What does the Babri Masjid has in common with the man sitting on a horse halfway across the center of the globe? Bear with me here for a moment. What if I were to tell you that that the man on the horse is a person called Robert E Lee. Well, there is no connection except the fact that they are merely symbols.
Symbols have a powerful aura to remind people of the past. Wherever we look into the city centers, we notice the symbols, reminding us of the struggle and the sweat of our ancestors to make our lives better and our land a free place to live.
However, while some symbols are meant to remind us of the struggle and battles that our ancestors fought, others can serve as painful reminders of a people’s oppression for generations.
Robert E Lee was the leading General of the Confederate states of America. The Confederate states of America truly believed that they were fighting to preserve their own unique way of life, that they truly felt was well in accord with their religious beliefs as well.
This free and more productive life of the South, however, held a dark secret of slavery.
It eventually led to Americans fighting a gruesome battle of war that resulted in over a million people dying over the course of five years in bloodied trenches and hand-to-hand combat.
In recognition of the gruesome struggle, hundreds of Confederacy symbols were propped up all across the United States to remind Americans of the gruesome sacrifice that their country had to endure.
Many southern states still held proud statues of their generals, being Robert E Lee and Stonewall Jackson telling their stories over decades of how hard the North yanks fought to eventually defeat the South.
Fast forward to over a century later and many of the statues are slowly being covered up or even to some extent ripped from their base and destroyed. That becomes the power of symbolism!
To a vast section of Americans these statues still remind many of the horrible days that black Americans had to endure under slavery. The pain and cry of many of these black Americans who lived as second-class citizens, who could never vote and to a great extent were abused both physically and mentally, now cry out against many of these symbols that remind them of their horrors passed.
These statues have been systematically removed and a sense of justice is finally being set in place as the symbols of slavery are soon being relegated to museums and out of national cities.
That’s exactly what the Babri Masjid (the mosque) is. It was never used as a mosque for centuries, but to many Hindus it is a symbol or memory of the days of genocide past, during the tumultuous time of the Islamic raids and rulers who were later born.
The Baburnama, stories about the exploits of Babur, similarly records massacres of Hindus in villages by Babur’s marauding Army. If not, Babur who really built it (as the archaeological record regarding its building is still disputed). Aurangzeb, the other most likely candidate has an even worse record with regard to genocide against the Hindus.
The evidence is simply overwhelming with regard to lists of battles waged on Hindus and the genocide that later ensued either as a direct act of the battles or by the massive famine and plague that came shortly after.
At the site of the Babri Masjid, like most of the Indian mosques, the archaeological evidence is simply overwhelming. It is well documented regarding what the ASI found upon excavating post the destruction of the Babri mosque.
Unfortunately, to many Hindus, these mosques that were built on the back of Hindu genocide as well as smashing of ancient temples most holy to Hindus serves as constant reminders of their bleak past. It is little wonder that the ferocity that Hindus took towards destroying the Babri Masjid with sticks and iron rods and their bare hands, reducing it to rubble in a matter of days.
Unfortunately, Some Muslims in India may still seem to revel in the days of post-Mughal Empire especially the days under Aurangzeb in which Hindus across the nation suffered terribly.
When I switched on the TV today, an eminent journalist, named Saba Naqvi seemed to rattle on yet again about how Muslims all across India have a gun pointed to their head regarding needing to swallow the bitter pill of the Babri Masjid demolition.
So many Muslims in eminent fields have gone on to make such distinguished names of themselves including actors, sportspersons, politicians and president’s past. So many Muslims now are involved ineminent positions all across the Indian spectrum making names for themselves yet she highlights a picture of fear psychosis.
She even went on to make a reference that there was a difference between people off of the book ‘Ahl al Kitab’ versus the Hindus who are plainly not of this Abrahamic group.
It is almost a sneering judgment to say that Hindus can never really be equals to those of Ahl al Kitab.
Unfortunately, Naqvi may highlight the reality to which some Muslims in India subscribe to when they see many of these disused mosques lying next to or on top of broken-down Hindu temples. They serve as symbols, yet symbols on a different manner in which pious Muslims showed their superiority by waging, winning battles and inflicting such pain-and-suffering among Hindus long gone.
The genocide is indeed overwhelming by some estimates throughout the period of the 12th to 16th century. Some estimates run into the tens of millions. The numbers of course are difficult to pin down exactly although there is a huge database of literary records of such massacres. Of course, we are also including the millions as above affected by poverty famine and plague.
What does it mean today after three decades from when the Babri Masjid was first brought down? It is meant to be as such.
Such a symbol of tyranny, and slavery causing tremendous pain to millions of Hindus with its very foundations built over the destruction of a peaceful religious ideology…Should be left well alone, allowing the correction of history to write itself with now the building back of the Ram Janmabhoomi Mandir.
It has been done before, such as Somnath where an equally gruesome historical precedent serves.
Symbols are meant to inspire. For many of us they are meant to breed creativity and ensure vitality to further the progress of humanity. Symbols that serve as painful reminders of destruction and slavery should be well removed from the Indian landscape.
The Supreme Court in its most recent judgment seems to have kicked the football yet again towards another mediation party.
For many of us, nurturing hopes that there would be some finality to this horrible symbol of destruction and violence in India passed has now been given another chance to survive and also resurrect itself in a new form of painful remembrance.
We can only hope that the mediation party understands the painful memories of the Hindus. They need to end the cycle of horrors of the past to bring some closure as well as healing to this story that is going on for centuries.
(The writer is VIKRAM HAKURA. Views expressed are a personal opinion.)