By Shruti Sudarsan:
The Ayodhya dispute has baffled me for a long time now.
The dispute is a political and socio-religious dispute in India that concerns a plot of land in the city of Ayodhya, located in Uttar Pradesh. This dispute deals with two main controversies: is Ayodhya the birthplace of the Hindu deity Ram? Was the mosque, the Babri Masjid, constructed on the ruins of a temple?
The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) rely on archeological finds, historical evidence and revenue records to argue that the mosque was created on top of the temple. However, reading through the BJP’s numerous press releases and statements, their main argument seems to boil down to one simple statement – the Ram temple ought to be there because that’s the ‘right’ thing to do. This raises the question: What role do the Hindu extremists’ religious beliefs play in creating a violent, radical narrative against Ayodhya’s Muslims?
Hindu nationalists consider the continuing existence of the mosque as an ‘extra-constitutional‘ sanction to their programme of fighting for the Ram temple. The 1990 incident – BJP’s president L.K. Advani rode in a Toyota truck that was dressed as a temple chariot and allegedly incited street clashes and death – is a testament to religion’s ‘extra-constitutional’ sanction and religion’s power to transform communal separateness into violence.
Researchers assert that in order for religion to lead to violence, it is essential for the activist to believe that the cosmic struggle is realisable in human terms. Thus, the war described in historical times between good and evil is extrapolated to a real geographical location and among actual social interactions, making it more likely that those who are prone to violence will associate religion with their struggles. So, for L.K. Advani, this wasn’t any regular communal clash – it was a fight against ‘evil’. His moral absolutism seemed to stem from his extreme religious belief, and ‘it was up to the BJP to restore order’.
Suffice it to say, this is highly problematic.
Thought processes like this reinforce the Othering of the minority Muslim population in India and undermine fundamental values of equality of justice in the country. The objective of Hindu nationalism may be to create political unity among the Hindus, yet projects like Hindutva that celebrate a glorious unbroken Hindu past are a mere fabrication designed to serve interests of Hindu nationalists that involve recuperating the Hindu cultural strength through the emphasis on Hinduism’s notions of purity, pride and masculinity. Hindu nationalism and projects such as Hindutva only reinforce the identification of the Other as Muslim, and their actions are a symptom of the majority’s “anxiety of incompleteness“, the feeling that the minority (Muslims in Ayodhya) is hindering the realisation of a pure and untainted national ethos.
All in all, the issue of Ayodhya is a product of deep ridden communalist antagonism. Under the guise of ‘religious justice’, the tendency for Hindu nationalists to relate their cosmic struggle in human terms reinforces the idea of the Muslim ‘Other’, characterising the unequal distribution of power between Hindus and Muslims in India.
Also check out this post: A Hindu Priest In Ayodhya Hasn’t Performed A Pooja In 23 Years. Watch Why.