Time to settle old scores
Sir — The news report, “Stars and business czars cheer Mulayam” (August 30), seemed to portend a welcome change for Uttar Pradesh. For a moment one felt that its new chief minister, Mulayam Singh Yadav, was perhaps serious about making a fresh start and attempting to entice investments to his state. But the news report, “Mulayam priority is to undo the past” (August 30), belies all such hopes. His priorities have been amply demonstrated by the fact that immediately after assuming office, he passed an order to revoke the decision of his predecessor, Mayavati, to impose the anti-terror law on the notorious legislator, Raghuraj Pratap Singh. Not only this, cases against those arrested under the National Security Act and the Goonda Act will now be reviewed. Yadav clearly has taken it upon himself to settle personal scores with Mayavati first rather than initiate meaningful changes in this rather poorly developed state. As things stand, Yadav has unwittingly been cheered by his actor and businessmen friends for making a poor start.
Amrita Basu, Kharagpur
Digging for peace
Sir — The Archaeological Survey of India’s much-awaited report on its excavations at the disputed site in Ayodhya has led to predictable reactions (“Ayodhya findings suit Sangh, send Muslim boards on warpath”, August 26). The report clearly points to the existence of a Hindu temple on the site, and thus it is not surprising that the Sunni Central Waqf Board, one of the parties in the case before the Allahabad high court, dismissed it as “vague and contradictory”. Some members of the minority community have labelled the report as baseless and concocted at the instance of the ruling Central government. This is sad especially since many of them had welcomed the excavations when the Allahabad high court had ordered them in March this year, saying it would help solve the mandir-masjid problem. The court had even ordered the inclusion of a few Muslim labourers in the excavation team after the counsel for the Waqf board, Zafariyab Jilani, complained of inadequate representation by the minority community.
The ASI team is a responsible one consisting of experienced and unbiased archaeologists. The team has unearthed irrefutable evidence of a temple — 50 pillar bases, decorated bricks, figurines of Hindu gods and goddesses, lotus motifs and so on. Perhaps this is why members of the minority community find it difficult to accept it. One wonders what possible historical and archaeological evidence Jilani claims to have to refute these findings'
It is up to the two communities to preserve the secular image of India which has taken a severe beating following the Gujarat riots.
Srinivasan Balakrishnan, Jamshedpur
Sir — Even if the ASI has unearthed the remains of a temple at the site where the Babri Masjid once stood, how can this be ground enough for demands that a temple be built there again' Many temples were similarly demolished by Muslim kings in the past.
What is the point in holding the Muslims responsible for what happened centuries ago' It makes no sense to dig up a past which has been literally buried for centuries. The past should not be allowed to create a rift between the two principal communities in India today. As for the sangh parivar’s insistence on constructing a Ram temple at Ayodhya, the Centre should stop and consider whether it can legislate on a purely religious matter.
C.V.K. Moorthy, Calcutta
Sir — Both the Hindu and Muslim communities should refrain from making premature pronouncements on the ASI report, since the matter is sub judice. The Central Sunni Wakf Board counsel, who dubbed the report as “drafted under intense political pressure”, has brought no credit on himself. While the Muslim community’s disappointment is understandable, it can hardly serve as an excuse for slinging mud at a respected national institution, one that has earned international praise for its competence.
Chiranjib Haldar, Calcutta
Sir — The ASI was digging at the disputed site in Ayodhya in accordance with the directives of the Allahabad high court. When the excavation started, it was understood that both the Hindu and the Muslim communities would accept the court’s verdict. The court is working towards a peaceful resolution of this complicated problem, so why is one community not being sporting enough to accept the ASI’s findings' If the preliminary report has raised so many objections, how much more will the court’s final verdict occasion' If the Muslims were so sceptical of the whole thing from the beginning, they should have raised their objections earlier.
Jang Bahadur Singh, Jamshedpur
Sir — The attitude of the Hindutva bodies had led to the impression that Hindus would not accept a contrary decision by the court in the Ayodhya dispute gracefully. Things are turning out differently now. Even before a final judgment on the issue has been delivered, Muslim organizations have shown that they will not accept a court decision if it does not fall in with their interests — even if it is unbiased. Already, there is talk of political mobilization by the Muslims following the ASI report. Such disrespect towards the court is disappointing.
Udita Agrawal, New Delhi
Sir — The demands for a Ram temple at the disputed site in Ayodhya are getting more raucous with every passing day and will surely reach a pitch now that general elections are near. The view that the matter is in the courts now and it is for them to decide is little respected. The fact that all this is being done in the name of Hinduism is shocking to a Hindu like me who believes that the only developmental issues are of importance. Controversies over such trifles like the building of a temple are time-consuming and a waste of resources. There is also the cost in terms of human lives. Events that followed the demolition of the Babri Masjid a few years back has damaged the reputation of Hindus internationally. The divide thus created in our society has also been conveniently tapped by forces inimical to our nation. It is a shame that Hindus are fast losing their tolerant and peace-loving nature and taking to extremism.
N.P. Sinha, Jamshedpur
Sir — The court-ordered ASI excavation has found a 10th century structure, probably a temple, below the disputed structure at Ayodhya. This confirms what historians and archaeologist have been saying for more than a century. The Ayodhya “controversy” is recent, only about 20 years old. Before that time, no one, Hindu, Muslim or European, questioned the fact that a temple had been destroyed in Babar’s time to build a mosque. In this sense there is nothing new in what the excavations have found. It is important now for all parties to acknowledge the truth and frame policies that will heal the wounds created by false propaganda. Historians and other scholars must limit themselves to research and not serve as political propagandists. This hurts both scholarship and politics.
N. S. Rajaram, via email
Sir — One cannot fault André Béteille’s contention, in his article, “Clash of civilizations” (August 28), that every civilization takes its own time to accept and accommodate change in its fold — whether about basic human values or otherwise. But the tussle between the United States of America and the Islamic world should not be viewed as a clash of civilizations. What we are currently witnessing is the aggressiveness and opportunistic policies of the US administration, in which the American people are largely not involved. This can be better understood from the reactions of the Americans after the 9/11 attack and the fall in the popularity ratings of the US president after the Iraq war.
Masood Md Sohail, Calcutta
Sir — André Betéille’s article “Clash of civilizations”, is an heuristic exercise as all studies on civilizations ought to be. He talks of the inter-penetration of values, beliefs and ideas, and what could be a better example than India' The exchange of ideas, values and beliefs lifts civilizations above the ordinary. Or else, how do we account for the fact that today’s Bihar was once the great ancient kingdom, Magadh' India has tried to shut itself to outside influences before, leading to a rise in superstitions and dogmas. The coming of the Europeans forced it to open its doors again, which helped it to stand up to colonialism, as well as effect scientific and cultural development. If the process of exchange is arrested, we shall sink to the depths again. The idea of a “clash” can come only from those who believe in the fictional impregnability of civilizations.
Susenjit Guha, Calcutta