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Any Solutions

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 cannot succeed.

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 prevail.

(Edited version published in Economic Times, March 12, 2002.)





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