Mandal, Mandir aur Masjid: 'Hindu' Communalism and the Crisis of the State
Revanchist 'Hinduism* has sought in the weeks just gone by, to remedy a perceived historical wrong at the hands of the Muslims, by unleashing its frenzied hordes on the Babri Masjid at Ayodhya. It has roused these mobs to action through the totalising and homogenising slogan of a nation drowning its cultural diversities in a wave of Ram bhakti. In its estimation, obeisance to a primeval hero requires that symbols of other belief systems be removed from the sacred space that is being consecrated as his birthplace. Whether this mythological hero ever had a corporeal existence is immaterial. Whether the spot claimed as his birthplace actually was so, is unimportant. What matters is that a miniscule segment believes that it can whip a frenzy around the issue, hectoring and terrorising the majority into assent.
This is the latest manifestation of the majoritarian myth—the idea that there is a coalescence of interests between the vast majority of the nation, on the basis of faith alone. 'Hindu* unity thus becomes the substratum of the national consensus, and the religious minorities would have to yield before assertions of 'Hindu* rights. Within the terms of this idiom, a proud symbol of a medieval Indian dynasty is easily cast as a 'symbol of national shame*, which obscures the primordial 'Hindu* solidarity from which the Indian nation derives its identity.
Significantly, this majoritarian consensus—however virulent its manifestations—cannot transcend the level of ritualism. The question has often crossed the minds of those concerned with national unity, and today it needs to be posed afresh: when the Vishwa Hindu Parishad is through with its dance macabre, when it has—in the worst-case scenario—demolished the Babri Masjid and erected its monument to architectural kitsch in its place, what statement would it have made about the lives and livelihoods of the 'majority* on whose behalf it
* Journalist based in Delhi.
Social Scientist, Vol. 18, No. 10, October 1990