By Anusha Sundar:
“Jo swapna dekhte Baabar ke / Armaan mitaa-kar maanenge!”
These harrowing chants marked the aggressive riots that shook Uttar Pradesh and several other states in 1992. The country, in its ignorant slumber, was jolted awake by a sudden wave of communal clashes that claimed the lives of over five thousand people and left many displaced. The Babri Masjid was demolished, a Ramjanmabhoomi was claimed and several unsettling threats made. While debates have been centred on the absurdity of the Ayodhya dispute, what we must seriously ponder over and deconstruct is the hardline political discourse that has triggered such violent unrests. Now, with the RSS tirelessly hollering for the construction of a Ram temple at the disputed site, the issue is brimming back to the surface and how the Modi Government engages with it will make or break the people’s residual hope in the Indian State.
The Ayodhya debate centres around the ownership of a small piece of land that is considered the Ram Janmabhoomi (the birthplace of Lord Ram), a deity from the Hindu mythology. Whatever be the possibility of Ram having been born on this particular piece of land, we know, from several historical evidences that a mosque was built in the year 1528 in the name of the Mughal emperor Babur who had then just made his mark in India. Excavations conducted by the Archaeological Survey of India signify that this Mosque was built atop what was once a temple structure. However, it is very important to note here, that it is still unclear whether the previous temple structure was destroyed to build the Mosque, or even if the structure was particularly a Ram temple. While it seems illogical to claim the land for Ramlala temple based on unproven mythological statements, to demolish a site of historical importance is simply atrocious.
Like every socio-religious issue, the Ayodhya dispute has transcended boundaries and become an eruptive volcano with the involvement of political parties. The BJP, and especially the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), an organisation belonging to the Sangh Parivar, believe it to be their destined duty to protect the sacred site of their Ramlala. Their religious calling unfortunately doesn’t end there, as they must build a temple at the very same location which will naturally have to be at the cost of the Babri Masjid. While on face value the entire debate might seem as regular clashes between two religious communities, the roots of the dispute lie entrenched in the practise of dogmatic fanaticism that threaten to overthrow any attempt at a dignified and peaceful co-existence of communities. In the year 1990, LK Advani’s Rath Yatra that set out with the sole purpose of building a temple at the sacred Ramjanmabhoomi resulted in nationwide communal riots. With Kar Sevaks indoctrinated by extremist propaganda, the Yatra was a deliberate act of antagonizing the Muslim community whom they held accountable, in the most traditionally radical ways, to have polluted the sacred birthplace of their Lord by building a Mosque.
Enamoured by the plans for economic development that Mr. Modi announced for India, the populace, in an epic act of carelessness and naivety, overlooked one of the many dangerous promises in the BJP manifesto: to build a Ram temple in Ayodhya on Ramjanmabhoomi. There have been several takes on the inclusion of this controversial and potentially disastrous issue as a part of the manifesto. Even if the promise to build a Ram temple could be interpreted as a mere attempt at consolidating the support of right wing parties such as the RSS in order to ensure an electoral victory, it is a jarring reminder of the fanatical ideology of the party itself. However, with persistent chants from the RSS, the pressure on the ruling party is steadily mounting. The BJP leader Subramanian Swamy, with the blessing of the RSS, has urged Mr. Modi to build the Ram mandir by 2016 so as to fulfil their promises to the electorate. As usual, the Modi government continues to remain silent towards all of these happenings. If the Government has any desire towards building and developing a tolerant and a secular state, it must make a statement that will declare its unbiased stand. However, the eerie silence maintained by the Modi administration is only suggestive of their unbending and unthinking attitude.
Anand Patwardhan’s ‘Ram ke Naam’ articulately captures not only the spine numbing violence and intolerance behind the Ayodhya dispute, but also the pointlessness of it all. In a very important scene in the award winning documentary, a woman from the lower economic strata states very rightly that the poor couldn’t care less whether that stretch of land belonged to a temple or a mosque considering that their preoccupations lay in how to procure their next meal alone. The Modi Government seems to be playing the Ram Mandir card to ensure the support of its right leaning associates such as the RSS and VHP. If the government, however, does not soon put the hardliners in place and begin reconciliation process between the communities in the affected areas, the forecast ahead seems dark for India.