By Omer Ghazi
Five hundred years ago, a certain historical wrong was committed on the Indian soil; an act of desecration of a religious site, a psychological assault on the psyche of a people and a recipe for a conflict that was about to consume generations to come. Today, India, as a nation, stands at the verge of restoring its heritage and reversing the psychological annotations associated with it. This is the story of the struggle to build the pristine Ram Mandir in the birthplace of Lord Ram in Ayodhya.
Mughal invader Babur’s disdain for India and everything Indian is not news for anybody. The disdain, at many occasions, translated into legislative discrimination as well as genocidal mania against the Hindu population. One needs to look no further than his autobiography Baburnama, wherein comes the blood-thirsty description of the killing of many ‘infidels’ and the apparent mass suicide of two or three hundred more. “They killed each other almost to the last by having one man hold a sword while the others willingly bent their necks… A tower of infidels’ skulls was erected on the hill on the northwest side of Chanderi”.
Desecration of one of the holiest sites of the Hindu faith and Indian culture while erecting a monument at its place in his own name was just an extension, in the same vein, to subdue the fallen populace at his disposal. It was not just a physical act of an edifice crumbling; it had huge cultural and psychological connotations. His commander, Mir Baqi, was in-charge of overseeing the operation, which was the beginning of a blood-soaked tale of communal violence spanning centuries.
Apart from archaeological excavations hinting at a “non-Islamic” structure below the Babri Masjid, this is extremely interesting that up until the 1940s, the mosque was referred to as Masjid-e-Janmsthan or “Mosque of the Birthplace”.
After the establishment of the modern republic of India, the structure still remained a conflict to be resolved. Different political outfits attempted to become a part of the resolving process, and sometimes ended up raking communal tensions instead of moving towards a solution.
At the very core of the communal tensions surrounding the Ram Mandir lays the misunderstanding that Mughal Emperor Babur is, in any way or form, a symbol or leader of the Indian Muslims living in the country today. Babur, by his own admission, detested everything India and Indian, and would have held the same disdain for the Indians of today, converted or not, as he confessed to have for Indians of his day.
There are broadly two ways that a person can be associated with any historical figure, i.e., either genetically or ideologically. Babur was Uzbek, and his bloodline, barring a few individuals has mostly died out; hence, Indian Muslims today are not direct descendants of Babur. Moreover, ideologically, Babur was a zealot who believed in the desecration of holy sites and imposition of a theological rule, which is in complete contrast to the notion of the modern, secular, democratic republic that India is today; therefore, Indian Muslims, today, cannot have an ideological association with Babur either.
This, however, needs mentioning that Mughals arrived as invaders but, over time, settled down and made India their home and there are ideological icons from within the Mughal history that can be held in high esteem.
Aurangzeb and Dara Shikoh are two brothers that provide a very interesting ideological binary in this regard; Aurangzeb was a radical extremist who imposed Jizya on Hindus, ordered demolition of numerous temples and introduced multiple discriminatory legislations against the Hindu subjects. He also tortured and killed the 9th Sikh Guru Teg Bahadur and Maratha King Sambhaji Maharaj.
On the other hand, Dara Shikoh was deeply immersed in the cultural and intellectual traditions of the Indic civilisation. He admired the treasure troves of knowledge preserved in the Upanishads, which are the culmination of the Vedic teachings accumulated over generations. He translated the Upanishads from Sanskrit to Persian and, that is how, the aforesaid knowledge also made its way to the far corners of the Middle East and, subsequently, Europe.
Aurangzeb got Dara Shikoh executed and imprisoned his own father Shah Jahan. An Indian Muslim of today would find himself much more ideologically inclined towards the thought process of Dara Shikoh and certainly not Aurangzeb.
Once one realizes that an Indian Muslim is the ideological descendant of Dara Shikoh, it becomes all the more evident that the Pran Pratistha ceremony and returning of Ram Lalla to the Ram Mandir is a moment of celebration for all 1.4 billion individuals living on Indian soil, irrespective of personal faith. Even for those outside of the fold of organized religion or Hindu faith, it is a strong cultural resurgence and an indigenous uprising against the foreign forces that failed to subdue one people and could not break their spirit.
Moreover, the re-establishment of Ram Mandir at Ram Janmbhoomi is a pristine and august event, and must be treated as such. Of course, behind every cultural phenomenon lies politics and hence, this event is also not devoid of superficial exchanges and contemptible discourses around it. Several political outfits have attempted to score political brownie points through this issue, while some ideologues have made careers opposing the Ram Mandir altogether. There are certain high-decibel television debates taking place where demagogues are venting out their own frustration against the ‘other’ more than adding any value to the conversation. While a modern republic gives everyone the right to express their opinions, let’s not rob this event of its decorum and let’s celebrate with vigor, and astuteness, a moment that comes but once in centuries.
Contributing Author: Omer Ghazi is a proponent of religious reform and identifies himself as “an Indic Muslim exploring Vedic knowledge and cultural heritage through music”. He extensively writes on geo-politics, history and culture and his book “The Cosmic Dance” is a collection of his poems. When he is not writing columns, he enjoys playing drums and performing raps.
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