It’s been hard to put my feelings on paper. The inauguration of the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya brought a kaleidoscope of complex emotions for me, ranging from happiness and elation, to anger, sadness and even guilt.

I am happy that Bhagwan Ram finally came back to his home, thanks to the work and sacrifices of thousands of kar sevaks over several generations. I am happy that this 500-year struggle of Hindus to reclaim what was forcibly taken from them has led to a peaceful and fair outcome, through archeological evidence and a Supreme Court verdict.

I am sad that, as a Hindu with roots in the South of India, I did not initially understand the feelings of Hindus whose temples were completely destroyed. Though I grew up in the US, I lived for a few years in Madurai,  with access and a close connection to Madurai Meenakshi Amman Kovil (temple), the sacred center of the city. So, growing up, it was hard for me to understand the struggle to get access to a temple, which was something I thought of as a basic right and took for granted.

Later, when I read about Babur and Aurangzeb and learned about the destruction they had caused to Hindu temples in northern India, I was filled with sadness.

How could I live comfortably with Meenakshi Devi watching over me, when for centuries, many others had to fight and die, just so that we could preserve and have access to our temples? Unknown to me, those long ago and far away struggles had paved the way for me to absorb and learn spiritual practices that nourish me even today-in lands half way across the globe.

I felt guilty for not knowing about the sacrifices of those who died, and also for brushing off the stories that my grandmother and parents tried to pass on to me. Stories of the numerous onslaughts by foreign invaders on an indigenous culture, land and way of life, and how we fought to preserve thousands of diverse Hindu traditions.

But most of all I felt anger. Because when I look around, whether in media or literature, I do not see a fair representation of our struggles. What I do see are willfully spread lies, half-truths, and gaslighting and lots of victim shaming. That makes me angry. As does the refusal to acknowledge indigenous success story, which ideally would be seen as a model for resolving social and religious conflicts in the future. Because in Ayodhya, a temple has been built on land sacred to Hindus after 500 years of struggle. And a mosque is similarly being built nearby to accommodate the Muslim community. Instead of applauding this move, I see a vast majority of Western media sources gaslighting Hindus, and even lighting the fires of religious hatred.

Many writers go to the extent of terming Hindu exuberance for Ram coming home, as proof of ‘Hindutva terror’ thus debasing the word itself and the real terrors that thousands live through each yearThousands  cleberated – but  was there any arson, rioting, looting, or bombing? Did anyone need to call the cops? Did anyone get threatened? Not at all! In fact, Hindus have demonstrated remarkable patience, sensitivity, and restraint through this period. Not only does this narrative of the ‘savage non-believer’  demonstratea  lack of knowledge of Hinduism, it also deliberately seeks to foster a fear of ‘the crazy savage’.

While the destruction of the Babri structure in 1992 has been commented upon amply, there has been little to no mention that the structure was built on a temple- one that archeologists like KK Muhammad have said was a Hindu temple. There is of course no comment on the hundreds of temples that have been destroyed since independence, across Bangladesh, Pakistan and even India.

The hyperfocus on one side and purposeful avoidance of temple destruction makes it clear that there is more sympathy for one religion over another.

As they worry about “potential” attacks BY Hindus, the media has even chosen to ignore repeated attacks ON Hindus -right here in the west! Six Hindu temples have been attacked in the last two months in California’s Bay area alone. These attacks have received little to no coverage. Meanwhile, Hindus coming together to celebrate, showing camaraderie, is viewed with suspicion.

This to me reeks of religious intolerance and dangerous narrative-building against Hindus, which for is hard to understand. Because my faith teaches me ‘sarv dharm sadbhaav’, or ‘treat all religions equally’. So, I really hope for a future in which people who participate in such one-sided narrative-building rid themselves off their supremacist attitudes and allow everyone to live in peace.

Jai Shri Ram!

A young professional and CoHNA volunteer, Aish spent her formative years as a child in Madurai Indian and the north-east in the USA.