Social Scientist. v 18, no. 200-01 (Jan-Feb 1990) p. 76.


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DOCUMENT

The Political Abuse of History^

Babri Masjid-Rama Janmabhumi Dispute

Behind the present Babri masjid-Rama Janmabhumi controversy lie issues of faith, power and politics. Each individual has a right to his or fier belief and faith. But when beliefs claim the legitimacy of history, then the historian has to attempt a demarcation between the limits of belief and historical evidence. When communal forces make claims to 'historical evidence* for the purposes of communal politics, then the historian has to intervene.

Historical evidence is presented here not as a polemic or as a solution to the Rama janmabhumi-Babri masjid conflict, for this conflict is not a matter of historical records alone. The conflict emerges from the widespread communalization of Indian politics. Nevertheless it is necessary to review the historical evidence to the extent it is brought into play in the communalization of society.

Is Ayodhya the birth place of Rama? This question raises a related one: Is present day Ayodhya the Ayodhya of Ramayana?

The events of the story of Rama, originally told in the Rama-Katha which is no longer available to us, were rewritten in the form of a long epic poem, the Ramayana, by Valmiki. Since this is a poem and much of it could have been fictional, including characters and places, historians cannot accept the personalities, the events or the locations as historically authentic unless there is other supporting evidence from sources regarded as more reliable by historians. Very often historical evidence contradicts popular beliefs.

According to Valmiki Ramayana, Rama, the King of Ayodhya, was born in the Treta Yuga, that is thousands of years before the Kali Yuga which is supposed to begin in 3102 BC.

* Issued By Sarvepalli Copal, Romila Thapar, Bipan Chandra, Sabyasachi Bhattacharya, Suvira Jaiswal, Harbans Mukhia, K.N. Panikkar, R. Champakalakshmi, Satish Saberwal, B.D. Chattopadhyaya, R.N. Verma, K. Meenakshi, Muzaffar Alam, Dilbagh Singh, Mridula Mukherjee, Madhavan Palat, Aditya Mukherjee, S.F. Ratnagar, Neeladri Bhattacharya, K.K. Trivedi, Yogesh Sharma, Kunal Chakravarti, Bhagwan Josh, Rajan Gurukkal and Himanshu Ray. (Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi)



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