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Mainstream, VOL XLIX, No 50, December 3, 2011

Remembering December 6, 1992

Friday 9 December 2011

[Both the following appeared in Mainstream (December 19, 1992).]

Cry, My India

LAMENT OF AN INDIAN ABROAD

The hammers and axes wielded by the mob in Ayodhya not only broke the bricks in a centuries-old structure but dealt painful blows to Hinduism and Mother India.

Those of us Indians who live abroad can no more walk with our heads high—as Indians or Hindus—and can no more speak to our neighbours of the virtues of our nation and our religion.

The land of the Vedas with their pan-theism, of Mahavira and Buddha, the compassionate, of Asoka with his message of peace and goodwill, of Kabir who worshipped Ram and Allah alike, of Akbar who sought a universal religion—the culture that gave birth to the study of comparative religion—the civilisation which not only survived but was enriched by invasions—is now seen as one that initiated a frenzy of the deliberate desecration and destruction of places of worship, inconsiderate of the faiths and deepest feelings of neighbours.

What can we, who are exhorted to be the unofficial ambassadors of India, tell the people of the countries where we live?

We are, indeed, left helpless when fanatics and criminals attack our temples which were built to preserve our culture and traditions in alien lands.

Not long ago, in a period of decadence in India, Hinduism evoked contempt as a superstitious faith that oppressed millions in the name of caste, burnt its women and showed less concern for humans than for animals.

But our great reformers from Raja Rammohan Roy and Swami Vivekananda, and many eminent scholars—Indian and foreign—acquainted the world with the essence of Hinduism so that it gained respect in faraway lands. Many poets, writers and intellectuals in America and Europe drew inspiration from the Hindu scriptures.

And there emerged from India the greatest humanist of this century, Mahatma Gandhi, whose faith in Hinduism surpassed that of all those who were its symbols; but who respected all religions as different roads to redemption—and he bequeathed to India the respect of the world...

It is not for me to apportion blame for this tragedy, and I believe that all of us share the responsibility. But I must stress that it would be disastrous to treat this crisis lightly. For, whatever the moral or legal judgements in India, the desecration of holy places is an international crime since the Nuremburg Principles were endorsed by the United Nations. Ancient wrongs, real or imagined, cannot be undone by physical or cultural genocide.

The government, I trust, will succeed in containing the current violence and in averting strong condemnation in international forums. But that cannot undo the damage inflicted on India by itself in a fit of suicidal madness—unless the nation can be brought together to show that it has enough sense and goodwill to rebuild a society in which all faiths are respected and all minorities protected—without any foreign pressures, threats or intervention.

Only fools and knaves can think that mortals can provoke a conflict between Vishnu and Shiv or Ram amd Allah—and decide the outcome.

The real issue in India is whether one can be a devotee of Ram and be a traitor to the motherland—the land of Bharat; whether the task of politicians is to find ways to end the misery in the nation or to fan religious and other emotions to garner votes and gain power for themselves; whether the great skills that our people have acquired since independence will be used to enhance the quality of life for our children or to leave them a bitter legacy of privation and shame.

Rubble

You lifted one fistful of salt
And an empire was shamed.
Lift
One fistful of rubble
Now
And pour it on our shameless heads.

December 6, 1992 Gopal Gandhi

(Published on December 13, 1992 in The Hindu from where it is reproduced with due acknowledgement.)

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