communalist!