Babri Masjid and the great Indian Muslim divide – Sandhya Jain

Babri Masjid (1991)

Sandhya JainThe Shia Board asserts that the Sunni Board has no stake in Ayodhya as the mosque was Shia property. – Sandhya Jain

In a stunning blow to the hitherto dominant Sunni sect, the Shia Waqf Board filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court on August 8, 2017 fracturing the united front put up by the Muslim community since the dramatic fall of the Babri Masjid on 6 December 1992, asserting that the temple for Maryada Purushottam Sri Rama Chandra could come up at the Janmabhoomi site in Ayodhya, and a mosque could be raised at a reasonable distance in a Muslim-dominated area.

As one of the parties to the dispute, the Shia Board claimed that the demolished mosque was a Shia mosque, as the alleged destroyer of the Rama Mandir was a Shia general named Mir Abdul Baqi; hence the mosque built upon the ruins of the temple was a Shia mosque. The Board indicated a desire for peaceful resolution of the dispute which the Supreme Court is not keen to adjudicate upon.

This is a stupendous development as hitherto, since 6 December 1992, all efforts to strike a deal with the Shia community have met with failure as community leaders in Lucknow always pleaded helplessness in opposing the strident Sunni community. The Babri Masjid Action Committee that spearheaded the movement against handing over the site to the Hindu claimants has been dominated by Sunnis. It was the Sunnis who reneged on the promise to the Government of India and the Supreme Court that they would surrender claims to the site if it was established that the mosque was built on the ruins of a temple.

That claim was conclusively proved in a Supreme Court-ordered and monitored excavation by the Archaeological Survey of India. But far from retreating gracefully, the BMAC dug its heels in and refused to retreat from the scene, resulting in a prolonged stalemate.

The sudden divergence of views between the Shia and Sunni Waqf Boards appears to reflect larger Shia-Sunni conflicts in the Muslim world, with Shias being targetted by jihadis in Pakistan and other Muslim countries, and their holy sites desecrated. Iran, the self-proclaimed protector of Shias worldwide, has facilitated the spectacular victory of the Syrian Arab Army against Islamic State jihadis in Syria, thus enabling the survival of the Alawite (Shia) regime headed by Basher al-Assad; it has also prevented Yemen from crumbling before the Saudi assault.

Now, the Shia Board explicitly asserts that the Sunni Board has no stake in Ayodhya as the mosque was Shia property; hence, “only Shia Central Waqf Board UP, is entitled to negotiate and arrive at a peaceful settlement with other remaining stake holders”.

The Board further opined that proximity of “place of worships should be avoided in as much as both denominations using loudspeakers tend to disturb the religious performance of each other often leading to conflicts and acrimony”. Therefore, “to bring a quietus to the issue, Masjid can be located in a Muslim-dominated area at a reasonable distance from the most revered place of birth of Ram.”

Reports claim that the Shia Board decided late July to stake claim to the Ayodhya site. Such a momentous decision could hardly be taken overnight. It seems likely that Yogi Adityanath, head of the non-communal Gorakhnath Peeth, was selected as Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister by Prime Minister Narendra Modi precisely to accomplish an acrimony-free transfer of the sacred site for the Rama Temple. Should this be accomplished, it would be a far greater feat than rebuilding the Somnath Temple in Saurashtra, where the only resistance to be overcome was that of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.

In Civil Appeal No. 10836-10867 of 2010, the Shia Central Waqf Board through its chairman, Syed Waseem Rizvi (Respondent No. 24), filed a counter affidavit asserting that the “Babari Masjid” was a Shia Waqf and not a Sunni Waqf as claimed by the Sunni Central Waqf Board UP. As the Allahabad High Court judgement stated that “Muslims” should get not less than one-third of the disputed area, chairman Rizvi asserted that this obviously alluded to “Shias” as the High Court had rejected the Sunni Board’s claim (based on Notification dated 16 February 1944 by the Chief Commissioner of Waqfs under the Muslim Waqfs Act, 1936) that Babari Masjid was a Sunni Waqf.

The High Court declared the said Notification of 16 February 1944 as illegal as it was issued in violation of provisions of the 1936 Act, as it was made without issuing a notice to the interested persons, which was a statutory requirement. It follows that the Waqf was a Shia Waqf as a waqf must always be Shia or Sunni, according to its creator (Waqif).

Certain Arabic inscriptions in the disputed structure, cited in previous judgments, establish beyond doubt that the mosque was built by Mir Baqi, a Shia Waqif, who created a Shia waqf. All mutawallis, including the last one (1949) were admittedly Shia and were descendants of Abdul Baqi, a Shia from Ispahan (Persia). It is notable that the Baqi family tree has not been seriously challenged. Verses engraved on a tablet in the central arch of the mosque describe Mir Baqi as an ‘Ispahani’, a resident of Ispahan.

On 30 March 1946, the Faizabad Civil Judge, S.A. Ahsan, ruled that it was inconceivable that a Sunni waqif would appoint a Shia mutawalli, or vice versa (Regular Suit No.29 of 1945).

The affidavit states that Muslims must ponder that the entire world wants to know the exact teaching of Islam in respect of the relationship of Muslims with others. Indian Muslims, it says, enjoy a unique position. They have been rulers, they have been ruled and now they are sharers in power. They are not in majority but they are also not a negligible minority and are in fact the most populous Muslim community in the world after Indonesia. As legatees of a huge corpus of religious knowledge, Indian Muslims are exceptionally placed to tell the world the true teachings of Islam, beginning with a resolution of the Ayodhya dispute.

The Allahabad High Court proclaimed Muslims, Hindus and Nirmohi Akhara as joint title holders to the disputed premises and allotted them one-third share each, with the stipulation that the portion beneath the central dome, where the murti of Sri Rama is installed, would be allotted to Hindus in the final decree. The Nirmohi Akhara would receive the portion including the Ram Chabutra and Sita ki Rasoi, and the parties could make minor and mutual adjustments while dividing their respective shares.

The Shia Waqf chairman observed that the intent of this judgment was that the parties amicably settle the dispute, and his sect was willing to do so. As there has been no dialogue in the matter in the past seven years, he urged the Supreme Court to appoint a Committee headed by a retired Judge of the Supreme Court and two retired Judges of the Allahabad High Court, with the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister (or his nominee) and a nominee from the Prime Minister’s Office. The nominees of the Shia Central Waqf Board UP, Nirmohi Akhara and Hindu sect, would offer suggestions for an amicable settlement to this committee.

The Shia leader added that the Sunni Central Waqf Board UP was dominated by “Sunni hardliners, the fanatics, and non-believers in peaceful coexistence, who have absolutely no stake in the present case”. As Babari Masjid was a Shia Waqf, the Shia Central Waqf Board UP alone is entitled to negotiate a peaceful settlement with other remaining stakeholders.

Chairman Syed Waseem Rizvi further informed the Court that after his views became known, he had received threats from the hardliners, and had informed the Government of Uttar Pradesh, which is reportedly taking steps for his security. He reiterated the keenness of the Shia sect for amicable settlement of the dispute.

Should the Supreme Court constitute such a committee, this could be a very different Diwali. – PGurus, 9 August 2017

» Sandhya Jain writes on political and contemporary affairs. She is a post-graduate in Political Science from the University of Delhi and a student of  Indian civilisation.

Ramlalla Temple on the Babri Masjid site after the demolition.

Fundamentals of the Sri Ram Temple at Ayodhya – Subramanian Swamy

Sri Rama

Dr. Subramanian SwamyIt is well-established by GPRS-directed excavations done under the Allahabad High Court monitoring and verification in 2002-03, that a large temple did exist below where Babri Masjid structure once stood. – Dr Subramanian Swamy

True and devout Hindus believe Lord Sri Rama was born in Ayodhya, the then capital of a flourishing kingdom of the Suryavansha dynasty. Rama is venerated as Maryada Purushottam, and worshipped by Hindus of the north. As an avatar of Vishnu, he was first propagated by Tamil saints Nayanmars and Alwars; the north later came to accept Rama, especially thanks to the saint Tulsidas. In that sense, Sri Rama was the first truly national king of India, supra region, supra varna or jati.

The exact spot where Rama was born has been and remains firmly identified in the Hindu mind and is held as sacred. This is the very area where stood from 1528 till December 6, 1992, a structure that came to be known as Babri Masjid, put up in 1528 by Babur’s commander Mir Baqi.

Baqi was a Shia Muslim, and hence he intended it to be a place for Shias to perform namaz. Today, interestingly, the Shia clerics have made it clear to Hindu organisations that they would agree to have the site restored as a Ramjanmabhoomi. It is the Sunni Waqf Board, which entered the legal dispute as late as 1961, that has been claiming the title to the land on which the structure once stood. I call it a “structure” since it cannot be strictly called a mosque by Sunni edicts—because it did not have the mandatory minarets and wazu (water pool).

In Skanda Purana (Chapter X, Vaishnav Khand) the site is vividly described. Valmiki Ramayana also describes it beautifully. Less than two decades before Mir Baqi carried out the horrible demolition of the Ram Temple, Guru Nanak had visited the Ramjanmabhoomi and had darshan of Ramlalla in the mandir at the spot. Guru Nanak himself records in 1521 the barbarity of Babar’s invasions (in Guru Granth Sahib at p.418). In Akbar’s time, Abul Fazal wrote the Ain-i-Akbari in which he describes Ayodhya as the place of “Ram Chandra’s residence who in Treta Yuga combined spiritual supremacy and kingship” (Translated by Colonel H. S. Jarrett and published in Kolkata in 1891).

In Chapter X of the Report of the Archeological Survey of India, NW, and Oudh (1889) it is mentioned (p.67) that Babri Mosque “was built in AD 1528 by Mir Khan on the very spot where the old temple of Janmasthan of Ram Chandra was standing.”

It is recorded in many official and judicial proceedings. In 1885, for example, Mahant Raghubar Das in a Suit No 61/280 of 1885 filed in the court of the Faizabad sub-judge against the Secretary of State for India (who was based in London), prayed for permission to build a temple on the chabutra outside the mosque. His suit was dismissed on March 18, 1886.

However, in his order, the sub-judge, an Englishman, stated: “It is most unfortunate that a Masjid should have been built on land specially held sacred by the Hindus. But as the event occurred 358 years ago, it is too late now to remedy the grievance.”

It is well-established by GPRS-directed excavations done under the Allahabad High Court monitoring and verification in 2002-03, that a large temple did exist below where Babri Masjid structure once stood. Inscriptions found during excavations describe it as a temple of Vishnu Hari who had killed the demon king Dasanan (Ravana).

The Sunni Waqf Board does not accept these findings. It does not however matter if all this was indeed so or not, since under Section 295 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) it is prescribed that “Whoever destroys, damages or defiles any place of worship, or any object held sacred by any class of persons, with the intention of thereby insulting the religion of any class of persons or with the knowledge that any class of persons is likely to consider such destruction, damage or defilement as an insult to their religion, shall be punishable with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.” – The New Indian Express, 3 October 2010

Ramlalla Temple on the Babri Masjid site after the demolition

Ramjanmabhumi Graphic

 See also

Epitaph for the Ayodhya affair – Koenraad Elst

Sri Ram Lalla Temple, Ayodhya

Koenraad ElstProfessor Meenakshi Jain’s new book, “The Battle for Rama: Case of the Temple at Ayodhya,” is a definitive and scholarly guide to the biggest controversy of the early nineties, which totally changed the dynamics of Indian politics. – Dr Koenraad Elst

Ayodhya, the city supposedly founded by the patriarch Manu, and at one time the seat of the kings belonging to the Solar Dynasty, including Rama, still decides who can rule India. It no longer arouses the passions it did ca. 1990, but we all have to live with the political consequences of the controversies of those days.

Political fall-out

In the 1980s the Congress Party aimed for a non-conflictual way to leave the contested site of Rama’s birth to Hindu society, where it belongs, all while compensating the Muslim leadership with some concessions. This would have been typical Congress culture: horse-trading may not be noble, but it has the merit of not needlessly exacerbating tensions, it is bloodless and keeps all parties satisfied. By 1990, the temple could have been built, just one more of the thousands that adorn India, and the whole matter would have been forgotten by now.

But the secularist historians publicly intervened and put everyone on notice that the misplaced Babri Masjid which Muslims had imposed on the site centuries ago was the last bulwark of secularism. Just like Jawaharlal Nehru said about democracy in peril: “Defend it with all your might!” Though it was a Congress PM, PV Narasimha Rao, who presided over its demolition by Hindu militants on 6 December 1992 and refused to save the Masjid, the party did not stay the course. It had been intimidated into conformity with the secularist line and also underwent the natural effect of polarization: it adopted the line opposite to the one that had by then been chosen by its adversary, the BJP.

Under the fateful leadership of Atal Behari Vajpayee, the BJP had been reduced to total marginality in the 1980s. After it committed itself to the Ayodhya cause championed by the Vishva Hindu Parishad, however, it made a spectacular leap in the 1989 elections and became the largest opposition party in the snap elections of 1991. After those profits had been politically encashed, it effectively abandoned the cause. This betrayal (together with the Supreme Court’s dithering in speaking out on the controversy) provoked the activists into wresting the initiative from BJP leader Lal Krishan Advani and physically removing the mosque. This only encouraged the BJP to disown the movement entirely.

No matter, for by then, a decisive turn had been taken. For Rama and his devotees, the main hurdle in the way of building a proper temple at his birth site was now out of the way. Hindus could look forward to Ayodhya becoming an unfettered pilgrimage site. Most Muslims now gave up all hopes of having the site as their own. However, the Muslim hardliners could console themselves that, on present demographic trends, India will turn Islamic-majority anyway, at which time all open accounts can still be settled. The case which the secularist historians had tried to build, deploying rhetoric with which they managed to over-awe the politicians, still had to judicially confront the case built in favour of the temple by other scholars. Those in the know expected that the secularists would not be able to convince the judges.

For the BJP, what counted was that it had by now become a non-ignorable political player. It was on the way to accession to the government. As Prime Ministers, both Vajpayee and Narendra Modi owe a debt to Rama and his dynamic devotees. Conversely, by leaving the issue to the BJP, Congress no longer had a monopoly on being the natural party of government.

Battle

To sum up: the Ayodhya controversy was one of the main events in post-Independence India. It is inappropriate, though significant, that all the vocal Ayodhya-meddlers of yore have fallen silent. Conversely, it is everyone’s good fortune that a comprehensive account of the decisive factors in at least the scholarly debate has been presented, and further researched for angles hitherto unknown, by as competent a historian and as serene a writer as Meenakshi Jain.

In her new book, ‘The Battle for Rama: Case of the Temple at Ayodhya’ (Aryan Books International, Delhi 2017), Prof. Jain gives a contents-wise overview of the controversy. It hardly touches upon the street riots and political campaigns but focuses on the documentary and archaeological evidence and the scholarly debate about these. The book carries plenty of photographs of the artefacts found at the site. With only 160 pages and a pleasant layout, it ought to reach the larger public and henceforth serve as the definitive guide to what the stake of the whole affair was.

She, first of all, lays bare what the controversy was about. First of all, not about Rama’s existence or the exact place where he was born. Religions never submit their basic convictions to a secular court (though these convictions are a fair object of free intellectual debate). Hindus need not lower themselves to that level, though some leaders actually felt pressured into the silly exercise of “proving” Rama’s existence. Conversely, nor should the secularists have demanded this of them: they already showed their malicious intent by even raising the question. And, of course, they never asked of the Muslim party by what right a mosque had been imposed on the temple site, even though it directly implicates their scriptures and the example set by their Prophet, who had personally destroyed the murtis in the main pilgrimage site of the Pagan Arabs, the Kaaba in Mecca.

Rather, the focus rightfully was, and has effectively been, on the medieval history of the site, when a replay of the usual scenario of iconoclasm already enacted in numerous places to India’s west had been inflicted on the Rama Janmabhumi site. Until the early 1980s, no interested party had denied that a Rama birthplace temple had been demolished to make way for a mosque. In the atmosphere of ca. 1990, whipped up by the secularists, arguing for this scenario had seemed an uphill task, and the scholars who did the job were widely acclaimed in Hindu circles. Not just the medieval battles resulting in iconoclasm and the street riots then taking place, but even the historians’ debate turned out to be a battle requiring some courage.

Brazen-faced deceit

But in fact, they could capitalize on a number of documents written in tempore non suspecto, mostly by Muslims, that attested it. Their argument claimed nothing out of the ordinary, it was the secularist case that, with hindsight, stood out as far-fetched. The closer verification of the evidence undertaken by Prof. Jain shows that the secularist case proves to have been even poorer than we thought at the time.

In her book Rama and Ayodhya (2013), she had already shown that the Leftist academics who had fought for the Babri Masjid, had crumbled under judicial court examination. This time, we are given to deal not just with their lack of genuine expertise, but with actual deceit and deliberate lies by some of them. Back in 1990, in his article “Hideaway communalism”, Arun Shourie had already brought to light four cases where Muslim authorities had tampered with old documents that showed how the Muslim community itself had always taken for granted the mosque’s location on land venerated as Rama’s birthplace. Now, Irfan Habib’s seemingly strongest piece of evidence (not for the temple’s non-existence, of course, but at least for the untrustworthiness of some pro-temple spokesmen) turned out to be false.

During the demolition on 6 December 1992, many Hindu artefacts had turned up, albeit in less than desirable circumstances from an archaeological viewpoint. Proper excavations at the site in mid-1993 found some more, before the thorough Court-ordered excavations by the Archaeological Survey of India in 2003 uncovered the famous pillar-bases, long ridiculed as a “Hindutva concoction” by the secularists but henceforth undeniable. Among the first findings during the demolition was the Vishnu Hari inscription, dating from the mid-11th century Rajput temple, which the Babri Masjid masons had placed between the outer and inner wall. Several Babri historians dismissed the inscription as fake, as of much later date, or as actually brought by the Kar Sevaks during the demolition itself.

Prof. Irfan Habib, in a combine with Dr. Jahnawi Roy and Dr. Pushpa Prasad, dismissed this inscription as stolen from the Lucknow Museum and to be nothing other than the Treta ka Thakur inscription. The curator kept this inscription under lock, but after some trying, Kishore Kunal, author of another Ayodhya book, Ayodhya Revisited (2016), could finally gain access to it and publish a photograph. What had been suspected all along, turns out to be true: Prof. Habib, who must have known both inscriptions, has told a blatant lie. Both inscriptions exist and are different. Here they have been neatly juxtaposed on p.104-5. Yet, none of the three scholars has “responded to the publication of the photograph of the Treta ka Thakur inscription, which falsifies the arguments they have been persistently advocating for over two decades.” (p.112)

It is no news if a secularist tells a lie: they have been doing it all along. Only, in the past they could get away with it, as the media and the publishers toed their line and withheld the publication of facts that pin-pricked their authority. Today, internet media have broken open the public sphere and some publishers have been emboldened to defy the secularists by exposing their misdeeds and defeats. The establishment media will not give any publicity to this book but defend the status-quo instead, yet the truth is irrevocably out. Since the suppression of the truth concerning Ayodhya was part of a power equation to the secularists’ advantage, the waning of that power equation means that future scholars will now become free to take the mendaciousness of the then secularists into account.

Pro-temple case

On the other hand, the pro-temple case turns out to have been even stronger than Hindus at the time realized. Thus, in much of the Moghul period, Muslims continuously acknowledged the site’s association with Rama. In the circumstances, Hindus could not replace mosque architecture with temple architecture, but they continued to assert their presence around the site and celebrate Rama’s birthday (Rama Navami). Since the crumbling of Moghul power,  they even seem to have had access to the disputed building itself:

No evidence whatsoever has been proffered of continued Muslim occupation Babri Masjid, while the uninterrupted presence of Hindu devotees has been attested by several sources. Babri Masjid finds no mention in the revenue records of the Nawabi and British periods, nor was any Waqf ever created for its upkeep. No Muslim filed an FIR when the image of Sri Rama was placed under the central dome on 23rd December 1949. (p.144)

It is only in the nick of time that the Sunni Central Waqf Board entered litigation, on 18 December 1961 (five days later, it would have become time-barred), thus juridically causing the controversy. From then on, it was up to the politicians to ensure a peaceful settlement to prevent the Court proceedings from provoking street riots. After the Court gave Hindu worshippers unlimited access in 1986, a definitive formal settlement became urgent. Congress PM Rajiv Gandhi thought he could handle this challenge, but the initiative was wrested from his hands by the secularist historians. With their shrill statements about “secularism in danger”, they raised the stakes enormously. The rest is history.

Discrimination

Even after the Allahabad High Court ruled in favour of the Hindu claim on 30 September 2010, a statement signed by a handful of secularist veterans of the anti-temple campaign considered it a scandal that the verdict had acknowledged the “faith and belief of the Hindus” (quoted p.140). Mind you, the judges had not internalized that claim, they had kept a clear distance, but assumed that “secularism” presupposes a recognition of this fact. This is the attitude that any Indian law or verdict adopts concerning Islam as well. The very existence of a category “Muslim community” (entitled e.g. to the Hajj pilgrimage and even to taxpayer-funded subsidies for this Hajj) implies the acknowledgment of a specific set of beliefs that make up Islam, and nobody finds this a scandal.

So, this statement bespeaks a discrimination between Hindus, who are first expected to give scientific proofs of their beliefs, and the minorities, whose irrational and unprovable beliefs should be accepted without any ado. It is but one of the many illustrations of how in India, “secularist” unambiguously means “anti-Hindu”. That is not paranoia but a hard fact, frequently illustrated by real-life events including unasked-for statements by the secularists themselves. India-watchers who assure their audiences that the Indian state is “religiously neutral”, or indeed “secular”, only prove their own incompetence.

As Prof. Jain concludes:

So why has the matter dragged on for so long? Can a handful of historians be held accountable for stalling resolution of what is essentially a settled matter? Their voluble assertions on Babri Masjid have all been found to be erroneous, yet there has been no public retraction. Are they liable for vitiating social harmony over the issue? If the nation has to move on, honest answers must be found to these questions. (p.145)

Epilogue

This book documents one rare Hindu victory. Having personally lived through some scenes of this long drama, and having seen many of the concerned actors evolve over the years, and seen one generation succeeded by another, I wonder if this victory doesn’t highlight a deeper evolution that can only be characterized as a defeat.

Around 1990, enormous passions were unleashed by the masses’ attachment to the Rama Janmabhumi or the Babri Masjid. It led some activists to acts of resourcefulness and of heroism including giving their lives. It led some scholars to the abandonment of their professional objectivity, to acts of deceit and plain mendaciousness. But at any rate, it proved numerous people’s deep convictions. One can hardly imagine such passions today, and perhaps it is for the better, with cooler heads and calmer minds. Unfortunately, the real reason seems to lie elsewhere.

In comparison, today’s Hindus, and especially the young generation, are more lukewarm about issues of Hindu history. Indeed, they are far more ignorant about them, and “unknown makes unloved”. Today they know all about computer games and silly American-inspired TV shows, but little about Hanuman. When I enquired about this among youngsters looking up from their smartphones, they claimed that they actually knew more about Hinduism than their parents’ generation. That might be true to an extent for the inquisitive ones who look things up on Google (not always a reliable source, moreover), but the vast majority does not compensate for its increasing ignorance this way. On the contrary, the illiterate and semi-literate ones are the demographic where this decline of Hinduism is most palpable (to the extent that an outsider can tell; but then, many insiders confirm this impression). They used to internalize Hinduism not by reading or scanning, but by breathing in the culture that existed all around them. It is this that now disappears, making way for the hollowest contents of the modern media.

In this respect, the secularists have won. It is their version of history that is percolating to the masses. Many of them know nothing about history except what they have learned at school in their history textbooks. And these are under secularist control. A BJP attempt to correct these ca. 2002 failed. The only new schoolbook that was fully up to standard, was precisely the contribution by Meenakshi Jain. In any case, all BJP textbooks were at once discarded as soon as the Congress-Communist alliance came to power in 2004. The present BJP government is hardly equipped to do a new overhaul, and even shows no interest in doing so.

So, either Hindu society is continuing on the present path, and then Prof. Jain’s beautiful book will merely gather dust as a memory from a bygone age when Hindus had not given up yet. A museum piece. Only if it inspires more such thorough history, and only if the latter gets promoted by a powerful establishment among the masses, will it prove to be the light-bringer of a new dawn. – Pragyata, 27 February 2017

The Battle for Rama : Case of the Temple at Ayodhya

 

V. S. Naipaul interviewed by Dileep Padgaonkar, Rahul Singh & Sadanand Menon – Media

V.S. Naipaul
Sword of IslamWe reproduce here excerpts of three interviews given by Sir Vidiadhar S. Naipaul on his interpretation of the ethos of the Sri Rama Janmabhoomi movement. Sir Vidiadhar is a Trinidad-born author of Indian ancestry who now resides in the United Kingdom. He has won all the major awards in English literature including the Nobel Prize in 2001. He has also written a number of best-selling books on India.

In one of his interviews (not included here), Sir Vidiadhar said: “The (second) millennium began with the Muslim invasions and the grinding down of the Hindu-Buddhist culture of the north. This is such a big and bad event that people still have to find polite, destiny-defying ways of speaking about it. In art books and history books, people write of the Muslims ‘arriving’ in India, as though the Muslims came on a tourist bus and went away again. The Muslim view of their conquest of India is a truer one. They speak of the triumph of the faith, the destruction of idols and temples, the loot, the carting away of the local people as slaves, so cheap and numerous that they were being sold for a few rupees. The architectural evidence—the absence of Hindu monuments in the north—is convincing enough.” – Editor

Dileep PadgaonkarDileep Padgaonkar interviews V. S. Naipaul, The Times of India, July 18, 1993

Q: The collapse of the Soviet Union and the subsequent rise of Islamic nations in Central Asia, the Salman Rushdie affair, similar harassment by fundamentalists of liberal Muslim intellectuals in India: all these factors taken together persuaded some forces to argue that a divided Hindu society cannot counteract Islamic fundamentalism.

A: I don’t see it quite in that way. The things you mentioned are quite superficial. What is happening in India is a new, historical awakening. Gandhi used religion in a way as to marshal people for the independence cause. People who entered the independence movement did it because they felt they would earn individual merit.

Today, it seems to me that Indians are becoming alive to their history. Romila Thapar’s book on Indian history is a Marxist attitude to history which in substance says: there is a higher truth behind the invasions, feudalism and all that. The correct truth is the way the invaders looked at their actions. They were conquering, they were subjugating. And they were in a country where people never understood this.

Only now are the people beginning to understand that there has been a great vandalising of India. Because of the nature of the conquest and the nature of Hindu society such understanding had eluded Indians before.

What is happening in India is a mighty creative process. Indian intellectuals, who want to be secure in their liberal beliefs, may not understand what is going on, especially if these intellectuals happen to be in the United States. But every other Indian knows precisely what is happening: deep down he knows that a larger response is emerging even if at times this response appears in his eyes to be threatening.

However, we are aware of one of the more cynical forms of liberalism: it admits that one fundamentalism is all right in the world. This is the fundamentalism they are really frightened of: Islamic fundamentalism. Its source is Arab money. It is not intellectually to be taken seriously etc. I don’t see the Hindu reaction purely in terms of one fundamentalism pitted against another. The reaction is a much larger response … Mohamedan fundamentalism is essentially negative, a protection against a world it desperately wishes to join. It is a last-ditch fight against the world.

But the sense of history that the Hindus are now developing is a new thing. Some Indians speak about a synthetic culture: this is what a defeated people always speak about. The synthesis may be culturally true. But to stress it could also be a form of response to intense persecution.

Q: This new sense of history as you call it is being used in India in very many different ways. My worry is that somewhere down the line this search for a sense of history might yet again turn into hostility toward something precious which came to use from the West: the notion of the individual….

A: This is where the intellectuals have a duty to perform. The duty is the use of the mind. It is not enough for intellectuals to chant their liberal views or to abuse what is happening. To use the mind is to reject the grosser aspects of this vast emotional upsurge.

Q: How did you react to the Ayodhya incident?

A: Not as badly as the others did, I am afraid. The people who say that there was no temple there are missing the point. Babar, you must understand, had contempt for the country he had conquered. And his building of that mosque was an act of contempt for the country.

In Turkey, they turned the Church of Santa Sophia into a mosque. In Nicosia churches were converted into mosques too. The Spaniards spent many centuries re-conquering their land from Muslim invaders. So these things have happened before and elsewhere.

In Ayodhya the construction of a mosque on a spot regarded as sacred by the conquered population was meant as an insult. It was meant as an insult to an ancient idea, the idea of Ram which was two or three thousand years old.

Q: The people who climbed on top of these domes and broke them were not bearded people wearing saffron robes and with ash on their foreheads. They were young people clad in jeans and tee-shirts.

A: One needs to understand the passion that took them on top of the domes. The jeans and the tee-shirts are superficial. The passion alone is real. You can’t dismiss it. You have to try to harness it.

Hitherto in India the thinking has come from the top. I spoke earlier about the state of the country: destitute, trampled upon, crushed. You then had the Bengali renaissance, the thinkers of the 19th century. But all this came from the top. What is happening now is different. The movement is now from below.

Q: My colleague, the cartoonist, Mr R. K. Laxman, and I recently travelled thousands of miles in Maharashtra. In many places we found that noses and breasts had been chopped off from the statues of female deities. Quite evidently this was a sign of conquest. The Hindutva forces point to this too to stir up emotions. The problem is: how do you prevent these stirred-up emotions from spilling over and creating fresh tensions?

A: I understand. But it is not enough to abuse them or to use that fashionable word from Europe: fascism. There is a big, historical development going on in India. Wise men should understand it and ensure that it does not remain in the hands of fanatics. Rather they should use it for the intellectual transformation of India.

Rahul SinghRahul Singh interviews V. S. Naipaul, The Times of India, Jan 23, 1998

Q: You gave an interview to The Times of India, which was interpreted by the BJP as supporting them in the destruction (of the Babri structure). Do you think you were misunderstood?

A: I can see how what I said then could be misinterpreted. I was talking about history, I was talking about a historical process that had to come. I think India has lived with one major extended event, that began about 1000 AD, the Muslim invasion. It meant the cracking open and partial wrecking of what was a complete cultural, religious world until that invasion. I don’t think the people of India have been able to come to terms with that wrecking. I don’t think they understand what really happened. It’s too painful. And I think this BJP movement and that masjid business is part of a new sense of history, a new idea of what happened. It might be misguided, it might be wrong to misuse it politically, but I think it is part of a historical process. And to simply abuse it as fascist is to fail to understand why it finds an answer in so many hearts in India.

Q: Couldn’t it just be communal prejudice?

A: It could become that. And that has to be dealt with. But it can only be dealt with if both sides understand very clearly the history of the country. I don’t think Hindus understand what Islam means and I don’t think the people of Islam have tried to understand Hinduism. The two enormous groups have lived together in the sub-continent without understanding one another’s faiths.

Saananda MenonSadanand Menon interviews V. S. Naipaul, The Hindu, July 5, 1998

Q: You have been rather vehement about Marxist, leftist interpretations of history. What did you see as a major flaw in their arguments?

A: Probably not so much the Marxist interpretation of history as Marxist politics which, of course, is entirely criminal. Such disrespect for men. I think that is enough; that is condemnation enough. This lack of regard for human beings.

Q: Well, that is not specific to Marxists politics alone. All brands of organised politics, all parties mirror each other in their behaviour and have discredited themselves. But what about Marxism as a tool for analysing history?

A: You see, Sadanand, I have not lived like that. I never looked for unifying theories. I think everything is particular to a country, a culture, a period. In another context, I do not like people taking ancient myths, shall we say, and applying them to their own period. I think the ancient myths come from an ancient world. Sometimes very many ancient worlds come together in an epic work and to apply that narrative to modern life is absurd. Something like that I feel about these unifying interpretations of history. It is better just to face what there is. It is better not to know the answers to every problem, before you even know what the problems are. The Marxists, they know the answers long before they know anything. And, of course, it is not a science. It deals with human beings.

Q: You have given some signals during your visit here this time about your—it may be a wrong word—your “happiness” with the emergence and consolidation of some kind of parasitic Hindu political order here. How do you sustain such a thesis?

A: No. I have not done that actually. I have talked about history. And I have talked about this movement. I have not gone on to say I would like Hindu religious rule here. All that I have said is that Islam is here in a big way. There is a reason for that and we cannot hide from what the reasons were. The great invasions spread very far South, spreading to, you know, even Mysore. I think when you see so many Hindu temples of the 10th century or earlier time disfigured, defaced, you know that they were not just defaced for fun: that something terrible happened. I feel that the civilisation of that closed world was mortally wounded by those invasions. And I would like people, as it were, to be more reverential towards the past, to try to understand it; to preserve it; instead of living in its ruins. The old world is destroyed. That has to be understood. The ancient Hindu India was destroyed.

Q: Many things changed and many things overlapped in Indian history due to many diverse interventions. But do such processes over time justify the line of “historic revenge” with retrospective effect? Does it make that inevitable? What do you see unfolding before your eyes here today?

A: No. I do not think so. It need not happen. If people just acknowledged history, certain deep emotions of shame and defeat would not be driven underground and would not find this rather nasty and violent expression. As people become more secure in India, as a middle and lower middle class begins to grow, they will feel this emotion more and more. And it is in these people that deep things are stirred by what was, clearly, a very bad defeat. The guides who take people around the temples of Belur and Halebid are talking about this all the time. I do not think they were talking about it like that when I was there last, which is about 20 something years ago. So new people come up and they begin to look at their world and from being great acceptors, they have become questioners. And I think we should simply try to understand this passion. It is not an ignoble passion at all. It is men trying to understand themselves. Do not dismiss them. Treat them seriously. Talk to them.

Q: But don’t you think this tendency is only going to increase—this tendency to whimsically and freely interpret religion or history at the street level?

A: I think it will keep on increasing as long as you keep on saying it is wicked and that they are wicked people. And if we wish to draw the battleline, then of course, you get to battle. If you try to understand what they are saying, things will calm down. – Hindu Vivek Kendra, 199?

Babri Masjid Demolition 1992

2 – The Koenraad Elst Interview – Surajit Dasgupta

Koenraad Elst

Dr Koenraad Elst is a Belgium Indologist who calls himself an “Orientalist”. He is a leading author with Voice of India and has many publications on India behind him.

Surajit Dasgupta• Q : While Swarajya has published articles exposing how Marxist historians hound peers who disagree with them out of academic institutions, we have got news from different sources that you are finding it difficult to get employed even in Belgium. Is it true? If yes, what precisely is the objection of your detractors? Can you name the people who have raised objection to your appointment in a Belgian university? Did you receive regret letters from Belgian academic authorities, explaining why they couldn’t appoint you? Did they communicate verbally to you why they thought you were unemployable?

• A : After giving this matter some thought, I have decided against offering much detail here. Firstly, I am not privileged to know the details of decision-making instances that lead to my own exclusion. Even if sending an official “regret letter”, they would not give in writing the real reason behind their decision (as anyone experienced with job applications knows).

Secondly, even though no law was broken, going into this still has the character of an allegation, and that requires proof. Some cases of deliberate exclusion or dis-invitation were simply obvious, but my standards of proof are higher than that. Thus, recently I missed an appointment at a Belgian university and in that rare case I was unofficially but fully informed of the details by an insider (of course I was vetoed for reputedly being too embroiled with Islam criticism), but now that this crown witness has died, it would only be my word against theirs; which would not be good enough. So, I simply want to close this chapter. Let’s not bother, everybody has his problems, and these career hurdles are mine. In fact, I have had quite a bit of luck in my life, including help from individual Hindus whenever the need arose (air tickets paid, hospitality etc.), so any fussing about this boycott against me would be disproportionate. Let’s just assume I missed those opportunities because I was not good enough. Or because of Karma, whatever.

The topic in general is important, though. The Leftist dominance of the Humanities departments in India, often amounting to total control, results from the wilful and systematic “ethnic cleansing” (to borrow Madhu Kishwar’s term) of any young scholar suspected of pro-Hindu sympathies. Exceptions are the people who entered on the strength of ideologically neutral work, or of initially toeing the line, but coming out with pro-Hindu convictions only after getting tenure.

This cleansing of enemies stems from the old Marxist mentality: a war psychology treating everyone with a different opinion as an enemy inviting merciless destruction; and a boundless self-righteousness rooted in the belief of being on the forward side of history. As an ideological wave, Marxism is waning even in India, but that attitude is still rife among the anti-Hindu forces, both in India and among Western India-watchers.

• Q : We refer to the established historians in India as Marxist historians, not to their knowledge because they look at this country through the Marxist lens of “class conflicts”. You refer to them sarcastically as “eminent” historians. Please explain your choice of words.

• A : “Eminent historians” is what they call one another, and what their fans call them. When they don’t have an answer to an opponent’s arguments, they pompously dismiss him as not having enough “eminence”. So when Arun Shourie wrote about some abuses in this sector, he called his book Eminent Historians. It is also a pun on an old book about prominent colonial-age personalities,Eminent Victorians.

“Eminence” in this case refers to their position and relative glory. The Communists always made sure to confer position and prestige, as opposed to the Sangh Parivar, which fawns over people with position but doesn’t realize that those people have only acquired their position by toeing the anti-Hindu line. In a way, you have to concede that the Left has honestly fought for its power position. Half their battle was already won by the Hindu side’s complete absence from the battlefield.

One example of the Sangh’s ineptness at playing this game. In 2002, the supposedly Hindu government of AB Vajpayee founded the Chair for Indic Studies in Oxford. The media cried “saffronization” and, as usual, portrayed the BJP as a wily party fanatically committed to Hindu causes. However, the clueless time-servers at the head of the BJP nominated a known and proven opponent of Hindu Nationalism, Sanjay Subrahmaniam, who thus became the poster-boy for “saffronization”. This way, they hoped to achieve their highest ambition in life: a pat on the shoulder by the secularists. That pat on the shoulder, already begged for so many times, remained elusive, but the tangible result was that they too had conferred even more prestige on an “Eminent Historian”, all while denying it to their own scholars (if any).

• Q : What would you tell your peers who say that the “Out of India Theory” (OIT) is a fringe theory?

• A : Of course it is a fringe theory, at least internationally, where the Aryan Invasion Theory (AIT) is still the official paradigm. In India, though, it has the support of most archaeologists, who fail to find a trace of this Aryan influx and instead find cultural continuity. As for the situation abroad: most scholars assume the invasionist paradigm, but only very few also argue in an informed manner for the invasionist theory, not many more than those who argue against it. But anyway, this “fringe” aspect doesn’t impress me at all. When Copernicus put the sun rather than the earth in the middle of the solar system, he was in a minority of one, very “fringe” indeed; but he won the day.

• Q : What is the evidence against the Aryan Invasion Theory?

• A : First of all: that there is no evidence in its favour. Archaeologists have spent a century of well-funded excavations for a trace, any trace, of the Aryans moving into India. Even the invasionists concede that “as yet” no such thing has been found. The new genetic evidence, while still immature, generally goes in favour of emigrations from India and, while leaving room for immigrations too, is emphatically failing to pinpoint an invasion coinciding in time with the hypothetical Aryan invasion.

Meanwhile, the written record emphatically points to an emigration scenario. That the Iranians lived in India and had to leave westwards is reported in the Rg-Veda, a text thoroughly analysed and shown to support an “Aryan emigration” by Shrikant Talageri. It can equally be deduced from the Avesta. Even earlier migrations are mentioned in the Puranas. These are of course very mixed and unreliable as a source of history, but it is a bad historian who discards them altogether. Their core, later fancifully embellished, consists in dynastic lists. Keeping that ancestral information was the proper job of court poets, and they devised mnemotechnical tricks to transmit it for many generations. In this case, it too does convey a basic scenario of indigenousness and emigration.

Finally, there is the linguistic evidence. Many Indians believe the hearsay that it has somehow proven the invasion. It hasn’t. But permit me to forego discussing those data: too technical for an interview.

• Q : Of late, the Marxist historians have revised “invasion” to “migration”. They say that there might not have been a war when the so-called Aryans arrived here, but they have no doubt that the ancestors of today’s north Indians, especially the upper castes, by and large migrated from central Asia into India. In other words, the Marxists say that we Indians were originally not Indians—invasion or no invasion! Does this “revision” satisfy you?

• A : Exasperated at not finding a visible trace of this invasion, conformist scholars have theorized an alternative that doesn’t require such visible remains: a migration under the radar. Often, when they try to give details, they still mean a military invasion rather than a gradual migration, since they bring in the military advantage of horses and chariots to explain how such a large and civilized Harappan population could be overrun by a handful of outsiders.

But even if they genuinely mean a migration, it still amounts to the same scenario as an invasion, viz. the Vedic Aryans came from abroad and the natives took over the language and religion of the intruders. So, anyone who thinks that the migration theory is a breakthrough away from the invasion theory really shows he doesn’t understand the issue. “Migration” effectively means “invasion” but avoids the burden of proof that the more dramatic term “invasion” implies.

To be sure, it doesn’t much matter who came from where. The so-called adivasis (a British term coined in ca. 1930) or “natives” of Nagalim in the Northeast have settled in their present habitat only a thousand years ago; which is fairly recent by Indian standards. So, ironically, they are genuine “immigrants” or “invaders”, yet no Indian begrudges them their place inside India. Many countries have an immigration or conquest of their present territory as a proud part of their national myth: Madagascar, Romania, the Siberian part of Russia, Hungary, Turkey, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, etc. If the Indo-Aryans, or indeed the Dravidians (theorized to have come from Iran or even Central Asia), had really immigrated, that would then have been a pre-Vedic event, at least 3500 years ago, and that time-span ought to have been enough for integration into the national mainstream.

So this Homeland debate ought to have been a non-issue, only of interest to ivory-tower scholars. But different non- or anti-Hindu forces decided to politicize it. Abroad, these were the British colonialists, White supremacists in the US and Europe, and among them the Nazis, who considered the AIT as a cornerstone and eloquent illustration of their worldview. Inside India, first of all the Christian missionaries, then followed by the non-Brahmin movement, the Dravidianists, Nehruvians and Ambedkarites, followed in turn by their Western supporters. The AIT was used to break up Indian unity and pit upper castes against lower castes, non-tribals against tribals, and North Indians against South Indians. After this massive politicization, the partisans of Indian unity finally decided to give some feeble support to the fledgling Out-of-India Theory (OIT). Yet, scholars rejecting the OIT because of its alleged political use have no qualms about espousing the AIT, politicized since far longer, in many more countries, and not as a pastime of a few historians but as the basis for government policies.

• Q : On the one hand, the unaffiliated or apolitical Indian student loves your theories; your passages are quoted widely in debates on ancient Indian history. On the other, you do not seem to get along well with the so-called right-wing historians of this country either. You have written a blog against them. Please comment.

• A : Well, I have nothing but good to say about some Indian researchers, both naturalized ones like Michel Danino and natives like Meenakshi Jain or Srikant Talageri. But then, there are others too. Certainly the name P. N. Oak rings a bell? In the second half of last century, he spread all these theories that the Taj Mahal was a Shiva temple; that the Kaaba was built by Vikramaditya as a Shiva temple; that the Vatican (originally the Roman “Poets’ Hill”) is really “Veda Vatika“; that my mother tongue, Dutch, is the language of the Daityas (demons), etc. The bad thing is that numerous Hindus have run away with these stories, and even some NRI surgeons and engineers of my acquaintance believe in diluted versions of the same. In a less extreme manner, this disdain for historical method is widespread among traditionalist Hindu “history rewriters”. They frequently put out claims that would make legitimate historians shudder.

Many of these rewriters thought that with Narendra Modi’s accession to power, their time had come. I know, for instance, that many of them have sent in proposals to the ICHR. None of these was accepted because they ignored the elementary rules of scholarship. Any student writing a thesis knows that before you can develop your own hypothesis, you first have to survey the field and assess what previous scholars have found or theorized. But these traditionalist history rewriters just don’t bother about the rest of the world, they are satisfied to have convinced themselves. Their horizon is not larger than an internet list of like-minded people.

In itself, it is no problem that their knowledge and method leave much to be desired. People can learn. Unfortunately, they are too smug to do that. They actively misinform Hindus by claiming that the Aryan Invasion Theory has long been discarded. They also do a lot of harm to the bona-fide historians with whom they get juxtaposed. So it is true that I have lost patience with them.

• Q : Since the Narendra Modi government came to power in 2014, has there been an effort to revise the subject of Indian history in academic curricula, which, many in India believe, is politically motivated? Has the Government of India approached you with the request of being a part of any such initiative? If yes, how is the project going?

• A : No, there has been no such request at all. However, I myself have sent in an application to the Indian Council of Historical Research, but that has run into technical difficulties, mainly to do with my foreign passport. So, the situation is and remains that institutionally, I have nothing to do with the Indian history scene.

The version of history taught by the Nehruvians was politically motivated. The feeble Hindu attempt to counterbalance this (“saffronization”) in ca. 2002 was confused and largely incompetent. Humbled by this experience, the BJP today is not even trying to impose its own version. Contrary to the Nehruvians’ hue and cry, allegations about the BJP’s interference in history-teaching or more generally in academe are simply not true.

Here we are only talking of changing some lines in the textbooks, and even that seems a Himalayan effort to the BJP. Yet, what is really needed is a far more thorough overhaul. Except for some scholars without any power, nobody is even thinking about this very needed long-term job.

• Q : If no, could the reason be that RSS-affiliated historians and you are not particularly fond of each other and this government is influenced by the Sangh?

• A : Any Sangh-affiliated historians would not need me to arrive at their positions or to devise a policy if called upon to do so by the present Government. But again, I am not aware of any governmental interest in correcting the distorted history propagated by the Nehruvians. I would welcome it if it happened, but so far the BJP, still begging to be recognized as “secular”, only has its eye on “development”.

I am happy to report that there are some as yet insignificant private initiatives, though. Once they achieve results, there will be more to say on them.

• Q : Would you say or agree that the Government of India, regardless of the political party that runs it, would be uncomfortable appointing or commissioning an academic who is perceived as being anti-Muslim?

• A : Certainly.  Though it never had any problem with anti-Hindu candidates to even the highest post. Long ago, it even managed to appoint to the chair of the Constitution Commission, no less, a man who had expressed his outspoken aversion to both Hinduism and Islam: Dr B. R. Ambedkar.

• Q : Does the genesis of your problem with anti-left historians in India lie in the fact that on the issue of Babri Masjid, if you do not agree with the left, you do not agree with the right-wing either? If it is something else, please explain the problem.

• A : On Ayodhya, there has never been a conflict with any non-Left historian. To be sure, I have my disagreements on some minor points, but they have never been the object of a controversy. So: no, on Ayodhya I may have minor and friendly differences of opinion with “right-wing” historians, but no serious quarrel. In that debate, the long-standing quarrel has been with the Eminent Historians, their supporters in media and politics, and their foreign dupes. They were on the wrong side of the history debate all along, and it is time they concede it.

In the case of the Eminent Historians, it is also time for the surviving ones to own up their responsibility for the whole conflict. The then PM, Rajiv Gandhi, was on course towards a peaceful settlement, allotting the site to the Hindus and buying the militant Muslim leadership off with some typically Congressite horse-trading. Not too principled, but at least with the virtue of avoiding bloodshed. It is the shrill and mendacious declaration of the Eminent Historians in 1989, amplified by all the vocal secularists, that made the politicians back off.

Not only have they falsely alleged that no Rama temple ever stood on the contentious site: their more fundamental lie was to bring in history at all. Ayodhya belongs to the Hindus not because it was their pilgrimage site a thousand years ago, nor because of “revenge” for a temple destruction effected eight hundred or five hundred years ago, but because it is a Hindu sacred site today. No Muslim ever cares to go to Ayodhya, and in spite of being egged on by the Eminent Historians, enough Muslim leaders have expressed their willingness to leave the site to the Hindus. This whole controversy was unnecessary, but for the Nehruvians’ pathetic nomination of the Babri Masjid as the last bulwark of secularism.

• Q : If all the archaeological findings from Ayodhya are arranged chronologically, what story of the disputed plot of land comes to the fore? Did a temple of Lord Rama stand there, which Babar’s general Mir Baqi demolished to build the mosque? Or, did Mir Baqi find ruins on the spot, which were a mix of a dilapidated Muslim graveyard and remains of a temple of an even older generation? 

• A : That a Hindu temple was demolished by Muslim invaders is certain, on that we all agree. But there is less consensus around, or even awareness of, the fact that this happened several times: by Salar Masud Ghaznavi in 1030 (the rebuilt Rajput temple after this must be the one of the excavated pillar-bases), by Qutbuddin Aibak’s troops in 1193, and by Mir Baqi on Babar’s behalf in 1526.

What it was that was replaced by Babar’s mosque, is not fully clear. I speculate that in the rough and tumble of the collapsing Delhi Sultanate, Hindus had managed to take over the site and started worship there even though the building they used was a mosque imposed on the site. That was exactly the situation in 1949-92, and I think it also applied towards 1526. Babar destroyed a Hindu pilgrimage centre, a Hindu presence at the site, but not the Rajput temple from the 11th century of which the foundations were excavated in 2003.

Was the temple’s demolition just an odd event, or was it the necessary materialization of an ideology, repeated many times and in many places? When Mohammed Shahabuddin Ghori and his lieutenants conquered the entire Ganga basin in 1192-94, they destroyed every Hindu temple they could find. Only a few survived, and that is because they lay out-of-the-way of the Muslim armies, in the (then) forest, notably in Khajuraho and in Bodh Gaya. But all the Buddhist universities, all the temples in Varanasi etc. were destroyed. Ayodhya became a provincial capital of the Delhi Sultanate, and it is inconceivable that the Sultanate regime would have allowed a major temple to remain standing there.

So, the narrative propagated by the Sangh Parivar, that Babar destroyed the 11th-century temple, cannot be true, for that temple was no longer there. When Babar arrived on the scene, Hindus may have worshipped Rama in a makeshift temple, or in a mosque building provisionally used as a temple, but the main temple that used to be there, had already been destroyed in 1193. See, Ayodhya’s history becomes more interesting once you discard the lies of the Eminent Historians as well as the naïve version of the Sangh Parivar.

The controversial part lies herein, that the persistence of the temple all through the Sultanate period would have implied a certain tolerance even during the fiercest part of Muslim rule. In reality, the demolition of Rama’s birthplace temple was not an odd and single event, but a repeated event in application of a general theology of iconoclasm imposed by the Prophet.

• Q : Was it a temple of Lord Vishnu rather? Or, were they quite a few temples of one or more deities built in different periods by different kings?

• A : In her book from 2013, Rama and Ayodhya, Prof. Meenakshi Jain has detailed all the scholarly evidence and the debate around it, including the embarrassing collapse of the Eminent Historians’ case once they took the witness stand in Court. She shows that the Rama cult has already left traces more than 2000 years ago. Attempts to make Rama worship a recent phenomenon were just part of the sabotage attempts by the Eminent Historians. Also, the site of Ayodhya, though probably older, is at least beyond doubt since Vikramaditya in the 1st century BC. All indications are that the disputed site was already visited by pilgrims as Rama’s birthplace since well before the Muslim conquest.

So, this was a long-standing pilgrimage site for Rama. Against the utter simplicity of this scenario, anti-Hindu polemicists of various stripes have tried all kinds of diversionary tactics: saying that Rama was born elsewhere, or that the temple belonged to other cults. This Vishnu-but-not-his-incarnation-Rama theory, or the claim of a Shaiva or Buddhist origin, came about as some of those diversionary tactics; they are totally inauthentic and artificial. Alright, among historians we can discuss every possible hypothesis. But from the very relevant viewpoint of Islamic iconoclasm, all these distinctions don’t matter: all those sects were false, leading men astray, away from the one true religion, and therefore they all, and certainly their idols and idol houses, were to be destroyed.

• Q : Whatever be the story, which community do you believe has a greater right of ownership over that disputed site?

• A : The community that holds the site sacred. Muslims go through all this trouble to travel to far-away Mecca, why don’t they go on a cheap and easy pilgrimage to Ayodhya instead? It seems they have made their choice. So let us respect their choice, and also the choice of the Rama worshippers who do care for Ayodhya, by leaving the site to the latter. Case closed.

• Q : Do you hate Muslims or Islam?

• A : No, I do not hate Muslims. They are people like ourselves. Having travelled in Pakistan and the Gulf States, I even dare say I feel good in Muslim environments. And if I desire the liberation of Muslims from Islam, that is precisely because I like them. Suppose you discover that a friend of you still believes in fairy-tales: wouldn’t you consider it your duty to set him straight and confront him with the true story, precisely because he is your friend?

But then, perhaps the writer of the Quran “hated” the unbelievers when he wished them godspeed to hell.

And I do not “hate” Islam either. If a teacher uses his red pencil to cross out a grammatical mistake in a pupil’s homework, we do not say that he “hates” the mistake. He simply notices very dispassionately that it is wrong. The use of the word “hate” in this case stems from an attempt to distort the debate and misrepresent the argument by means of emotive language. The belief that someone heard the word of God, dictating the Quranic verses, is just one of the many irrational and mistaken beliefs that have plagued mankind since the beginning. 

• Q : You have been on record saying at a function in Goa in late 2014 that a general impression must be created that being a Muslim is “uncool”! Representatives of some Islamic countries reportedly walked out of the venue in protest of your statement. Would you explain what happened at that event?

• A : We had been given to understand that it was going to be a Hindu think-fest where the only constraint on our free discussion was going to be the truth. Satyameva Jayate! The offer of first-class airplane tickets (which I refused as unnecessarily luxurious) should already have alerted me to a different agenda: a glamorous diplomatic show. Arriving on-site, and seeing some high-profile Muslim guests from West Asia (what were they doing at an “India Ideas Conclave”?), I proposed the organizers to change the topic from what I had been invited for: the roots of religious terrorism. Thus, an evaluation of the BJP Government’s record from the angle of its Hindu reputation seemed to me an excellent topic that as yet no one was scheduled to talk about. But no, they insisted I talk about the roots of Islamic terrorism, then colourfully illustrated by the frequent video reports of beheadings by the Islamic State, apart from the more usual bomb attacks. Even when I warned them that I was not going to parrot the diplomatic white lies churned out by Obama and Cameron (and, very recently, in my presence, by Narendra Modi speaking in Brussels), viz. that jihad “has nothing to do with Islam”, they still persisted.

So they got what they had bargained for. I detailed the justification for all of the Islamic State’s actions from the Quran and the Prophet’s precedents. The reaction of the Hindu audience was very warm and enthusiastic. Finally someone who didn’t try to shift the blame to the victims, as the Nehruvians always do. A few foreigners were not so happy, and neither were the BJP organizers. They had preferred a diplomatic lie to the truth, so I had spoiled their show, intended to prove how nice and “secular” those ugly Hindu Nationalists really were.

On the panel there was also the advocate of “moderate Islam”, Sultan Shahin. I liked him as a person, and I also understand that the stand he took was risky. For Muslims, it is more dangerous to stray from the orthodox line than for non-Muslims to even criticize Islam. I have to knock on wood here, given the attacks on the Satanic Verses translators and the Danish or French cartoonists, but still Kafirs (Pagans) have more leeway than Muslims who risk being treated as apostates. So, I concede the bravery of “moderate Muslims”. But all the same, they are wrong.  They are probably being truthful when they swear that they themselves would never countenance such terrorist violence. But that is because of their normal inborn human feelings, not because of (but rather, in spite of) their later conditioning by Islam. They try to reconcile their human tolerance with the religion they have been taught by their beloved parents. It is humanly understandable, and I sympathize with them, being myself an apostate from my home religion, Catholicism. But alas, I cannot spare them the difficulties inherent in outgrowing your native religions. And I can testify that the end result is worth these steps on the way.

As Taslima Nasrin has said: “What the Muslim world needs is not moderate Muslims but ex-Muslims.”

Making Islam uncool? I have been part of a massive walk-out from the Church. For intellectuals, the decisive reason was the dawning insight that Christian belief was irrational. But for the masses, it was mainly that it was no longer cool to be a believer. People started feeling embarrassed for still being associated with this untenable doctrine, and are none the worse for having left the beliefs they were brought up in. I wish Muslims a similar evolution, a similar liberation. I do not wish on them anything that I have not been through myself.

• Q : How do you view the recent terrorist attack on Belgium? To what extent is migration from Islamic countries responsible for terrorism on European soil?

• A : As Ché Guevara said, a Guerrilla fighter is among the masses like a fish in the water. In this case, the Jihad fighters had found safety and comfort in the Muslim community. So the demographic Islamization of some neighbourhoods in Brussels (due to our own silly policies) has indeed played a role. But I expect you to retort that there were also other factors, and that is true.

• Q : How do you react to the Muslim refrain that the terrorists in their community are a creation of America and NATO’s flawed foreign policy and interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, etc?

• A : It is simply not true that Ghaznavi or Aurangzeb took to Jihad and iconoclasm in reaction to British colonialism or American bombings. They were inspired by an older source, viz. the Prophet’s precedent, Islam. However, it is true that many contemporary Jihad fighters have indeed been fired up by a specific circumstance, viz. Western aggression against Muslim countries.

Assenting to Quranic lessons about Jihad is one thing, but actually volunteering for the front-line of Jihad it quite another. In most people, it needs a trigger. The illegal invasions of Iraq or Libya, or footage of an Afghan wedding bombed from American jets, provided such a trigger. I am very aware that being bombed is just as unpleasant for wedding guests in Kandahar as for commuters in Brussels or Mumbai. Right now, even little Belgium has five bomber planes in Iraq as part of the US-led war effort against IS. These bombers must already have killed, along with some Jihad fighters, more civilians than were killed in the terrorist attacks in Brussels.

In Belgium, I have drawn some attention with my defence of the Syria volunteers: young Muslims grown up in Brussels or Antwerp and going to fight for the Islamic State. Our politicians call them “monsters”, “crazy” and other derogatory names, but in fact they are pious idealists. They may be misguided in their beliefs, and I dare say they are, but they do have the courage of their conviction. Without any pressure on them, they volunteer for putting their lives on the line in the Syrian desert. You cannot deny them bravery and self-sacrifice.

The Western invasions and bombings in Muslim countries have brought nothing but misery, and I have opposed them all along. What the Muslim world needs, is not more civil wars, sectarian wars, foreign military interventions, which all serve to polarize the minds, to freeze them in existing antagonisms. What it needs is a thaw. Here again, I speak from my own experience: the post-war climate of peace and prosperity in Europe has allowed a genuine cultural revolution, an emancipation from the stranglehold of Christianity. The Muslim world will only evolve if it attains a modicum of peace and stability.

Note that the military interventions have nothing to do with Islam criticism, nowadays slandered as “Islamophobia”. On the contrary. Without exception, all the politicians ordering interventions in Muslim countries have praised Islam, calling it “the religion of peace” that is being “misused” by the terrorists. Not a single word of Islam criticism has ever crossed their lips. A legitimate Islam critic like the late historian Sita Ram Goel has never harmed a hair on the head of a Muslim. Islamophiles such as these politicians, by contrast, have killed many thousands of innocent Muslims.

• Q : How would you advise Indians to fight terrorism?

• A : Security measures and repression are not my field nor my favourite solution, but I understand that sometimes they are necessary. So I want to spare a moment to praise the men in uniform who risk their lives to provide safety. However, this approach won’t go very far and won’t provide a lasting solution if it is not accompanied by a more fundamental ideological struggle. That is what I am working on. – Koenraad Elst Blog, 6 May 2016

» Surajit Dasgupta is National Affairs Editor for Swarajya.

Ram Temple on the Babri Masjid site after the demolition.

“The community that holds the site sacred [has the right to it].” – Dr Koenraad Elst

See also

VHP sets December 31st deadline for beginning construction of Ram Temple – Zee News

Shila Puja at Ayodhya

Champat Rai“Vishwa Hindu Parishad has now set a December 31 deadline for construction of a grand temple dedicated to Lord Ram at Ayodhya.” – Zee News

Indore: With the ruling BJP apparently putting the Ram Temple issue on hold, its affiliate Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) has now set a December 31 deadline for construction of a grand temple dedicated to Lord Ram at Ayodhya.

Addressing a huge gathering of saints and youths from across the country at Ujjain Mahakumbh, the saffron outfit’s general secretary Champat Rai said, “Construction will start before December 31, and we won’t wait for the Supreme Court verdict…. We kept our patience, but won’t wait beyond December.”

The VHP general secretary also dismissed reports which claimed that the temple’s construction would begin from November 1, saying ”some organisations were spreading rumours to hog limelight on the Ayodhya issue.”

He said 90% of the work for temple construction had been completed and the remaining would be done with the help of saints.

The VHP announcement comes four days ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s scheduled visit to Ujjain where he will take part in the Vaicharik Mahakumbh. – Zee News, 11 May 2016

Ujjain: Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressing the valedictory funtion of three-day International Vichar Maha Kumbh during Simhastha Maha Kumbh Mela, in Ujjain on Saturday. Also seen is President of Sri Lanka Maithripala Sirisena. PTI Photo(PTI5_14_2016_000074B)

Indian Muslims should rethink their claim on Ayodhya – Sandhya Jain

Babri Masjid, Ayodhya

Sandhya Jain is the editor of Vijayvaani.“Islamic law does not sanction creation of a mosque on an occupied site. As the Babri mosque was unambiguously erected on the ruins of an extant grand temple, Muslims should withdraw from the site and the dispute. K. K. Muhammad, former Regional Director (North), Archaeological Survey of India, blames Left historians for instigating and manipulating those who were seriously considering return of the site. Muslims should rethink their association with such elements.” – Sandhya Jain

Muslims play Holi in LucknowOn Holi, last month, Muslims in some cities stepped forward to shower festival processions with petals and participate in ‘Holika dahan’, symbolising the triumph of purity over evil. This is not the first time the community has made such spontaneous gestures of goodwill. But it is a time when voices within Indian Islam are struggling to be heard on issues of fundamentalism, terrorism, and their links with certain preachers and madrassas, and on secular concerns such as triple talaq that threatens the physical and emotional security of women and children.

Ram Lalla VirajmanWith Ram Navami [over], it may be appropriate to ask our countrymen to end the tortuous litigation over the Babri Masjid / Ram Janmasthan and consider the matter dispassionately. This writer does not favour pressuring the Supreme Court to prioritise the Ram Janmabhoomi case when suits affecting the lives of lakhs of litigants are pending for decades. However, the Allahabad High Court verdict of 2010, which gave one-third of the disputed land to the Muslim litigant, is utterly unsatisfactory and unworkable. Its sole merit is that it put all evidence regarding the dispute on record; this deserves careful reading by all interested in the subject.

Some of the most compelling evidence on Ayodhya, from the location of the ancient city to the ownership and occupation of the land, was discovered by B. R. Grover (d. 2001), former Chairman, Indian Council of Historical Research. Grover was justly renowned for his archival research and enjoyed a formidable reputation as an authority on Mughal land revenue administration.

His extensive study of the original land revenue documents and maps of Ayodhya, judicial records, accounts of eye-witnesses who travelled to Ayodhya in earlier periods, Babur’s memoirs, and other documents and manuscripts in various libraries (in Persian, Arabic, Chaghatay-Turkish, Urdu, Sanskrit, Punjabi and English) have since been published in a single volume, Rama Janamabhoomi: Professor B. R. Grover’s Analysis of Revenue Records and Historical Facts, ed. Amrita Grover, Dr Anju Grover Chaudhary, Originals, Delhi, 2015.

B. R. GroverGrover spent months at the district office in Faizabad, studying the abadi maps, hadbast maps and revenue settlement maps of 1851, 1893 and 1936-37. He examined the earliest revenue documentary evidence traceable to the early 18th century, including those of the Nawabi period and the British ascent, from 1856 onwards, that are linked with the Mughal pattern of revenue administration.

Examining records relating to village Ram Kot, Haveli Awadh, available at the District Record Office at Faizabad, from 1861 to 1990-91, Grover discovered that from the time of the first Regular Settlement in 1861, the land was shown as nazul (Government) and that this had not been disputed or challenged by anyone. The first Regular Settlement Report of Kot Ram Chandra, appended by two maps, was the most comprehensive document relating to the Janmasthan complex comprising Ram Janmabhoomi.

One map was prepared after an on the spot survey and measurement of the khasras relating to kishtwar and abadi. As per erstwhile Nawabi and Mughal practice, it was attested in every respect by the local zamindars / pattidars of various mahal units, the local revenue officials and witnesses.

The Settlement Report of 1861 was also based on previous summary settlements of 1858-60, and depicted the exact position of Janmasthan / Masjid and neighbouring plots as inherited from the Nawabi period. The revenue documents declared the superior ownership of the land as Sarkar Bahadur Nazul (Government) with the Mahants as under-proprietors (malikan-i-matahit) of the entire Janmasthan complex.

The Settlement Report of 1893 clearly named the sub-plot on which the masjid was situated as Sita Ki Rasoi. Subsequent Settlement Reports of 1936-37 and 1989-90 maintained the same position. There is absolutely no mention of Babri Masjid in the documents preserved by the Revenue Department at the Collectorate and Tehsil at Faizabad.

More pertinently, there is no mention in the revenue records from 1858 to 1991 of any land in Ramkot attached to the masjid as ‘waqf’, for its maintenance. In 1936, the Commissioner of Waqfs ordered an Zahir-ud-din Muhammad Baburinquiry under the UP Muslim Waqfs Act into the ownership of the property. The inquiry asserted that Babri Masjid was built by Babar, a Sunni Muslim, in 1528.

Even Mohammad Zaki, descendant of the Mutawalli family, claimed in 1938 that Babar built the mosque and appointed Abdul Baqi its Mutawalli and Khattib and provided an annual grant for maintenance of the mosque and the family of the Mutawalli. After the fall of the Mughals, the Awadh Nawab increased the grant. Later, the British provided cash grant till 1864, with some conditions, and entered the mutawalli family in the revenue records as superior proprietors and possessors in possession of the property (malik-i-ala qabiz wa mutsarif jadaid).

The descendants argued that property listed as malkiyat-i-ala could not be regarded a Muslim waqf. Further, grants made by the British Government, a non-Muslim body, could not constitute a Muslim waqf. Neither the Sunni nor Shia Boards of Waqfs, constituted by the UP Muslim Waqfs Act of 1936, made any provisions for the upkeep of the masjid. Thereafter, the disputed mosque found no mention in the list of waqfs published in the Government Gazette of 1944.

With such tenuous title, Muslims can easily relinquish claim to the site. A mosque is a congregational space, whereas Hindu temples are dwellings of God on earth. In Hindu law and sacred texts, temple property cannot be lost under any circumstances, even if dispossessed for hundreds of years. The Dharma Shastras assert that the rights of a deity are in perpetuity and cannot be curtailed even by a king. The deity (murti) is a legal person and the concept of juristic personality extends to place (stan), if held sacred by devotees.

K. K. MuhammedFinally, Islamic law does not sanction creation of a mosque on an occupied site. As the Babri mosque was unambiguously erected on the ruins of an extant grand temple, Muslims should withdraw from the site and the dispute. K. K. Muhammed, former Regional Director (North), Archaeological Survey of India, blames Left historians for instigating and manipulating those who were seriously considering return of the site. Muslims should rethink their association with such elements. – The Pioneer, 5 April 2016

» Sandhya Jain is an author and senior journalist in New Delhi.

Muslim boy wearing a 'Reconstruct Babri Masjid' cap in Mumbai