Skip to content

3. Righting the wrongs of history

3.1 The bricks or the truth

Advani is the modern Babar, that is how some secularist Hindus (who at least don’t deny the historical fact that Babar was a temple-destroyer) comment on Mr. Advani’s plan to relocate the disputed structure and build a temple on the spot. With their natural Hindu generosity, they want to keep assuring the non-Hindus that their places of worship are safe in Hindusthan. And they reject attempts to undo temple destruction by means of mosque-destruction. “Two wrongs don’t make a right”, they keep on writing.

And it is true: if someone has stolen from you, it is not right to just steal it back from him, or from his children. Not even if it is a place of worship. The best solution would be, that the culprit, or his juridical successor if any such be, returns the stolen good of his own free will. The second best solution is that an impartial competent authority, in application of principles universally in force or mutually agreed upon, imposes a settlement that undoes the wrong done. Either way, the matter should be settled openly, not by counter-theft.

In the controversy under consideration, the best solution is, that the Muslim community makes a gesture to undo the wrongs it has inflicted on the non-Muslims for centuries. Failing that the second best solution would be, that the government imposes such a goodwill gesture: that would then not be a gesture of reconciliation, but at least an official recognition of the injustice done and the resolve to at least symbolically undo such injustice.

Some diehard Hindus activists demand that all the thousands of mosques built on top of destroyed temples, be handed over to the Hindus. They think that would be a physical undoing of the historical wrongs. Well, that is a very crude way of doing justice to Hinduism. It overlooks the fact that these stone structures are but the outermost layer of the real harm done to Hindu society. There has been a loss of vast territories – they may be claimed back, but that would hardly be any less superficial. Far more fundamental is the moral damage that has been done : the loss of self-confidence, the unprecedented and harsh enmity within Hindu society (internal enmity and bitterness typically occur in powerless groups), the boot-licking attitude among the Hindu intelligentsia, the negative self-image (e.g. Hindu caste inequality vs. Muslim brotherhood). The moral damage again is partly due to a loss of knowledge and memory : the Hindu education system has been destroyed, and the Hindus are helpless in the face of concerted efforts to disinform them and destroy their soul.

Claiming from thousands of local Muslim communities that they give back the place of worship that their ancestors had stolen from the Hindus, would be very insensitive and create immense resentment and ill-will. It is a case of Fiat justitia pereat mundus (justice be done even if the world must perish for it). Sometimes unpleasant steps cannot be avoided, but in this case it seems to me that Hindus had better concentrate on more useful goals.

Among these more urgent goals, I will mention social justice, but I won’t stress it too much because firstly, that would confirm the untruthful missionary propaganda, today repeated by almost everyone, that Hindu society has been less just and humane than other societies in comparable circumstances, and secondly, I don’t want to fall into the Christian/moralistic trap of considering an ethical life and an ethical society the ultimate good. Having known some society-improvement movements from within (such as the disarmament movement), I have not much faith left in moralistic attempts to make society better, as a goal in its own right.

I have come to agree with the basic assumption of Hindu culture, that consciousness is the basis of everything. Ethics and justice are necessary in human society, but they are not the ultimate in human endeavor and happiness. Forget about a humane society if you do not create a cultural (dharmik as much as sanskritik) cradle for it. Do-gooders like Rajmohan Gandhi (with his Moral Rearmament background) can go on preaching about caring and sharing1, that is superficial, doctoring of outside symptoms, and by itself it will lead nowhere. Social involvement should be there, but it can only be guided and sustained by a larger cultural feel and consciousness. It is only from an awareness of our fundamental (adhyatmik) akinness, from a feeling of our unity (ekatmata) in diversity (every entity its own swadharma), that compassion and fellow-feeling can grow. And it is only though self-respect that a larger sense of duty and responsibility can grow; the crass selfishness now rampant in Nehruvian India is very much related to the cultural climate of self-alienation and self depreciation.

So, the more fundamental concern should be the reviving of Hindu consciousness, both in a spiritual and in an intellectual sense. Of all the politicians involved in the Ram Janmabhoomi movement, how many have ever taken parliamentary initiatives to revive Sanskrit education, to give more chances to the teaching of the Hindu cultural traditions, to abolish the discrimination against teaching Hindu religion in state-subsidized schools? How many have taken a look into the systematic distortion of history that is being broadcast by all the official media including the school curricula, and taken the official media including the school curricula, and taken initiatives to counter it at the intellectual or political level? It seems that all these Hindu campaigners needed a crudely physical issue like the bricks in Ayodhya in order even to get reminded of their responsibility to Hindu society.

I cannot blame them too harshly, they just show the results of a centuries-long physical and ideological attack on Hindu culture. Nonetheless, if they want to give proof of something better than utter mental laziness, they must start cultivating a deeper understanding of the problems of their society, and develop a commitment to the restoration of Hindu self-awareness. That is more important than the restoration of brick structures.

I am not saying that they just should forget about these thousands of temples razed and replaced with mosques (and sometimes churches). Those thousands should not be ignored, to the extent that they can be useful in consciousness-raising. One level at which some evil-intentioned people try to rob Hindus of their consciousness, is history. History as an illustration of the intrinsic character of certain ideologies deserves to be highlighted. The time will come when closed theologies will bother humanity no longer, but for now, it is better to be aware of what they can do. In Europe, Nazi concentration camps are kept in their historical state, in order to teach future generations about what to avoid. In India too, monuments of intolerance should be preserved. School books, local guide books, even a signboard with an explanatory text in front of the building, should tell the history of every place of worship, truthfully.

If Hindu organizations really care about Hinduism, let them drop the demand for the hand-over, let them rather demand that the truth be told on every appropriate occasion. They should not allow the truth to be concealed or distorted. On the other hand, they should deal sensitively with it. There is no point in troubling simple Muslim villagers with the unasked-for-truth about the crimes of Aurangzeb. They did not commit these Islamic crimes, and educating them should ideally not proceed via instilling in them a feeling of guilt.

In any case, education about the crimes and future crime potential of pretentious closed creeds should only be a part of a more general study in the impediments to open mindedness and truthfulness : the closed creeds of the revealed religions are only a special case (though a very systematic and dangerous one) of a certain state of mind. This study of what kinds of mental attitude to avoid, should be integrated into a positive education in mental culture and truthfulness. That is what Sanatana Dharma is all about. Today, saying the truth about the crimes of Islam, against attempts to suppress it, is very much needed. But ultimately, these negative things have to be said only to clear the way for the positive and humanist culture which these fanatical creeds had denounced and tried to obliterate.

The prime target audience for the truthful reporting about Hindu-Muslim history is not the Muslims, but the Hindus themselves. the Hindus are their own worst problem, because of their self-alienation, self-denigration, and self-forgetfulness. They should stop blaming and maligning themselves : a clear and truthful view of the mischievous history and doctrines of those who go on blaming and denigrating Hinduism, will make room for an honest self-discovery. Hindus can turn the tables on the Hindu-baiters. They should take pride in their pluralistic culture, and be conscious of the dangers of closed and exclusivistic creeds.

So, by all means, drop the demand for the hand-over of those thousands of brick structures in which fellow human beings with Arabic names conduct their prayers. It is enough if the truth about those buildings’ histories is not concealed.

3.2. Kashi and Mathura

The Hindu struggle is about cultural self-awareness and self-esteem, not about brick structures. However, there may be a case for insisting on the hand-over of two central sacred places, those of Krishna and of Shiva, that are occupied by mosques, and the very special case of the Ram Janmabhoomi. People with a very short historic consciousness think that everything that happened before the Indians said goodbye to the British and installed a British legal-political system for themselves, should not have any consequences today. It is time-barred, they say. But who are they to rule that history should be held to be of no consequence? Perhaps the Hindus do think that certain historical wrongs have been so vast as well as profound, that they need righting even today. Especially because the ideology that motivated these wrongs is not yet a part of history.

The situation is this, Muslim conquerors and rulers have made systematic attempts to destroy Hindu culture, and as long as that was not immediately possible, many of them have done everything to humiliate the Hindus. And this was not an accidental list of cruel rulers, to be joined to the list of Genghis Khan, Ch’in Shih Huang, Tiglatpilesar and other classics of cruel conquest and rule : there was an ideological backbone in this sustained effort to impose Islam and persecute the Kafirs. Aurangzeb is gone, but that ideological backbone may still be there. One of the crowning symbols of the Muslim persecution of the Hindus was the replacement of the most sacred Hindu temples with mosques.

Now, either the conflict between Islam and Hinduism no longer exists. The Muslims no longer identify with the persecution effort of their forebears. In that case, they will have no problem in distancing themselves from the take-over of temples, and in understanding the Hindu sensitivity concerning this painful past. They will understand that they themselves would not like to be robbed of their Kaaba, and they will give back the chief places sacred to Shiva and Krishna.

Or, in the other case, the Muslims do identify with Babar and Aurangzeb, and stick to the doctrine that the Kafirs must be fought and their temples destroyed. In that case, they are the heirs to the responsibility for the temple destructions, and then the Hindus can demand reparations from them. Either way, some symbolic reparation should be made. Some gesture of finishing this history of temple-destructions and attempted destruction of Hindu Dharma, should be made.

In my opinion, the Hindus should not demand the handover of the Kashi Vishvanath (Shiva) temple site and the Krishna Janmastham temple site from the state. But they may demand it from the Muslim community.2 And they should make it a demand not for a building, but for a gesture. There should be not a trace of a threat of forcible take-over. The Hindu leaders should say to the Muslim leaders : Look, we want these places back. For many centuries they have been our sacred places, and we have suffered the mosques built there only under duress. We do not believe in the forcible take-over of places of worship, we are not Babars and Aurangzebs. But we want from you a gesture of goodwill, a sign that you turn this infamous persecution page of history. We will not take any kind of revenge if you do not feel ready for this gesture, but we will expressly wait until you are ready.

The same would have counted in principle for the Ram Janmabhoomi. However, there the situation has been slightly more advanced : in 1949 it already became a Hindu temple again. And it is not the Hindus who have been demanding a hand-over, it is actually the Muslim groups like BMAC, BMMCC, IUML, Jama’at Islami. It is unbelievably arrogant that some Muslims could be against the hand-over of even one of the thousands of stolen Hindu places, and still have dared to demand the hand-over of that one mosque that they let slip through their fingers in 1949. They demand the return of 100% of the places they lost, and want to return 0% of the places they took. Who said that Islam believes in equality?

To sum up : on the Ram Janmabhoomi, the Hindus should concede nothing. It is their own temple again since 1949, and if they want to architecturally redesign it along the lines of traditional Mandir architecture, then that is an entirely internal affair of the Hindus. On Kashi Vishvanath and Krishna Janmasthan, the Hindus may choose to leave it at the present compromise situation (temple rebuilt next to mosque), but it is not unreasonable and they are within their rights if they make a moral demand on the Muslim community to return these two sacred places. The demand should focus not on the buildings, but rather on the free-will gesture of a hand-over to formally finish the history of Hindu-Muslim conflict. Concerning the thousands of other stolen or destroyed temples, no organisation devoted to the advancement of Hindu culture and society should rake up those controversies. On the contrary, Hindus should be satisfied with a clear and frank recognition of the history of these places. For the rest, these places are occasions for a thousandfold generous gesture of forgive and forget.

3.3. A gesture, not a compensation

The problem with forgiving is that genuine forgiving can only take place if the committed wrongs are admitted (forgiving someone who doesn’t deplore his act but still thinks it was justified, is tantamount to inviting him to do it again; it is not forgiveness but masochism). What Hindus are in fact demanding from the Muslim leadership, is an uninhibited recognition of the injustice their forebears have inflicted upon the Hindus. There would be no need for a good-will gesture if there had not been some serious injustice in the past. Such recognition of the past would be implicit in an official Muslim acceptance of the Hindu rights over Ram Janmabhoomi, in fact it would be the most important thing about it. But this historical recognition is the hardest part of the whole situation. Not even concerning one single contentious place are the Muslim communal leaders willing to openly concede that there was anything wrong with Babar’s behaviour. What is so difficult about such acceptance of past wrongs?

In 1989-90, the Japanese people have, via both their prime minister and their new emperor, openly expressed their regrets over the oppression meted out by them to the Korean people in the half-century before 1945. No one has interrupted them to say that this was a long-forgotten affair, time-barred, sterile raking-up of old quarrels. On the contrary, everybody involved realizes that this little apology is the very real beginning of a new Japanese-Korean understanding and, in the longer run, of a renewed friendship.

What makes it more difficult for the Indian Muslims to make such an apology to the Hindus, than for the Japanese to the Koreans? One reason is probably that the Japanese people does not constitute an ideological unit. The ideology of Japanese supremacy and militarism, which determined Japan’s policies in the decades before 1945, has disappeared and left room for a recognition of the crimes which to a supremacist people seemed justified, but are not considered such any longer. The new willingness to come to terms with the past has been made possible by a real change in Japan’s dominant ideology. Now, that change does not endanger Japan : a country does not have a permanent ideology, yet it has a kind of permanent identity, independent of ideological fashions.

For the Muslim community, the situation is radically different. The admission of wrongs done in application of the Islamic ideology, would immediately endanger the adherence to that ideology. Well, many Hindus have believed that untouchability was an integral part of Hinduism and given it up nonetheless, confident as they were that Hinduism is not a seamless garment, but rather an ocean from which you can afford to take important quantities away without really diminishing it. But Muslim leaders are afraid that the admission of the systematic wrong done to the Hindus in direct application of unambiguous tenets of Islam, would seriously damage the integrity of the seamless garment of Islam. If you disown the persecution part of history, and implicitly also the persecution part of the doctrine, then where will this disowning stop? A scar on the nose is a scar on the face, and the repudiation of one Islamic doctrine (jihad) is the repudiation of Islam.

The Japanese have remained Japanese even after shedding their supremacist ideology, but will the Muslims, who are defined by their adherence to an ideology, remain Muslims once parts of this ideology are officially discredited? In this sense, openly facing the facts of the persecution part of Muslim history may really endanger the belief in Islam and therefore the very existence of the Muslim community as such. That is why the Muslim communal leadership will not even consider any formal admission of the bloody past. Their only chance is to depict the Muslim atrocities as aberrations from the true Islamic path of tolerance and peace (as some friends of Islam have been doing). But they are wail aware that this really implies declaring much of the Prophet’s own behaviour to be aberration and un-Islamic, as well as the behaviour of revered Muslim heroes who merely imitated the Prophet’s example and implemented Quranic commandments. So, while many innocent common Muslims would not mind restoring a place of worship to the Hindus, the communal leadership is aware of its larger doctrinal implications, and refuses to give in.

It should be stressed that what Hindus are demanding is not a full compensation, not revenge, not getting even. Getting even would take millions of killings and acts of slave-taking, acts of temple destruction and so on, and that would still not bring the victims of Islamic fanaticism back to life. So, getting even is out of the question. Revenge is still something else. It would include the destruction of the most sacred places of Islam, like the Kaaba. That plan has not been formulated either. The point in this case is merely a symbolic restoration of one or three ancient Hindu sacred places, a formal gesture. Even that, the Muslim leadership is not willing to make, so far.

3.4. Enactment of status-quo

However, quite a number of individual Muslims have expressed their willingness to make a goodwill gesture and leave the Ram Janmabhoomi site to the Hindus. Most of them demand in return the enactment of a law fixing the status-quo for all places of worship as on August 15, 1947, or at least as on January 26, 1950. This demand has also been made, without any offer in return, by the militant Muslim organizations.

Well, such a law does not immediately seem objectionable. Not that it exists in any secular country. It is the product of the Indian situation, where the Muslims have grabbed a whole lot of places of worship without being able to eliminate or even marginalize the pre-existent society. So now they face the threat that the victimized party demands restoration, and such a law protects them against this embarrassing eventuality.

Hindus have nothing to gain from such a law. Hindu temples up for dispute are very few. While Hindus historians have published long lists of mosques built on demolished temples, no-one has come forward with a similar list of Hindu temples. An impression has been created by the dishonest crowd of secularists that there are many Hindu temples that once were Buddhist. Well, let them start with pointing out where these temples are. Let them secondly bring up documentary or archaeological indications for a forcible rather than a mutually voluntary take-over. And let them show that there is an existing Buddhist community with a genuine use in taking over such a temple. I am sure that Hindus will not object, even regardless of whether the same procedure is applied to mosques that have forcibly replaced temples.

The Bodh Gaya temple case3, in which Buddhists and non-Buddhists have co-operated to restore this erstwhile Buddhist place of pilgrimage, has clearly proven this willingness on the part of the Hindu leadership. The British interference and the stubbornness of one temple priest have drawn out the process over several decades, but since 1953 the Bodh Gaya temple is functioning as the Buddhist shrine it originally was.3

Two facts about the Bodh Gaya temple case are particularly inconvenient for the secularist theory of Hindu-Buddhist antagonism. One is that a decisive role in the settlement was played by the “Hindu communalist” organization Hindu Mahasabha. The second is that the Bodh Gaya temple was never forcibly taken over nor destroyed by the Hindus.

The Buddhists abandoned the place when they were exterminated by the Islamic invaders, around 1200 AD. It was lying there, deteriorating, even after a Shaiva monk order came to inhabit the domain in 1590. Only around 1880 did a Hindu priest move in to use the building as a temple, after efforts by the king of Myanmar to repair it were stopped because of the Burmese war. The priest was pressured by the British not to make concessions to the foreign (Lankan and, more seriously, Japanese) Buddhists who were working to revive this Buddhist place of pilgrimage. It was this priest’s successor who would thwart all attempts at settlement, even when these involved Swami Vivekananda and Surendranath and Rabindranath Tagore. But the settlement won through. Hindus had never forcibly taken the place from the Buddhists, and yet (or should I say : and that’s why) they have shown sensitivity to the Buddhists’ attachment to the temple, and restored it as one of Buddhism’s chief places of pilgrimage.

If there are more such places (and the anti-Hindu crowd claims there are many), let these secularists put their evidence on the table. As a man of scientific temper, I will not forgive them if they repeat their allegation without substantiating it. You see, the case with allegations is simple : either you prove them, or you withdraw them and offer apologies. The secularists should not get away with doing neither one of these two.

Hindus have, until proof to the contrary, no temples to protect from historical claims, and so they have nothing to gain from a law fixing the status of places of worship. But since I don’t think these buildings are really the point, I also don’t think such a law would hurt the Hindu cause very much. However, it would be wrong to agree to the enactment of such a law as a quid pro quo for the hand-over of the Ram Janmabhoomi site. Since you don’t have to pay for what is yours, Hindus should not give anything in return for the Ram Janmabhoomi. And Muslims will show that their new respect for Hindu sacred places is genuine by not making it conditional. The enactment of a further status-quo should be considered on its own merits and not as a part of a deal.

3.5. International standards

And that brings us back to the question : should the wrongs of history be righted? If international custom is anything to go by, yes. Right now, many court cases are being fought in the New World, by Native Americans and Australian Aborigines, to claim back ancestral sacred places and other property. Some are lost, some are won. Even in some of the cases they lost, it was a technicality or whatever else that came in the way, but the principle that the wrongs of history may have to be righted, was not questioned as such. And every case which the natives have won, is a moral support for the restoration of Hindu sacred places.

In the Soviet Union too, many places of worship that were confiscated and turned into storing-rooms, offices and what not, are being given back to the religious communities. The fact that the victimized communities had managed to do without these buildings for so long, and the fact that now all these offices etc. had to be moved, was not taken as a sufficient excuse for keeping the status-quo.

The situation in India is not fundamentally different from that in the Communist countries and in the New World. In each case, a wave of ideologically sustained rapine and destruction has taken place. The ideologies that gave a good conscience to the mass murders, ruthless oppression and thorough cultural destruction, are of the same stock.

Moses taught the Hebrew people a religion which divided humanity in two : the Chosen People and the rest It divided space in two : the Promised land and the rest It divided time in two : the time before the Covenant (between Yahweh and His People) and the unfoldment of God’s plan starting with the Covenant.4

For Moses, anything was allowed if it fulfilled God’s plan of giving the Promised Land to the Chosen People.5 Fortunately, in later centuries, when the Jews had no political power left, they transformed their self-righteous religion into a strongly ethical religion with a mystical dimension and a pluralistic culture of Scripture interpretation through intellectual discussion.

However, the seed of Moses was still there, and it was taken up by Christianity. Christianity again divided humanity into Christians (saved ones) and Pagans (doomed ones). This automatically divided space into two : the Christian countries and the Pagan countries. But while the Jews had limited their ambition to the Promised Land, Christianity wanted to convert the whole world. As the New Testament had said, in seeming innocence: “Go and teach all the peoples”. It also divided time into two: the time when the original sin reigned supreme, and the era of Jesus Christ, the Saviour, our Lord (marked as AD, Anno Domini, year of the Lord).

Mohammed, who used to travel to the Christian city Damascus as an agent of his wife Khadija’s company, brought monotheism and prophethood to Arabia. He divided humanity into two, the believers and the unbelievers. He divided the world into two: the Muslim-ruled countries, or Dar-ul-Islam, and the rest, called Dar-ul-Harb, the land of strife. Again, this was not meant as a permanent co-existence : the land of the believers had to inflict Harb on the Dar-ul-Harb until it could swallow all of it. Islam also divided time into two : the Jahiliya or ignorance, before the Prophet (peace be upon him), and the time of Islam, which will last until the day of Judgment.

Marxism is the latest and shortest-lived offshoot of this lineage of closed and aggressive creeds. Its God is history, which is a one-dimensional version of the Christian-Islamic doctrine of “God’s plan unfolding in history”. It divides humanity in two: the progressive forces, who have history on their side (today: the proletariat), and the rest, who will be wiped out of history soon. It divides time into two: before and after the revolution. It divides the world into two: the Socialist Republics where the proletariat is in power and does its redeeming work of establishing classless society, and the rest, where the revolution is yet to take place.

The one thing these three world-conquering creeds have in common, is their boundless self-righteousness in overrunning the societies of the non-chosen peoples. They have respected nothing of what was sacred to the Pagans, often not even their lives. Where these three have come in conflict with each other, they have not spared each other either, witness the Crusades and the Spanish Reconquista, the treatment meted out to the Christians in Muslim countries, the Armenian genocide, the wholesale persecution of (an already softened) Christianity in the Soviet block, the confrontations between the Chinese and the Uighurs, the persecution of the Communists in Khomeini’s Iran. Each of them, in its prime, has (had) the unshakable conviction that it is bound to conquer the world, and that ultimately no opponent would survive to give testimony against its outrageous crimes.

But what goes up, must come down. Religions that are not sanatana, ingrained in human nature and therefore age-old, religions that have a beginning, are also bound to end. There was no Christianity before Christ, no Islam before Mohammed, no Marxism before Marx : therefore the creeds of Christ, Mohammed and Marx are bound to end. So if Hindus wait long enough, these thousands of mosques built on destroyed temples, will all fall back into their lap. They will be abandoned, or Muslim-born people will convert them into Pagan establishments themselves.

The situation today is that Chrstianity is losing its teeth, and meteoric Marxism will be dead even earlier. In the ex-Soviet block, Marxism is not offering any resistance anymore to the comeback of whatever cultural or religious movements had existed in society. Not only the Christians and the Muslims, but also the Buddhists in the Mongolian republics are benefiting from Marxism’s giving up. Christianity is gradually coming to face its history, and is having to cope increasingly with a cultural reaction from peoples who got subdued in the colonial period, but who now start questioning the history of their acceptance of Christianity, notably in Latin America and in Africa. While the missionary programme has not been given up, forcible conversions and other acts of violence against other cultures are out of fashion. Christianity is no physical threat anymore, and not even a cultural threat either for those who see through the missionary strategy.

The situation is different with Islam. For a very clear example of the difference between Christianity and Islam today, consider the situation in the Soviet Union. Many of the erstwhile Soviet Republics want independence, or at least a stop to the Russian rule which the Soviet Union had effectively brought. In most cases, religion is strongly present in these independence movements. Now, in the Christian-dominated Baltic states, anti-Russian feelings have been voiced through demonstrations, painting over Russian signboards, and other such citizens’ protest. In the Muslim-dominated Central-Asian republics, by contrast, Russian girls were stripped naked on the street and gang-raped, many Russians have been killed, and finally most Russians had no choice but to flee their homes and seek safety with relatives in the Russian Federation. This stark difference in behaviour between Christians and Muslims is not at all a coincidence.

Now Indian secularists may intone their worn-out tirades of how this prejudice against Islam will vitiate the communal atmosphere. But I cannot help the verifiable fact that the Russians, India’s big friends, have massively fled their homes in the Muslim-majority areas of their erstwhile empire. It is at the hands of Muslim re-assertion that they have received such a barbaric treatment that they saw no alternative but to flee.

Islam has till today retained a lot of its medieval self-righteousness. While native Americans who claim back ancestral sacred places may have to confront economical interests, juridical technicalities or other small-human opposition against their demands, there is now hardly any ideologically motivated resistance against respecting their culture and their historical sensitivities. But in India, and in the countries which Islam has carved out of if, there is still a strong presence of an ideological drive to islamize India, and to make this clear by wresting all kinds of real and symbolical concessions from the Hindus, and by refusing them any concession whatsoever in return. The symbols of humiliation that have been inflicted on the Hindus, are being defended.

Therefore, unfortunately, it is only in a very crude material sense that the disputes over mosques built over temples is a raking up of past events. At the ideological level, the struggle is continuing today. That makes the demand for an explicit Muslim gesture of reconciliation and Wiedergutmachung all the more justified.


  1. As in his article For a Positive Hinduism, in Indian Express, 27/11/1990. 

  2. This implies in practice that even a law that fixes the status-quo of places of worship as on 15/8/1947 or on 26/1/1950, cannot impede this gesture. For, even such a law cannot prevent people from voluntarily handing over (or keeping, but changing the religious status of) a mosque. 

  3. The whole story is told by Dipak K. Barua : Buddha Gaya Temple and its History, published by the temple management committee in 1981, and in my Ram Janmabhoomi vs. Babri Masjid, pp. 102-105. 

  4. But in Judaism, the division between the time before the genesis of the religion and the time after that, is not so sharp. In a sense, the biblical God already makes a Covenant with Adam and with Noah, and the generations who lived before Abraham and Moses are not doomed to hell-fire, as in Islam the generations before the Prophet. The Hebrew God takes his time to reveal himself, and does not punish the people who happened to live too early to hear about the One God. 

  5. The Bible books Exodus, Deuteronomy, Leviticus and Joshua give some strong stories of how ruthless Moses and Joshua were with anyone who stood in the way of the Hebrew conquest of Palestine.