We are missing the woods
for the trees in Ayodhya. The fundamentalists have entirely defined
the agenda, and there is an exclusive focus on precisely what they sought
to bring into focus – an apparent quarrel over a piece of land. The
‘solutions’ that are being explored, consequently, are various ‘deals’
on the allocation of this land. ‘Land for peace’ is a ‘formula’ that
has recently been bandied about. But quibbling over property rights
or defining some concessions to appease one or the other extremist faction
This is particularly true
at this moment in time, when any conciliation would only constitute
a reward for the savagery unleashed in Gujarat. Gujarat was a victory
for those who seek to divide the communities into exclusionary ghettos
across the country. The state cannot and must not negotiate a ‘solution’
with the most loutish, intolerant and criminalised elements in the country,
and in the shadow of brutal massacres. Any such negotiations would strengthen
the very forces that engineered this barbarism.
The current discourse on
Ayodhya is based on denial and a delusionary conviction that a neat
legal or political solution can be arrived at through an engineered
‘consensus’, irrespective of the nature of the conflicting parties.
This is folly. The issue here is not a piece of land. It is not a mosque
or a temple. The real issue is an ideology of hatred and exclusion and
the violent strategies and tactics it adopts for its realisation. This
ideology – irrespective of its claimed religious affiliation – is indistinguishable
from the ideologies that led to India’s Partition, and that, even today,
inspire ‘jihad factories’ and armies of terrorists beyond our
borders. There is, indeed, no difference between the political groupings
that exploit primordial and irrational sentiments constructed around
the ‘Hindu’ identity, and those who have been mobilised by Pakistan’s
ruling elite to serve the Islamist ‘jihad’. The herd that has
been formed through the ideology of ‘Hindutva’ is politically, socially
and psychologically indistinguishable from the herd that has been created
through the ideology of extremist Islam. Nor, in fact, despite differences
in outward symbols and practices linked to ‘religious’ identity, are
there any real differences in their belief systems. What we have here
is lunatic Hindutva vs. lunatic Islam; a mirror image of the Taliban
is being created among sections of the Hindus in India.
These fanatical groups
– as we argue constantly in the context of the ‘jihadists’ in
Kashmir – cannot be bought over, and are in fact encouraged, by concessions.
The VHP-Bajrang Dal combine derives its power – and a large proportion
of its revenues – by projecting and pursuing maximalist sectarian goals.
A concession on Ayodhya will commit them to revive their demands on
Mathura and Varanasi – as also the ‘not three, but three thousand’ other
sites that recur in their rhetoric. Even if, for a moment, it is assumed
that the extremist Hindutva combine does strike a deal – in improbable
good faith – and withdraws its demands on the other sites for a settlement
on Ayodhya, this will not bring peace. It would only vacate the extremist
space, and this would inevitably be filled by other opportunistic factions
or breakaways from the present formations themselves. And the success
in wrenching concessions on Ayodhya would be the model and inspiration
for these ‘inheritors’ of the extremist Hindu mantle.
If the state continues
to make every action or movement that claims a ‘religious’ or ‘political’
motive an exception to the imperatives of the rule of law, there will
be no escape from the rising anarchy that is sweeping across India.
There is, now, no alternative to the demobilisation of these formations.
They constitute a grave and imminent danger to the survival of the nation
and it is necessary that these organisations be proscribed and disbanded.
As for a ‘solution to Ayodhya’
and the umbilically linked ‘not three, but three thousand’, this will
follow only when these become politically irrelevant. Then, and only
then, can more rational and discerning elements from each community
confront the transgressions of their own history, and accept correctives
in a spirit of sobriety and magnanimity.
Till this happens, evil
must be confronted and defeated. If you negotiate with evil, it will
published in Economic Times, March 12, 2002.)