Babri Masjid & our shared Macaulay Caste

I was trying to reach out to RajMohan Gandhi for a podcast on his new book on South India. As an aside I’m trying to find people to interview for the podcasts since I want to plan out my schedule where I can.

Also Mr. Gandhi has a blog up called Himmat and I linked to his thoughts on Babri Masjid:

The bare bones of a settlement are not hard to identify. One, the Hindu side admits the error in demolishing the mosque. Two, the Indian state admits its failure to prevent the demolition. Three, the Muslim side acknowledges the Hindu community’s wish to see a Ram temple rise on the site as also the Hindu community’s belief that a temple had once stood where the Babri Masjid was built. Four, not far from the site, and yet not too close to it, space for a new mosque is made available by the Hindu side and the Indian state. If necessary, the four steps can be simultaneous. In this dream-like scenario, acknowledgment of wrongdoing and restitution leads to justice as well as reconciliation.

I googled to see the state of the “ruins” of Babri Masjid at the moment and this is what I found:

Below is the original, which if I say so myself is a rather majestic piece of architecture. Simple and striking.

Image result for what has happened to the ruins of babri masjid

I’m trying to find out if the dome on the top is one of the domes on the bottom. South Asian states love to sport garish new sites (the reconstructed Somnath site is far less dignified than its ruins, as an equal opportunity offender I will include Faisal Mosque and the Lotus Temple as unnecessary constructions). Perhaps a Hagia Sophia solution for Babri is in the offing, where it becomes a mixed-used religious site and a museum to the Ganga-Tahzeeb culture.

There is a surreal dignity to the current ruin and any reconstruction has to be done in respect to the Masjid that previously existed. This is not somehow a way to favour the Mosque but rather than good preservation and conservation techniques means that it is easier to restore the old rather than construct the new (who knew what Ram’s temple really looked like).

The mosque destroyed the temple and in turn was destroyed seems a good lesson  in Karma (hopefully never to be repeated). Rebuilding either mosque or temple will create a reconstruction totally out of sorts with its surroundings and I will point to the WW2 destroyed churches in both Berlin and London, which now serve as timely & dignified reminders of the perils of War.

Image result for destroyed church berlinImage result for destroyed church london merrill lynch

Finally If you are of South Asian heritage and are able to understand English on an abstractual level (enough to read, argue and debate on this blog for instance) then you are a member of Macaulay’s Caste (the most successful, fluid and aspirational caste in South Asia). Perhaps it is more a reflect of my own Colonised State of Mind that I look to Europe for answers to a peculiarly South Asian problem.

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32 Replies to “Babri Masjid & our shared Macaulay Caste”

  1. There must be something in north Indian temple architecture that I do not get, because the original version of the temple looks scary and foreboding. I am partial to south Indian temple construction, idols, and cannot explain why I feel nothing about this style of architecture.

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    1. Post Islamic rule, remnants of the good North-Indian temple architecture are too far and too few. Although we see shades of that glory in Gujarat and Rajasthan. In contrast, South-Indian temple architecture kept evolving right until the 17th century, while North Indian temple architecture got arrested around 12-13th century.

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    2. Vijay,

      The Babri Masjid looks more like a Stupa/Dagoba, the bubble shaped version (eg Kiri Vehera in Polonnaruwa 10AD).
      I think with some color, white preferably the Babri Masjid might be brighter.

      White for stupas/dagobas as they are funerary relict chambers. (like pyramids).

      Kiri Vehara (Polonaruwa) before a paint/lime whitewash
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stupas_in_Sri_Lanka#/media/File:Kiri_Vihara_01.jpg

      Kiri Vehera now
      https://www.123rf.com/photo_80594432_kiri-vehera-of-polonnaruwa-is-a-large-stupa-in-polonnaruwa-ancient-city-sri-lanka.html

      Types of Stupa
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stupas_in_Sri_Lanka#Types_of_Stupas

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  2. When someone like RajMohan Gandhi has to “accept defeat” and suggest pragmatism with Hindu Nationalism and contrast it to the whole Sabrimala case, you can very well understand which part of India is really “Hindu”-dom. In N-India there is no leader now who will not kowtow to Hindu nationalism as Hinduism. There are no Hindu leader(minus hindutva) left in N-India, and the capitulation is almost complete.(The white walkers have overwhelmed the North 😛 ) So most people who opposes them in the North are agnostic/atheist and can never sustain a fight, or like rajmohan who know the futility of the fight.

    But in the South/East the fight is still there, but i expect either a North/South hindu schism (Catholic-Orthodox type) or gradual change considering the migration of North folks to South(and taking the values of Hindu nationalism with them).

    https://www.telegraphindia.com/opinion/the-narendra-modi-government-defining-the-secular-principle-out-of-the-political-conversation/cid/1684102?ref=author-profile

    The author above thinks they can put up a fight. Its not surprising that he happens to be a Kannadiga.

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    1. Does anyone here feel the same ennui and boredom with the Hindutva, beef and Ram Temple issues? This appears to be a issue of interest in UP/Bihar/MP/Rajasthan with a bit of Haryana thrown in. There are a few Maharashtrians excited about this, but they seem to be from Pune. Why is India on hold for these issues, when these states contribute no more than 20% to the GDP? This has been going on for 30 years and I thought exhaustion would have already settled in. I recommend a 12 floor building, with bottom 5 for Ramajanmabhumi and top 5 for mosque, with a couple of floors for Gautama Buddha in between.

      Anyway, one mistake on the comment earlier; I found the mosque architecture foreboding.

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      1. ” I recommend a 12 floor building, with bottom 5 for Ramajanmabhumi and top 5 for mosque, with a couple of floors for Gautama Buddha in between.”

        What about Mahavir,Jesus and Guru Nanak? I feel they deserve at least one floor in the complex

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    2. ItHello Sauravji,

      I believe your possibility 2 will play out. Not just because of migrations of north Indian people but also because of a few other reasons: historically south India has always been a receiver of culture from north India compared to the cultures attached to the seas surrounding it. And it has been a recipient only for the most part with only some minor contribution to north India during Vaishnavite revivals. Secondly south India actually does not internalise much influence related to worldviews, etc. from Anglo-American and Western European cultures regarding Classical Liberalism, Communism, etc. (there is always some type of a very peculiar localisation of these ideologies even if rarely adopted). What south Indians are interested in is only material wealth brought about by Western-type education and majorly only in sciences, engineering, medicine and management. They are not interested mostly in the worldviews of Westerners. Thirdly, Hindutva itself is actually very respectful and accommodating to local peculiarities in cultures like seen in the Shabarimala case and does not seek to eliminate Hinduisms which are not based on the traditional Hindi Hinduism on which it is based on. (By the way, do you know what the Hindutva view is of the worship of Shirdi Sai Baba? If they accommodate him too, then they got the people of Andhra Pradesh also (well, it’s admittedly a bit more difficult than that because of the current skirmishes due to the special status issue but if Hindutva somehow helps takes care of this too, Andhra is theirs.))

      The only place where Hindutva politically might not succeed is Tamil Nadu. They just don’t like the Hindi language. But culturally even Tamil Hindus will eventually turn very Hindutva-like and perhaps very unconsciously as the other state people and as happened all throughout history.

      By the way, the person you mentioned seems to be like a textbook Delhi arts college person so I doubt his south Indian connections are playing a significant role in the formation of his views. As I have always tended to believe all the leftist-like and European/American-like persons in India are probably concentrated in Delhi followed by Mumbai, in arts colleges, English media establishments, etc.

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      1. LOL. Man , why do you and AnAn use so much “-Ji”? For all you know i might be younger than you. 😛

        I agree to lot of what you said, but lets see how it goes. I just feel the more urbanization happens the less folks will get interested in ritualistic, religiousness of the religion part. What does rise in its place is religion as a ideology as every group/subgroup which has see decent uplifment will want to be part of “larger” group. In the North it has become part of this Hindu-Hindi-Hindustan type of nationalism. Earlier only UCs but increasingly OBCs too are becoming part of it.

        I think in the south some other variety might happen, who knows how it will play out. I feel there are enough contesting ideologies (absent in North) in the south (Regionalism, Dravidianism,Left,Language) to stem Hindu nationalism. But i could be wrong.

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        1. Well, I just like to be nice and polite, that’s all lol.

          Yes I see your view very clearly regarding the ongoing development of Hindutva.

          But most of the peculiar ideologies native to south India like regionalism, Dravidianism and language issues are not particularly strong (at least currently, anyway). Dravidianism is a not a thing outside Tamil Nadu and from what I have observed on Quora, even Tamil people are reverting to the natural state of south India (since at least the triggering of the formation of linguistic states under the aegis of the Telugu people) which is regional pride and language pride to the indifference about all other languages and states, just like the scenario seen in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. That brings us to regionalism and language pride issues. Yes the eastern south Indian states are still very regionalistic and have high amount of language pride. And indeed Tamil Nadu may never wholeheartedly accept Hindi as far as I can see. But Telugu people are like Telugu-Hindi 50-50 love and affection and will never be opposed to Hindi language. And the regionalism of Telugu states is a big problem but fortunately it seems the Telangana chief minister who will probably be the chief minister of Telangana for a very lot more time to come likes the central government and might not be too opposed to Hindutva (if reasonably mild and not too extreme to the taste of the people of Telangana; also Hindutva must accommodate Batukamma festival, Bonalu festival, etc. otherwise no chance. But I am sure Hindutva has no problem accepting these). The major problem is with Andhra Pradesh and from what I sense the people there are extremely angry with the central government because of the special status issue.

          Left is the remaining thing. I don’t know a lot of history but I doubt it has been successful at all in south India, at least in its pure form (Kerala sounds like an exception but I somehow still doubt it; Kerala’s social reform seems to date back to at least Sree Narayana Guru and the Travancore kingdoms and need not be fully because of the communist influence; about economic policies I don’t know anything but the Gulf migrations have to have some hand in it independent of communist rule). Andhra and Telangana had moderately influential streams of communism and in a very attenuated manner even Maoism in the past but they are drastically insignificant currently and have been for somewhile. The natural state of the Telugu people is hardcore conservatism (along with casteism in Andhra Pradesh) (socially definitely; I don’t know much about economic stuff but there is not a lot of left-like movements in Andhra and Telangana going on, at least currently).

          So the only major battle is probably going to be with Bengali Hindus but I think Bengal will be ultimately defeated after the probably somewhat bloody war lol. In any case, aren’t they kinda very wounded already too? I actually am inclined to think they might end up supporting Hindutva quite easily than expected.

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          1. Of course Tamil Hindus will also give some serious opposition to the entire project, and significantly more than Bengali Hindus.

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          2. Santosh, do not under estimate Bengal’s spirituality. Bengal lives and breathes eastern philosophy. The Christians are partly incorporated into it. So are some muslims.

            Bengal is becoming far more pro globalization, free market and pro business too. This has led to many non Bengalis moving to Bengal.

            Marxism and post modernism are fading in Bengal . . . I think.

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        2. Saurav, you are wise. This is why people call you “ji”.

          As people become more successful in their careers and business, don’t they tend to become more religious and spiritual? This is my anecdotal observation.

          Steve Jobs helped explain some reasons why.

          Why are Hindi and Hindu related? Serious question.

          Another possibility is that other political parties will also become pro Hindu Buddhist Jain Sikh Taoist Sufi Shiite Bon Zorastrian Syriac Jewish. If this happens will politics start be become based on competence, capacity and merit? I hope so. But am not sure. Politics could devolve into a starlet level discussion about feelings and “hotness”.

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          1. Lol tell me about it. I mean I think this tik tok and pubg generation would run some twitter poll and elect folks if they could 😂😂

            Hindi and hindu have just become related in north India No conscious plan behind it. Similar to how Dravidinism and tamil become related. Just simple convenience

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      2. “What south Indians are interested in is only material wealth brought about by Western-type education and majorly only in sciences, engineering, medicine and management. They are not interested mostly in the worldviews of Westerners.”

        So, now BP commentators are into “all people from X do y” . Very Intelligent.

        ” historically south India has always been a receiver of culture from north India compared to the cultures attached to the seas surrounding it. ”

        What does any of this mean? There is the telugu and other languages; there is music and dance and temple architecture that resembles nothing in North India. I hate to discuss philosophy, but a whole lot of Advaita, buddhist and other pholosphies rolled out of South India.

        “does not seek to eliminate Hinduisms which are not based on the traditional Hindi Hinduism on which it is based on..”

        What does any of this mean? What is Hindi Hinduism? What does eliminate hinduisms mean?

        ” Hindus will eventually turn very Hindutva-like and perhaps very unconsciously as the other state people and as happened all throughout history”

        What does Hindutva-like even mean?

        BJP won the election in 2014, and may lose in 2019. No one knows what Hindutva is, and they just randomly spout theories of turning Hindutva and so on.

        There is some surreal and bizarre conversation in these comment sections, triggered by Zack’s usual code words of colonizer and Maccaulay.

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        1. Yes lol, there is a certain theatrical-ness in generalising and I like to be dramatic; it comes because of my wretched nature. But still that been my take from the observation of history. You are talking about Mahayana Buddhism perhaps? Then you might be right. But I don’t believe Advaita had south Indian origins. The guy Shankara had a north Indian guy from Varanasi as his teacher and really all Vedic religion, Buddhism and Jainism are religions that are as quintessentially north Indian as they can get. And they are that – in their origins, and a substantial part of development. Some superficial changes to them by south Indians don’t count as an awful lot of original stuff in my view.

          Ayyo the textbook view is that south Indian architecture and music have origins with Hinduised early kingdoms and Natya Shastra, etc., no? Anyway the point with respect to this is that at least the impulses for the general style of south Indian architecture arise from north India, even though they might draw some low-level specific influences from the erstwhile megaliths (and definitely contemporary spontaneous creativity) but this is also not a given and have to be researched very thoroughly. Classical Music is obviously tremendously influenced by north India too – Folk traditions have native origins and they are popular also so in the department of music there is some originality and not a lot of feeling of inferiority I suppose.

          Hindi Hinduism is supposed to be like a particular type of Hindu ethos, cultural specifics arising from religious observance, a specific set of deities, etc. associated with the Hindi-speaking populations of pre-Independence and early post-Independence north India. Eliminating other types means trying to impose their own ethos on all others with other local traditions (though they differ only slightly among each other) and while this end-result can and likely will happen, it won’t be because of the imposition by the Hindutva folks but by unconscious imitation of north Indian folks by south Indians. Case in point – a certain village deep in the Krishna district to which my maternal grandmother is native to, recently constructed a temple for Durga, which for some reason I don’t know what, seemed a bit odd to me (I am inclined to think it was a marble deity but I can be wrong and this could be a false memory). It’s not like there is no Kanaka Durga closely located in Vijayavada, but then I can’t explain really, it just seemed a bit odd is all I can say. Another obviously more strong case in point is the extraordinary ease and non-consciousness with which many south Indian (likely even middle class) families incorporated elaborate north Indian wedding customs and even wedding dress styles into their own.

          And you caught me regarding Hindutva-like. Though I tried to think of what it is and fleshed out my views above too, I also don’t know precisely what it is obviously. I tend to sense some bickering happening between Hindutva people and super-orthodox south Indian religious intellectuals but then they seem like they are close friends as well. It’s all happening so fast and so deep and likely changing very fluidly as it goes, on the ground. Only time will tell but I don’t think it is gonna be as inconsequential as people might think perhaps.

          And really, I don’t know a lot about politics but who even will win in India if not BJP? Chandrababu Naidu’s coalition? Who knows there might be a chance for the latter but I personally don’t think that is gonna be the case.

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          1. Net-net I agree with you, South India is a net receiver of culture from north India. And it makes sense from a geographic standpoint as well, any external ideas, usually the best ones from science, culture, arts, crafts or technology have to reach north first before they could reach south. And moreover, Northern Indian river delta plains (Indus, Ganga, Brahmaputra) are well connected without any huge geographical barriers and are also huge both in size and population compared to those in the southern peninsula. The river deltas in south are smaller; population is lower, and connectivity is harder as it is wedged between the ghats and rocky plateaus.

            South brought a unique flavor to Hindu culture & tradition, they were probably the first ‘non-Indo-European language family’ to adopt Hinduism en-masse. They are not mere receivers but have improvised it interesting ways. Its contributions to Hindu pantheon is unique as well, be it Lord Balaji or Murugan or introducing newer traditions like Veera Shaivism etc. South’s innovation with Carnatic music, or classical dance forms like Bharata Natyam, Kuchipudi or Kathakali. The school of Ayurveda and Mathematics of Kerala are impressive as well. It also has notable contributions in exporting Hinduism outside the Indian subcontinent (South East Asia).

            In a more contemporary context, southern spiritual leaders have more cosmopolitan/global appeal than northern spiritual leaders be it Sri Sri or Sadguru.

            I largely agree with you, but your tone seems more dismissive than it should be.

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          2. Hello AmericanIndic,

            I agree with you very much regarding the geography part. I came to learn this earlier through Brown Pundits only majorly.

            And yes, the dominant Old Dravidian factions were an interesting addition to the Old Indo-Aryan club and as I have always believed, by doing so, they have also managed to retain nominally some of their own native probably-West-Asian-origin traditions like boundary-worship (in the form of a mother goddess of course), deification of contagious diseases, worship of forest spirits and other natural resources and calamities, etc., which they probably would not have been able to do if they had stayed back around in West Asia and not merged with Indo-Aryans and other Indians culturally. Though High Hinduism does not see eye-to-eye with these probably-quite-fear-dominated-and-thus-tAmasika Old Dravidian belief patterns, its own polytheistic/henotheistic and non-proselytising nature probably let these survive around in the backgrounds and not actively destroyed. Of course some repulsive and unsustainable practices/beliefs like human sacrifice, etc. must have had to go.

            The innovations you mentioned are very interesting indeed but I don’t believe they may be having primarily-regionally-south-Indian Hinduised/Hindu impulses except for Veerashaivism perhaps. Most of the rest look like they were results of activity in islands of highly elevated Vedic/Buddhistic/Jain/general-Sanskritic ethos – definitely the ancient Nagarjunakonda case and very likely also the Kerala school of mathematics. Actually, as Hindutva people and other Classical Hindus rightly argue, at some point I might need to stop trying to separate north and south perhaps because there were probably always islands of north in the south and vice-versa too maybe and the nature of this thing is probably all too fractal for me to continue to enjoy my simplistic readings and beliefs on the subject as usual lol. Of course, there is something very fractal about India and I have still inserted this seemingly profound nice-looking statement all the while knowing that it is not and even if reasonable, it might be nothing new to people lol.

            I don’t know very much about the persons you mentioned like Sri Sri (Sri Sri Ravishankar person I assume?) and Sadguru so I cannot comment anything worthwhile about that.

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      3. I think you are overestimating Hindutva potential in the south based on its current momentum. The south’s (and Bengal’s) societal-intellectual repertoire is way broader to be beholden to the one-trick perpetual-victimization card Hindutva derives its energies from. Momentum may help it in a couple of election cycles, but then the South’s organic processes will kick in. (This does not rule out small groups in the South being pro-Hindutva, as they already are.)

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        1. Okay, then maybe the role that the current Hindutva might play is in the energising of the orthodox Hindus (Brahmin-background people significantly followed by some very important others?) of south India to try to reinvigorate Hindu traditions in south India and also bring out many “cultural/nominal” “Macaulayite”, somewhat-ideologically-Westernised individualism-and-Classical-Liberalism-loving “Hindus” like myself from a state with a lack of religious education to one with it. But all the Brahminical elites are super-dynamic and it is difficult to keep up with them lol. Anyway, I am also trying to be more and more how-to-put-it New-Hindu? as days pass – I have some weird personal reasons for this motivation alongside the normal ones about trying to contribute my bit to the resurgence of native religion – so please wish me a silent good luck!

          And also, I don’t know if the following is a reasonable example to what might have suggested in saying “the organic process of the south” but there is this trend that I observed in Andhra and Telangana where early ideological revolutions/reform-stuff/changes/whatever of any kind tend to be begun by Brahmins and gradually their hand in it including themselves all gets eclipsed because of the seizing of power by the other dominant feudal castes and things swiftly made quite crudely regional and localised lol. So that may repeat the next time when there is any change to existing order too, as you might be suggesting.

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  3. I don’t think just English proficiency is enough for membership into the Macaulayite “caste” (I doubt it is caste also because Macaulayites may not have an institutionalised opposition to marry non-Macaulayites but I don’t know; I suspect you might be right). For example, in Hindutva and other Hindu revival type literature, we tend to see very widespread use of English. In such literature, English plays the role of the grammatical substrate that many urban Indians of the current day, having as their native language every possible language from the entire spectrum of Indian languages, so voraciously work with all day long and thus understand and communicate in easily and on top of this English substrate, Sanskrit lexical superstrate tends to be overlain. It seems like this is the exact reversal of Macaulayite ideals, doesn’t it?

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  4. Zack, the photo that you posted for babri ruins is FAKE. It’s a doctored pic -probably made of layered background of some ruins outside India, juxtaposed with praying individuals. It’s doctored by some Islamic propaganda group. I am sure, you will find out the truth of pic with little research and remove it from the post.

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  5. I think the site is off limits, and both sides have to offer prayers/worship outside the compound or something. I could be wrong

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    1. No.

      I have been there many times. The site is a fully functioning Hindu temple. no Muslims ever come to worship there. Even when Babri Masjid was standing it was a ruin and NOT a functioning mosque.

      Its just that the murti of Rama Lalla is in a tent and not in a grand temple building. And its all under very heavy security.

      The area of Rama Mandir is surrounded on all sides for miles by Hindu temples, big and small. I dont think many Muslims live there. I believe the original ram mandir was destroyed and replaced by a mosque just to make a point but local resistance and persistence for using the place as a mandir always remained.

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      1. Yes but instead of destroying the building they could have sensitively restores it as a Masjid (buy it from the Waqf).

        500year old heritage sites should not be wantonly mistreated.

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  6. The image is visibly fake. This is what happens when american-expletives throwing non-Hindu Hindu nationalists run a blog on India. 🙂

    This is Feroz Shah Kotla complex in Delhi. Nice place for sight seeing. Some good movies were also shot here.

    Spend a few days in India guys. It might help in writing about it.

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    1. “non-Hindu Hindu nationalists run a blog on India.”

      LOL. It reminded me of certain incident when a mallu CPI friend said he feels that hindu nationalists are not really hindus while mallu hindus are “real” hindus.

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  7. After I got curious, I did a google search on the fake version of the image. Looks like fake image is everywhere on the Internet. Mostly the sites of Islamic radicals berating Hindu radicals.

    The funny fact is the slope on which the worshipers are offering namaz is pretty sleep. if the namazis were to really bend forward on such a steep slope, they would topple over the guy in front of them.

    LOL. LOL. I don’t care what you are thinking but I find it so funny. LOL LOL.

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