The Ayodhya debate was unnecessary a talk by Shri. Koenraad Elst
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Koenraad Elst

The Ayodhya debate was unnecessary: Koenraad Elst

The talk ‘Ayodhya Verdict : How the History will judge it?’ was delivered by Shri Koenraad Elst, the noted indologist and historian, at Vivekananda International Foundation on 14th December 2010 as part of its monthly talk series Vimarsha. The function was presided by Shri. K.N. Bhat, the eminent lawyer who represented the Ram Lala Virajman, (the deity at Ayodhya temple), in the Ayodhya title suit in Allahabad High court.

Shri K.N. Bhat told that the division of Ram Janambhoomi land into three parts is a compromise to avoid an immediate reaction. “The honourbale judge probably wanted to ensure that there was no trouble immediately,” he said. Shri Bhat also said in his opinion the verdict will never be shaken irrespective of whatever happens at the Apex court.

An eminent Indologist and historian from Belgium, Dr Koenraad Elst, who has been following the Ayodhya debate ever since it re-erupted in 1980s, gave an elaborate account of Ayodhya’s history and its significance for Indians as a place associated with Ram. He pointed out that any historical research was actually not necessary and the issue could have been settled on the basis of long-standing Hindu belief, which was not harming anyone.

He rued that the Hindus were asked to justify their beliefs against history and wondered if the Muslim belief about Kaaba in Mecca having been built by Adam could ever be questioned. The noted Indologist, who did his doctoral research from a catholic university in Belgium, recounted that as per Hindu tradition Ayodhya was founded by Manu. He cited Magasthense’s estimation of 6,670 BC as the year of its foundation. He emphasized that it was not just Hindus in the narrow sense of the term who identified with Ram. He cited Buddhist text of Dasharath Jatak, where Buddha was described as Rama's incarnation. He spoke of traditions of many Jain thirthankars having been related to the Sun dynasty, same as Rama. He quoted from the autobiography of the 10th Guru of Sikhs telling that Guru Nanak Dev being descendant of Kusha and Guru Gobind Singh of Lava, sons of Shri Rama.

Making a concession, he said even if one assumed that Ayodhya’s history started with Vikramaditya having rediscovered it, it was more than 2,000 years old. Elst opined that it was quite possible that a temple marking Ram Janamasthan was demolished when Ayodhya was ran over by the Mahmud Ghazni’s nephew Salar Masood Ghazni. “If you connect the dots, the first temple destruction in Ayodhya took place in 1031. Given Masood’s record, he’d have not left a temple standing there.” After Masood was defeated in Battle of Bahraich in 1035, another temple must have been built. He commented the Bahraich battle need to be researched more as it was a great victory of a grand confederacy of Hindu Kings under the leadership of King Bhoja. This is one of the many examples where we can find Hindus fighting bravely and with unity. He said this phase of history is very significant in light of the propaganda that Hindus are cowards and were never united.

Elst said that the core issue was of Muslim iconoclasm and he recalled rabidly anti-Hindu view of the Muslim rulers who, until the last Mughal, no Muslim ruler bothered to learn Indian languages. He also pressed that usage of temple pillars in mosques in Ayodhya and elsewhere was for the invaders to have the enjoyment that they took the place from the infidels.

Jumping to modern times, Elst said that despite the impression outside India that the Ayodhya movement was started by “Hindu nationalist” BJP, the case was reopened by Rajiv Gandhi government. Two developments, according to Elst, came in the way of Congress plan to please both Hindus and Muslims. The first was BJP’s confrontationist stand. The second was the campaign of the so-called secularists to deny the history of India. “A matter of fact was denied and turned into a matter of life and death by the actions of the likes of JNU historians.” He said the BJP actually dropped the issue as it was a hot potato but the rank and file went out of control in 1992. Elst also took a pot shot at media’s role during that time.

Coming at the recent verdict, he said it was not based on faith as some so-called experts were talking about, but on solid evidence. “The part I like most in the verdict is where the judge berated and reprimanded the scholars denying the history.” He expressed his apprehension about any increased crisis in the future if the land is divided.

Later, commenting on Elst’s elucidation, Shri Bhat remarked that the indologist was not involved in the issue either politically or religiously. “In my view, using cricket terminology he is the third umpire,” he said to thunderous applause.

He recalled that after the 1992 demolition, Prime Minister Narasimha Rao arranged for a presidential reference to the Supreme Court on question of pre-existence of a temple at site. When the apex court asked the government the purpose behind it, the Solicitor General said the intention was to settle the matter. The site was to be handed over to Muslims if no remains of a temple were to be found. It was to be handed over to Hindus if it was proven that a temple existed before the mosque was constructed. The SC declined to go ahead as the matter was pending before High Court. Bhat said it was the High Court which in 2003 referred the matter to Archaeology Survey of India and at that time some Hindus opposed the move. "I was asked to oppose the move. But I told them either you live with your faith or die with it." As it happened, the ASI, following a radar scan, found evidence of a preexisting temple.

Earlier, introducing the guests and the subject of Vimarsha, the VIF secretary Shri Mukul Kanitkar remarked that history is not a mere chronology of events, but an evolution of a civilization. The talk was attended by around 150 people from different walks of life. Some of the eminent persons present included Lt.Gen Nirbhay Sharma, Admiral Nayyar etc.

Event Date 
December 14, 2010
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