We do not need proof that the Gyanvapi Mosque is built on the ruins of a Hindu temple. Nor do we need proof that there is an Idgah built above the prison cell in which Krishna is said to have been born. What we do need proof of, is that we have not suddenly all gone mad. This could be the most difficult task of all if we judge by the hysteria over the ‘wrongs of history’ that we now hear daily not just from acolytes of the Sangh Parivar, but also from people who belong to that despised English-speaking elite that Narendra Modi once dismissed contemptuously as the ‘Khan Market gang’. I admit without the slightest shame that I belong to this elite and that I am astounded by how many people I grew up with who now rant on about how much they hate Muslims.
The ugly truth is that once the genie of hatred is released, it is hard to contain. So, it is no longer about righting the wrongs of history or about reclaiming ancient temples, it is about how much we hate Muslims and about how Islam is a religion that breeds murderous fanatics. In this outpouring of hatred for ‘invaders’, all of India’s Muslims are being called jihadists, whose punishment is the erasure of their culture, language, and status as equal citizens.
It is not just mosques that must be torn down and replaced with temples, the names of cities and streets must also be Hindufied. There has also begun a serious campaign to erase Urdu, or at least prove that it is a foreign language. The message to Muslims who chose India over Pakistan in 1947 is that they made a bad choice. They must now learn to accept that although they chose to remain Indian, they should now learn to live in India as lesser citizens.
This message is being aggressively relayed on social media and in primetime debates. In these debates about the wounds of history, it is BJP spokesmen who speak ferociously about how the ‘invaders’ wanted to destroy India’s identity. Last week I listened in amazement to a BJP spokeswoman who did not see the irony of quoting Allama Iqbal when she said that the invaders (read Muslims) wanted to destroy India’s ‘hasti’ adding ‘kuch baat hai jo hasti mitt-ti nahin hamari’. In this verse Iqbal talks of ancient civilizations like Greece and Rome having vanished but India having survived despite the tides of history being hostile for centuries. What has been forgotten in this miasma of hysteria and hatred is that Muslim invaders stayed on, and their culture and history became part of India’s culture and history. It was the British who left, but somehow in the ‘new India’, the British are forgiven.
The Prime Minister finally broke his silence last week. In a puzzling speech, he blamed Opposition parties for using ‘small incidents of tension to inject poison’ into the atmosphere. If Modi believes that the turmoil and violence of the past months were ‘small incidents’, then he deludes himself and the country. They were not ‘small’ and the Opposition was not to blame. There is only one Opposition party that has a national presence and the Congress proved at its ‘Chintan Shivir’ in Udaipur that it has not even learned to become a proper Opposition party.
What is happening, Prime Minister, is entirely because of you and your party. And it is in your hands and your hands alone to bring peace in our terrifyingly divided land. What we need from you is a list of mosques that the Hindus want converted back into temples and an announcement that this is the end. You must then personally set up a Truth and Reconciliation commission. Let priests, scholars, historians from all faiths sit together and reopen every old wound.
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This should have been done when Partition happened, but if we do not start examining the ‘wrongs of history’ in such a commission today, we have quite simply had it. The Prime Minister may believe that his ‘new India’ is doing just fine, but this is not true. Not only is India not doing fine, it is in grave danger of veering totally off course and moving not forwards but backwards, into treacherous territory. If we do not change course, there is not the smallest chance of India becoming that mighty, self-reliant country that Modi believes we are well on our way to becoming.
We are not even close to being that country, and it is entirely because in these past few years the agenda of the Sangh Parivar has taken precedence over what Modi says is the ‘core issue of development’. What we need now is for political and religious leaders to prove that they can be leaders when they are called on to lead. It is hard to remember a time when leadership has been more urgently needed. We need religious and political leaders to immediately begin a process of healing and reconciliation. It is not just the wounds of the ancient past that need healing, but those inflicted in much more recent times. As for those who continue spreading hatred and violence, let them be warned that if they continue down this path, they will be locked up and tried for treason. They are India’s real ‘tukde-tukde’ gang. They do only evil in a very bad time.