Return of the Ram Mandir

Finding itself on shakier grounds with the reality dawning on people about its non-performance, BJP appears to be resorting to its old game of communal polarization

Ram mandir 
Image Courtesy: Hindustan Times

Narendra Modi who came to power in 2014 with a blitzkrieg against the “corrupt” Congress laced with the support of global capital and by mesmerizing people with his high rhetoric of achhe din and clean India, both literally and metaphorically, has only dirtied every aspect of our public life over the last three years that may be difficult to recover for many years to come.

Socially, the emboldening of the saffron brigade to enact its fascist antics unleashing terror on minorities and spreading communal poison; politically, systematic erosion of democratic norms, undermining of parliamentary decorum, and saffronization of institutions; economically, devastation of the informal sector due to irrational decisions like demonetization, hasty implementation of GST, and reversal of the growth trend in economy have been the hallmark of his rule. Now that people are slowly waking up to the reality from their state of inebriation with his theatrical oratory in the run up to the 2019 elections, reflected in the decline in his party’s performance in recent elections, there is a clear indication of the revival of strategy of communally polarizing people in the name of Ram Mandir. The country is going to face further fouling in coming years.

Dirt of communalism
It is well known that Ram Mandir, Article 370 on Kashmir and Pakistan (“the enemy”) have been the three main issues, which propelled the BJP from a party from fringes to be a formidable party in power. But it really flew off with the Ram Mandir issue which received fillip when the Rajiv Gandhi government enthusiastically ordered the opening of locks of the Babri Mosque within an hour of the Faizabad judge’s ruling on 1 February 1986. His strategy was to undercut the BJP’s Ram temple campaign, which was launched since 1984 but it badly backfired as the Sangh Parivar quickly seized the initiative. It gave BJP handsome dividend in terms of pushing up its tally of just two seats in 1984 to 86 seats in 1989.

Enthused by this success, a rath yatra was undertaken by Lal Krishna Advani, the then president of BJP from Somnath in Gujarat to Ayodhya on 25 September 1990. If Pradeepsinh Jadeja, minister of state for home, is to be believed the architect of this vile yatra was none other than Modi.

Advani’s arrest on 23 October at Samastipur by Lalu Prasad Yadav government, consequent frenzy of the Kar sevaks assembled at Ayodhya, firing upon them by the Mulayam Singh government in UP on 30 October eventually led to demolition of Babari mosque on 6 December 1992. It sparked off riots across the country, particularly in cities like Mumbai, Surat, Ahmedabad, Kanpur, Delhi, Bhopal, resulting in over 2,000 deaths, mainly Muslims and loss of property of crores of rupees. A significant contribution to this build-up was in butchering of 2000 Muslims under Modi’s watch in Gujarat in 2002 in a sequel to this mandir issue.

The BJP gained hugely from these communal carnages. Yatras became BJP’s special purpose vehicle to whip up communal frenzy among people. The second yatra that followed in its wake was Ekta Yatra from Kanyakumari to Kashmir led by the then BJP chief Murli Manohar Joshi, which ended with a handful of BJP leaders, including Modi, who was the convener of the yatra, unfurling timidly the tricolor at Srinagar’s Lal Chowk on Republic Day in 1992 amid tight security.

Another Yatra, “Rashtriya Ekta Yatra”, was planned in 2011 starting from Kolkata by the BJP’s Yuva Morcha to hoist the national flag in Srinagar was thwarted by Omar Abdullah government in Jammu and Kashmir as it could derail the peace process that was on then.

As it gained in strength, the BJP maintained strategic silence over these issues and instead projected development as their election issue. It was required to have a wider appeal and also to convince its patrons in global capital. Now that it finds itself on shakier grounds with the reality dawning on people about its non-performance, it appears to be resorting to its old game of communal polarization to consolidate its constituency.  

Ram Mandir, Once More
BJP’s global patrons, however, may not favour the idea and hence it appears to distance itself from the 41-day long Ram Rajya Yatra, which was to be flagged off earlier by the UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath. It was ultimately launched by a BJP MP at Ayodhya on February 13 on a 6,000-km long journey to Rameshwaram in Tamil Nadu. The yatra is said to be organised by an unknown Maharashtra-based organization — ‘Sree Rama Dasa Misison Universal Society’ — supported by two Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) affiliates, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the Muslim Rashtriya Manch.
It is meant to “create awareness” about ‘Ramrajya’ and the Ram temple. The question is, do they need yatras to do that. BJP being in power at the centre and most states, including those the yatra passes through, it could very well demonstrate what Ram Rajya (welfare state by RSS/Modi’s definition) is like. If anything, its rule may be said to be its exact antithesis.

BJP’s political agenda is visible to everyone: as many as 224 Lok Sabha constituencies are being covered by the yatra in the six states, viz., Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharastra, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, not the least, the imminent assembly elections in Karnataka due in April. Although, the BJP government kept safe distance from the yatra, the Union Home Ministry has written to police chiefs of states through which the yatra will pass, asking them to facilitate its progress. It is interesting that the government that routinely denies permission to activists holding a small public meeting, leave apart a rally, without any rhyme or reason, has not only allowed this yatra, despite its potential threat to law and order, but also has mandated its machinery to facilitate it.

The demands of this Ram Rajya Yatra also are revealing: re-establishment of Ram Rajya, inclusion of the Ramayana in syllabus of schools and colleges, week offs on Thursday instead of Sundays and a declaration of a day as Vishwa Hindu Diwas. There is another angle to this project, which is that the Hindutva forces want to have an out-of-court settlement of the Ramjanmbhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute that is coming up for final hearing before the Supreme Court from March 14. The yatra can pressure the Muslim groups to agree to it as the verdict of the court could not be relied upon.

It may be interesting to see what this Ram Rajya is. This concept was first used by Gandhi for luring the masses into his freedom movement by promising that once Independence arrived, they will establish Ram Rajya. Gandhi, in his characteristic style, went on changing its interpretation, later dissociating it from the Hindu religion. He wrote on 26 February 1947, “Let no one commit the mistake of thinking that Ramrajya means a rule of Hindus. My Ram is another name for Khuda or God. I want Khuda Raj which is the same thing as the Kingdom of God on Earth.” The Gujarat chief minister Modi explained that Ram Rajya meant a “welfare state”, but all that he did there was dispossessing common people for satiating the unquenchable greed of the likes of Ambanis and Adanis.

Ram Rajya in practice appears to have served as rhetoric for all political parties to appeal to the gullible Hindus. The late Rajiv Gandhi had inaugurated the Congress party’s 1989 election campaign from the vicinity of Ayodhya with a promise to usher in Ram Rajya as his son does today. Ram Rajya is uncritically taken as ideal rule as described in Ramayana.

In the Sixth Book of Valmiki Ramayana, (Lankakanda), [critical edition (Varoda: Oriental Institute) canto 116 verses 84-90, vulgate (Delhi: Parimal Publications edition) 128.99-106] inter alia says, “All that is, Brahmins (the priest-class), Kshatriyas (the warrior-class), Vaiśyas (the class of merchants and agriculturists), and Sudras (the servant class)] were performing their own duties, satisfied with their own work, and bereft of greed.” This is the typical varna order that Gandhi believed in and our rulers would like to have. But what about the Dalits, Adivasis, Shudras and non-Hindus, who together constitute vast majority and would surely say ‘No’ to such a Ram Rajya?

Why No Outcry
When it comes to resist BJP’s Hindutva, there is no political opposition. As a matter of fact, there is no opposition party in India; all parties are united in broad anti-people alliance. In the present instance, except for the two parliamentary communist parties (CPI and CPM), there is not even a whisper of opposition from the formal political channel. Even their opposition is limited to timid statements like the yatra would lead to communal polarization as though they expected something different from a communal party. The Trinamool Congress in West Bengal which was being accused of ‘appeasing minorities’, because Muslims are relatively more populous in the state, also recently organised a massive Brahmin convention, the ‘Brahmin and Purohit Sammelan’. It was organised by a senior party leader and Trinamool’s Birbhum district president Anubrata Mondal. All the priests who attended the convention were gifted a copy of Gita, a shawl and pictures of Ramakrishna Paramhansa, and his wife Sarada Devi. All parties have similar skeletons in their cupboards. The Congress, which is expected to play oppositional role, becomes a comic competitor with its soft Hindutva in its desperation to show that it is not anti-Hindu. The manner in which the Congress president Rahul Gandhi is being projected as a janevu dhari Brahmin should be condemned but it sells in ‘secular’ India.
During the recent Gujarat elections Rahul Gandhi had visited 27 temples to stress that he too is a Hindu. The Congress believes that the 18 seats it won in the constituencies where these temples were situated, wresting 10 from the BJP, was due to his temple run. It is neither ashamed to see that in such a surcharged anti-BJP atmosphere as existed in the state it could not wrest power from the BJP, nor does it realize that it can never compete against BJP on the Hindutva platform. Those who bought Rahul Gandhi’s soft Hindutva today, will soon demand a hardline stance from him. It is a dangerous development which would only hasten the establishment of the Hindu Rashtra in India.
While it is true that electoral success is driven by religious and caste considerations rather than social or public service records, it is not the natural order. The ruling classes had deliberately intrigued to conserve castes and communities in the Constitution and cheated people on secularism as on many other things. Dharma nirapekshata is not secularism; it is a ploy to preserve dominance of the majority religion, which is what we see happened in India. Had India been truly secular, we would not have to face the specters of the Hindu Rashtra.

This article was first published by the Economic and Political Weekly.



Related Articles