Sixteen years have passed by since the day when the Babri Masjid was demolished in Ayodhya. At that time, such events were not marked as 9/11 and 26/11 or else 6/12 would have been a legend by now, marked for all the things that communal hatred symbolises
Sixteen years have passed by since that day. Days then were not marked as 9/11 and 26/11 or else 6/12 would have been legend by now, as a day not just black marked for all the things that the day has any way come to be associated with but also as the day when a section of our own people literally took hammer and tongs and smashed a piece of our own heritage and history.
The towering Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan were destroyed in March 2001. These giant statues had been standing since about the 5th century BC and had withstood ravages of time and invasions through the centuries. Then one fine morning, the Taliban decided that these images were not in consonance with the spirit of Islam and off they went. The way Khaleid Husseini describes the statues in his book ‘The Kite Runner’ where he talks about how he went picnicking there as a child and then the giant vacuum in the hillside when he read the news that the giant statues had been demolished.
This episode is not about fundamentalism or terrorism or communal divides. It is simply about the way, in which we view our history and culture and the way we seem to presume that with a few blows of the hammer, we can shape or alter our history and our legacy. No one knows conclusively as to who really had constructed the mosque – Babur or his commander or anyone else but does it matter? Just as no one knows the exact spot where Ram was born or Krishna was born but that doesn’t matter, they are venerated anyway, so the mosque that was destroyed on December 6, was part of our past, our heritage.
Similar thoughts could be said of the attack on the Taj Mahal
Hotel in Mumbai. Maybe those involved were foreign nationals, the picture is still muddled on that point but the fact here is that when the Taj Mahal Hotel was built in 1906, there was of course only one country – India. The hotel – a potent, very visible symbol of Indian nationalistic pride and entrepreneurship, was once considered the finest hotel in Asia and was the first building to be electrified in the country. The damage to the building’s antiques, library and other memorabilia are still being assessed but it is safe to say that though the hotel may be repaired and reconstructed, there is no question of restoring it to its former glory.
India has no shortage of history and historical monuments. Everyday, in some corner of the country some monument, some artifact is being damaged, destroyed or encroached upon because we have neither the resources nor it would seem the historical consciousness, to preserve and keep them to bequeath them to future generation.
But December 6, is a day to weep as the day when some of our own people decided that the unpalatable parts of our history – when we had lost sovereignty, lost political power and been subjugated – and all the monuments and symbols associated with them do not deserve a life; they deserve to be physically annihilated. On December 6, in Ayodhya, a bunch of Hindus destroyed a Muslim monument. In March, 2001, a bunch of Muslims having learnt their lesson well it would seem from Ayodhya, blew up the Bamiyan Buddhas. Maybe there was a direct connection between the two -- maybe there was none. But on both occasions, an immense piece of our heritage was lost and like Humpty Dumty, all the world’s efforts and archaeologists can never ever bring them back to life again.