Last night Mahatma Gandhi came to me in a dream and dictated this letter addressed to RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat.

‘Dear Mohan Bhagwatjee,

I am writing to you because I feel India today is at a juncture which offers two diametrically opposed possibilities for the future of our nation. It relates to the renewed pitch for building a Ram Temple – at the site where the Babri Masjid stood for centuries till December 6, 1992 – by people associated with the broad family linked to your organisation such as the VHP, BJP, Bajrang Dal and many more.

Your people have started saying that the patience of ‘Hindus’ is running out and the Supreme Court should quickly decide the matter pending before it. A few of your leaders have also been claiming with great pride that the Babri Masjid was demolished in just 17 minutes, and that they will build the ‘Grand Temple’ at the exact same site beginning in January next year.

However, what caught my attention was your statement that the country does not run only by constitution. Society must also have its place in asserting what it considers beneficial for it, and what represents the public sentiment.

I agree with your point that society can’t run on the strength of our Constitution alone. Indeed, I advocated it often in my own time that laws which are unjust must go. I believed that the law should be not simply a tool to dispense justice, it must uphold itself on the touchstone of justice and humanity.

I opposed the Salt Tax through my Satyagraha and there are many such instances. Gaining independence does not change my position in any fundamental way. Resistance to unjust laws and constitutional provisions is the sign of a living society, which helps it move towards a more just and equitable system so that the poorest and weakest among us are able to live a life of dignity.

I have no doubt there are plenty of laws in the country which go against the spirit of justice and democracy. Despite our Constitution’s promising equality and dignity of life, vast numbers of our people are still forced to live without even their basic needs.

It is a failure of our system which threatens the Constitution and the rule of law.

I would be the first to fight against those. Satyagraha, of which people’s non-violent movement is only another name, is the weapon of the oppressed and the weak against injustice. It is sad to see your people threatening to use the force of majority over the weak, to bypass and thwart what is enshrined in our Constitution as the freedom to practise one’s religion and equality before law.

But your concern seems to lie elsewhere. You want the government to enact a law so that a Ram Temple is built in Ayodhya. You also want that the temple should be built just where the Babri Masjid stood. You claim this is the desire of ‘the Hindus’ and it must be respected.

I consider myself a Hindu but do not see any compelling logic in your argument that unless the temple is built at that site alone, Hindus will feel insulted as their revered god Ram will not find place to live where he was born.

I see the face of Ram in the suffering masses of India where even now crores of people live in abject poverty finding it difficult to make ends meet. My Ram is Deen Dayal (poor-compassionate) and does not need any ‘Grand’ place in which to dwell.

But as you claim to represent a large number of Hindus, and you have now powerful organisations and the state power to back your claim, I am willing to concede that a Ram Mandir should be built in Ayodhya at the place where the Babri Masjid stood. It is up to us to make this occasion an opportunity to foster a future of communal harmony and brotherhood between the two largest religious communities in this country.

If it is not handled with large heartedness and sense of justice, it could turn India into a festering wound which would be disastrous for the future of our country. I sincerely believe you too want this great nation to live in peace and harmony and become an example for all countries and societies suffering the consequences of religious hatred and social division.

Let me delineate a few steps in this direction.

First, you should make a public declaration expressing your regret at the demolition of a place of worship belonging to another community, by people owing allegiance to your ideology and organisation.

It was a criminal act in law and not based on the moral touchstone, as it used force to tear down a structure of religious worship, and a protected historical monument, however controversial its existence may be in your opinion. Being of the majority community far larger in number here than Muslims, it is your responsibility to take the lead and offer this balm to the wounded psyche of this minority community.

It will create the right atmosphere for both communities to move forward on the path of peace and reconciliation. Seeking forgiveness does not make any one small. Atonement for one’s mistakes is the first step in moving to the path of righteousness. Your responsibility is even bigger as today you are perhaps the most powerful organisation in the country and the government at the centre is also part of your ideological family.

Secondly, you should ask your Swayamsevaks to come forward and build a mosque adjacent to the site of the Babri Masjid, on any side of the rubble with their own hands. This mosque need not be big, simply an enclosed place for prayer. Your swayamsevaks can plant trees along the available space. Flowers can beautify the area of the mosque. A senior, Hindu functionary of your organisation from the Ayodhya-Faizabad region should be designated as caretaker of the mosque. This should be done in consultation with the Muslims of the area.

On the other side of the rubble, Muslims could build a place for placing Ram’s idol for prayer by Hindus. This again need not be grand in structure. An open space with trees, flowers and a pond should be considered a temple for Ram. A banyan or peepal tree could be planted to provide shade to the statue of Ram and the devotees coming to offer prayer there. I am sure Lord Ram would be happy to live in such a simple and natural setting.

But the most important point is that a Muslim should be appointed caretaker of this temple. They too should come from the Ayodhya-Faizabad region. If you can find someone whose family has suffered mob-lynching in the name of beef eating, cow smuggling or any such thing, they could be asked to take up the responsibility.

The rubble that was the Babri Masjid before December 6, 1992 should be left untouched. To it can be added stone slabs containing inscriptions from all the religions which talk of humanity, love for the poor and weak, inclusiveness, and the spirit of tolerance and togetherness. There are many such quotations available in the Ramayanas, Mahabharat, Quran, Bible and Guru Granth Sahib, and in all religions and sects big or small.

The rubble of the Babri Masjid flanked by a temple and a mosque would remind us of our ability to rise above narrow communal hatred despite its barbaric expression in the past.

You should also assure the Muslims that no such demand will be raised for any other site in the country, be it Mathura, Kashi or any other temple in future. No doubt there are many such religious places of various communities which have been demolished or damaged in the past. I trust you will also agree that we can’t and should not allow our past to damage our present and future. The poison of religious hatred and divisiveness must be replaced by a spirit of brotherhood and accommodation.

This land of India belongs to no community in particular. It is the shared heritage of all of us and it is our duty to foster equality and unity in the country.

I would end my letter, Mohan, in the hope that you will seize this opportunity to turn India into a nation that prides itself on being large hearted, just and equitable whose people respect all religions in equal measure, while practising their own. India has given a place of dignity to all the communities which came to this land over many millennia. If today we let hatred and bigotry take over our minds and hearts, future generations will never forgive us.

Yours truly,
M.K. Gandhi’

(Cover Photograph Courtesy India Today)