An Eye For An Eye
Mumbai, India [March 01, 2002]
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 woman’s
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 disrepute—one views with skepticism the judicial
enquiries being set up to find out who let the dogs out. Sadly, the reality
is that animals didn’t 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 world’s 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 as—not 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.