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"But let's come back to the violent clashes [in Hyderabad] of 1990: The countdown for the Hyderabad riots was running when LK Advani [born 1929], the leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party [BJP, website: http: / /www.bjp.org - accessed 2001-07-19], his rath yatra, undertook his «pilgrimage in a chariot», starting from Somnath Temple on the west coast to Ayodhya in the Hindi-speaking heartland of the north.

Fig .: Babri Mosque, Ayodhya, before its destruction in 1992 (© Corbis)

The express purpose of the yatra, which Advani was to lead through a large part of the country in thirty days and over ten thousand kilometers, was the construction of the Rama Temple at the legendary birthplace of the god, where a mosque was built in 1528 by the founder of the Mughal dynasty.

Fig .: Laying of the foundation stone for Râma temple, Ayodhya, 1986-11-11 (© Corbis)

The Toyota van in which the BJP [Bharatiya Janata Party] leader was traveling was painted to resemble the chariot of the legendary hero Arjuna, as featured on the hugely popular Maha Bharata television series. Advani's chariot caused a passionate reaction from the Hindus. Crowds lined the streets for a glimpse of the advice Throwing petals rained down on the cavalcade as it passed through its villages and towns, and the vehicle itself became a new object of worship, to which women offered ritual prayers, coconuts, incense, and sandalwood paste at each stop. But the trip had a grim aftermath: in the wake of the rath yatra there was violence between Hindus and Muslims in many places.

Just like the lotus stalks stand close together in a pond during the monsoon season, this religious-political undertaking was packed full of symbols.

Fig .: Orange-colored lotus as ™ logo of the Bharatiya Janata Party

The symbolism began with the "chariot", on the grille of which a large lotus, the symbol of the BJP [Bharatiya Janata Party], was painted.

Fig .: Arjuna and Krishna in the chariot before the start of the battle [Image source: Mahâbhârata. - Critical edition. - Vol. 7. - Poona, 1947. - After p. 121]

For the Hindu, the chariot, because he knows it from the stories from the MahaBharata and from the graphics on popular posters and calendar sheets, is the vehicle of the gods and the heroes of mythology who go to war. Above all, the chariot is associated with Arjuna - and with Krishna as his charioteer - when he prepares himself for a just, Dharmic war against an evil but closely related enemy, the Kauravas.

Arjuna's horses were white, which symbolized their purity; Advani's Toyota vehicle, which the newspapers soon named "Jaganath der Hindutva", was the same color. [Jaganath is master of the universe and is at the center of the Rathayatra festival, during which he is transported to his summer residence on a huge temple chariot. Note d. Ü.]

The lotus painted on the chariot, the symbol of the BJP [Bharatiya Janata Party], is also one of the most Hindu symbols and is omnipresent in the religious iconography of India. Different types of lotus flowers are associated with different gods and goddesses, for example the eight-petalled lotus is the residence of Brahma.

Fig .: Shiva Temple, Somnath [Image source: http://www.somnath.org/html/present.html. - Accessed on 2001-07-19]

Somnath, where an old Shiva temple [website: http://www.somnath.org/. - Access on 2001-07-19], was the starting point of the yatra and is at the same time the greatest symbol of the defeat of the Hindus and their humiliation by the Muslims. The legend tells about Somnath - and this has also entered the Hindu folklore in large parts of the country - that in the eleventh century Somnath was the richest and most magnificent temple in Hindu India.

Fig .: The Shiva-lingam in Somnath today [Image source: http://www.somnath.org/html/aarti.html. - Accessed on 2001-07-19]

A thousand brahmins were ordered to perform the daily worship of the Shiva emblem, thirteen and a half feet high lingams four and a half feet in circumference. Three hundred women and men were employed every day before lingam to sing and dance, and the temple treasures comprised riches of gold, silver and precious stones accumulated over the centuries.

Fig .: Location of Ghazni and Somnath (© MS Encarta)

Mahmud [997/98 - 1030], the Sultan of the Central Asian Kingdom of Ghazni, who swept across northern India almost every year like a fire monsoon and whom the reputation of a great temple destroyer and a scourge of the Hindus preceded, the Hindu faith heard that he was could only destroy so many of their temples because the gods of those temples had forfeited Somnath's support. Mahmud marched towards Somnath, with the prospect of going straight to the roots of Hindu belief in gods, and tempted by the prospect of plundering the temple treasures. The Hindus smugly believed that Shiva had allowed Mahmud to move to Somnath only to punish the Sultan for his raids. As the Hindus now hoped for Shiva's divine anger to manifest themselves, their resistance to Mahmud was disorganized and came much too late. According to legend, hundreds of thousands of Hindus perished in the subsequent slaughter - fifty thousand according to recent estimates by Hindu nationalist historians. The temple was razed to the ground. The Shiva-lingam was broken into pieces and taken along with the looted temple treasures to Ghazni, where the fragments were then turned into steps at the gate of the main mosque. Hindu historians, who fully acknowledge Mahmud's talent as a general and the fact that he is seen by Muslim chroniclers as one of the most brilliant kings and a great fighter for Islam, add:

"With this ruthless destruction of temples and idols, he injured the most sacred feelings of the Indian people, and in their eyes his advocacy of Islam only demeaned him more than anything else could have done."

Somnath and Mahmud of Ghazni have forged a close association in the memory of the people over the centuries that followed. Today the name of the temple conjures up less the image of Shiva among Hindus than the memory of one of the most predatory and cruel of the Muslim invaders. In choosing Somnath as a starting point for the rath yatra the symbolic echoes of this venture were well calculated; the Hindu chariot in righteous cause set out to avenge old humiliations, to atone for injustices of the past.

For the Hindus, Somnath is actually what Volkan describes as "chosen trauma", just as the destruction of the Babri Mosque in Ayodhya in December 1992 promises to be one of the chosen traumas of Indian Muslims. The term “chosen trauma” refers to an event that causes one community to feel helpless and unjustly treated by another, and to anchor the psychological conception of it in the collective identity of the group. Chosen trauma does not mean that Hindus or Muslims chose to be victims, only that they "chose" a certain event from their history to make a myth out of it, to internalize it and so constantly to deal with. Once a trauma has been chosen, it is activated again and again in order to strengthen the cohesion in a group through the “memories” of its persecution, its unjust treatment and the fact that it ultimately survived. In the late nineteenth century, Swami Vivekananda [1863-1902] "remembered" Somnath as follows:

"See, these temples bear the marks of a hundred attacks, and a hundred renewals keep coming out of the ruins, so that they are rejuvenated and strong as ever."

At the beginning of the last decade of the twentieth century, Advani was again supposed to bring the chosen trauma of the Hindus out of the depths of cultural memory.

If the yatra So it began in Somnath, so it was a matter of symbolic symmetry that it ended in Ayodhya, the birthplace and capital of the kingdom of Rama and therefore the seat of the "chosen glory" of the Hindus. For many Hindus, the story of Rama represents the most brilliant moment in the history of India. The renewed memory of how it is celebrated annually at the Ram Lila Festival makes the collective chest swell with pride. The chosen glory is also internalized and of just as outstanding importance for the cultural identity of a group as its chosen trauma; both form landmarks in the territory of a group's cultural memory.

Advani's train stalled when he was arrested in Bihar in November before he could make the final leg of his journey to Ayodhya, where the BJP [Bharatiya Janata Party] and its affiliated organization, the sangh parivar, had promised to start building the Rama Temple on November 9th. The already fueled political passions were about to break out. The spark was provided by the Prime Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Mulayam Singh Yadav, who had sworn that in order to prevent the temple from being built he would “not even let a bird enter Ayodhya”. The well-oiled party apparatus of the sangh parivar however, thousands of kar-sevaks smuggling in from all over the country for temple building. On November 9th, Yadav ordered the police to open fire on the kar-sevaks who broke the police barriers with the intention of tearing down the Babri Mosque in order to begin the construction of the temple. Dozens of kar-sevaks were killed under police fire. Their bodies were cremated on the banks of the Saryu River, and the ashes were then taken by BJP [Bharatiya Janata Party] activists to the villages and towns in the various parts of the country where they came from and where they were martyred for the cause of the Hindus were celebrated. Riots between Hindus and Muslims soon broke out in many parts of the country.

In Hyderabad, more than a thousand miles south of Ayodhya, the riots began in 1990 with two Hindus killing a Muslim motor rickshaw driver. Although the murder was later linked to a territorial dispute between two rival gangs, it was placed in the context of the rising tensions between Hindus and Muslims at the time it happened. The Muslims retaliated by stabbing four Hindus in different parts of the old city. Then Majid Khan, an influential local Subzimandi politician who lives in the dark zone between crime and politics and is successful, was attacked with the sword by a couple of BJP [Bharatiya Janata Party] activists, and it was rumored that he died. Muslim mobs gathered in the alleys and streets of the old town and Hindu mobs then in the areas where the Hindus were strong, and the riot broke out. It was supposed to last ten weeks and claimed over three hundred lives and thousands wounded. "

[Kakar, Sudhir: The violence of the pious: on the psychology of religious and ethnic conflicts. - Munich: Beck, 1997. - 312 pp. - ISBN 3406417833. - pp. 75 - 80. - Original title: The colors of violence (1996). - {If you click HERE you can download this book at amazon.de to order}]