Although I was not old enough to understand what was happening back in late 1992 and why, I was old enough to remember the general mood of those days. Near my place, there’s a railway station and whichever train to Ayodhya used to pass at that time, people used to shower the people (Karsevaks) with flower petals and provide them with food for the journey ahead. Some nearby temples had been provided some sort of a Brass lamp (or only in some temples it was taken one by one by the rath yatra?). There were saffron flags and stickers from VHP all around and graffiti with phrases like ‘Mandir wahin banayenge‘ and ‘6 Dec Ayodhya Chalo‘ are still etched onto the memory as they were then. Many other scary things happened soon but I was too young to grasp them fully at that time.
Then I grew up and realized that this religion thing, if not an unnecessary hassle, isn’t that impressive after all. People did too much hullabaloo for something that will eventually get stuck in the never-ending judicial battles, as that is the only peaceful way. By that, it essentially meant that it wouldn’t be resolved in our lifetime. As I grew up further, studying history in school and otherwise pushed me farther and farther from rituals and practices. History education drilled in us that as a Civilization, we haven’t had a win for millennia. What we got in 1947 was the only exception but it came with an even bigger Conditions Apply* caveat. Religion was one of the core reasons why we have ended up in such a place and haven’t recovered properly, yet. In my 20s, I had made up my mind. Fighting for/against religion is a lost cause. I should mind my own business in a way that keeps everyone around me happy by doing the bare minimum, and everyone away from me who believes in strict ideologies, away. I think I went on declaring that for a country that has usually seen so much bloodbath due to religion, shouldn’t the place be used for a Hospital or a School? A temple or Mosque would keep us divided further. I am pretty sure, people who had similar experiences would’ve felt the same.
Then I grew up further and realized the word religion itself doesn’t necessarily represent what we have in this country. For example, the 26 alphabets and their combinations in Roman cannot truly convey how we Indians use a plethora of more alphabets in our languages. I don’t know how to comprehend ‘zh’ but I know how to pronounce ‘ळ’. Similarly, our beliefs and traditions don’t need any validation from others who see us from a different lens. I read further, broadened my horizons, and grew older. With age and experience, it has finally dawned on me that by not indulging in certain traditions with full fervor I could be seen as an atheist to devout Hindus but for non-Hindus, I am going to remain a Hindu. This means 2 things. One, it is perfectly alright to not go deep with rituals and traditions but remain a Hindu like the Charvakas. One can live happily as long as I am not being intrusive in other’s beliefs. There’s no need to be apologetic for following something or not following something. This calls for a detailed post in itself but in Sanatana Dharma or Hinduism, the usual definition of religion doesn’t fit. Two, for anyone whom I interact with, my identity would be assumed as a Hindu. So, in essence, being an Indian, I am going to be perceived as a Hindu by default.
So, I changed my beliefs. I think as a Civilization, we should see our past objectively. We certainly have had problems but we also had many things good. The last millennium didn’t treat us positively. We lost many things and thanks to how our education system remained post-independence, we remained a low confidence nation for decades. Some confidence is returning now. It is important to rebuild the lost causes to increase confidence further. We do have the right to reclaim certain places, objects, or symbols if they were taken away from us unceremoniously. However, the means need to be thought out and utmost care should be taken to not create an upheaval and disturb the growth trajectory our Country is on right now. It would take longer but that would be the right thing to do. That is the true meaning of following the dharma.
We know what happened in 1992 and have no qualms in saying that it could’ve been handled differently. But post that, the law was indeed followed and the matter was resolved in 2019. I don’t know if I have any desire to visit Ayodhya (too much crowd anyway) but the event suggested that we are now looking back at our past without shame and moving forward with heads held high. One would be naive and partially blind to not see what the current mood is. If there’s saffron everywhere around, it certainly shows that’s the desire of the population. I would like to also say one important thing here. While I am alright with public displays of faiths and beliefs at certain places, I understand where such beliefs should see themselves out and rationality comes into play. Having said that, it is not just to ask people to calm down when an event, as big as this one, took almost 5 centuries to come to fruition. Our mentality of appeasing should stop now. Why should one faith be asked to tone down when nobody else tones down when it comes to their ways? If others have the right to enjoy the freedom to pursue their religion, everyone else has that right equally. That’s the definition of secularism. Obviously, in an Indian context, the government isn’t secular and has never been secular. If anyone goes overboard, it is the responsibility of the law to check that. One cannot be asked to not feel happy if they feel elated. One’s snobbery cannot be forced upon others.
One individual’s individual belief is too insignificant compared to this civilization and the unwavering faith people have. Religion isn’t going anywhere but religion and dharma are 2 different things. The civilization in this country has seen various churns and revolutions. It is now time to learn about it objectively. Fix the cracks and strengthen the foundations. We have to look forward while not forgetting the past. I welcome the direction in which we as a country are moving towards. There will be course corrections and sails would be adjusted if need be but the momentum should be preserved.
Needless to say, the header pic is from the original fundamental rights page of our Constitution. Ram has been part of this civilization and if we aim to be a Ram Rajya, we have to be ready to face dire challenges but keep unwavering faith that this Civilization is here to stay and become better.
Jai Shree Ram!