Build the Ram Temple, but also build hospitals and schools in Ayodhya

Uttar Pradesh CM Adityanath has wisely kept himself out of the controversy, leaving it to the Supreme Court.

 |  5-minute read |   06-12-2017
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I have long argued that the Ram Temple should be built in Ayodhya where the Babri Masjid once stood.

Archaeologists have confirmed that an ancient temple lay beneath the Babri Masjid. December 6 marks the 25th anniversary of its demolition. The Supreme Court began hearing the case on the Ram Temple on December 5 and adjourned it to February 8, 2018. An out-of-court settlement between Sunni-led Muslim groups and the Hindu petitioners could yield a quicker result.

The Shia Waqf Board has meanwhile done what every Muslim organisation should have done long ago: given its blessings to build the Ram Temple in Ayodhya and put an end to a legal, religious and political battle that has distracted India and, in particular, Uttar Pradesh from more urgent tasks: healthcare, education, sanitation and infrastructure.

Uttar Pradesh has a larger population than Pakistan. Its 220 million people have among the worst social and economic indicators in India. Crime is rampant. Casteism remains endemic. Under Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, law and order has improved though not as rapidly as it should have. During the Samajwadi Party government, Uttar Pradesh fell into an abyss of criminality. The statistics are stark and tell their own tale.

Research conducted by the Hyderabad-based Indian School of Business (ISB) revealed that Uttar Pradesh was safest from 1999 to 2003 when the BJP was in power. According to the report, “Since 2003 when either the BSP or SP have been in power, violent crimes in UP increased significantly at the rate of over seven per cent per annum. In comparison, Bihar which is the closest to UP in its record in crimes, registered an increase in violent crimes at three per cent per annum.”

The report’s author, Krishnamurthy Subramanian, ISB’s associate professor of finance, said that within the category of violent crimes, two particular markers assume critical significance. First, murders, kidnappings and abductions; second, crimes against women. “It is very clear from the above analysis that consecutive governments led by the  BSP and SP have exacerbated the lack of law and order in UP," writes Professor Subramanian. 

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Hindutva-plus?

Adityanath has been criticised for introducing “Hindutva-plus” in Uttar Pradesh. Contrary to the popular impression that he spends more time on the affairs of his Gorakhnath math than on governing the state, the chief minister has turned out to be a hard taskmaster. 

He begins meetings with bureaucrats at 6 am. The sessions last for several hours. The meetings reconvene at 6 pm and go on till midnight. Bureaucrats unlucky enough to be part of both the early morning and late night meetings are sleep-deprived.

Has this helped Uttar Pradesh repair, for example, its notorious healthcare system? For decades, government hospitals in Uttar Pradesh have been children’s mortuaries. Dozens of newborns fall victim to Japanese encephalitis.

As a five-time MP from Gorakhpur, Adityanath has raised in Parliament for over a decade the issue of vaccinating children against encephalitis. Now that he is chief minister, what is he doing about it? Not much.

Law and order, too, remains a seemingly intractable problem though Adityanath says policing is improving: “More than 1,200 criminals have been sent to jail since the BJP government assumed office in the state in March 2017. Police are working in their own style to establish the rule of law which is a priority of my government. The situation has improved to such an extent that investors are heading towards UP, while criminals are scurrying for cover and leaving the state or preferring to stay in jail."

Cycle of communal violence

The demolition of the Babri Masjid led to a cycle of communal violence that still simmers in pockets of Uttar Pradesh. Soon after the demolition, Muslim mobs attacked Hindu targets. In Mumbai and elsewhere there was quick and vicious retribution.

Hindu mobs roamed the streets of Mumbai (then still Bombay) in January 1993. Over three specific days, January 7-9, 1993, Muslims and their homes were targeted and destroyed. Red crosses appeared on the doors of terrified Muslims targeted by the Shiv Sena.

Two months later, the Muslim underworld took revenge. Serial bomb explosions rocked Mumbai killing over 250 people. Tiger Memon, Chhota Shakeel and Dawood Ibrahim, who plotted the attacks, have remained beyond the reach of Indian justice, protected by Pakistan.

The city has never recovered from the 1992-93 cycle of communal violence. Muslims have retreated further into ghettos in Mumbra, Bhiwandi and Dongri. Celebrities like Shabana Azmi and Javed Akhtar find it difficult to buy flats of their choice because of the deep distrust that has developed between the two communities.

On a visit to India last week, former United States President Barack Obama remarked that Indian Muslims were well integrated into Indian society unlike in other Muslim-minority countries like France, Belgium and Germany. He said India must “nurture” its Muslims.

Obama is right and wrong. If by “nurture” he means empower Muslims, he is right. If by “nurture” he means placate Muslims with sops, he is wrong. That is the quickest recipe to deepening the schism between Muslims and Hindus who have yet to come to terms with old perceived grievances going back to the brutalities of Aurangzeb and earlier Muslim invaders.

Indian Muslims are woven into India’s social and economic fabric. From the Muslim breadman and auto mechanic to the Bollywood star and iconic cricketer, Indian Muslims know in their heart of hearts that civilisationally they are Indians first. They have nothing in common with the Arabs of the Middle East who give them work but not kinship. That they find only in India.  

This must be the touchstone of a settlement over the Ram Temple. It must be built where the Babri Masjid stood. Muslims must help build it. The Shias have agreed. Sunnis must show similar grace.

Adityanath has wisely kept himself out of the controversy, leaving it to the Supreme Court to deliver its long delayed verdict. He should focus on governance. Uttar Pradesh has over 40 million Muslims. Madrasas in the state, as a recent report discovered, teach very little math and English. That must change.

Ayodhya, a town of 60,000 inhabitants, is decaying. Its Hindus and Muslims live in harmony. But along with the Ram Temple, Ayodhya needs modern schools, hospitals, infrastructure and sanitation. Lord Ram wouldn’t want it any other way.

Also read: Babri Masjid demolition set the tone for India – a future of violence

Writer

Minhaz Merchant Minhaz Merchant @minhazmerchant

The writer is the biographer of Rajiv Gandhi and Aditya Birla. He is a media group chairman and editor. He is the author of The New Clash of Civilizations

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