In the Ramayana, we learn that after victory in Lanka, Ram didn't conquer and annex Lanka. There was no violent retribution on the peoples of Lanka. No pillage. No plunder. He restored the kingdom to Ravan's lawful heir and went back to Ayodhya.
The Ramayana and the Mahabharata are a discussion on what in western philosophy is known as the theory of "just war". Both of them examine not just when it is ethical to go to war but also how war ought to be conducted. In fact, the entire Bhagavad Gita is a discussion between Arjun and Krishna (in his full avatar as Isvara) on the justness of the conflict playing out in front of them. Not just whether the conflict was just, but whether participating in this conflict was just as well.
The Ram of the Ramayana was not one who pounced and danced on the heads of his enemies. The Ram of the Ramayana was one who saw the humanity in his opponent and only used violence to correct an incorrectness. When in the Ramayana, we celebrate the victory good over evil, it is the victory of this "good" that we celebrate. A "good" that represented there being a just lawful order. The cause of action for the war in both these major epics was a breach of dharma (the law) and that was the justification for war.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will inaugurate a temple at a site that has been believed to be the birthplace of the Lord Rama. A mosque stood there till it was demolished illegally in the 1990s. The Supreme Court last year, ruled that the mosque had been illegally demolished, but awarded the site to the Hindu parties. It also directed that the government find an alternate plot of land to relocate the mosque.
I am not commenting on the legalities of the order or its merits. But when seen from purely the view of Indian philosophy, the Supreme Court (a) recognised a wrong (the destruction of the mosque), (b) ordered restorative justice (by giving a plot to the Muslim community) and (c) respected sentiments and allowed the Hindus the plot.
In an ideal world, Hindus across the country would have pooled in funds and purchased the mosque from the Waqf Board. The mosque was old and hardly in use anyway and I do not think anyone would want to prevent Hindus from praying there. Personally, this is how it should have ideally played out right from the start. A social movement to purchase the site and build a temple.
Rather, control of the site became an assertion of Hindu identity and consequently, the mosque was unlawfully destroyed. If Hindus had to finally provide an alternate plot, what was all the need for this bloodshed anyway? Could this not have been mediated before it was pushed beyond mediation thanks to riots and political careers?
Instead, what happened was that for decades this country's political leaders played with public sentiments. Leaders of both communities decided to use this issue to political advantage and moved the communities to war. There was bloodshed. Scars of those riots post that demolition are still visible in Mumbai. People still talk in hushed tones about their experiences in the riots. The riots resulted in people taking up arms against the country and saw the effective institutionalisation of the underworld.
All of this because someone wanted to play with people's sentiments to get to power. This "struggle" to build the temple, was never about the temple. This was a lie that was sold to people to drive them to fight each other. This was about polarising vote banks and capturing them. Our politicians made this an issue about correcting "historical wrongs". We were fed the idea that the mosque standing there was an affront to Hindus and it had to go. But, the broader dharmic question remains.
If Hinduism is truly a religion that encompasses all other faiths, can any other religion actually defile a Hindu holy site?
Only if that site was being used for adharmic activities " activities that would violate the laws of dharma " would there have been a cause. Yes, many will argue that breaking the temple that stood there initially was adharmic and therefore dharma required that this wrong be corrected. Let us take that case at their word. That there was a temple there that was demolished and a mosque was built there. But clearly, this "wrong" was being agitated via the proper process, was it not? There were court cases.
Further, the issue could have been sorted out by the government by acquiring the land legally and then allocating a fresh plot. There is nothing that could have justified demolishing that mosque and plunging not just this country, but the region, into riots. Hindus who are minorities in our neighbourhood had reprisals against them because of the destruction. They suffered, so those who wanted to win votes in the name of Ram could do so.
The breaking of the mosque illegally violated dharma. The mosque was not evil. Nor was it doing any evil. There was no just cause to attack it. When clearly the legal process was on, there was a remedy. This was not "just war". Ram would not have sanctioned it. At least the Ram of the Ramayana I have read would not have. In my reading of the Bhagavad Gita, this "struggle" would constitute an "unjust war" that was waged.
Which is why restorative justice is fundamental to ensuring the mosque has dharmic sanctity. When we know the breaking was "wrong", we cannot take advantage of it until we have made the reparations as ordered and morally required. That's the essence of dharma. When it is recognised that the breaking of the mosque was wrong, just restoration as ordered must be made before a temple may be built there; meaning that at the hour of inauguration, the only god there will be the one projecting himself as one.
The alternate mosque need not merely be built, but it must be working and functioning. Further, those who were responsible for the riots and the illegal destruction need to be brought to book. It is a fundamental requirement to ensure that this temple is built in accordance with Hinduism.