Scharada Dubey: Twist in the Ayodhya saga ahead

Print edition : December 06, 2019

Scharada Dubey.

Interview with the author Scharada Dubey.

IT is not often that a writer for children writes a book around the contentious site in Ayodhya and another on spiritual journeys undertaken by devotees of Siva. But this is exactly what Scharada Dubey has accomplished with her book Portraits from Ayodhya and more recently, Bol Bam: Approaches to Shiva. One reason for her success, cutting across genres, is her ability to say things as they are without mincing words, or resorting to hyperbole. “More than two decades after trained youth pulled down the Babri Masjid and threw our Republic into turmoil, we have failed, as Indian citizens and believing Hindus, in protesting what takes place in the name of ‘faith’ around us today. If we are unable to say out loud that today’s protectors of the cow are destroyers of our faith, then indeed, Hindu khatre mein hain [Hinduism is in danger],” she recently said.

After the Supreme Court judgment on the Ayodhya dispute, she worries for the residents of Ayodhya, who, she says, only talk of normalcy in conversations with outsiders, but actually worry for their businesses and township. Excerpts from an interview she gave Frontline:

As a writer who has lived in Faizabad for a few years, and visited Ayodhya regularly, how do you think the Supreme Court judgment will impact life in Ayodhya?

Every time a judgment on the Ayodhya title suit was due, life became difficult for the residents of the town, with massive police and paramilitary presence turning the town into a garrison zone. I saw this first-hand in September 2010, when people bought rations to last a long curfew.Casual labourers returned to their villages and many business activities slowed down as shops did not want to stock extra goods during a perceived lean period. This time, the restrictions on movement within Ayodhya continue to this day. Police and paramilitary personnel check all those who enter the town, and a government ID like Aadhaar or driving licence has to be produced on demand. The autorickshaws that ferry people from Faizabad to Ayodhya have been suspended and remain so. While people in other parts of India can forget about the temple dispute or the Supreme Court verdict, Ayodhya residents do not have that luxury. On the surface, all Ayodhya residents will say they are happy that the verdict has cleared the way for a temple. But further conversation reveals that they have misgivings about the changes a huge temple will bring, what land will be acquired and who will stand to lose. At present, fear prevents any open display of dissatisfaction. But the worries undoubtedly exist.

Can you elaborate on what happened on the night of December 22-23, 1949, when the court also agrees, the Babri Masjid was desecrated?

That night, a group of persons led by Baba Abhiramdas, a sadhu from Bihar, smuggled four idols representing Sri Ram as a child along with his brothers, into the Babri Masjid. This was a simple break and entry operation but the placing of the idols made it a matter of competing claims of faith. Before he died, Baba Abhiramdas had appointed his disciple, Baba Dharamdas, as his successor, and urged him to do whatever needed to be done for a Ram temple to be built at the spot. This is what laid the foundation for the land grab by Baba Dharamdas of portions of the site that traditionally belonged to the Nirmohi Akhara, according to the title suit. Baba Dharamdas also destroyed important land related documents and later gave up the portion of the land he had forcibly occupied to the Vishwa Hindu Parishad.

The Supreme Court held the 1992 demolition of the masjid to be an illegal act. This has led to renewed focus on the role of BJP leaders L.K. Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Uma Bharati on the fateful day. How do you see the Muslim side getting justice in the issue?

As a resident of Faizabad-Ayodhya, I have heard many eyewitness accounts of December 6, 1992. All of these gave some idea of the preparation for the demolition and the sequence of events on the day itself with these leaders giving inflammatory speeches on the site. In my view, not only Muslims, but all citizens of India cannot hope for justice until the inciters and architects of the criminal act of demolition are punished for their acts and hate speeches.

In your book “Portraits from Ayodhya”, you argue that Paramhans Ramchandra Das and Hashim Ansari were merely legal opponents over what was essentially a property dispute. They are even said to have shared a car on the way to the hearings. But it, obviously, did not remain a mere property dispute. Does their succeeding generation retain the same feeling of camaraderie?

Yes, I found that property disputes are common among Ayodhya residents. Paramhans Ramchandra Das and Hashim Ansari were good friends. If the case had not become so politicised, it would have been confined to Ayodhya and would not have turned into a nationwide dispute spanning decades. About camaraderie on the ground, a large measure is retained even today, but it will be difficult to convince Muslims not only in Ayodhya but anywhere in India, that they live in a secular society with equal opportunity for all. It is very clear now that we are operating with a majoritarian agenda on all issues that matter.

As somebody who has enjoyed going to Hanuman Garhi steps and also doing parikrama every November, how far do you think the court is right in taking seriously the accounts of a traveller in deciding a dispute as serious as the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi case?

I will have to study the judgment in detail to be able to opine on any importance the learned judges have given to the accounts of a traveller or historian. All I know is that much compelling evidence available even through the Archaeological Survey of India excavation has been ignored. After all, the excavation had produced evidence of a Baudh Vihar at the site, but this Buddhist part of our heritage has not found space in the verdict.

Finally, is there a future in Ayodhya for the likes of Yugal Kishore Shastri who was party “to an unforgivable crime”, and later started organising sadbhavana camps?

Shastri ji will continue to stay in his humble Ram Janki Mandir and have the same friends and foes he always did. When he fell seriously ill a couple of years back, there was much concern about his health from well-wishers in Ayodhya and across the country. In fact, it is the other Hindutva sadhus who are full of disquiet. They are not happy with the idea of a sarkari [government] trust being responsible for the temple. Nritya Gopal Das, who heads the Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas, has declared he will not be a part of such a trust. The representatives of the Hindu Mahasabha petitioner, Gopal Singh Visharad, have decided to appeal the verdict, as has the Nirmohi Akhara. There is a twist in the Ayodhya saga ahead yet.


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