December 06, 2017

25 blighted years: Constitution offers a better India than anything in our past. Make it an article of faith - Editorial, The Times of India

Editorial, The Times of India

25 blighted years: Constitution offers a better India than anything in our past. Make it an article of faith

December 6, 2017, 2:00 am IST TOI Edit in TOI Editorials | Edit Page, India | TOI

Today is a day that can make one pause and wonder about an India that might have been. It is usually marked as the 25th anniversary of the demolition of the Babri Masjid. Few also remember it as the death anniversary of BR Ambedkar, principal draftsman of the Constitution whose vision undergirds the Indian Republic. On August 15, 1947, and again on January 26, 1950, India “solemnly resolved” to leave the past behind and build a new republic, guaranteeing equality and protection to all, irrespective of religion, caste and other identity markers. By failing to stop karsevaks from entering the Masjid premises, the central and UP governments dishonoured that promise.

Therefore, it’s well worth reiterating on this occasion that if the declaration of the Indian Republic marks a break in time, this also means that after 1950, a citizen of India who happens to be a descendant of Aurangzeb or Rana Pratap has absolutely equal rights with any other citizen of India. The 1576 battle of Haldighati is definitively over. And in any case, the habit of looking at pre-colonial history as a perennial war between Hindus and Muslims is a British colonial construct (which unfortunately has duped many Indians). Indians now need to focus their energies on social, political and economic reforms that abolish poverty and pave the way for development, not on religious wars.

The Supreme Court has begun final arguments on the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title suit, which Allahabad high court had clumsily resolved by effecting a three-way division of the disputed land, a relief none of the claimants had sought. Embracing a fractious past makes the dispute seem intractable. But amidst all the politics of grievance surrounding it, one yearns for an India where the simple and reasonable would also seem an obvious way of ending the dispute.

Why can’t, for instance, a grand Ram temple be built at a nearby location on the Sarayu’s banks, since all of Ayodhya is holy for Hindus? Demolition of the mosque was a criminal act, therefore it would be unreasonable to reward such an act by handing over the site to the very people who demolished it. As for what to do with the site itself, surely some creative solution can be thought of that fosters reconciliation and harmony – such as a museum commemorating religious syncretism in India.