Monday, October 11, 2010

[ZESTCaste] Battle for the idea of India


Dear friends,


As usual, Harsh Mander has the knack of writing very moving articles with simple words. His articles touch one's heart. However, in this article he misses highlighting a bigger, more important motive behind the drive towards constructing a Ram Mandir at site of Babri Masjid. The obvious more important motive is "winning elections". Obvious as it may be to most of us, we need to keep on hammering it until it becomes as self-evident as writing across the sky, for each and everyone of us to read, which even the illiterates can read. The drive towards constructing a Ram Mandir is basically meant for collecting the votes of the illiterates and semi-literates.


Missing the said highlighting notwithstanding, it is a great article. We all must read it.







'Today once again I feel dismayed and betrayed'

Monday, 11 October, 2010 8:05 AM


To: undisclosed-recipients

"The war cry of the movement for the Ram Temple was ' Mandir wahin banayenge' ('We will build the temple at that very spot'.) With this judgement, a movement which challenged India's secular Constitution and took hundreds of lives, and fostered fear and hate, has triumphed."


Battle for the idea of India


The Babri Masjid dispute was never a clash between Hindus and Muslims. It was between Hindutva and Secularist visions of India. With the recent judgement, the movement which fostered hate and fear seems to have triumphed.

Photo: PTI

Seeds of hatred: The bricks brought over from all over
India for constructing the Ram temple.

On a winter morning in 1992, a frenzied mob of young men assaulted and triumphantly razed the three domes of a medieval mosque. I wept then, as did large numbers of my countrymen and women. Eighteen years later, the three judges of the Special Full Bench of the Allahabad High Court, hearing a 60-year-old title suit over this bitterly contested property, could have corrected these immense wrongs, and restored to Indian public life principles of justice, secular democracy and rationality. But they have failed us comprehensively.


Today once again I feel dismayed and betrayed. And again I am not alone.


The campaign demanding that a grand Ram Temple should be built on the site in Ayodhya where the Babri Masjid stood is often understood to be a clash between Hindus and Muslims. There is indeed no such clash, and there never has been. It has always been a dispute between two alternate visions of India; between Hindutva and secularism; between a minority of persons unreconciled to the secular democratic idea of India, and the majority of Indians of every faith who believe in and live this idea. (***  On this point please see my, Sati's, note below.)


The vision of India developed during the freedom struggle led by Mahatma Gandhi was of a free country which would be a safe, tolerant and egalitarian home to people of every major religion in the world. It would be respectful of people's right to their religious convictions, and to propagate their beliefs. But the State and all its institutions would not have any religion; instead the State would be fair and just to persons regardless of their religious beliefs. The majority of Indians, of all creeds, have remained faithful to this idea of India in the six decades of freedom. This is reflected in the ways they vote, and in the secular democratic Constitution that the people of India gave to themselves.


Interrogating the Constitution

But organisations and political parties which were opposed to this vision invented a powerful symbol with their campaign to build a temple at the site of the mosque in Ayodhya. This was a battle for the idea of India itself. It prised open again the question about the terms on which people of minority faiths would have to relate to cultural domination of the religious Hindu majority. It interrogated the guarantees of the Indian Constitution, which pledged equal rights and equal protection of all persons, regardless of their religious persuasion.


The disputed claim of Hindus to the land on which the mosque stood is based starkly on two acts — one of stealth and the other of naked aggression — and on the alleged 'faith' of the majority. For 500 years, Muslim people had worshipped routinely in the Babri Mosque, built in 1528 by Mir Baqi, general of Mughal emperor Babar. Hindus worshipped at the Ram Chabootra in the open area adjacent to the mosque, in a spirit of mutual communal goodwill. In 1949, overnight, statues of the deity Ram were placed surreptitiously in the mosque under its central dome. A furious Nehru directed the District Magistrate Nayyar and Chief Minister G.B. Pant to have these removed, but they desisted. (Nayyar significantly later resigned from the ICS and became an MP of the Jan Sangh, predecessor to the BJP).


It was then that Hindus began to worship for the first time within the mosque, and Muslims stopped prayer because of court directions. Civil suits were filed, the gates locked, but Hindu worship continued (in contravention of court orders). In 1988, Hindutva organisations led by the RSS organised the largest mass campaign in post-Independence India. 200,000 bricks from around villages and towns country-wide were consecrated and transported, for building a grand temple exactly where the mosque stood. They claimed that the mosque stood at the precise site where Ram was born, and that Emperor Babar had destroyed a Ram Temple to build a mosque there. 'National honour' required the demolition of the mosque, to correct this historical affront.


Poisoning relationships

I was serving in districts in Madhya Pradesh at that time, and witnessed first-hand the sudden and precipitous decline in communal relations that this movement accomplished, by capturing the popular Hindu imagination with hate for the 'other', 'foreign', 'aggressing' community of Muslims, symbolised in the mosque. Each procession of bricks was charged with aggressive slogans of hate and the display of naked weapons. BJP leader L.K. Advani journeyed on a Rath Yatra across India. Fear and rioting followed in the trail of both the bricks and Advani's Yatra. For 15 years, India was transformed into a country divided by hate on religious grounds. The movement climaxed in the demolition of the mosque in 1992 by a rampaging mob, applauded by leaders of the BJP who were swept to power in state and central governments; and in gruesome communal blood-letting, including in Mumbai and Gujarat.


Eighteen years after the demolition, the Allahabad High Court has concluded that the mosque was indeed located at the site of Ram's birth, and that the mosque was built at the site of a temple which preceded it. Justice Agarwal ruled that the 'area covered under the central dome of the disputed structure is the birthplace of Lord Rama as per faith and belief of Hindus'. Justice Sharma was even more categorical that 'the disputed site is the birthplace of Lord Ram'.

It is utterly extraordinary that the Court passed judgement not on the basis of material fact and evidence, but on questionable belief of faith. What is more, even this 'belief' is not held universally by all Hindus. In Ayodhya itself, there are hundreds of temples which claim to be the place where Ram was born. Tulsidas, author of Ramcharit Manas, was an adult at the time when the Babri Mosque was built, and he never mentioned that this was the site at which Ram was born. The 'faith and belief' referred to by the Judges is not of Hindus but of Hindutva organisations that subscribe to an alternate political ideology of a theological Hindu India, that contravenes the Indian Constitution.


The Judges rely on questionable archaeological evidence collected when the BJP was in power in 2003, and contradicted by most independent historians, to conclude that the mosque was built at the site of a temple. But the issue of whether a temple existed in ancient times at the site was irrelevant while adjudicating a title suit according to modern law, and not medieval sentiment.


Sense of injustice

I am amazed by commentators who endorse the judgement as balanced and just. They recommend 'moving on', failing to acknowledge that closure is impossible until justice is seen to be done. It is true that this case was not fixing criminal liability, but its rulings endorse ideologically all the major premises of the Ram Temple movement. On grounds of dubious history and ' faith', and adverse possession derived by deceit and aggression, the Judges awarded title of the land under the central dome of the demolished mosque to Hindus to construct a Ram temple. The war cry of the movement for the Ram Temple was ' Mandir wahin banayenge' ('We will build the temple at that very spot'.) With this judgement, a movement which challenged India's secular Constitution and took hundreds of lives, and fostered fear and hate, has triumphed.

I believe we have lost this battle, but will not — cannot — lose the war. I celebrate that young people who were not yet born, or were children when this movement was at its peak, today refuse to be mobilised in medieval hate campaigns. But it is not enough for them to be apolitical. There is too much at stake. They must ask again — and answer — the questions with which those who fought for our freedom grappled. Is this to be equally a nation for all? Or are some destined to become and remain children of a lesser god?




*** Sati's note: (Here I beg to differ a bit from this discourse by Harsh Mander. I am sure Harsh Mander would agree with me that the clash has two dimensions: (1) a clash between two alternate visions of India; between Hindutwa and secularism, and (2) a political clash – a clash between the vision of winning elections with the help of hatred pointed towards religious minorities and the other side that would like to win elections without invoking religion or religious hatred.


From the political nature of Hindutwa, RSS and Hindu Mahasabha right from their birth at the hands of Savarkar, Hedgewar and Golwakar, is obvious. The religious dimension has always been used as a tool for political empowerment of narrow minded conceited individuals and groups rather than an end in itself. Unless we all who believe in saner, rational, secular politics or political movement, we will not be doing full justice to the true motive of those behind Hindutwa/RSS/BJP.


Thus calling the clash over Babri Masjid site simply as a clash over a clash between the visions of Hindutwa and secularism is missing the far more important intent of winning elections via communal clashes rather than via promises (and deeds) of development, education, electricity, roads, roji, roti, makaan and other rational needs of the society.)


With Regards


"At his best, man is the noblest of all animals; separated from law and justice he is the worst"

- Aristotle


Recent Activity:
Get all ZESTCaste mails sent out in a span of 24 hours in a single mail. Subscribe to the daily digest version by sending a blank mail to, OR, if you have a Yahoo! Id, change your settings at

On this list you can share caste news, discuss caste issues and network with like-minded anti-caste people from across India and the world. Just write to

If you got this mail as a forward, subscribe to ZESTCaste by sending a blank mail to OR, if you have a Yahoo! ID, by visiting

Also have a look at our sister list, ZESTMedia:


[ZESTCaste] Resurrecting an ancient curse (Opinion)

Monday, Oct 11, 2010
Resurrecting an ancient curse

The caste system has survived thousands of years but today its grip on
society is on the wane, thanks to technology and education. The
inclusion of caste in the 2011 Census may open up largely forgotten
schisms, says V. C. KULANDAISWAMY.

Abolishing the caste system is realisable if political leaders have
the will and courage of conviction.

The inclusion of caste as a factor in the Indian Census was given up
after 1931. Seven censuses were conducted thereafter without any
reference to caste. Now, there is a demand for its inclusion in the
2011 Census. This would amount to a great departure from a practice
followed by the founding fathers of the Republic and their successors
for nearly three quarters of a century. One would expect a national
debate on the subject, but that does not seem to be happening.

At the outset, this writer would like to declare that he is an ardent
believer in the concept of social justice, and a strong supporter of
the policy of reservations as the strategy to achieve that objective.
But he is also of the discerned view that the data available from the
1931 Census are adequate, either for formulating new measures, or
refining the existing ones, to ensure social justice.

It may safely be assumed that while the absolute numbers of each caste
group have kept increasing, the ratio of each caste, in terms of
percentage of the total in the Hindu society, would have remained
almost the same between 1931 and 2011. Any State that may still need
some additional information for any of its schemes can arrange to
collect it on its own.

The existing structure in Tamil Nadu, for instance, hardly needs
change and, if any refinement is contemplated, it can certainly be
done on the basis of data already available, or which can be
selectively collected.


Hinduism is perhaps the most flexible among the religions of the
world. Down the centuries, the Upanishads have been held in high
esteem by intellectuals and philosophers the world over.

Hinduism, however, stands condemned almost by all — including many of
its own followers — for a single, fatal blemish — the caste system.
What seems to have started as an occupational division gradually
degenerated into a rigid institution, establishing an abominable
hierarchy of high and low in the social system. In a matter of three
millennia, the world has seen the beginning and end of innumerable
systems that were man-made. But the single scourge that has defied all
human efforts to root it out is the caste system. Few other
institutions in the world have been so persistently examined by
philosophers and social scientists and proved as mysterious as the
caste system, in its capacity for survival.

The practice of untouchability and the concept of pollution by the
sight of an individual signify the height of outrage on, and an
abominable insult to, human dignity. As observed by C. Subramania
Aiyar, as early as 1893 in the Young Men's Association of George Town,
"Caste is a regular Himalayan Mountain; it cannot be pulled down by
any feeble effort. Nevertheless the Himalayan Mountain must go down."

The dazzling light of education, the penetrating rays of science and
technology and the global impact of modern civilisation have
anaesthetised the caste system and brought it to a point of painless
removal by a few successive procedures. It is at this point, however,
that a movement is on, in the mistaken hope of social justice, to
resurrect this ancient curse and undo the benefits of centuries of

Even 'Periyar', the uncompromising fighter for social justice and
author of the first amendment to the Constitution, enabling special
provisions for backward classes, did not object to dropping caste in
the 1941 Census; nor did he plead for its revival in the three
Censuses that followed during his lifetime.

The innumerable castes have been reduced, if we take Tamil Nadu for
example, into five or six classes, namely, the forward, the backward,
the most backward, the arunthathiar, and the scheduled classes and
tribes. If only these distinctions are assigned to every family and
its members, in place of caste, and this distinction is continued for
a generation or two, individual caste names will disappear from
records and, if after two or three decades, economic criteria are also
introduced, the distinctions by birth shall disappear as well.


In Article 17 of our Constitution, in 1949, we declared majestically
that "untouchability is abolished". We may be able to declare in 2049,
a century after the enactment of the Constitution, that "the caste
system is abolished". It is not a dream, but a realisable objective,
if only there is the will and courage of conviction on the part of our

It is tragic that this possibility is being rudely sought to be
revised by introducing caste in the 2011 Census and creating a new
awareness of caste affiliation, promoting new agitations, providing
new fields and new issues for politicians to pose and project
themselves as saviours. The younger generation has no significant
awareness of caste, though there may be some knowledge of the effects
of such classification.

If caste is to be a factor in the 2011 Census, the leaders of various
communities, especially the major ones, would start an aggressive
movement for creating caste awareness and educate them of the
privileges that they are entitled to, but denied now, and stress the
need for organising themselves and prepare for a massive agitation.

Indian society, which is already fragmented in terms of religion,
language and even region, would suffer from the revival of existing
caste divisions, running into thousands. A fine opportunity to make
caste irrelevant would have been missed.

Every cell of the writer's body shivers at the thought of an innocent
infant being registered officially, in the national census, at its
birth as 'Brahmin', assigning to it the accountability for all the
commissions and omissions of its forefathers or as 'SC' (scheduled
caste) and burdening it with the indignity of millennia that goes with
this word.

To refer to some as 'Brahmin' or 'SC' and then state that they are
both equal is self-deception. A word is not merely a combination of
alphabets. In a given context, it is the container of a millennia old
legacy of a civilisation. We are in the knowledge era, when human
dignity is held in highest esteem and human possibilities are reckoned
unbounded. If in this age we give a lease of life to this ancient
curse that has been a bane and a blemish, an abominable practice, an
affront to human dignity and individual self-respect, a cancer that
has been sapping, through ages, the strength and vigour of Hindu
society, it would be, in simple terms, damning the nation beyond

(The author is an educationist and former Vice-Chancellor of the Anna
University and the Indira Gandhi Open University.


Get all ZESTCaste mails sent out in a span of 24 hours in a single mail. Subscribe to the daily digest version by sending a blank mail to, OR, if you have a Yahoo! Id, change your settings at

On this list you can share caste news, discuss caste issues and network with like-minded anti-caste people from across India and the world. Just write to

If you got this mail as a forward, subscribe to ZESTCaste by sending a blank mail to OR, if you have a Yahoo! ID, by visiting

Also have a look at our sister list, ZESTMedia:! Groups Links

<*> To visit your group on the web, go to:

<*> Your email settings:
Individual Email | Traditional

<*> To change settings online go to:
(Yahoo! ID required)

<*> To change settings via email:

<*> To unsubscribe from this group, send an email to:

<*> Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to:

Blog Archive