Culture, Community, Nation: On the Ruins of Ayodhya^
The brief given to me by the organisers of this workshop is that I should attempt to 'synthesize . . . the key issues that the workshop seeks to address.' I doubt that any one paper can offer such a synthesis, but a point of sharp focus is already implicit in the choice of dates for the workshop itself, for, these dates impel us to think of the categories of Culture, Community and Nation not abstractly but with some specific reference to the destruction of Babri Masjid a year ago; what that destruction has come to mean; and all that has happened in the country since then, at different sites of community, culture and nation. So, we might as well begin by reflecting on the ambiguities of the circumstance in which this meeting is being convened.
The occasion is, of course, the memory of that day of national shame a year ago which was perpetrated in the name of the majority community and Hindu cultural redemption. I shall return to that memory in some detail presently, but we should recall also that the day was quickly followed by months of that familiar kind of bloodletting which we have come to call 'the communal riot', culminating in the burning of Bombay, which has been, despite Shiv Sena, the chief locus pf our modernity. Cumulatively, communal violence was more widespread in India during the three months that elapsed immediately after the destruction of Babri Masjid than at any other point since the Partition. The year was, in other words, long and grim.
But the immediate backdrop to our gathering here is the election in the four Northern states where the BJP itself had described the elections, especially in U.P., as a referendum on the masjid/mandir
* Senior Fellow, Centre for Contemporary Studies, Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, New Delhi.
**This is a revised version of a presentation in the workshop on Culture, Community and Nation organised by the Deccan Development Society from 6 to 9 December 1993 in Hyderabad. Here, I extend the argument I began formulating in an earlier lecture/article entitled 'Fascism and National Culture: Reading Gramsd in the Days of Hindutva (Social Scientist, Nos. 238-39, March-April 1993).
Social Scientist, Vol. 21, Nos. 7-8, July-August, 1993