A surge of national unity and pride re-emerged in India after a court ruling that gave a healing touch to a religious strife.
The Allahabad High Court verdict on September 30, 2010, just three days before the start of the Commonwealth Games had a chaotic run up.
The Court ordered division of 2.5 acres of land, disputed holy site of Ayodhya between Hindus and Muslims. The latter received a third of the disputed site, with the remainder going to Hinds. The Court also ruled that the current status should continue for the next three months to allow the land to be “peacefully measured and divided.”
The case was nearly 60 years old but Ayodhya shot into world attention in 1992 when Hindu zealots tore down the Babri Masjid, resulting in clashes that left 2000 Hindus and Muslims dead.
It was the timing of the judgement that concerned the authorities and people.
Athletes from Commonwealth countries had begun to arrive, and the Games site and hostels started looking fabulous after scandals, allegation of corruption, dirt and filth hogged international headlines. Any backlash from the Allahabad High Court ruling could have heavily damaged the image of the country.
The Government was tense and the people were nervous. Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh appealed calm. Bollywood icon Amitabh Bachchan repeatedly came on television channels to touch the heart of the common man to tell them ‘India is One’ and ‘Unity is indispensable.’
Massive security forces were deployed throughout the country, especially in the Gangetic plains where Ayodhya is located.
As the judgement day passed, the setting Sun, turned from orange to angry red, before getting lost beyond the horizon. The first day of October came and went peacefully. Leaders of all political shades welcomed the ruling. though some indicated they would appeal to the Supreme Court.
The Government heaved a huge sigh of relief. An elated Home Minister Palaniyappan Chidambaram said, “We are pleased. People in India have been respectful and dignified.”
Indeed, it was the maturity of the people and the underlying unity that gave the dignified aura and earned kudos all around. Unity had become a casualty in recent years.
This newfound enthusiasm should now gain a firm footing in the political landscape of India. It is time for political parties to infuse younger cadres the tenets of peace and unity across the country.
Multinationals should make an early effort and encourage, while maintaining an ecological balance and a close monitoring system, the development of rural areas, or what is known as village or cottage industries to tackle illiteracy, unemployment and exploitation.
It is the lack of proper facilities, especially in tribal areas, that is breeding outfits such as the Maoists.
It is not that unity does not exist; in fact it can never sleep or die. It is a word that exudes faith, belief or trust.
But in recent years, it has been twisted out of shape, punched, abused and tossed around for political gains. Its vibrancy needed an occasion to come out in a loud echo. And it did.
Unity is a hallmark of achievement. Indians have fanned out in their millions around the globe. They are happy largely in their new homes and in the country of their adoption. Kiwi Indians are particularly blessed in a country of natural beauty, a vibrant political democracy and a sound economic infrastructure.
But when it comes to celebrating Indian functions, they should do so under one roof, be it in any town. Cultural organisations can promote the diverse cultural strains, yet they should unite on solemn occasions.
We have a remarkable Indian envoy in Retired Admiral Sureesh Mehta, who like his predecessor, has lauded the Indian Diaspora, emphasising the need for greater unity. He is a person of high integrity, sound judgement with clarity of thought. He deserves to be heard and followed.
NVR Swami is a retired Indian political and diplomatic journalist. He now lives in Auckland.