Truth and reconciliation must go beyond Ayodhya
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Fellow CRI commentator Palahalli makes the point that pursuance of “truth and reconciliation” between Hindus and Muslims by liberal Hindus, in the context of the Ayodhya dispute, has not met with success in getting Muslims to recognize truth. In this post I build on Palahalli’s argument. Earnestness about truth and reconciliation has not been accompanied by efforts to address the underlying causes that necessitate truth and reconciliation in the first place. I must elaborate.

A lot of hard work went in to the Allahabad High Court judgement and the Ayodhya case must rank as one of the toughest cases fought in India. A lot of things were at stake and because of the uncomfortable atmosphere that surrounds the Ayodhya dispute, the judges were probably forced to produce a ‘please all’ verdict. The good thing is that it gives something to everyone. Hindus can have their grand Ram temple and Muslims get to build a mosque on their share of the land if they wish.

The bad thing is that the three fold division of land between the three parties does not amount to a permanent solution, in that it does not rule out the possibility of future conflict. Efforts are on to provide permanency through “truth and reconciliation.” However, talk of truth and reconciliation has not been accompanied by what “truth” is meant or what shape the reconciliation will take. There is nothing concrete on offer beyond calls that Hindus must help build a mosque on the Muslims’ 1/3rd, or that Muslims show magnanimity and leave their 1/3rd to the Hindus. But what happens after?

The Ayodhya dispute is so big that there is a tendency to view it in isolation, not as a highly visible symptom of a deeper problem, namely the divide between Hindus on one hand and the Muslim-secular-liberal side on the other. The problem is of Hindu historical grievances and Muslim-secular-liberal obstinacy to accept these grievances, and outright denial and falsification of history to support their cause. Then, there is the secular elite’s traditional disdain for Hindu religion, culture and tradition. Curing symptoms such as Ayodhya can give temporary relief but unless the underlying causes are addressed and dealt with, we will continue to have issues.

The case will most likely go to the Supreme Court, and already there are signs that immense “secular” pressure will be brought upon the SC in the run up to the appeal. Although it would be very difficult for the SC to come up with a better deal than the Allahabad verdict, a lot can happen in between. Ram may yet become a mythological character again.

However, that is a very bleak reading of the situation. The verdict has given hope, which has been supplemented a great deal by the lack of public demonstrations from Muslims and the offer of financial aid of Rs 15 lakh from a Muslim organization to help build the Ram temple, as well as calls from many Hindus to help build a mosque for the Muslims at the site.

This alone is not sufficient. Truth and reconciliation must go beyond Ayodhya, with open and honest engagement between Hindus and Muslims about their troubled history. Only when a society reconciles to its past can it set the past behind, and reconciliation in this case begins with the acceptance of some uncomfortable truths on the part of the Muslims. As of now, there are no signs that it will happen. It does not help that the Owaisis, the Mulayams, the Barkha Dutts and the “eminent historians” continue to fuel feelings of Muslim victimhood with their poisonous communal propaganda. Though we are encouraged by the atmosphere of hope that has been created by the verdict, whether the Allahabad High Court verdict will become a game changer for Hindu-Muslim relations only time will tell. I fervently hope that it does and sincerely wish success for all efforts aimed at truth and reconciliation but urge that it must go beyond Ayodhya.