By Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay
The Ayodhya issue has roared back to life in recent weeks. Various wings and members of the Sangh parivar, including those in the government, are threatening to precipitate the construction of the Ram temple. It is thereby apt to recall, on the 30th anniversary, the process leading to the momentous Shilanyas ceremony of November 9, 1989 – paradoxically also the day when the Berlin Wall was brought down.
In 1989, the Sangh parivar successfully put the Ayodhya dispute, or the Ram Janmabhoomi agitation, on the nation’s political centre stage. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) was then its public spearhead and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was a marginal party with just two members in the Lok Sabha.
The year began ominously. On January 31, the Muslim protectionist outfit – All India Babri Masjid Action Committee – announced the formation of hifajati dastas, or ‘defence squads’, for the Babri Masjid.
In retaliation, the Kumbh mela in Allahabad was used, for the first time, to mobilise the Hindu clergy and canvass for the Ram temple. The VHP-organised Sant Sammelan concluded on February 1, and its leaders announced plans to lay the foundation of the temple on the day of devuththan ekadashi (the day Vishnu rises according to the Hindu almanac) in Ayodhya. The festival traditionally drew pilgrims in huge numbers to the tranquil temple-town and the VHP tactically chose this day because thousands of them would flock to it.
To mobilise public support, the VHP also announced the to-be electrifying twin campaigns – the Shila Pujan and Shila Yatra programmes. These entailed manufacturing and consecrating bricks with Shri Ram embossed on them. After ritual pujas in lakhs of villages, towns and cities, these were taken in processions to Ayodhya. The bricks were intended to be used for constructing the temple. Joining rituals, or travelling with processions, provided people with a sense of participation in something momentous.
From a marginal strife, the Ayodhya conflict was transformed into a mass movement. Communal riots, including clashes in Bhagalpur and Bijnore, were triggered when processions provocatively passed through Muslim-majority areas.
By now, the Sangh parivar, too, was functioning like a well-oiled machine, each affiliate playing its part to perfection. The RSS was preparing for the final stages of the Hedgewar birth centenary celebrations and canvassing against the “continuous appeasement of minorities”. The BJP, after dabbling with secularism and Gandhian socialism, returned to its original Hindu moorings.
Atal Bihari Vajpayee, long considered the ‘right man in the wrong party’, declared at the Hedgewar centenary rally – held in April in New Delhi – that the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid issue was an election issue. Besides voicing support for the Hindu Rashtra, he warned minorities to either give away their distinct identity, or face the worst.
Two months later, on June 11, 1989, the BJP held its regular quarterly national executive meeting in Palampur, Himachal Pradesh. It was no ordinary meeting as it incorporated demands for the Ram temple in its agenda. The BJP demanded that the disputed shrine be “handed over to Hindus” and that the Congress and other political parties had displayed “callous unconcern” towards the “sentiments of the overwhelming majority in the country – the Hindus”. Significantly, the party resolution declared that the “nature of the controversy is such that it just cannot be sorted out by a court of law”.
It recalled Somnath temple’s reconstruction and Sardar Vallabhai Patel’s role. This kickstarted the campaign to project Patel as a ‘true nationalist’ in place of Nehru because he promoted secularism which “had come to be equated with an allergy to Hinduism, and a synonym for Muslim appeasement”.
After Palampur, the agitation was no longer just for ‘temple in place of mosque’. Instead, it assumed ideological proportions. The BJP affirmed that till the dispute remained unresolved to the satisfaction of Hindus, the nature and content of Indian nationalism would remain contentious. The Palampur resolution was the turning point in the Ram temple agitation. Hereafter, the Ayodhya movement reached a point in Indian polity when it was no longer possible to ignore its effect on politics and elections.
Driven solely by anti-Congressism and corruption charges against the Rajiv Gandhi government, other opposition parties overlooked the BJP’s post-Palampur stance and worked at creating a nationwide anti-Congress alliance. The Left parties too agreed, although they did not directly tie-up with the BJP. Eventually, the 1989 election provided legitimacy to the BJP and it stopped being politically ostracised. Its bench strength in the Lok Sabha also rose dramatically from two seats to 85 in the ninth Lok Sabha.
The Congress failed to block Shilanyas and Shila Pujan for fear of offending Hindu sentiments. It hoped to limit the damage to its electoral prospects if Shilanyas was allowed, provided that no law was violated and Babri Masjid was protected. The Congress presumed that it could get the votes of both Hindu and Muslim fundamentalists. Likewise, the National Front believed that an alliance with the BJP would secure hardline Hindu support while the Janata Dal could deliver minority support, especially in north India. Yet, it was the BJP which gained the most. Additionally, it repurposed the ‘pretentious’ jargon of the past and unabashedly unfurled the flag of political Hinduism.
While the political ground for BJP’s ascendance was laid, the VHP planned its twin programmes. Union home ministry figures indicated a quantum jump in communal clashes from September 30 onwards – when the Shila Pujan began. The Congress had little political will. Moreover, the government was short of police personnel as elections were due in November. Home minister Buta Singh was deputed to find a way out to allow the government to claim it had let “things happen according to the law of the land”.
On October 13, a unanimous resolution passed by non-BJP parties in the Lok Sabha requested the government to not permit Shilanyas and ask the VHP to “cancel the programme”. This advice went unheeded. Within the government, Singh’s hands were tied because P.V. Narasimha Rao headed the group of ministers on Ayodhya and was disinclined to prevent the programme. All efforts were restricted to providing Shilanyas with a semblance of legality.
This became tougher after the Allahabad high court’s order in August which directed that the status quo of the disputed shrine and lands around be maintained. The question was whether the spot, identified unilaterally by the VHP for Shilanyas, was within the contested plot(s) or outside. From November 2, the VHP took physical control of the spot and Congress leaders merely parleyed to get the VHP to shift to a non-disputed spot.
Eventually, the Indian State’s helplessness was stamped a day before the Shilanyas – when Buta Singh arrived with several others in tow. They included representative Muslim groups, the sub-registrar of the Allahabad high court, the advocate-general of the state and others. They spoke to local revenue officials with the only objective of being told that the site selected for Shilanyas was undisputed. Eventually, Singh spoke to Rajiv Gandhi. “Only after he was satisfied that the land was outside the purview of the disputed land, did it happen. That is how it was done,” he said later. But, the map on the basis of which the advocate-general opined that the selected site was not a part of the disputed property, was not to scale and there was no way of ascertaining on its basis if the spot was disputed or not.
Moreover, the Shilanyas ceremony had no clearance from the Ayodhya special development authority. The decision was taken with electoral considerations and every party hoped to gain, but only the BJP benefitted. On November 9, hours after the Shilanyas ceremony, VHP leader Ashok Singhal said what was witnessed was “not a simple ceremony to lay the foundation of a new temple. We have today laid the foundation stone of a Hindu Rashtra”.
Significantly, Buta Singh was not the only non-Sangh parivar leader to visit Faizabad-Ayodhya before Shilanyas. Rajiv Gandhi launched his party’s election campaign and Kamalapati Tripathi, C. Rajeshwar Rao, V.P. Singh and Syed Shahabuddin were among those who returned after being informed that the Babri Masjid was not threatened.
They accepted assurances at face value, little realising that the programme was a major watershed which would totally alter Indian polity in the years to come.
Beyond the Manifest
By Amir Suhail Wani
Modern philosophical worldview with its nomenclatural diversity has pushed the human mind further and farther into trajectories of abstraction. The ideological extravaganza clad in tricky rhetoric denies any possibility of metanarrative, but simultaneously bombards the human mind with an infinitude of narratives. This irreconcilable dualism has rendered our intellectual tradition plundered, and made us survive on decaying ideological carcasses. Bonaparte is reported to have said, “I died because of too many doctors”; our state of affairs is no different. Ours is a state of ideological multiplicity which culminates into dread. The jargon of authenticity, and authenticity of authenticity ad infinitum, is going to render us intellectually bankrupt. There is such an impending gloom hovering over our intellectual horizon that multiplicity is in a continuous process of devouring the originality. Accepted, that truth in its process of manifestation assumes a multitude of forms, but to throw a mind open to all these forms without proper appreciation for this diversity, has created an aura of ideological inundation. It is believed that, loosely speaking, philosophy stands on the substructure of its contemporary science, though at times it may break away here and there from accepting scientific norms in its quest for ultimate realities, but the correspondence between philosophy and the science of any age is undeniable. Our contemporary scientific landscape has been dominated for the last hundred years by Quantum theory, which in its philosophical overtones favours uncertainty, chaos, subjectivity and perspectivism. These scientific notions have their philosophical equivalence in trends like existentialism, deconstruction and postmodernism.
The transition of epistemology and ontology from expansion of human understanding to its limitation has proved to be most grievous crime committed by pundits of Western philosophy. Philosophy, in the post renaissance era operated under the influence of science and this led philosophical methodology to be characterised by same shortcomings as were inherent to the science of the times. In placing entire emphasis on the sensory faculties of man, the philosophers of this era paid no attention to the rational and spiritual facilities of man. Hegel, Kant and others of their species metamorphosed the landscape of western philosophy which later had its repercussions of widest and worst possible nature. From what one can know the nature of question was now changed to what one cannot know. From what one can understand the emphasis was laid on what one can perceive by mere sense organs. Locke thought that the role of philosophy was not to extend the boundaries of knowledge but precisely to limit it. This limited epistemology and consequently bounded ontology constricted and constrained the trajectories of human imagination. Human mind, with its sensory, rational, imaginative, intellectual and spiritual possibilities of understanding is intrinsically infinite. The infinity of human imagination is not circumscribed by the finitude of human physicality. Man’s quest for infinity with all its possible implications finds its satisfaction in the perception of God, the institution of sacred and the concept of divine. Despite his physical finitude, man is infinite in terms of his rational and spiritual dimensions. Despite the fact constraints of space nullify his quest for physical infinitude and constraints of time defy his quest for eternity. But man, blessed with sensual, rational, cognitive, and spiritual faculties has devised means of conquering this finitude of time and space. Religion, with its overtones of spirituality and metaphysics is man’s response to his quest for eternal and literature with its all diverse manifestations is man’s response to his yearning for infinite.
Philosophy has reached a stage where one comes across notions like “morality as cultural relativity”, “gender structured language and its consequences on reality imaging”, and sometimes irksome theories like “reality as a social construction”. This is to say that philosophy has learnt not only to criticize concepts, but to dissect its own soul as well. But one is afraid to accompany a philosopher in this process of dissection. Though all these perspectives are healthy in their own right as long as their postures reflect a quest for reality (if there’s any), one must not lose insight of the fact that, any philosophy that weaves ideological fancies and recedes far from the realm of pragmatic human affairs, may survive well as an academic discourse, but it may never inspire humans to scale higher altitudes of life in living. These philosophies may survive the textual worth, but may fail to transform into living text; whether it is a presupposition of philosophy to become living text is an issue much debated in pragmatic, analytic and continental philosophical traditions. But in the east, this philosophical enquiry presents a quagmire of lesser degree to populace, for we share “the heritage of tradition”. The traditional itself is a touchstone reliable enough, that we can assuredly test the verity of any philosophical idea on this touchstone before incorporating it into our cultural corpus. The tradition includes in its lap: the old wisdom, religious inspirations and cultural constructions, and all of them are to be equally favoured to arrive at a comprehensive picture of life and the Universe that we live in.
(The author is a freelance columnist with bachelors in Electrical Engineering and a student of comparative studies with special interests in Iqbaliyat & mystic thought. He contributes a weekly column for this newspaper that appears every Monday. He can be reached at: [email protected])
Congress and cow nationalism
By Prabhat Shunglu
We promise to build gaushalas in all panchayats. We promise to start commercial production of gau-mutra (cow urine). These are not statements culled out from a political speech of UP’s BJP chief minister Yogi Adityanath. These are not guidelines from the Sangh Pariwar elder to a BJP functionary.
The two statements are part and parcel of the Congress manifesto for the impending state Assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh.
The Congress released the manifesto in Bhopal last Saturday. Those present on the occasion included party seniors Kamal Nath, in-charge of the Congress campaign in MP, two-time CM of the state Digvijay Singh, and former Union minister Jyotiraditya Scindia, one of the lead campaigners and among the party’s top choices for the chief minister.
The Congress, in its manifesto, has also promised to build more cow sanctuaries and provide grants for their upkeep and maintenance. This in a state that boasts of developing the first cow sanctuary, whose foundation was laid by the RSS Kshetra sanghchalak Ashok Soni.
Expounding on the virtues of the manifesto that has strong shades of saffron and could have been mistaken for a BJP manifesto, Rajinder Singh — incharge of the party’s manifesto committee and deputy speaker in the state Assembly — made it clear the Congress wants to shed its pro-Muslim image. “The BJP used to brand us as Muslim party. Earlier we did not do anything to change the perception. It’s a conscious decision to do away with that tag,” Rajinder Singh told a correspondent.
The party has been out of power in the state for 15 years and is seemingly desperate for home coming. Surely, the Congress would like to exploit the anti-incumbency sentiments against the BJP’s Shivraj Singh Chouhan government. But the party seems unsure whether its traditional secular tag shall help it romp home and wrest the state from its arch-rival, the BJP, which has vowed for a ‘Congress-mukt’ new India it engineers to construct.
Is it the fear of getting irrelevant that Congress is out to soak up in a hue of saffron, hithero an exclusive domain of the BJP? Going by the manifesto’s contents, party leaders’ replies and party president Rahul Gandhi’s discovery of Hinduism (he started his MP campaign with a visit to Mahakaleshwar temple in Ujjain) the answer certainly seems to be in the affirmative.
Though on the face of it, the Congress shall be loath to discard the secular tag completely, but it feels there is a symbiotic relationship in being secular and being a ‘pro-Muslim.’ It’s the latter image it wants to shed for electoral gains, though it remains to be seen how the party shall uncouple the two.
But the more important question is this: Is the Congress well on its way to becoming a BJP? Is the party square with the fact that it ignored majority sentiments all along? Is it also the admittance of a sort of guilt that it didn’t do itself any good electorally by ignoring the majority sentiments thus far? So, was there merit in BJP’s long-standing accusation that the Congress politics has always been about minority appeasement?
The Congress manifesto isn’t just about the cows. The manifesto promises to build a religious tourism corridor in the state by invoking Ram and rivers, some of which are considered holy in India. While the BJP bares its teeth in preparation to reclaim Ram’s birthplace in the disputed Ayodhya site for the Hindus, the Congress has found a MP connect with Ram of Ayodhya fame. According to scriptures, Ram left his imprints in the state, a slice of mythology that has not been popularised. The party has promised to develop ‘Ram Path Gaman’, a corridor that traces the route of Ram during exile in Chitrakoot, MP.
In fact, for all its manifest appropriation of Ram and rivers (Ganga and Saryu — UP CM Yogi Adityanath has started Saryu aarti on the same lines as Ganga aarti in Varanasi, along with Saryu mahotsav) by the BJP, the Congress wants to replicate a similar model around these two symbols of Hindu faith in MP too.
If voted to power, the party manifesto promises to come up with Ma Narmada Nyas Adhinayam and develop a Narmada parikrama (circumbulation) route dotted with resting places for pilgrims every 15 km.
Congress’ dalliance with soft Hindutva since the days of the return of Indira Gandhi to power post- Emergency is an open secret. Rajiv Gandhi pushed that envelope further by opening the gates of the disputed site at Ayodhya.
PV Narsimha Rao was prime minister when the mosque was brought down. After the humiliating 2014 Lok Sabha defeat and a series of setbacks in the Assembly polls, Rahul set out to discover himself anew and found nirvana in wearing a janeu (holy thread) and going on a temple-hopping spree.
There is no gainsaying the fact when Rahul claims “country’s temples are not the sole property of the BJP and the RSS”. But tapping into identity politics by exploiting symbols of religion and faith to appear as a contender in the battle of competing majoritarianism has its own pitfalls, some of which have blown up in the face of the idea of India, as our constitutional forefathers had envisaged.
Islam in Kashmir –Through the lens of becoming
By Abid Ahmad Shah
Islam is one of the monotheistic and major religions of the world with an enormous following of 1.8 billion Muslims in the world. Prophet Muhammad (SAW) is the founder of Islam in Arabia. With the passage of time, the companions of Prophet SAW played a great role in the spread of Islam in the world facing a lot of hardships day-in and day-out.
The messenger of Allah sent his companions every right, left and centres to convey the divine message of one God to the people of the world in order to show them a real path of eternal religious prosperity.
History is replete with the facts that although Islam had reached Kashmir very early, but the practical aspect was missing thereof. Kashmir was once a non-Muslim land where people were accustomed to non-Muslim practices and were mostly Hindus. Thus, there came an intervention in their lives. Whether, we call it divine or by chance, Islam arrived to make its roots permeate into the lives of the masses of the valley of South Asia.
It was initially Hazrat Syed Sharaf-ud- Din Abdul Rahman(RA), a Sufi from Turkistan also known as Syed Bulbul Shah(RA) who provided the idea of Islam in Kashmir.
Unfortunately, there have been little literary forays into his life, although few references to him form a part and parcel of the historical narratives of the medieval Kashmir. He was thus the first Islamic missionary to Kashmir who laid the foundation of Sufi order here. He played a catalytic role in the spread of Islam to concretise the societal transformation at large. According to historical sources, many people in Kashmir embraced the creed of Bulbul Shah.
After this great saint, there arrived the descendent of Prophet Muhammad (SAW), known as Hazrat Mir Syed Ali Hamadani (R.A), a Sufi of Kubrawi order from Hamadan, Iran from central Asia along with 700 Sayyids in Kashmir to enlighten the masses with the glorious Islam and its practical aspects through his teachings. He was a Shafi Muslim scholar from an educationally well-off family. He was born in 1314 A.D. at Hamadan, Persia from parents namely Syed Shihab-Ud-din and Saiyidnah Fatima.
Shahi Hamadan R.A. came to Kashmir thrice with a noble mission of spreading the religion of Islam and arrived in Kashmir for the first time in 1372 A.D. and left for Mecca afterwards. Thereafter, he again arrived in Kashmir and stayed briefly and left vale again. Finally, he again came to Kashmir in 1383 and remained in Kashmir for a short span of time and left this earthly world towards eternal heavens afterwards and Tajikistan became the epicentre of his eternal bodily stay.
Shahi Hamdan is also known as Ali Sani (Second Ali) in Kashmir and revered by one and sundry with a linked genealogy through Imam Husain (R.A.) traced back to fourth Caliph, Hazrat Ali (R.A.). He contributed not only Islamic tenets and principles based on the Islamic philosophy for the people, but also contributed the dual elements of art and crafts in Kashmir.
He contributed subjects like ethics, science, philosophy, jurisprudence, theology, poetry and prose immensely in Kashmir. He also profoundly impacted the architecture in Kashmir through construction of Khanqahas and tombs.
The arrival and influx of Shahi Hamadan (R.A.) in Kashmir brought a socio-cultural and religious revolution. Shah-i-Hamadan was also an author and a poet par excellence who wrote books like, Zakhiratul Muluk and Muwwadatul Quraba. Zakhiratul Muluk dealt with his political ideology, the duties of rulers and the responsibilities of the people. Besides, he also authored several books spanning religious and spiritual aspects.
Awrad-E-Fathiya is a major case in point. It is the collection of religious prayers of great religious people which is recited every morning after the Fajr prayers in almost all the Hanafiya School of thought mosques reflecting the faith and deep commitment in one God laying emphasis on the the unity of God and His attributes.
Another important poetic collection of Shahi Hamadan (R.A) is Chahlul Asraar .Every year prior to Eid Ul Adha, the Urs of this great saint Shah Hamdan (R.A) is
celebrated on the 6th of Zil Haj of the Muslim calendar at few sacred abodes of his shrines, including Seer Hamdan, Dooru Shahabad, Tral and Srinagar as a mark of deep reverence and regard for the unrelenting efforts of this saint for the upliftment and prosperity of the people of Kashmir.
The inroads of Shahi Hamadan (R.A.) into Kashmir without any regard for the rewards makes the point clear that the great saint as a mark of legacy of the mission of his dynasty of Prophet Muhammad SAW cared about the people of Kashmir and yearned to stabilise their lives socially, religiously and culturally.
Today, when Kashmir is at the crossroads of uncertainty, whether politically or otherwise, if we follow the paths of the great religious saint, time will not be far when divinely support to our problems will annihilate them and a valley of scenic beauty will restore and regain its charm again and metamorphosize our pains into peace.
Together, by following the charted discourse of Shahi Hamadan R.A, our lives will blossom both here and hereafter. I still remember tears rolling down the cheeks of my deceased father Master GH Mohi Ud Din Shah at the time of prayer’s recitation of Urs of Shahi Hamadan R.A at dargah of the saint at Seer Hamdan. This was the time that etched my memory and solidified my love for the Auliya.Today,if we follow into the shoes of these mystics,there can really arrive peace in our trouble torn Kashmir.
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