“Sectarianism, bigotry and its horrible descendant, fanaticism, have possessed this Earth”
On September 11, 1918, the 125th anniversary of Swami Vivekananda’s speech delivered at the World Parliament of Religions held in Chicago on September 11, 1893 was celebrated in India and abroad. The acceptance and tolerance of all creeds and the complete rejection of fanaticism born of religion and religious dogma was the central theme of this historic speech which captivated Americans and they thronged in large numbers to listen to his many other lectures on spirituality and Vedanta. .
In the final part of his Chicago speech, he said movingly that “bigotry, bigotry and its horrible descendant, fanaticism, have long possessed this land. They filled the earth with violence, flooded it often and often with human blood, destroyed civilization and sent entire nations to despair. Without these horrible demons, human society would be far more advanced than it is now. But their time has come; and I earnestly hope that the bell which has rung this morning in honor of this convention will sound the death knell of all fanaticism, of all persecution with sword or pen, and of all uncharitable feelings between people who are heading towards the same goal.
Ninety-nine years after Swami Vivekananda’s remarks accusing “sectarianism, sectarianism and its horrible descending fanaticism”, the Babri Mosque was destroyed by forces representing Hindutva on December 6, 1992 under law and Constitution.
Swami Vivekananda’s vision of acceptance and tolerance was demolished by the acts of Hindutva leaders and their followers who razed the Babri Mosque. Even the Supreme Court, in its judgment of November 10, 2019, unequivocally observed that “the destruction of the mosque and the obliteration of the Islamic structure constituted a flagrant violation of the rule of law”.
Swami Vivekananda said that Hindus built mosques for Muslims and churches for Christians.
Yet the Supreme Court allowed the construction of the Ram Temple on the spot where the mosque once stood. In fact, a look into the writings of Swami Vivekananda reveals that such temple building by demolishing a mosque constitutes a negation of his vision.
On Swami Vivekananda’s return to India from his historic trip to the World Parliament of Religions, he was warmly welcomed and he responded by delivering a series of speeches collected in the volume “Lectures from Colombo to Almora”.
In one such speech delivered in Madras, now Chennai, he said: “It is here in India that the Hindus built and still build churches for Christians and mosques for Mohammedans.”
He did this to emphasize the values of universal tolerance and acceptance. In fact, in the same speech, Swamiji emphasized the fact that Hindus would continue to build mosques for Muslims and churches for Christians even though they faced contempt and scorn from some people belonging to these communities.
He said: “Despite their hatred, despite their brutality, despite their cruelty, despite their tyranny and despite the despicable language…we will and must continue to build churches for Christians and mosques for Mohammedans until we conquered by love, until we had demonstrated to the world that love alone is the thing best able to survive and not hate, that it is gentleness that has the strength to live and bear fruit , and not mere brutality and physical force.
Avoiding hatred and brutality, Swami Vivekananda upheld love as a unifying force to promote reconciliation, unity and understanding between different religions.
In fact, the preceding lines of Swamiji’s phrase that “‘It is here in India that the Hindus built and still build churches for Christians and mosques for Mohammedans’, celebrates the ideals of tolerance and acceptance It is worth quoting these lines in full.
He said, “…the world is waiting for this great idea of universal tolerance. It will be a great acquisition for civilization. No, no civilization can exist for long if this idea does not enter it. No civilization can develop unless fanaticism, bloodshed and brutality cease. No civilization can begin to raise its head until we look charitably at each other; and the first step towards this much-needed charity is to consider with charity and benevolence the religious conviction of others. Much more, to understand that not only should we be charitable, but also positively helpful to one another, however different our ideas and religious beliefs may be. And that is exactly what we are doing in India as I have just told you. It is here in India that Hindus built and still build churches for Christians and mosques for Mohammedans. This is the thing to do”.
The demolition of Babri Masjid based on hatred and bigotry in order to build a Ram temple in its place was contrary to Swami Vivekananda’s vision.
In fact, the demolition of Babri Masjid was in a way the demolition of the ideals of Hinduism and constituted a serious attack on Sarva Dharma Sambhav, coexistence of all confessions, which remains at the heart of secularism. During the partition of India when many refugees came from Pakistan and some mosques in Delhi were occupied by several Hindus with a view to demolishing them in order to create space for the settlement of Hindus there- low, it was Mahatma Gandhi who spoke out against this and said that if mosques were occupied and demolished in the name of Hinduism, that would be the end of Hinduism. And Gandhi was an exemplary Hindu.
After the destruction of Babri Masjid while there was a din and commotion in the Rajya Sabha Shri KRNarayanan while he was presiding over it, its President declared with pain and anguish that the demolition of Babri Masjid was the worst tragedy India faced after the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi.
The demolition of Babri Masjid for the construction of a Ram temple was certainly contrary to the ideals of Hinduism and the principles of law and jurisprudence. It was against our very Constitution which is the fundamental law of our country. As Swami Vivekananda said, “No civilization can begin to raise its head until we look at one another with charity; and the first step towards this much-needed charity is to consider with charity and benevolence the religious conviction of others. Much more, to understand that not only should we be charitable, but also positively helpful to one another, however different our ideas and religious beliefs may be.
By destroying Babri Masjid to build a temple there, the forward march of our civilization has been hindered. It is therefore right that no good Hindu and no citizen attached to the Constitution and to constitutional morality finds compatible the destruction of the Babri mosque, described by the Supreme Court as “…flagrant violation of the rule of law”. , with the laying of the foundation stone of the Temple of Ram on August 5, 2020.
SNSAHU served as a Special Duty Officer and Press Secretary to the late Indian President KRNarayanan.