Wednesday, September 29, 2010


18 years ago, a mosque was felled. Several hundred years before that, apparently a temple was felled to make way for the said mosque. And the debate on who wronged who is what is being fought out in courts. And the verdict apparently is to come out today. Honestly, after all these years, no one really bothers about what comes up there, since whether it is a temple or a mosque, neither of these structures is going to assist in developing Ayodhya! The whole case seems like a piece of mockery. Why? We're actually debating who that piece of land belongs to - Babar or Lord Ram!

The history in a nutshell is this - Once upon a time, and archaeological remains apparently substantiate this fact, there existed a temple at the disputed site at Ayodhya (this is a point that the verdict will prove). Then one fine day someone during Babar's regime (whether it was Babar himself or someone else will be proven in the verdict) decided to build a mosque in that exact same place. When the British were ruling India, in 1885, the first suit was filed, when Mahant Raghubar Das wanted to build a raised platform here, and this was dismissed by the Brits saying you can't argue something from so long ago! The we got busy trying to get independence and then in 1949, once the ghosts of the Raj had started vanishing, some people decided to again rake up this old issue, only this time, breaking the seals and installing idols of Ram in the mosque. Then again, we got busy with underdevelopment, protectionism, terrible economic policies, grappling with debt etc etc, till one day in 1992, just after the reforms that opened India to the world, a bunch of Hindu fanatics, who perhaps had no other agenda to get their 2 minutes of fame went ahead and demolished the Babri Mosque. What followed was a period of 6 months every Indian would be better off forgetting, since it just highlighted the level of intolerance an Indian was capable of, all in the name of something as subjective and personal as religion!

So, now, after all these years, while glaring issues like bringing to final justice, the 26/11 accused terrorist Ajmal Kasab and trying to salvage India's pride at the Commonwealth Games continue to exist, we are too busy burdening the courts with this property dispute! And all this years and years after each of these said entities staked their claim on this property. If someone were able to talk to God, and were to ask Lord Ram whether, as the King of the World, (He had performed the Ashwamedh Yagna to mark himself as an emperor, who ruled the world), was seriously interested in those 67.7 acres of land, in all probability, He'd give a resounding NO! Likewise, Babar might not have cared as much for these 67.7 acres. He was one who gave up his life to save his son by arranging a direct barter with God. Do you think he could not have gotten those 67.7 acres free, from God?

When both the supposedly wronged entities don't bother, I wonder why the descendants of each of these religions bother so much. Why did someone, in the intoxication of supremacy raze a temple and why some others intoxicated by fanaticism raze this mosque? Again, when Muslims weave the garlands that are made for Ram's idol in that temple, why do others who don't stay anywhere close to Ayodhya decide to take to arms and weapons and hold a whole country to ransom? At the end of the day, when the going gets tough, every available God's help is most opportune. Then why the distinction? People have chosen to stay off the roads, traffic is thin, men in khaki swarm the streets. And everyone trembles at the mention of the terms Ayodhya and Babri Masjid. They are scared of repercussions akin to those that plagued a whole year after the demolition! In fact the riots of 1992, the serial bomb blasts of 1993, why, even Godhra as late as 2002, are said to be after effects of the demolition.

But in some ways, one needs a closure to this issue. On one hand, a Hindu can argue asking why he cannot have the right to have a temple at the birthplace of his beloved God. But then, one can ask, why that exact spot? Is the spot decidedly THE place where Lord Ram was born? He can argue again, asking why high-handed Muslims had to demolish a temple in the first place and say that he wants to be compensated for this. A Muslim can argue that in present days, when every Indian is allowed to have his place of worship, how could his place of worship be desecrated? And that he wants it to be reinstated. If a mosque were to come up again, Hindus, who have always maintained that they are the only majority that has never ever had its way will feel wronged again. They would feel that an age-old wrong has still not been righted. If a temple were to come up, then just like it happened in Shah Bano case, people would read the verdict with eyes tinted in a shade of 'vote-bank democracy'. Then again, no one really wants such a religious structure there. Let us have a simple empty prayer hall, where Hindus and Muslims pray together. Or let us have a unique structure with Ram's idols and a Tabut in them and have both religions pray to both symbols! At the place that has been the birthplace of communal tension, let us sow the seeds of communal harmony!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Corruption Wrought Games

India is more often than not associated with happy endings. From candy floss movies, where strife in a family ends with everyone giving everyone else a big hug to the inevitable cricket match where somehow, India manages to turn a corner and win. But somewhere, this obsession with happy endings has perhaps led us into becoming delusional!

The Commonwealth games form the perfect example. Somehow the organizers took the meaning of the word Commonwealth literally. Too literally! The Telegraph had this interesting timeline - »Nov 2003 New Delhi beats Hamilton, Canada, for right to stage the 2010 Games, after promising to give each country $100,000.

»Oct 2007 It emerges that work on the athletes’ village is yet to begin, while the new stadium cannot be built yet as the old one is still standing.

»Nov 2008 The Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) insists the Games will go ahead despite the Mumbai terror attacks, in which at least 175 people are killed.

»Sept 2009 The Indian government reveals that two-thirds of venues are running late.

»Oct 2009 Michael Fennell, president of the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF), gives Delhi a final warning over the delays and sets up a review panel to monitor progress.

»Dec 2009 Sir Paul Stephenson, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, visits Delhi and is said to have voiced “serious concerns” over the security arrangements.

»Feb 2010 Al-Qaeda’s Pakistani arm directly threaten the Games, warning that athletes and spectators who attend will face “consequences”.

»April 2010 Indian officials ban teams from bringing their own armed security staff with them, although security advisors will be permitted.

»May 2010 Officials warn that the Nehru Stadium and aquatics centre may not be finished in time, after the CGF identify 38 ’critical issues’.

»July 2010 The first venue is completed, over 14 months behind schedule.

»Sept 2010 Organisers play allay fears about a dengue fever outbreak in the city. Meanwhile, two Taiwanese tourists are injured when gunmen fire at a bus in Delhi. Hours later a car bomb explodes nearby. Police blame the attacks on “disgruntled youths”.

We had bid for the event 7 years ago. 7 years is enough to transform any place. Bangalore is a classic case in point - from a retirees paradise it has been transformed into a bustling IT hub within a decade. So achieving the target of rising to the fore on the surge of the games seemed possible.Not just for the romantic mind that believed in the power of belief, but even for the practical minded ones, who wanted proof of feasibility.

But one small point that had been forgotten, was the fact that Bangalore grew on the basis of free economic forces and that free markets ensured that demand met supply and caused a point of developmental equilibrium. In case of CWG, Classical Economics was left to the wind and the Government had stepped in! So by all definitions, things were bound to go haywire. That any form of intervention causes serious chaos is true and instances of the same can be seen on Mumbai roads as well - signals manned by cops are almost always in a state of chaos. But this story got all the more murky, just because everyone has been too busy with kickbacks and corruption over the past 7 years. And suddenly when the event was 7 months away, people felt that they had to somehow pull it off! And our belief in Karan Joharesqe stories made us believe we might just be ready with the whole village and infrastructure by the D-Day at a fraction of the cost, since most of the money had already been spent filling pockets!

And now, we're at a point of no return. It is going to be an embarrassment no matter what! If the event fails, India will never be a strong contender for any event of world consequence, except of course the Cricket World Cup, which has the blessings of the BCCI and having already greased the necessary palms, it will go on without any hitches. If we pull off the CWG, the victory will forever be tainted by the intense story of corruption, broken bridges, potholes, dengue, and athletes concerned about their own safety. If anything good is to come out of this mess, let's just hope that the world realizes the corrupt society we live in in India, with black money propping up the vibrant Indian economy. And let's hope India manages to salvage it's pride by refraining from any future attempts at showcasing itself in the global arena, since the showcase primarily has skeletons!

P.S. It really disgusts me to portray such a picture of my own country, which, save for such terrible ethics is a wonderful place to be in!