A Bloodless Jallianwalla Bagh

published on August 27, 2013

August 2013 will be remembered for two events : the horrific gang rape attack on a young woman in Mumbai (for which Manusmriti would have recommended severe punishment for the perpe
trators of the crime) and the clever management of the Padayatra (Parakrama) of saints and sannyasins at Ayodhya by a clever UP government. The gang rape seems to have become a routine event in India and it speaks not only to the breakdown of law and order but also to the breakdown of values. Women in India ( and indeed the world over) are at the receiving end of this situation.

Much will be written about both events and while the Mumbai attack will drag through the courts despite its importance, the latter is a significant event  for Hindu society. The projected Padayatra was stopped by an efficient security set up which arrested leaders of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and some saints and sannyasins. A blood bath did not take place, unlike the fateful events of the Jallianwalla Bagh massacre of 1919 when the colonial government of the day fired on unarmed citizens who had gathered to make a peaceful protest against the Occupying regime.

It would be a full 28 years after, that India would attain independence. But does the UP government deserve credit for the absence of physical violence against the saints and sannyasins? The massive deployment of force was intended not only to stop the Yatra but also to crush any dissent from the Hindu side regarding the sanctity of the Ramajanmabhumi.

The ban on the Padayatra is an indication of how far hostile governments can go to stifle the Hindu voice. A Padayatra by sants and sannyasins has long been an aspect of Hindu life. Clearly, the ban was not only a political device to secure the minority vote, but also part of a long term strategy to deny the Hindus of India an expression of their religious sentiments. This fact must be kept in mind. To that extent the  Hindus of India should be grateful to the countless saints and sannyasins who have, in their own way, fought to uphold Hinduism and continue to do so.

The Padayatra  cannot be said to have started only on August 25, 2013. The religious nature of the event goes hand in hand with the struggle for the Ramajanmabhumi for which Hindus have laid down their lives since many  years before the Christian era. The August event which was about a peaceful ceremonial circumambulation of the holy city of Ayodhya and its precincts is one of those aspects of Hindu life that are continuous and dates back several centuries and even millenia. For that very reason the UP government’s act of prohibiting the Padayatra was illegal. The Indian Constitution forbids discrimination against any religious groups.

Now, to put the matter into historical perspective.

The defence of Ayodhya occurs each time and everytime that invaders or hostile elements attack the Ramajanmabhumi. There has been a long standing myth circulated by the educational system that Hindus have been passive in the face of the barbarian attacks on Ayodhya (and by implication be silent witnesses to any further desecrations). Even a cursory survey of this history is revealing. Contemporary readers are more or less familiar with the recent history of Ramajanbhumi, but not the earlier phases. There are 3 phases :

1. The physical battles started from 150 B.C. with the defeat of the Bactrian king Menander who attacked Ayodhya, through to the defeat of Mazud Gahzni (son of Muhammed Ghazni) in 1033 who invaded the Ayodhya region.
The defeat of Ghazni was  decisive  and this was accomplished by a federation of kings (including some queens).

Babur invaded India in 1526 and in 1528 his general Mir Baqi destroyed the Hindu temple at Ayodhya (then called Saketa) and built the Babri Masjid.

Thousands  of Hindus  died during this battle.

From 1529 onwards there were smaller and bigger skirmishes and battles. The figure is put at 76 field battles when again Hindus lost their lives in the hundreds. This period lasted for 461 years.

2. During the British period there were quasi legal battles.

3. From 1989 onwards the struggle was legal, with the exception of the destruction of the Babri mosque in 1992.

The August 25, 2013 Padayatra is an extension both of the legal and the physical struggle since reports are that many priests who wanted to tak a dip in the sacred Sarayu river were lathi charged and taken into custody. Most likely many more such reports will leak out in the days to come.

Readers are familiar with the active role played by sannyasins during British rule (Sannyasi revolt in Bengal against British rule in the 18th century  ). In  our times we have the active role played by the sants and sannyasins who defeated the goal of developers who were trying to to acquire the land of the sacred Tirumala hill for their projects. Many such instances can be enumerated. But in the aftermath of the Padayatra of August 25, 2013, it is relevant to note the extraordinary document that was submitted by the VHP (Vishwa Hindu Parishad) to the governor of Chennai, on behalf of the saints and sannyasins of India.

This is the Memorandum to the President of India (August 26,2013). It calls unambiguously for 3 measures to be implemented:

1. The Ramajanabhumi should be returned to the Hindus. Here, the reference is to the 70 acres of land surrounding the Janmasthan.

2. A temple should be built at the birth place of Lord Rama.

3. No Muslim structure should be built within the boundaries of Ayodhya.

The request to the President of India specifically called for a bill to be tabled in Parliament addressing the above 3 measures during the monsoon session. If this is not done then there will be further protests, with protestors taking a solemn vow immersed in the Sarayu river at Ayodhya.

Thus, the liberation of the Ramajanmabhumi is also an act of the reaffirmation of the fact that India is a Hindu country culturally and civilisationally (and intends to be so !).

(The writer is a Political Philosopher who taught at a Canadian university)

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