An Eye For An Eye

Mumbai, India [March 01, 2002]

by Rohan Dalal


I heard an unconfirmed report of the following incident in Gujarat

yesterday: a man wielding a machete cut open the pregnant belly of a woman,

pulled out her unborn baby and hacked it to pieces in front of the womans

eyes before slitting her throat.

An act like this would surely move even a rabid dog to shame. Is religion

responsible for this and other despicable expressions of anger and hate?

Inured to Machiavellian agendas of politicians - caught in the harsh glare

of nationwide and global disreputeone views with skepticism the judicial

enquiries being set up to find out who let the dogs out.  Sadly, the reality

is that animals didnt do this; humans did. In the state of Gujarat.

It is a cruel twist of fate that the horrendous events since last Wednesday

took place in the backyard of Mahatma Gandhi, repudiating in a flash of

hatred the fifty-year old principles he so uniquely strived to instill in

the cradle that was India. Even more ironic is that the train that was

torched - setting off the ensuing mindless saga of destruction - bears the

name of the ashram he built as a symbol of brotherly peace and tolerance. 

That this cradle has turned into a fiery cauldron is our shameful testimony

as citizens of the largest democracy on the planet.

Religion has become the source of discrimination, not diversity.  At the

crux lies Ayodhya.   How many lives has it claimed?  What will be the body

count before a solution is found?

Maybe a historical example can help.

The Hagia Sophia is a very special edifice in Istanbul, towering over the

city, and arguably the single most visited tourist spot in Turkey.  For

centuries it stood at the heart of two of the worlds great religions: To

Christians it was Hagia Sophia, Church of the Holy Wisdom, mother church of

the Orthodox faith and of the thousand-year-old Byzantine Empire. To

Muslims, it became Ayasofya Camii, Mosque of Holy Wisdom and jewel of

Istanbul.  It was first built in the 6th century A.D. as a church and

subsequently converted to a mosque in the 15th century by the Ottoman

invaders who conquered Constantinople.

For 500 years since then it became the cause of fomenting hatred between the

offended Christians and devotees of Islam.  Last century, Kemal Ataturk, the

progressive Turkish leader, appalled by the severe religious tumult and

strife it caused in his country, closed the mosque in 1932 and reopened it

1934 asnot a church or a mosque - a national museum.  Nearly 15

centuries after it was built, the Hagia Sophia now stands as a monument of

unification to both human and divine wisdom.

If history can teach us a way to stop the bloodletting, let it be so. 

Unfortunately, the minimum requirement here would be progressive leadership

and the initiative of another once-great edifice, the Supreme Court of

India, where the matter of Ayodhya now rests.

Maybe there is a solution in this; maybe not. Nevertheless, the example is

right there for us to see.  Unless, as Gandhi said, an eye for an eye is

making the whole nation blind.