Who will stop historical wrongs from repeating itself?
History repeats itself, including the good, bad and ugly. This oft repeated line comes from Spanish-American author George Santayana’s famous quote – “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. Studying history is necessary to avoid repeating past mistakes.”
By Dhananjay Mahapatra
Applying the Santayana-test, was the anger among Muslims over the alleged ‘blasphemous” depiction of Prophet Mohammed in cartoons in January 2015 by French news weekly ‘Charlie Hedbo’ a repetition of history? The media house paid a bloody price for professing right to free speech, albeit in a questionable and hurtful manner for the Muslim religious sentiments. Two Islamic radical brothers barged into its office and gunned down 12 members of its staff.
Five years later, a teacher did not learn the lesson. He showed the same cartoons to his students, may be in routine exercise of precious right to free speech or in defiance to the intolerance that is sweeping the world in various forms, mostly religious.
The teacher was taught a lesson, his last. A Muslim young man decapitated him. The killing did not evoke anger among the followers of Islam, but resurfacing of the cartoons rekindled it in Islamic countries. This anger spread like wildfire. It also found a voice in pockets of India. Is this a repetition of history”?
Someone, who had taken historical wrongs on his stride, had said “today’s events are tomorrow’s history”. The Supreme Court in ‘Adi Visheshwara of Kashi Vishwanath Temple, Varanasi’ case in March 1997 had quoted history to record its repetitional nature.
“In the year 1193, when one of the lieutenants of Mohd Ghori, namely, Kutubud-din Eibak completely destroyed Lord Shiva’s Temple, the Priest (Mahant) concealed the Idol of Lord Vishwanath from being defiled and destroyed.”
“The temple construction was undertaken in a big way in 1585 by Raja Todar Mal, the Finance Minister of Akbar… (and who) then was Governor of Jaunpur. The Temple was constructed accordingly on a large scale consisting of Central Sanctum (Garba Griha) surrounded by eight mandapas or pavilions.”
“Aurangzeb again destroyed the Temple of Lord Shiva in 1669, when again the then Priest (Mahant) removed the idol of Lord Shiva so us to prevent it from being defiled and destroyed. Thereafter, it was again restored in the year 1777, by Rani Ahilya Bai Holkar, who had built the present Temple and installed the present deity. Maharaja Ranjit Singh in 1859, had renovated it, covering the dome with gold plates weighing 22 tons of gold.”
History is witness to destructions of thousands of premier temples in India during six centuries of Muslim and Mughal rules. The temples, which withstood the destructive onslaught, saw defacement of the deities and walls engraved with sculptural marvels. Thousands of mosques were constructed over the temple ruins.
Would it be appropriate, or condone, as a mere symbolic repetition of history when in December 1992 a Hindu mob destroyed the Babri Masjid, a mosque believed to have been constructed over a destroyed temple that is dear to Hindus as the sacred birthplace of Lord Ram, who enjoyed a status among Hindus equal to that of Prophet among Muslims?
The SC, which has been quite vocal and zealous in protecting the sanctity of the right to freedom of speech and expression, had famously said in the Ayodhya land dispute verdict that courts cannot correct historical wrongs. It does not sync well with the adages – ‘history repeats itself’ and ‘today’s events are tomorrow’s history’, and raises the question who will correct it?
Even if one could sheepishly align with the illogical demolition of the Babri Masjid as a reaction to destructions of thousands of temples hundreds of years ago, what defies even sheepish logic is the use of field guns and mortars by Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001 to reduce to smithereens the ancient and world famous tall rock-cut standing statues of Buddha, the apostle of peace and goodness.
A cartoon seamlessly sent waves of outrage among Muslims across the world irrespective of the country they lived in. They poured out on the streets to protest against it. We do not remember waves of protest across the world for fanatical cold-blooded destruction of world heritage Bamiyan Buddhas. The secularistic silence was deafening when famous artist M F Hussain painted Goddess Saraswati nude. The same eerie silence pervaded the intelligentsia inhabited niche houses of the society when Salman Rushdie’s ‘Satanic Verses’ was banned in India.
The alleged wrong portrayal of Shivaji in James W Laine’s book “Shivaji – Hindu King in Islamic India” enraged the Sambaji Brigade so much that their members “ransacked Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute (BORI), Pune, and destroyed a large number of books and rare manuscripts.” Destruction is easy. But, who will give back those rare manuscripts?
How should the effect of a cartoon, or depiction of a historical hero or for that matter a allegedly blasphemous article be gauged? SC has followed the time tested advice of Justice Vivian Bose, who in a 1947 judgment had said, “That the effect of the words must be judged from the standards of reasonable, strong minded, firm and courageous men, and not those of weak and vacillating minds, nor of those who scent danger in every hostile point of view.”
Courtesy : TNN