By Swami Agnivesh
February 12, 2018
I shall die a miserable wretch if I don’t utter the truth I know. I follow Maharishi Dayanand. He saw Parramatta (or God) as the light of truth. And truth cannot be stretched to suit convenience nor shrunk to fit cowardice.
The Ram Janmabhoomi movement is a political ploy, conceived in cynical electoral calculations, in which the faith of the masses is deployed only as firepower and fraudulently projected as religious fervour. I am surprised that anyone can determine the exact place of Lord Ram’s birth, born thousands of years ago. The question of someone usurping Ram Lalla’s real estate comes only if the exact spot of his birth is determined. There are 16 rival claimants to this distinction in Ayodhya itself.
I have participated in various efforts to settle this dispute from the time of Rajiv Gandhi. Rajiv must bear a large share of the blame for reviving this imbroglio. If ever there was a monument to the appeasement politics of the Congress, it is this issue. The party played both sides of the game. And who does not know that P V Narasimha Rao, as prime minister in 1992, connived in the demolition of the Masjid, if only to get a thorn out of his path?
I participated in Prime Minister V P Singh’s effort to settle the dispute. L K Advani was offered a vast stretch of land, adjoining the site of the mosque — nearly 60 acres, in lieu of 2.7 acres. It was his shrewd unwillingness to settle the dispute that made him invent the obstinate slogan, “Mandir Wahin Banayenge”. Justice Krishna Iyer, B G Verghese and I pursued the issue with Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar and, when matters seemed poised for a settlement, Rajiv Gandhi became worried that the credit would go to the then PM, and he brought down the four-month-old Union government on a flimsy pretext.
All along, the Muslim side of the dispute was eager to have the matter settled. I was in regular touch with Syed Shahabuddin, who was then convener of the Babri Masjid Action Committee. Then, as now, all they wanted was an assurance that other mosques would not be targeted once this ground was conceded. They also wanted an honourable exit from this issue. When they say, “let the court decide”, that is precisely what they mean. It is regrettable that the courts in this country haven’t addressed the matter head on.
My main concern is that people are being perversely misled, and their credulity exploited for political gains by those who do not care a pin for the spiritual greatness of the Vedic faith. As an ardent devotee of this incomparable spiritual heritage, I feel cheated and violated.
I have examined this matter, looking for some evidence with which to persuade myself that the RSS-VHP claim to this “disputed site” could be justified. I have drawn a blank. Tulsidas, the greatest Ram Bhakt of all time, who lived at the time when the temple is alleged to have been destroyed by Mir Baqi in 1528, by the river Sarayu, does not mention it. Nor do Guru Gobind Singh, or Shivaji, or Vivekananda, or Dayanand. There is not a shred of credible evidence to legitimise this dance of aggression, which mocks God. This should be obvious to all from the assertion that “matters of faith are not justiciable”. I am a man of faith. So, I need to say: This is an unthinkably dangerous stand to take. Every atrocity, every crime, every injustice can be justified by dressing it up as faith. Faith must be rational. Blind faith is dangerous.
What hurts me most is the utter irrationality of this communal agenda. If we say that Ram is God, and God is omnipresent — and God cannot be omnipresent unless he is formless — how can we fix him to a tiny spot in a geographic location? It is an outright insult to human intelligence; what to say of the majesty of God? And it exasperates me that millions are being misled and their souls corrupted with communal hatred, using this palpable falsehood mouthed in the name of Lord Ram.
Gandhi too was a Hindu. He died with the name of Ram on his lips. His devotion cannot be doubted. Not only did the Ram Mandir issue not matter to him, he was clear that temples — indeed all places of worship — do not possess the godliness they claim. He could not accept, being a rational human being that God sat in the form of an idol in any temple, church or mosque. Gandhi rarely wasted his time in temples; because he was in communion with God everywhere. Whenever he visited temples, he complained of their uncleanness. Sacred cities were also the dirtiest.
Hinduism, unlike Christianity or Islam, is about family-oriented spirituality. We know that God is not partial to priests. So, our home is also our temple. Only when the Vedic vision declined and caste interests gained the upper hand did priests become middle men for us. Since then, the Sanatan faith has languished under the tyranny of the priestly class, who dimmed its light with superstition, exploitative ritualism and crippling obscurantism. This has been the main reason for our weakness as a people. So, we fell easy prey to forces from beyond our borders. A bunch of Mughal conquerors and later, a rag-tag group of English merchants conquered one of the largest human collectives in history.
India will never progress unless we rid the Sanatan community of its accretion of superstition and irrationality. The Ram Janmabhoomi movement is a regression to irrationality and communal perversity. It is cast as a religious war against a community to pander to cheap popular sentiments. Only those who do not know the Vedic faith can think of this as a windfall for Hinduism. I know and love this faith, and I cannot swallow its perversion for that very reason.
Swami Agnivesh is a Vedic scholar and social activist