QUITE OFTEN, the role of religion in the matter of maintaining peace and inter-religious harmony in many countries is considered to be rather a negative one.
As pertinently pointed out by Jonathan Swift, people seem to have enough religion just to hate one another, but not enough to make the people love one another.
While making an analytical study of the irony and paradox of this situation, a well-known thinker Colton, referring to the apathy of the people concerned, had observed that people love to write for their religion, fight for their religion, and even die for their religion. The people, in fact, do anything but live for their religion.
Unfortunately, even India, which from time immemorial has been noted for maintaining a unique record of "unity in diversity" based on its ancient philosophy of Sarva Dharma Samabhav (respect for all religions), has been adversely affected by this situation.
A brief discussion about the so-called Temple-Mosque dispute at Ayodhya, with reference to the subject of inter-religious participation for peace, would be relevant.
Having personally lived through the nightmare of communal riots and bloodshed in Mumbai during December 1992 and January 1993, following the demolition of the Babri Masjid at Ayodhya on December 6, 1992, it is my fervent hope and prayer that a national tragedy like this shall never be allowed to happen again.
For a rational analysis of the problem, it would be necessary to have a brief survey of the facts in the context of its relevant historical background.
The Babri Masjid was constructed during the 15th century by General Mir Baqi, on behalf of Mughal Emperor Babar, for use by the troops of the Mughal Army. It is noteworthy that Babar had fought against the Pathan King Ibrahim Lodhi, who was the ruler of the Delhi kingdom, and killed him in the battle at Panipat. Needless to state, Babar was just a Mughal King, and was neither an Islamic missionary, nor a Muslim "hero", as wrongly imagined by certain politically motivated parties and persons. It was a gross misrepresentation of historical facts to state that Muslims in India owed their loyalty to Babar, and behaved like "Babar ki aulad" or "progeny of Babar", while showing their love and regard for the mosque built in his name at Ayodhya.
Regarding Shri Ram, the hero of India's ancient epic Ramayana, it would not at all be correct for anyone to think that he belongs to any one particular community, since like all the other great religious leaders of the world, he belonged to the entire humanity. As such, it was absurd to draw any comparison between Shri Ram and Babar, and there was absolutely no sense in linking the name of either to the matter, for discussing the merits of the case.
It is unfortunate that a matter of religious nature has been allowed to assume political overtones to become a "dispute", often threatening to disturb the atmosphere of peace and harmony in the country.
It is imperative that concerted efforts are made by all the peace loving people in the country to find an amicable solution to the problem, in accordance with the best spiritual traditions of the religions.
The Viswa Hindu Parishad leaders had declared that they want the construction of the temple to be started at the disputed site before next Shivaratri (i.e, March 2002).
They have also declared that no judicial verdict will be acceptable to them, since it was a matter of their faith.
On the other hand, leaders of the Babri Mosque Action Committee and Muslim Personal Law Board, while expressing their willingness to abide by the court verdict, have also declared that they are not prepared for any compromise about their plan to rebuild the mosque at the disputed site.
While stating that the construction of Ram temple at Ayodhya has become a matter of "national sentiment" (Rashtra Bhavana) the Prime Minister, Mr. Atal Behari Vajpayee, hopes for a negotiated settlement before the target date of Shivaratri, which appears to be a remote possibility in the existing situation.
Moreover, it is specially noteworthy that in the absence of any "negotiated settlement", a judicial verdict about the case is likely to be a remedy worse than the disease, since there will always a "loser" and "a winner" of the case about the disputed site, which would invariably result in causing bitterness and frustration to a large segment of people, which would not be conducive to peace and inter-religious harmony.
It would therefore be appropriate for the protagonists of the temple and mosque construction at Ayodhya that for the sake of peace and inter-religious harmony, they must come together to cooperate to construct a national monument of peace, love and inter-religious harmony at the disputed site, where people belonging to all castes, creeds and faiths, will be welcome for prayers and meditation. This monument can also have basic facilities of a library and research centre for the benefit of all pilgrims of peace.
As for the "Ram Mandir" and "Babri Masjid", let the same be constructed by the devotees as magnificent edifices adjoining the "National Monument of Peace", which would not only vindicate their faith in peace and inter-religious harmony, but would also conform with the "national sentiment."