L K Advani is by far the shrewdest politician India has produced since Mahatma Gandhi. When he talks about pseudo-secularism he should be looking at the mirror, for no one is as pseudo about it as he, his seal of secularism to Jinnah being precious irony. He has pretty much on his own created the worst possible post-Partition partition in India. And all he had to do was ‘dream’, his word, about a temple.
But can he be called destructive when the temple has not been built after the demolition of the Babri Masjid? That is the point: it was not about constructing a mandir but creating a mindset that would think the temple stood for national honour. Most societies look on the past — including colonisation — as an unfortunate part of history. They do not want to dig graves and exhume bodies and then embalm the skeletons.
Pushing the idea of Papa Babar, Advani completely destabilised the middle-class. We question the snide commercial lobbies for using this vast segment with buying power and selling them dreams of being fair, lovely, living on EMIs to look like they are walking the ramp of luxury. Does anyone wonder about how this same middle-class was lured into believing that those they lived with for decades were children of some Mughal emperor? These people have puja rooms in a little corner of their homes, visit the local temple, go on pilgrimages, but never did they hallucinate about such a fractured fantasy.
Now, having an opinion on the Ayodhya issue has become a psychological need.
Advani’s avuncular demeanour made mythology leap out of television screens.
People who touched the feet of characters enacting the roles of gods got to see a reachable light of their ‘pride’ and bask in its reflected glory.
Those who thought heritage was frayed silk saris and yellowing photographs in steel trunks were being educated about history via archaeology.
They are looking forward to September 24, the day of the court verdict on the Ayodhya land dispute. Who does that patch of soil belong to? This is all that will be announced. The court is not taking a call on any other matter regarding the demolition or the riots. Then, why is there such a buildup?
Who is to gain? Advani and his dream machine. It includes the media – the ones who are for the Hindutva parties and those against it. The former are easy to figure out; the latter are devious. They will empathise with Muslims on unrelated issues, screech into mikes from the ‘site’ and give a running commentary. They will recreate for this middle-class a default vision and give them a version to play messiah. If you look carefully, the guys who went in hordes carrying engraved bricks and climbed the dome with hammers were the poor. Did any leader go right up there? No. Watching these scenes again gives the audience an upwardly mobile high similar to asking minions to run errands.
I was shocked to read actor Ranbir Kapoor state “It’s a big day for me but I don’t wish to celebrate on a day when such a big decision is going to be announced.” This is the cheapest trick possible to sell a film scheduled to release that day. He wants to give out ‘positive vibes’.
This is the other fallout: the elite have sneaked into the delusional middle-class cause and reduced it further to simplistic jargon. Social discourse is not their natural habitat. The slum hog millionaires fake the faking middle-class cocoon. Ayodhya is far from their reality, but as dreams go the chrysalises are quick to become mortician chroniclers.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 21st, 2010.