The scars from centuries of violence refused to heal which is why the fight for Ram Janmabhoomi never died down.
Rajat Mitra is a clinical psychologist who has worked with Islamic militants and radicalised youth on one hand and survivors of mass violence and genocide on the other. He has worked on how societies transfer trauma across generations and was given the Ashoka fellowship for working on criminal justice reforms in India. He is also the author of "The Infidel Next Door", the story of a Hindu pujari who visits the land of his forefathers in Kashmir.
What do you say of a people who carry on a movement over a piece of land for over half a millennium? What explains the fact that they neither forgot the significance of the land nor the amount of atrocities to give up their claims on the land? That Mughal rule, Colonial rule, oppression and genocidal violence had no deterrence to their hope that one day they will regain it back.
The Ram Mandir is perhaps the only example in human history when a people struggled and fought for a period of over five hundred years to regain a piece of land from their invaders who had destroyed one of their holiest spots and thought they had exterminated their religion.
The Hindus simply didn’t give up. They didn’t accept defeat in the face of overwhelming odds, even when their *own* historians were not on their side. Even though they felt discouraged and heartbroken during the long Mughal and Colonial rule when power was not in their hands, they held on tenaciously to their symbols of hope and never let despair overtake them. How do we explain it?
Welcome to the new Hindu. A one who is emerging from the ashes of history, from the dark woods of despair as the poets called it. He is claiming the human rights that were taken away from him. It is a spirit that I would call unparalleled in the history of mankind. Mocked and persecuted like a slave, told that he is a savage and no better, intolerant and cruel, he today proved everyone wrong with their prophecies coming to nothing. Has the time finally come for the Hindu and his civilisation to assert himself?
I believe so and I am not the only one who dreams like that today. I believe we symbolise one of the most valuable lessons to mankind and that is to never give up hope.
The Hindu has gone through genocidal violence that almost exterminated his existence. It is denied by the world. Period. He has been enslaved, tortured and brutalised where his Islamic and Christian invaders tried to annihilate his civilisation. It is a miracle how he adapted and navigated through all those hardships and adversities. After centuries of oppression, he is finally telling the world why he continued to resist in the face of historical oppression, till his last breath.
To me, the credit for the verdict on Ram Janmabhoomi goes to the unknown Hindu. The unknown ‘kar sevak’ who braved bullets, the sadhus who bore the lathis, the unknown man from the village who saved money to send a brick for the temple. It is they who kept the flame of the movement alive, hoping for the day when Shri Ram will be restored to his birthplace.
The temple, when it is built, will represent and stand for much more, it will be a testament to man’s courage in the face of religious persecution. It will bring hope to generations who may feel despondent about their oppression. It will be a symbol for the persecuted minorities and majorities worldwide to continue their struggle and regain lost heritage. To all Hindus barring a few, it will be a symbol of devotion, hope and resilience.
To some it may become a symbol of shame, that is if they have that in the first place, an atonement, a reminder of what they ought to have done being a Hindu but never did so. They were the ones who distorted history, fought against the truth of the excavations.
Hindu society has come a long way since the first temples were destroyed by the Islamic invaders centuries ago. Our society has been in grief, traversing from denial to rage to bargaining and rationalisation, as Elizabeth Kubler Ross explained it half a century ago through her 'stages of grief'. This grief has made the Hindu society stronger, more resilient and able to withstand the adversities that colonialism, persecution and atrocities bring along with it.
It is time we acknowledge this resilience in our own. It runs in our blood and bones. We may have a thousand faults in ourselves as people, some real, some imaginary, but we still need to tell ourselves, our children and our future generations that we are a people who simply don’t give up when faced with obstacles. With the exception of Jewish people, there are possibly very few people like us. That our Vedas, our books have left something permanent, a residue, however small, within us that psychologically prepares us, ready to bounce back with each fall despite a thousand obstacles that may come in the way. It didn’t make us feel conceited and egoistic, but perhaps a little naive that we fail to acknowledge the greatness of our civilisation that our ancestors created and one that may be forgotten.
What is unique about the Ram Janmabhoomi site? I believe, one of the things that apart from being the birthplace of Sri Ram, it is a sacred space with a memory that didn’t die and showed it can never be destroyed.
Many years ago I had gone and knelt in front of the Ram Janmabhoomi. A strange feeling had taken over me. It was as if the space was telling me ‘I don’t have to justify my existence to you or anyone. I am there in your heart. It is you, who have to justify the sacrifice of those who died in my name’.
At that moment, I felt it was as if the bhoomi just didn’t tell me the story of a temple destroyed but the entire story of Hinduism.
I had realised what the ancient Hindus, my ancestors, would have felt hundreds of years ago as their temples were destroyed before they began to live in terror as they felt the threat of conversion.
The Ram Janmabhoomi trial apart from being one of the longest-running trials in history is also important for another reason. It represents a crime against humanity, a genocidal crime whose purpose was to erase the very existence of a people, their religion and culture. The tragic fact is, continues through other methods today in the form of mass conversions and the building of numerous religious structures that do not preach co-existence between faiths.
Many years ago I had visited a concentration camp in Germany. Outside the gate, there was a sign written ‘never again’. Showing me a large number of school children, my guide told me it was meant for the future generations so that no one ever dares to do it again. Should we also not have museums next door? Should we not create a memorial to the unknown ‘kar sevak’ who gave his life? Maybe only then will it tell our children the true story of what it means to uphold freedom. Shouldn’t the Ram temple, Somnath temple be the places where history should be taught to all our children so that they begin to say ‘never again’?
‘Never Again’ maybe the two most important words that we need to learn if we have to preserve our civilisation. I ask that we start teaching it to our future generations.