Ram, Ram’ to VHP now?

Hindu masses now realise that the sangh parivar’s temple movement is a political movement, not a religious one. Sensing the public mood, even sants and mahants whom the VHP had relied on to gain legitimacy for its agenda are now deserting its bandwagon

To stop the VHP’s ‘Ayodhya March’ and ‘Sankalp Abhiyan’, the UP State Road Transport Corporation suspended its bus service and UP’s chief minister Mulayam Singh appealed to the central government to suspend trains passing through the temple town. Roadblocks were set up in many districts throughout the state and section 144 was imposed on Ayodhya and Faizabad towns. Still, over 35,000 people were arrested for defying the prohibitory orders.

Judging by these criteria, one would have to conclude that even today the VHP is a major force to control, for which the state must combine tact along with the deployment of its coercive machinery. It has a nationwide presence, enjoying the protection of the RSS and the indulgence of the BJP. This is not surprising for the BJP alone reaps the full political benefits accruing from the VHP’s activities. That is why the Prime Minister and the deputy prime minister felt the need to appeal to the UP government to trust the VHP’s assurances of peace.

Why do the PM and the DyPM have such faith in the VHP, specially considering that VHP leaders Ashok Singhal, Praveen Togadia and Giriraj Kishore keep putting them and their government constantly in the dock, criticising and condemning them much of the time? Does their faith in the VHP stem from the latter’s written assurances to the UP government in 1989 to keep their shilanyas programme peaceful and to abide by the court verdict? But do those promises have any meaning today? In 1992, the VHP promised that its proposed kar seva would only be a symbolic one.

But the entire world knows what it actually did in Ayodhya on December 6. Is it not the case that along with leaders of the VHP, even deputy prime minister LK Advani and minister for human resources development Murli Manohar Joshi are among the accused, facing trial for criminal offences?

The PM and the DyPM must also know that in swearing by Ram all the time you destroy the solemnity and seriousness of that pledge. When the BJP formed a government in UP for the first time in 1991, chief minister Kalyan Singh and his entire cabinet had visited the disputed spot in Ayodhya and pledged: “We swear by Ram, this is where we will build the temple.”

Even today, Vajpayee continues to swear that he is a swayamsevak above all else. But now, even VHP leaders accuse the man who has been in the PM’s chair for over six years of being unreliable, a breacher of faith and an opportunist who uses Ram’s name purely for political gain.

Whatever Vajpayee and Advani might say about the VHP, if popular enthusiasm for its public meetings, processions, demonstrations and other such activities are taken as the yardstick, one would be forced to conclude that the popularity of the VHP is on the decline. Arguably, the only purpose of its public shows now is to regain public confidence for its own political ends.

Let’s take a closer look at the recently concluded/aborted ‘Ayodhya March’ and the ‘Sankalp Abhiyan’. In 1992, there were far greater impediments placed in the way of kar sevaks trying to reach Ayodhya. All train and bus services to Ayodhya were suspended, all roads leading to the town were blockaded and the number of those arrested ran into lakhs. Despite all this, over 26,000 made it to Ayodhya. But this time the story was different.

When Ashok Singhal and other kar sevaks were being arrested at Karsevakpuram, not a single sadhu or sant from Ayodhya was to be seen with them, nor could one find even one of their names in the list of those detained. Could it be that the sadhus and sants of Ayodhya have become disenchanted by the VHP? If the print and the electronic media are anything to go by, even those sants and mahants whom the VHP claimed as its own are now issuing anti-VHP statements. Many even categorically asserted that they are now in no doubt about the game the VHP is playing.
This is the sole reason why, despite being present in Ayodhya, the president of the Ramjanmabhoomi Nyas stayed away from the “do or die” action of the VHP. His participation in the next day’s token protest rally was also mere tokenism, for he had already opposed the Bharat Bandh call given by the VHP and had also stated that the kar sevaks, too, were to be blamed for the police lathi-charge on them.

The VHP leadership is unable to explain why the sants who were with their movement earlier have now started deserting it. The basic reason is that people now clearly recognise that the temple movement is not a religious but a political movement. So much so that even some VHP leaders today feel the need to distance themselves from the agitation. People like Mahant Nrityagopal Das and Mahant Avaidyanath criticised the decision to stage a Sankalp Sabha at Karsevakpuram when such programmes had already been conducted in the national and state capitals.

The fact is that terms such as Ram mandir, Ayodhya, kar seva, kar sevaks, Ram bhakt and Ram sevaks have all been coined in recent years with the sole intent of generating mass appeal. The problem is that the VHP is now finding it difficult to regain mass confidence in the authenticity of its agenda. And sensing the public mood, even sants and mahants whom the VHP had relied on to gain legitimacy for its agenda are now deserting its bandwagon.

(The writer is editor of the Hindi daily, Jan Morcha, published from Faizabad).

Archived from Communalism Combat, October 2003 Year 10   No. 92, Ayodhya



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