Harsimran kaur  ON  Feb 14, 2023, IN BOOK REVIEW, AYODHYA: PAST AND PRESENT BY SUTAPA MUKHERJEE-NON FICTION

Rating: 3.5/5

What’s a mind whose profligacy of religious intoxication benefits its intemperate soul?

Impenitent maybe, or a bit incongruous to validate a shady belongingness to the disconnected demurs of life. We forget that the petals plucked from the benevolent flower still retain the fragrance when undergird by the corrugated roots. It still carries the flannel of its skin which is now its own, isolated from its origin.  Our religious ideologies are likes these festooned petals that have labelled ‘GOD’ as a fascist. This idee-fixe popped by a discordant mind act like malignant polyps inconspicuously attached to the vast fundus of the will-o’ –the-wisp up in the heavens. 

Whose fault is it anyway when tall heap of bludgeons, toxic words and reprehensible actions make religion a political whip-sack? The petals of ‘Hindu-Muslim Unity’ lie barren on the ground. The scruples of Muslim invasion has proffered a new petal that today lies tendentiously over the affirmative alliance of Ganga-Jamuni Tehzeeb. And, what do our so called moral crusaders do? They try hard to fix the irredentist petal of ‘Hindutva’ by excavating the root that considers all its uproots as equal.

The roots of ‘Ayodhya’ are debilitated today. The Supreme Court verdict of ‘Ram Janambhoomi-Babri Masjid’ dispute in 2019 was a stentorian call to put the ineluctable fiery petal back to the enshrined city, purging a sclerotic Hindutva simulacrum. Is Ayodhya only a Hindu pilgrim city that conjures a spell of ‘ram bhakts’, ‘akharas’ and ‘saffron clad benedicts and the anachronistic sadhus’

  • Why the cacophony of ‘Jai Shri Ram’ is an overwhelming prelude to the atavistic reprises of other religious sects?
  • Is Ram Janambhoomi the only fibrillated muscle that holds the diverse ligaments of ‘Ayodhya city’?

Sutapa Mukherjee in her book ‘Ayodhya: Past and Present’ leaves these questions open-ended. She finally crosses all the tributaries that run timidly in the city to decipher if each has a different story to tell. The ‘Ram Janambhoomi-Babri Masjid’ is just one tributary and many others flow in denial. But, a cluster of all these invigorates the ‘Ayodhya City’; it’s past—a gallimaufry of unprejudiced embrace and parsimonious neglect, and its present—a delinquent stream of obnoxious demagoguery and nationalism of whataboutery persual. 

The Ayodhya of today is reflective of skirmishes and objectionable ideological patterns between the Hindus and the minorities. The past, though, tells a different story. Privilege is a ‘deuce’ that makes the less tolerant to revive the extremities of its emotions to grasp what the benefactor holds. This is so true of the cascades of ‘cow vigilantes’, ‘mob lynching’, ‘sabotaging the mosques’. For what? It is an obsession to restructure ‘Hindu era’ by defining it as ‘pure nationalism’.  Isn’t it the primary reason that emboldens the ram bhakts to demonize the Muslim invasion as a creepy casus belli?

Subtle nuances in the book tap back and forth to gallop the rope in directions to give a true account of the peril Ayodhya is in today. The author feels for the forsaken minorities but is not in denial of the verdict either. But, recriminations have now become a part of ‘Hindu-Muslim’ belonging’ in the city. The sadhus feel alienated and the minorities are mocked at their eccentricities to call the city as their own. The questions still hover like a full spinning fan:

  • Is invasion a liability we carry all our lives?
  • Is God’s abode a fractured reality that we arbitrarily clamp down as per our ideological vainglory?
  • What about nationalism. Is it an ideology or an unprejudiced love for where we belong?
  • Why don’t we liberate ourselves of polemics on authenticating religious structures? The malignant act is an ephemeral pleasure—tombs and turfs are provincial identities of God.

It’s the mind alone that creates drift—the tempest of the VHP created the dire need of a ‘Ram temple’ where Babri masjid once existed. It was merely to ingratiate the belonging to a ‘Hindu Country’.

The verdict too seems a bit straight-laced creating punctures of inequities and separatism. The author looks into these paradigms disinterring the authenticity of emotions. 

TAKE AWAY

Religion should not become a pre-dominant power that it starts governing the social sentiments of the people. Why a city has to be defined by its religious inclination or how the rabble-rousers initiate a politically driven religious caravan. Ayodhya is a city for all religious identities and labelling it as a ‘Hindutva cult’ foments diabolical strep to vanquish the idea of true secularism.

Fastidiously researched pouring in a through reality-check of the extrapolated city! 

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