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HVK Archives: Bombay to Ayodhya, via Santa Barbara

Bombay to Ayodhya, via Santa Barbara - The Pioneer

A. K. R. Hemmady ()
9 June 1996


Title : Bombay to Ayodya, via Santa Barbara
Author : A. K. R. Hemmady
Publication : The Pioneer
Date : June 9, 1996

Before me is a political comment on Indian elections by
Trudy Robin published in Philadelphia Inquirer (8 May
1996) which begins with the alarming rhetoric; ``Dousing
the flames that threaten India: Fear and uncertainty
cloud India's elections. Can the basic common sense of
ordinary Indians prevent this week's elections from
degenerating? In the stunning Indian film Bombay, which
premiered in America recently at the Philadelphia
Festival of World Cinema, Hindu fanatics pour gasoline
over 5 year old twins demanding to know, `Are you Hindu
or Muslim?''

Then it proceeds along the lines we are familiar with in
our own secular press: After Ayodhya, can fundamentalist
RSS/BJP be far behind? Concern is expressed over the
hardening of the Kashmir policy and the safety of Muslims
if the Bharatiya Janata Party comes to power. Small mercy
that Christians have been overlooked in her calculation,
may be because she knows the minority rights Christians
enjoy in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Bosnia and Lebanon. Her
thesis remains unsubstantiated if the bomb tossed into
Mani Ratnam's porch is not mentioned. The film is
discussed in such detail that one is left wondering
whether she is left wondering whether she is a soap opera
critic or an incredible political commentator. Mani
Ratnma could not have dreamt his film would provide such
grist for America's hate mill.

I do not know what American journalistic norms are, but
here in India socio-political perceptions anchored to
soap operas are not taken seriously, ever if they happen
to be a ``box office smash.'' Imagine if we were to
conclude that American family values are reflected by
teleserials such as The Bold and the Beautiful and Santa
Barbara. The only tantalising gradient of these serials
is the conundrum left day after day for the viewers to
solve: Who will sleep with whom and how soon. In fact,
once an attractive prizewinning permutation/combination
question was: Which one of the many coquettish beauties
will Mr X marry? The promiscuity par excellence was that
of a man, bold indeed, who after having an affair with a
winsome elderly lady goes on to enter into holy matrimony
with her daughter.

I can't help concluding, though, that the liberated Bold
and Beautiful polity of Santa Barbara still clings to
Lutheran values, a sin-savior-syndrome. He is reported to
have been blessed with the revelation, while sitting on
the privy, that he had been sinful but it was alright
(even commendable): the more one sins, the more chance
Jesus has to save. ``Be a sinner, and sin boldly, but
believe more boldly still,'' said Luther, adding,
``Christ committed adultery first of all with women at
the well.... Secondly, with Mary Magdalene; and, thirdly,
with the women taken in adultery...(Table Talk, 1472,
quoted by Peter F Weiner in his Martin Luther).

It would be preposterous for me to imply that Americans
are practicing apartheid merely because blacks are
nowhere in the picture in the these serials, let alone

blacks sinning boldly with white beauties and then to
infer the corollary that the Ku Klux Klan is not bridled.
Of course, any mention of near total extermination of Red
Indians may set Ms Rubin's teeth on edge. As the souls of
these poor barbarians could not be saved hither, they
were summarily dispatched thither for salvation.

Unfortunately for these wretched creatures, the
International Committee for Human Rights was not around
to report the excesses to the United Nations, of which
Uncle Sam is now self appointed Policeman of the World.
Mentioning Hiroshima and napalm bombs is bad manners
America has apologised to Japan and made peace with

Rubin is not aware that it was the Muslim clergy which
sought judicial intervention to block the screening of
Bombay, besides organising a protest march. Their first
objection was that the boy was Hindu and the girl a
Muslim. Had it been vice versa, the clergy would have
hailed the film as very secular. The usual practice in
most Muslim/non-Muslim marriages is that the non-Muslim
has to yield to conversion, irrespective of whether the
non-Muslim is male or female. Imran Khan's marriage is a
well-known example. The second objection was that a
Muslim girl, hailing from a conservative family discards
her burqa!

In most Indian films the bad guy has to be a Hindu
occasionally a Christian, but seldom a Muslim. Any
variety and number of crimes can be committed in Hindu
temples, but never in a mosque or church, despite the
fact that arms and ammunition have on several occasions
been flushed out of mosques. A sadhu will count his
blessings if he is merely sneered at; usually he is up to
all kinds of dirty tricks. But Christian priests and
Muslim clergy are paragons of virtue. Bombay was fiction,
Jogeshwari reality. Muslim sensitiveness, and of late
Christian sensitivity, is the Dettol with which our
Censor Board sanitises films from to fight the Hindu
communal virus. an overdose has made the virus immune,
and it has spread all over Mumbai, city of Bollywood. As
far back as 1938, the doyen of Indian journalists, the
late Pothan Joseph, who was picked up by Jinnah to serve
as editor of Dawn, had remarked:

``Muslim sensitiveness is so vital a factor in Indian
politics that journalists have to be careful about the
use of language, let alone the exposition of ideas. Four
hundred Muslims led a procession in London with black
flags denouncing H G Wells because he had years ago
passed criticism on a long page of eulogy he wrote on
Prophet Mohammed: `The Hindu and the Christian are the
least affected by adverse comments of Prophet and God,
the Hindu perhaps because of the vastness of his pantheon
and the Christian because of his familiarity with the
destructive polemics of religion.''

Those who tossed the bomb in Mani Ratnam's porch
to the same international brotherhood which by way of
breather diverted itself with the New York World Trade
Centre. Muslim reaction to a Hindu boy marrying a Muslim
girl can be understood in terms of American reaction to a
black man marrying a white girl. Ayodhya is far too
serious an issue to be explained away in the light of
Bombay. Rubin ought to have done some serious

instead of jumping to conclusions. The fall of the Berlin
Wall in Ayodhya did not come to a boil all of a sudden
was the culmination of simmering discontent among Hindus
since the advent of Islamic invaders around AD 1000.
Historian Will Durant in his Story of Civilisation says:
``The Mohammedan conquest in India is probably the
bloodiest story in history. It is a discouraging tale,
for its evident moral is that civlisation is a precarious
thing, whose delicate complex of order and liberty,
culture and peace may at any time be overthrown by
barbarians invading from without and multiplying

After the demolition of the Babri structure. Dileep
Padgaonkar, former editor of the Times of India,
interviewed Nirad C Chaudhuri, considered an `India-
baiter'. Chaudhuri stumped Padgaonkar. He said: ``What
happened in Ayodhya should not have happened is another
matter. But Muslims do not have the slightest right to
complain about the desecreation of one mosque. From AD
1000, every Hindu temple from Kathiawar to Bihar, from
the Himalayas to the Vindhyas has been ransacked and
ruined. Not one temple was left standing all over
northern India. It was a continuous spell of vandalism.
No nation with any self-respect will forgive this. They
took our women. And they imposed jazia, the tax. Why
should we forget and forgive all that? What happened had
the Muslim acknowledged this historical argument even
once. Then we could have said, `All right. Let the past
remain in the past and let us see how best we can solve
this problem.' '' (The Times of India 8 August 1993).

While delivering the Azad Memorial Lectures, British
historian Arnold Toynbee said: ``In the course of the
first Russian occupation of Warsaw )16-4-1995). the
Russians had built an Eastern Orthodox Christian
Cathedral in the city that had been the capital of the
once independent Roman Catholic Christian country,
Poland. The Russians had done this to give the Poles a
continuous ocular demonstrations that the Russians were
now the masters. After the re-establishment of Poland's
independence in 1918, the Poles pulled this cathedral
down. I do not blame the Polish government for having
pulled down the Russian church. The purpose for which the
Russians had built it had been not religious but
political, and the purpose had also been intentionally

``Aurangzeb's purpose in building those three mosques
(one at Mathura and two in Varnasi) was the same
intentionally offensive political purpose that moved the
Russians to build their Orthodox cathedral in Warsaw.
These three mosques were intended to signify that an
Islamic government was reigning supreme over Hinduism's
holiest of holy places.'' (One World and India, National
Book Trust)

Pseudo-secularism lies buried under the Babri debris
because the Muslim refused to acknowledge the historical
argument. Look at what happened to Arjun Singh for
apologising for a crime which no one had occused him of
committing. Hindu, right or wrong, are not going to
forget Mathura and Kashi.

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