An Analogy on Raising Kids Reveals a Lot About the Ayodhya Verdict
Imagine yourself as a parent having to settle scores between three of your children, who are fighting over a toy.
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Babri politics is like new-age parenting – and you are the parent. That’s the part of the story and one that I am more interested in as a political writer who is NOT a man. What does the verdict say about the 27 years of politics from the time the Babri Masjid was demolished on 6 December 1992 to 9 November 2019 when a verdict is delivered in the interest of keeping the peace? What does it really mean?
Suspend all thought of the actual mosque that was destroyed, where the five-judge bench has now ruled that a temple can be built. Imagine this is you the parent, having to settle scores between your three children – A, B and C, fighting over a toy you just bought.
Since you live in a new world of instant gratification, you get your children the newest toy in the market. That you are fully segued into the market as are your children is not an accident.
The Babri mosque was destroyed one year after the Indian economy first opened up to world markets, its protective barriers lifted in order for India to pay back a loan taken from the International Monetary Fund. Turning all children into pre-teen participants in the world market, soon to be followed by an adulthood dictated by the religio-political market of the 1990s and 2000s.
Before this time, it was possible to say you didn’t think gods existed or that mythology was mythology, not to be mixed up with history. That an idol did not have to be seen as literally in existence while people’s faith was respected. And the courts did not need to have an opinion on the existence of an idol or its juridical existence at any rate.
But that was before. Now, child A, B and C are playing. They have just one toy between them. A snatches the toy from B and smashes it to bits. B cries. Eventually, you, the parent, get a new toy. Now the three kids fight over that. They can’t dismember it to play with it so they fight over whose toy this really is.
You ignore this until A threatens to commit violence, burn down the house, beat up B and C, if it’s not given the toy.
You are forced to intervene.
You make the following pronouncement. It’s not possible to establish who broke the original toy, so you decide to refer to it in the abstract. ‘It’ was broken instead of ‘someone’ broke it.
Then you say, the fact that it was broken was a very bad thing. But since this is an abstraction, you no longer have to comment on the who of it or award punishment for it.
So, you move to the present. The objective, you decide, is to keep the peace at all costs. It’s not about who is right or whose toy this is or even if it can be everyone’s; because you realise that if you choose that option, it may seem fair but it won’t keep the peace. A will still agitate and bring the house down. You decide that the best way forward is to give it to A. And get two bigger toys for B and C.
Now that so much time has passed since the original toy was dismembered and the kids have fought over it, the whole neighbourhood is commenting on it. It’s a phenomenon and lessons are to be drawn. But the way things are, everyone understands that there actually aren’t lessons in the plural but `A Lesson’ in the singular to be drawn.
Forget equality, forget past wrongs or precedents that may be set where A learns that it can make the most noise and get the toy. They all decide that this is now in the public domain. Forget fairness, talk of peace. The homogenised cookie-cutter singular version of it that is now sold door to door and TV to TV.
Peace Comes First. You are lauded as an exemplary parent. Strike that. You are feted as The Only Exemplary Parent with the Singular Solution to be copy-pasted everywhere.
Back in the real world, I watched the only TV channel with somewhat bearable live commentary on the verdict. Sanket Upadhyay was talking on NDTV about how Ayodhya, apparently his hometown, is amongst the most, if not the most secular place in India. Because people have been sensible about the verdict. And they said on TV that peace is best.
Having come after 27 years of the political silencing of Muslims by various means, what kind of peace is it? That was not up for discussion naturally.
My mind went over the parikrama I had made of the Ram Lalla deity in Ayodhya this summer as we were all going into the Big National Election being fought over National Security and Peace. The double barrel security you are put through repeatedly as you make your way to the top of the hill, at gunpoint.
The presumption is that you are a believer, that your sole objective is that you want to pay obeisance to the Ram Lalla installed at the site of the destruction of the Babri mosque.
When I reached the top, I inquired if it was possible to see the remains of the mosque – a foundation perhaps or rubble, preserved for those whose mission it might be to say a silent prayer for the peace that was destroyed along with the mosque? Not possible. It’s not on offer. There are no remains. And besides how can that even be on the agenda? There are no signages pointing to its destruction or even marking the spot. It’s vanished, like the voice of the Muslims. To keep peace.
Pompous male lawyers further pontificated with the anchor Sanket. One talked about how “people are exuberating,” whatever that meant and another talked about “the need for quietus,” which I am certain is a loftier word for a Lawyer of Stature to use rather than its grammatically correct, poorer cousin – quiet.
My mind went back to the mythic political question I asked via the parent deciding about the toy. In keeping the peace, how is this parent raising her kids?
(Revati Laul is an independent journalist and film-maker and the author of `The Anatomy of Hate,’ published by Westland/Context. She tweets @revatilaul. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)
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