After the literal amputation of it in August 1947, what happened in Ayodhya on December 6, 1992, is arguably the most grievous, still-festering, self-inflicted wound on the original idea of India. I believe most Indians, in their heart of hearts, would wish to see it healed. I know that most Indians, in their heart of hearts, believe that this is wishful thinking.
I've seen the structure--the Masjid--that was brought down that day only in pictures. 23 years later, on this 23rd of January, I saw the structure that's come up in its place with my own eyes. It is a monstrosity. Barbed wire, bunkers, sandbags, trenches, checkpoints, high steel railings, metal detectors, police and paramilitary forces line the narrow, contorted, maze-like path to Ram Lalla. As one gazed at the lord in his child form from the government-approved distance, from behind a series of grills, with assault rifles all around, the lord seemed to gaze back forlornly.
"You see, Hindus and Muslims might be routinely divided over other things but they are united in routinely disrespecting the core ideas of their respective religions."
As a practicing Hindu who is decently-versed in Hindu scripture, mythology and philosophy, I'm willing to bet anything that Shri Ram himself would never ever want a Masjid to be destroyed for his temple to be built on its ruins. Yet, will "the Hindus" give up any part of their claim on the disputed land in the name of Ram? No. Of course not.
Equally--though I'm no scholar of Islam--from what little I know of Allah he is great and magnanimous, and would scarcely want or have any need whatsoever for his mosque to come up in the exact same place held dear by millions for centuries as the birthplace of their messiah. Yet, will "the Muslims" give up any part of their claim on the disputed land in the name of Allah? No. Of course not.
You see, Hindus and Muslims might be routinely divided over other things but they are united in routinely disrespecting the core ideas of their respective religions. They will not give up the land for the poor, the sick or the elderly. They will give it up neither for a hospital nor for an orphanage. Forget giving up, they will not even agree to share the land, not even after a court judgment, not even in the name of their gods. 'Is there not one name in all of your Bharatvarsh,' I asked the lord disrespectfully, 'that may unite its people for the good for once? Not one idea that may unite them as a nation for once?'
Now the lord works in mysterious ways so he answered me not at the place of his birth but later in the evening at the place of his Samadhi, at Guptaar Ghat in Faizabad. Even more tellingly, believe it or not, the lord answered me through the Mahatma. I had just settled on my spot on the steps of the ghat facing the magnificent Saryu Ji, when right behind me inside the old Ram-Janki Temple they started singing 'Raghupati Raghav.' They sounded good. My mood lifted. I got some chai and thought I'd read something. From amongst the 108 printouts in my sling bag of assorted pre-independence writings by prominent leaders I randomly pulled out one. It was Gandhi's column from the Harijan of February 24, 1946, and two lines in it blew my mind:
The hypnotism of the Azad Hind Fauj has cast a spell on us," writes the father of the nation himself. "Netaji's is a name to conjure with.
At first I was simply dumbstruck; then awestruck at the synchronicity, then wonderstruck at the serendipity and finally just struck at my own stupidity for not having thought of it myself given its sheer obviousness: Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose was the last person in India's history to have united not just Hindus and Muslims but literally all its diverse peoples. Every single religion, caste, creed and ethnicity found within the borders of undivided India was represented in the Indian National Army. Even with the partition looming, even in that time of 'hatred in the air' as Gandhi called it, Congress and Muslim League flags flew side by side and the undivided motherland rose as a whole, as one nation, in protest against the INA trials of 1946 at the Red Fort. So powerful was this protest that it put the fear of god back in the British Empire and as per Clement Attlee, finally forced the empire to quit India.
Would it not be a blessed day if on coming December 6 a simple memorial to the idea of Azad Hind-- perhaps an elevated tricolor in concrete with the names of all 60,000 Azad Hindis etched into it--were to be raised in the heart of this disputed, wounded land? Would it not be excellent if Ram's Temple and Allah's mosque came up side by side of this monument of Hind, along with a Gurudwara and a Church and a Stupa and shrines of all of India's myriad, brilliant faiths and peoples? Would it not be amazing and edifying if Pakistan, Bangladesh and all nations touched by the greatness of the man called Bose joined hands with us in karseva for the cause of his beloved Hindustan?
You're incredulous. I know. You're right to be. It's all just a fantasy. But then again, this is Incredible India. Fantastic things happen here all the time, Ram-willing, Inshallah.