Communist Party of India (Marxist) General Secretary, and Politburo member, Sitaram Yechury has perhaps been the only political leader to have openly critiqued the nature of the massive religious function held at Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh on August 5. He took to social media and shared his observations at such a large function being held with State support, in the midst of the Covid-19 Pandemic. He also called it a “violation of the Supreme Court verdict that directed the temple construction to be undertaken by a Trust.”
Yechury raised three crucial points:
Indian Constitution guarantees and our law protects the choice of faith of each citizen.
Faith of the government is to protect the choice of all citizens.
The State has no religion.
According to Yechury, the state’s “take over of the construction of the temple” in the presence of the Uttar Pradesh Governor and the Chief Minister, was “a negation of the secular democratic character of the Indian Republic.” He added that it was “also a violation of the Supreme Court verdict that directed the temple construction to be undertaken by a Trust.”
The Left leader said that “this bhumi pujan provided retrospective legitimisation for the destruction of the Babri Masjid. The SC verdict described this as an ‘egregious violation of law’ and called for the punishment of those who committed this criminal act. The construction has begun before any such punishment.”
He called the bhumi pujan, ceremony a “naked exploitation of people’s religious sentiments for partisan, political purposes and brazenly violates the letter and spirit of the Indian Constitution.” He also reminded people that the grand event itself was a “clear violation of the Covid protocol stipulated by Union Home Ministry prohibiting religious gatherings.”
He posted his comments on his social media pages, stating that “the ‘bhoomi pujan’ function at Ayodhya done by the Indian PM, televised globally by the national broadcaster, Doordarshan has confirmed all the major points raised by the CPI(M) Polit Bureau yesterday”
The ‘bhoomi pujan’ function at Ayodhya done by the Prime Minister of India televised globally by the national broadcaster, DD has confirmed all the major points raised by the CPI(M) Polit Bureau yesterday.
— Sitaram Yechury (@SitaramYechury) August 5, 2020
Even before Prime Minister Narendra Modi conducted bhumi poojan, a religious consecration ceremony at the site of a proposed construction, also known as the foundation laying, or ground breaking ceremony, national media, and private news channels were busy outdoing each other at the non stop coverage. Politicians of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), members of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), as expected were in celebratory mode, and were joined by politicians from across the so called opposition who seemed to be in a bid to ensure they were seen as the most devoted and religious. It was difficult to find a ‘neutral’, leave alone a critical ‘voice’ in the loud ‘celebrations’ that took over most of India’s political leadership, and mainstream media on August 5.
As Yechury noted on August 6, a couple of days before the actual event the Polit Bureau of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) had issued the following statement titled: ‘Ayodhya: Let the Trust do its Job’.
The CPI(M) had stated that it “all through maintained that the Ayodhya dispute must be resolved either through a mutually acceptable negotiated agreement between the contending parties, or, through a court verdict. The Supreme Court had given its verdict and paved the way for the construction of the temple. However, this construction was directed to be undertaken by a Trust.”
It added that “the takeover” of the bhumi pujan ceremony at Ayodhya by the Uttar Pradesh administration, as well as the Central government’s “involvement at the highest level of the Prime Minister” was “against both the Supreme Court verdict and the letter and spirit of the Constitution of India.” The statement added that the Supreme Court verdict had also “condemned the December 6, 1992 demolition of the Babri Masjid describing it as a criminal act.”.
The CPI(M) had said that far from punishing those guilty, the involvement of the Central/state governments should not provide a “retrospective legitimization for this destruction.”
It added, “Covid-19 pandemic is raging across the country. The preventive protocol stipulated by the Union Home Ministry rules out religious gatherings. Reports of priests and policemen deployed in Ayodhya testing Covid positive only highlights the risks to human lives.”
The party had also “appealed to the people of India to uphold the Constitutional principles of secularism and justice, strictly adhere to the pandemic preventive protocol precautions and not permit the people’s religious sentiments to be exploited for partisan political purposes.”