India: No Longer Handcuffed to History
NEW DELHI – A recent court ruling has revealed India’s strengths and limitations as it grapples with its transformation from a land handcuffed to history–ever since the Partition of 1947, which carved Pakistan out of its stooped shoulders – into a modern global giant.
The High Court of India’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh, finally decided a 61-year-old suit over possession of a disputed site in the temple city of Ayodhya, where, in 1992, a howling mob of Hindu extremists tore down the Babri Masjid mosque. The mosque was built in the 1520’s by India’s first Mogul emperor, Babur, on a site traditionally believed to have been the birthplace of the Hindu god-king Ram, the hero of the 3,000-year-old epic, the Ramayana. The Hindu zealots who destroyed the mosque vowed to replace it with a temple to Ram, thereby avenging 500 years of history.
India is a land where history, myth, and legend often overlap; sometimes Indians cannot tell the difference. Many Hindus claim that the Babri Masjid stood on the precise spot of Ram’s birth and had been placed there by Babur to remind a conquered people of their subjugation. But many historians – most of them Hindu – argue that there is no proof that Ram ever existed in human form, let alone that he was born where believers claim.