Advanji-ji, why link Ayodhya with azadi?
No leader of contemporary India intrigues and interests me more than LK Advani. He appears at once a man with immense wisdom and understanding of our country. Yet this understanding is not one which everyone can naturally relate to — nor is it designed to be such. I, therefore, feel restless in critiquing and questioning this understanding in the manner the younger generation often questions the old.
Penning his thoughts on the Ayodhya judgement, BJP leader LK Advani fondly recalled the symbolism and significance of rebuilding the Somanth temple after Independence, which was destroyed by Muslim kings. Read Advani’s blog here.
He writes: “It is therefore only natural that, when India became independent, many Hindus felt that 1947 should signify not only freedom from British rule but also a clean break from those aspects of the pre-British history that were identified with subjugation, assaults on Hindu temples, vandalizing idols and erosion of our noble cultural traditions.”
Why appropriate an utterly religious meaning to our hard-worn Independence?
This is not to say that India’s freedom struggle never suffered from opposing views. Three of our founding fathers – Gandhi, Nehru and Bose — often argued, debated and differed about how to go about freeing the country from foreign rule.
This is not to say either that religion has never shaped their visions. Gandhi’s idea of tolerance and secularism did not mean a denial of religious values. His call for Ram Rajya was not a literal Hindu manifestation of the ‘rule of Lord Ram’ but a prevalence of Lord Ram’s abiding principles of justice.
Bose, on the other hand, remarked that India will never be a “Godless society”.
Gandhi wept during a visit to the Vatican, emphasized catholic renunciation and recommended a reading of the Koran.
A devout Hindu, Gandhi’s idea was to point out the similarity between the germane values of all religions; Mr Advani’s efforts have been to emphasize the distinctness of Hinduism.
Mr Advani’s thoughts in his blog beg this question: Why link up the Ayodhya-Babri complex with our azadi (literally, freedom, and politically, India’s freedom movement)?
Was the attainment of our freedom a mere victory over temple-razers, who operated in an era when the concept of secular, cohesive nationhood would have been preposterous?
Advanji-ji, you talk about our freedom as a “clean break” from assault on Hindu temples. Why, then, the assault on a mosque?
Is there, in your view, any justification for penalizing Muslims of today for barbarism of the past? Why apply standards expected of a modern state and individuals to medieval actors and emperors?
Why was your Ram Janmabhumi movement – from Somnath to Ayodhya – allowed to be loaded with such anti-Muslim import?
Why should Independence have a different meaning for you? Such essentialising of the freedom struggle is to betray its very meaning and reject its common character.
India’s freedom, in the narrowest sense, was indeed relief from British rule. But in its widest sense, was it freedom from assaults on India’s temples or its predominant Hindu culture from Muslims? This is a reductionist view that constricts the meaning of Independence.
In its broadest sense, our attainment of freedom established our incontrovertible right to choose our destiny — that of a modern nation-state, secular and democratic.
Please do not forget, Free India was the culmination of collective aspirations.
India’s story has been, sadly, a story of competing visions of nationalism. In the popular imagination, the movement for a Ram temple has always been understood as a clash between Hindus and Muslims. Or is it?
Is it not the clash between Hindutva and secularism as two opposing ideas of India; between a few who are un-reconciled to our founding ideal of secularism and many who believe in it?
It is tempting to contrast Mr Advani’s articulation of our freedom’s meaning with that of Prime Minister Nehru’s.
Nehru heralded our midnight’s freedom in his famous “Tryst with Destiny” speech thus: “This is no time for petty and destructive criticism, no time for ill will or blaming others. We have to build the noble mansion of free India where all her children may dwell.”
In my view, Advani has expended a large part of his immense political potential trying to build a temple, instead of the “noble mansion” Nehru talked of.