OPINION

Ayodhya: A Letter to the Hindus

September 23, 2010
Indian Liberals

The following is a comment that I've posted on one forum where I am discussing the current Ayodhya crisis. This is in response to someone asking me if I even understand what the Ram temple means to the Hindu identity. I wrote the following reply but thought it prudent to post it here - after all, I thought if there was ever a best time to say what I have to say below, it is now!

I was born in a Brahmin rural middle-class family. Most of my family members are devout Hindus and some of my close relations have been karsevaks during 1993. So if there is anyone who is "in touch" with the Hindu sentiments, then it will have to be me too.

I always thought that the Ram Mandir was the pride of the Hindu community and a battle-field to save the Hindu identity. That was in 1993. After a decade or so, I left India, hoping to learn from the world. And it is through these exploits that I discovered the world, and paradoxically, Hinduism.

If you look at it from my perspective, you will realize that Ayodhya is not Hinduism's battlefield - it never was and it never will be. Hinduism is not some cult that could be built or destroyed through places of worship. Isn't the fact that Hinduism has not only survived but also flourished despite the efforts of Babar and many of his descendants proof enough that the Hindu identity is not in our places of worship but in our ancient universities and schools of philosophies?

Hinduism, as both you and I know, is one of the oldest cultural civilizations that gave to this world, among many things, important mathematical, educational, medicinal and scientific contributions. That Hinduism, unfortunately, is long dead. India has not produced any such meaningful contributions in the last few centuries.

On the other hand, this tiny island of the UK that ruled almost half of the world prides itself on its wealth of knowledge and scientific contributions to the world. And quite rightly so. This country, over the last 3 centuries, has produced every important scientist worth his salt - from Newton to Darwin to Stephen Hawkings - and every discovery and invention worth a mention - from gravity to electricity to steam engines to DNA. They pride on their universities, their libraries, their laboratories... They've earned the right to call themselves "Great" and we, over the centuries, have lost that right, not only to the British but to the world at large.

Today, as we find ourselves again on the edge with this temple/mosque issue, China has overtaken Japan to be the world's second largest economy, Russia has hoisted its flag under the deep waters of the Arctic, and the Americans are cruising towards Mars. So, as we move into the second decade of the 21st century, the question is: what constitutes Hindu pride? What should be our real kurukshetra?

I think the battle for the Hindu identity is not to be fought in the fields of Ayodhya. Instead, it should be fought in the fields of science, commerce, politics, and economics. Let's find the cures for the incurable diseases, let's try to find life in the outer space, let's build institutes of excellence that could compete with the best universities in the world... Let us take India back to the level of excellence where it was those many centuries ago. That would be the only battle for the Hindu identity worth fighting!

Because I know that many Hindus feel they owe a tit-for-tat reply to Babar and people who share his faith but let's be honest folks, we owe a lot more to Aryabhatta, Chanakya, and Kautilya than what we own to Babar.

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