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BJP's Game Plan

Mosque to Temple–A Long Journey

Ram Puniyani

The ‘Temples of Modern India’ phrase was the underlying theme for conceptualising the public sectors, educational institutions also promoting the scientific temper, health facilities, and academies for promotion of culture. The nearly four-five decades’ journey with this undercurrent of ‘Modern Temples’ was to be turned upside down from the decades of 1980s when on one side the response to Shah Bano fiasco of dealing with minorities opened the floodgates of divisive politics. The communal forces unleashed a massive propaganda war against the religious minorities. At the same time the affirmative action for downtrodden, the Mandal Commission implementation gave the fillip to temple politics which was already in the strategy books of Hindu nationalists.

RSS Combine was able to create a perception that Lord Ram was born precisely at the spot where the Babri mosque is located. Ram RathYatra, got more muscles after the Mandal Commission implementation. This yatra left a series of trails of violence. In the wake of L K Advani’s Rath Yatra, nearly 1,800 people died in communal violence in different parts of India around 1990. This Yatra was aborted when Lalu Yadav arrested Advani in Bihar, reportedly at the advice of Nitish Kumar, the present chief minister of the state.

The mosque was demolished on 6th December 1992, by the Kar Sevaks, some selected ones of the brigade had well rehearsed the demolition. After demolition violence did follow in Mumbai, Bhopal, Surat and many other places. To cut the long story short, the legal system bent over backwards to give the verdict of the case based on ‘faith’, while naming those who led the demolition, but not giving them any punishment for the crimes they committed. The judiciary in all its wisdom gave the whole Babri Mosque land to the “Hindu Side”.

In the glee of this ‘success’ by RSS combine; large funds were collected from home and abroad and a huge temple is ready to be inaugurated by the Prime Minister himself with all Hindu rituals. This will be a ceremony undertaken by the head of a ‘formally secular’ state. Babri Masjid was a regular election plank till it was demolished and after that building of ‘Grand Ram Temple’ was the part of BJP’s election manifestos and electoral promises. The communal violence shot up on a regular basis along with the ghettoisation of Muslim community, the polarisation and the rise of the electoral might of (BharatiyaJanata Party) BJP. And the saffron camp thinks they will get enormous dividends from the politics of temple in the coming parliamentary elections.

The present plight is well summed up by A M Singh, “Since coming to power, much of the BJP’s political discourse has exacerbated communal tensions between Hindus and Muslims. Their actions have followed suit, with the abrogation of Article 370 in the Indian Constitution and the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) in 2019... By redefining and remanufacturing Indian citizenship on the principles of Hindutva, the BJP government has broken the fate and legacy of India’s secularism enshrined in its constitution.” For all practical purposes a ghettoised Muslim community has been pushed to the margins as second-class citizens.

Now as the temple is to be inaugurated all round efforts are on to mobilise the large section of Hindus around this. In America and other countries, a large number of NRI’s are preparing for the occasion by organising different programmes. Here at home all the progeny of RSS has been activated to mobilise the Hindus for the occasion, either by visiting the new temple or to visit the local temples and perform rituals. The government has made massive investments by way of modernising the Rail Station of Ayodhya--it has been renamed as Ayodhya Dham with a little bit of religious flavour--- while upgrading the small airport there to an international one. It is now Maharshi Valmiki International Airport Ayodhya Dham. The persons in authority have a plan to convert the temple town into an international tourist spot. Meanwhile, PM Modi laid foundation stone of 46 infrastructure projects worth Rs 15,000 crore. He also flagged off six Vande Bharat and two new Amrit Bharat trains.

There are minor controversies about who has been invited and who is left out. Lal Krishna Advani, the Chief architect of demolition movement and his close aide MuraliManohar Joshi were initially advised by the temple trust, not to visit the inauguration due to their old age and biting cold in Ajodhya, on second thought VHP, the overarching organisation has invited them.

As Babri demolition helped this sectarian politics to come to power, the inauguration of the temple seems to be yet another mechanism to consolidate the polarisation and to reap electoral dividends. Large number of special trains and buses are being planned for the occasion. Temple politics has reached its acme.

 Currently religiosity and blind faith are being heightened. As India started coming out of the colonial darkness it also ensured a direction where the ‘last person in the line’ was to be the primary focus. With the politics revolving around Ram Temple, to be followed by temples in Kashi and Mathura, the deprivations of ‘last person’ and Nehru’s ‘Tryst with Destiny’ promises have been dumped along with holding him responsible for all the ills of the country!

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Vol 56, No. 30, Jan 21 - 27, 2024