Chapter I: Science Versus Secularism. Temple Denial Before and After the Ayodhya Excavations

In India, political incidents frequently pit Hindu nationalism, or even just plain Hinduism and plain nationalism, against so-called “secularism”. In practice, this term denotes a combine of Islamists, Hindu-born Marxists and consumericanized one-dimensionalists who share a hatred of Hindu culture and Hindu self-respect. What passes for secularism in India is often the diametrical opposite of what goes by the same name in the West. Recent events in the Ayodhya temple/mosque controversy confirm the disingenuous character of Indian secularism.

1.1 Introduction: secularism and the Ayodhya excavations

Genuine secular states have equality before the law of all citizens regardless of religion. By contrast, India has different civil codes depending on the citizen’s religion. Thus, for Christians it is very hard to get a divorce, Hindus and Muslim women can get one through judicial proceedings, and Muslim men can simply repudiate their wives. The secular alternative, a common civil code, is championed by the Hindu nationalists. It is the so-called secularists who, justifying themselves with specious sophistry, join hands with the most obscurantist religious leaders to insist on maintaining the present unequal system. Likewise, legal inequality in matters of temple management, pilgrimage subsidies, special autonomy for states depending on their populations’ religious composition, and the right to found religious schools is defended by the so-called secularists (because it is invariably to the disadvantage of the Hindus) while the Hindu nationalists favour the secular alternative of equality regardless of religion. In India, sharia-wielding Muslim clerics whose Arab counterparts denounce secularism as the ultimate evil, call themselves secularists. Just as the word deception differs in meaning from its French counterpart déception (= disappointment), the word secularism has a sharply different meaning in Indian English as compared to metropolitan English.

The point is illustrated once more in the contrived controversy about the recent archaeological findings at the contentious temple/mosque site in Ayodhya, believed to be the birthplace of the deified hero Rama. Here, the supposed Hindu fundamentalists have been abiding by the findings of science, while the so-called secularists have been on the opposite side, the side of dogmatism and obscurantism.

The Hindu claim and the Muslim counterclaim to the disputed site have been sub judice at the High Court of Allahabad since 1950, weeks after Hindus had taken control of the mosque by installing statues of Rama, his wife Sita and his brother Lakshman. On 22 August 2003, after 53 years of judicial pussyfooting, the Archaeological Survey of India handed a highly sensitive report to the Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court. The ASI had been mandated by the Court to excavate the foundation level underneath and around the demolished Babri Masjid in Ayodhya. This mosque, attributed to the Moghul dynasty’s founder Babar (1528) was deconstructed in 1992 by Hindu activists eager to see a temple built right there.

In the winter of 2002-2003, the Court had secretly ordered a search of the site with a ground-penetrating radar by the company Tojo Vikas International Ltd., which had gained fame with its role in the construction of the Delhi underground railway. Canadian geophysicist Claude Robillard concluded from the scans that “there is some structure under the mosque” (Rediff.com, 19 March 2003). The Court then ordered the archaeologists to verify these findings in greater detail. If you expected secularists to welcome this replacement of bickering between religious hotheads with the objectivity of a scientific investigation, the subsequent developments provide you with an opportunity to learn.

 

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