“Ayodhya is a major icon of Indian culture and civilisation”
“Building of Rama temple in Ayodhya is merely removal of an irritant that vexed the society since long time. But even in the absence of the temple, the idea of India and Indians was inconceivable without Maryada Purshottam, who is the role model not only for Indians but also for people in many countries including Indonesia and Cambodia. It may be described as turning point in the sense that the energies which were invested for centuries to build the temple will now be directed to build India on the lines of Ramrajya as conceived by Goswami Tulsidas in Ramcharit Manas,” said Arif Mohammad Khan, Governor of Kerala, in an exclusive interview with Deepak Kumar Rath. Excerpts:
Prime Minister Narendra Modi participated in the bhoomipujan ceremony of Ram Mandir. What message did it send out to minorities, particularly Muslims? How do you see to it?
The political terminology that uses terms like majority and minority is a colonial legacy. These terms may be appropriate for a country where there is differentiation on the basis of religious faith, but in India every citizen enjoys equality before law and equal protection of the laws, therefore using terms like minority or majority is anachronism. In a rule of law society, one with law is majority. More than religious faith, Ayodhya is a major icon of Indian culture and civilization. We are world’s largest democracy and no democratic government or its head can distance himself from events meant to promote and celebrate its culture. Dr S Radhakrishnan, our former President, has said that for us secularism does not mean showing indifference to religious faith. Indian secularism is rooted in Indian way of life and it means universal acceptance and respect for all religious traditions and denominations.
Some secularists suggested that the State should separate itself from religion. Your reaction.
The religion of India is spirituality and Sanatan tradition is defined by Spirit (¥æˆ×æ), not by a set of beliefs, religious dogma or mode of worship (Â´Í). It is an umbrella under which all kind of beliefs including Charvakis, who denied and rubbished everything other than Indians held sacred, find shelter. The religion, language, caste may be common to a group, but Spirit is common to all human beings. Swami Vivekananda says: “The essence of Vedanta is that there is One Being and every soul is that Being in full and not a part of it.” Swamiji further said that my mission is to teach unto mankind their divinity and its manifestation in all movements of life. So Indian tradition does not and cannot allow any discrimination to be made on the basis of religious faith. In the Western and Semitic tradition, the culture is defined by religion. So, in order to build an equitable society, they needed to separate state from religion. But, as I said, Indian culture is defined by spirit and religious faith and practice comes in personal domain as it has the concept of personal god. India has proclaimed not only °·¤× âÎ÷ çßÂýæ ÕãéÏæ ßÎç‹Ì but also ØÌ ×Ì ÌÌ ÂÍ, which means: “Truth is One and descriptions are many” and “there are as many faiths as there are individuals”. So it is not fair to use the western paradigm to interpret Indian secularism.
How significant was the event of Ram Mandir bhoomipujan, in your opinion? Do you think this is going to be a turning point in Indian history?
Building of Rama temple in Ayodhya is merely removal of an irritant that vexed the society since long time. But even in the absence of the temple, the idea of India and Indians was inconceivable without Maryada Purshottam, who is the role model not only for Indians but also for people in many countries including Indonesia and Cambodia. It may be described as turning point in the sense that the energies which were invested for centuries to build the temple will now be directed to build India on the lines of Ramrajya as conceived by Goswami Tulsidas in Ramcharit Manas:
Congress leader Kapil Sibal wanted on record that the judgement should be delayed, but the government wanted a timely disposal of the case and finally the judgement was delivered by the Supreme Court and there was no violence, no agitation by any of the stakeholders. What, in your opinion, made this big difference?
The second part of your question is answer to the first part. My view is that now this episode has come to a peaceful and amicable conclusion, we should join this celebration of Indian culture and not waste our time in ruminating over who said what.
The Rajiv Gandhi government got the locks of Ram Janmabhumi opened. Yet the issue lingered on for so many years. Why could the Congress government not solve the issue?
If we look at the events of 1986, it becomes clear that unlocking was done to divert attention from government decision to reverse the SC judgment in Shah Bano case and not to resolve the issue. It is beyond me to reply as to why they did not solve it.
You have worked with Rajiv Gandhi and now you are Constitutional Head of Kerala state when Narendra Modi is PM: the two most important leaders associated with the Ram Temple. What kind of difference do you see in their leadership?
I believe that such comparisons are always odious and misleading, and therefore, I do not indulge in such exercise. But what I find very refreshing about Shri Narendra Modi is that he appears to care more for harmony of mind and thought than demanding personal loyalty. I say so because since he assumed office I had met him hardly three times. With so little personal or political interaction, it was not even thinkable for me that he would ask me shoulder some important responsibility.
Some Muslim leaders even today claim that Babri Masjid still exists in Ayodhya and one day they will take it back (as happened in Turkey).
I think it is best to ignore people who keep changing their stance on a regular basis. Each one of these leaders had earlier said that they will accept the verdict of the Supreme Court and now they have again started finding fault with the judgment. In 1986, when the lock was removed as part of a deal, the Personal Law Board had refrained from any agitation. Then some members of the Board independently floated two bodies to protest in the matter. I am giving below an excerpt from the autobiography of Ali Mian, the then chairman of MPLB, who had used harsh words to denounce them for the manner in which they conducted their activities. He says: “From Islamic viewpoint, it was sheer lack of foresight and from the viewpoint of a religious community it was like committing collective suicide.” So, now if they are invoking the happenings in Turkey to create fresh tensions, the best course for us is to treat them with the contempt they deserve.