‘Land is Costlier than Gold’

Euphoria over Ram is virtually over. What is not over is hysteria created by the saffron brigade around the Temple in Ayodhya. They hope to derive enormous dividends in the coming parliamentary elections from their obnoxious ‘Ram Lila’ or ‘Ram Opera’. The Bharatiya Janata Party [BJP] was originally a north India-centric party of traders–a Bania party with strong feudal roots and religious orthodoxy. With changing times, they have also changed by making them acceptable to big business replacing the grand old party Congress. Now they are the darling of top corporate houses and Ram has opened up huge business potential, particularly in tourism and real estate sectors in Ayodhya. Not for nothing the billionaires and millionaires came from distant places to appreciate Modi’s spiritual hub built over the wounded psyche of the minority community.

The Temple City will be constructed at a cost of 65 billion rupees [$78.23 m]. Realising the prospects of trade and commerce in Ayodhya on its way becoming an important Hindu pilgrimage centre for millions of Hindus globally, the BJP state government of UP with the tacit patronage from the Centre, has since 2020 acquired 1,407 acres of land from about 12,00 farmers. Land prices have been skyrocketing in Ayodhya and its neighbourhood since the apex court’s verdict in favour of temple crusaders. ‘Land in Ayodhya today is costlier than gold’. But farmers were forced to sell their small parcels of land to government at below the prevailing market rates. Then allegations of forcible encroachment by land mafia in collaboration with government officials are rampant. And again the minority community people are adversely affected.

The Sunni Central Waqf Board in a statement said ‘more than 200 properties belonging to the Board, including cemeteries, mosques and idgahs [places of public worship] have already been encroached on’ by the realtors who have moved into the area in the past decade for commercial purposes, mainly for the building of guest houses and hotels. The Ayodhya Development Authority, however, strongly contested the allegation of encroachment, saying ’they didn’t receive any complaints on the matter’. It’s not that easy to summon energy to make complaints to the authorities in Yogi Adityanath’s fiefdom, if the complainants belong to the minority community.

In 2014, the BJP promised ‘better days’. And in 2019, they highlighted the Balakot strike against terrorist camps in Pakistan while fanning jingoism across the country and projecting Modi as a dynamic and decisive leader with global reach, to marginalise opposition in electoral rat race. In 2024 God Ram is their trump card. Even President Droupadi Murmu in her customary speech delivered on the eve of the 75th Republic Day [January 26] said ‘future historians will consider it (Ram Temple) a landmark in India’s continued rediscovery of its civilisational heritage’. In other words Modi will be remembered as one of the discoverers of that heritage! There are so many Ram temples throughout the country but to them ‘Ayodhya’ symbolises Hindu pride, albeit religious bigots do hardly understand that ‘their false pride is at stake’. The political opposition in the country is hopelessly directionless. They are trapped by the BJP in the Hindutva framework and Modi-scripted Ramayana. They have no answer to the systematic saffronisation of polity while people in the street don’t know where to go. Unemployment is rising, and the rich-poor divide is increasing alarmingly. When people have no jobs and no money to buy essentials, Hindutva plank is bound to crack. But opposition parties have no positive approach to the pressing problem; they are more concerned about seat - sharing, not the ideological onslaught launched by Modi and his party. ‘People are said to be blaming themselves for the tough situation they are in’, not Modi. It is certainly an achievement of the BJP-led Government. Opposition is simply wandering in wilderness.


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Vol 56, No. 33, Feb 11 - 17, 2024