India First is the campaign launched by a leading TV channel in the wake of the judgement being pronounced later today on what is known as the oldest property dispute in Independent India. Political parries are urging all to remain calm and young India is exhorting us to look forward and at the real problems that plague our land. I guess all this because the memories of December 1992 are still fresh in many minds. No one is willing to take any chances: schools have been shut incertain states, demonstrations banned, leave of police personnel cancelled and the country is on tenterhooks.
So what is all this about.
There are many ways of looking at the Ram Janam Bhoomi/Babri Masjid issue. I will take the most candid one and borrow the title of an earlier blog I wrote: it is all about ladoos, cake and sewaiyans! In December 2009, when a volunteer decided to celebrate Xmas in our newly opened women centre where the children were predominantly Muslims and Hindus, I had to explain what Xmas was, I did so by telling them that it was a festival where you ate cake and not ladoos or sewaiyans and somehow the children understood. I could have also sung them the Usha Uthup song where she talks of all festivals as being days when you wear new clothes, visit friends and relatives and eat nice food be it Xmas, Eid or Diwali. That is how simple it actually is. You can either see temple or mosques, or if you do with your heart see a house of God.
But sadly religion has been used by power hungry people to justify the worst aberrations possible like the one that happened in December 1992 when a house of one God was brought down in the name of another. On that December day I was ashamed of my religion as I am each time an aberration is committed in the name of religion. I wrote an earlier blog on this and am reproducing some of it below.
I am a Hindu by birth and by choice. I was born to profoundly Hindu parents but grew up in lands of diverse faiths. My parents never imposed their views or beliefs. At home Hindu festivals were celebrated with fervour and some ritualism and the many questions I asked at different moments of my life were answered candidly and without fuss. It is much later in life that I discovered that my mother was not really bent on ritualism but it was her way of introducing me to my faith. I grew up with my set of questions and doubts and each one got cleared with simple honesty.
When I asked one day whether I could go to church and partake of communion as all my school friends did ( I was in a convent school) my parents simply answered that I could if no one had any objection. I guess I had expected a vehement refusal and was a little perplexed by their reaction. I did go to church often and even found a humane priest who allowed me to taste the holy wafer. Some years later while in an Islamic country I wanted to fast in the holy month of Ramadan and once again I got the warm approval of my parents. I celebrated the Sabbath with my Jewish pals too and with every such occurrence my belief got strengthened as I was proud of belonging to a religion that did not close any door in my face but on the other hand allowed me to embrace all faiths. I was proud to be a Hindu. The tales my parents told me only went to reinforce my faith. I was delighted by the pranks of Lord Krishna and by the touching tales of Ram when he ate the fruits proffered by Sabri or rode in Kevat’s boat. I never felt the need to question the sagacity and humanness of the religion I was born in. Till the fateful day in 2002.
Today as India’s stands waiting for a court decision that will decide which faith a particular piece of land belongs to and hoping against hope that no violence will ensue, my thoughts go back to that fateful day when my headache vanished thanks to the prayer of a little boy to a faceless and nameless God who listens to those who pray with their heart. He is the one I now pray to and hope that once again he will hear.