This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Aditya Sharma. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

The Documentary ‘Ram Ke Naam’ Highlights The Illogical Reasoning Of Religious Extremism

More from Aditya Sharma

In The Name of God or Ram ke Naam is a documentary film made by Anand Patwardhan in the year leading to the demolition of the Babri Masjid. The film follows the journey of BJP leader L.K Advani’s Rath Yatra from Somnath to Ayodhya. The stage of the film is set at the destruction of a mosque in Ayodhya to build a temple in its place claiming it to be Lord Ram’s birthplace – Ramjanamabhumi. However, along with the main issue, the film traces seeds of communalism, the politicisation of religion and classism.

The film is not opinion-based but reflects the people’s dictum at that time. The filmmaker interviews several people ranging from fanatic members of the procession to temple priests, local junta, and even Government officials. The film makes an interesting view to today’s audience because it serves as evidence of how communal feelings and attitudes began to take shape as a result of right-wing Hindu politics. It is also noteworthy that the title hints to us of how man supports his actions ‘in the name of God’, even though his actions are not the Lord’s command.

The film opens with a poster of God-king Ram holding a bow and arrow marching towards Ayodhya (and towards L.K Advani). The poster animates the return of Lord Ram to Ayodhya after “hazaro saal (after a thousand years)” to mark the beginning of a ‘new history’ as people re-establish his birthplace – Ramjanamabhumi. Politicians of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) take the responsibility to carry out this ‘task’.

“All that is needed for the betterment of life is Ram. If there is no Ram, there is no survival,” cry out the supporters of Ramjanamabhumi cause. The ‘Hindu’ claim over Ayodhya and the logic of building a Ram temple on the ‘same’ site, are based on partial accounts of a loose historicity.

The Babri Mosque, built by Babar in 1527, was presumably the site of a Hindu temple that was torn by Baba to give way to a mosque in its place. Upon Colonial occupation, a seed of communal discord was sowed to end the Hindu-Muslim unity. However, for years both communities continued to pray to their respective Gods in close proximity within that area.

On December 22, 1949, as the BJP and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) narrative go, Lord Ram appeared in the dream of a priest in Ayodhya. The God-king inspired the priest to install Ram’s idol in the mosque. The District Magistrate of Ayodha, K.K Nayar backed this operation, says a priest. The film begins to reason the logic of these turn of events and seeks an inquiry into the ‘organisers’ involved in the heist.

A clip of K.K Nayar’s higher education qualifications is shown in the film that goes against the rationality of his actions. This short frame dissolves all possibility of good education leading to higher morality and secular views. This is evident throughout the film.

A right-wing Hindu organisation, the VHP has used their logo in campaigns to propagate the temple cause. Patwardhan has strongly suggested the use of visual media to gain popular support for the cause. The film features one scene where a boy with tearing eyes and jaws clenched is glued to a Ram temple audio-visual. The video campaign enacts the miraculous ‘appearance’ of the Lord in Ayodhya but covers up the human hand involved in ‘establishing’ the idol. These visuals hypnotized the masses to cause a hysterical love for their ‘Hindu’ God.

The affiliated bodies of VHP – the BJP and the Bajrang Dal (youth wing of the VHP), play essential roles in the political execution of the cause. The court appointed priest of the Ramjanamabhumi, Pujari Lal Das is a vital character in the film. “VHP members have never made a single offering or prayed at the temple”, he says, even though they fight for the cause.

Pujari Lal Das is perhaps the focal character in the narrative Patwardhan is attempting to construct in the film. Das opines that the whole dispute is VHP’s ‘game’ for economic and political power. Das openly reveals the discomforting conclusion to Patwardhan’s genealogy of this poorly reasoned Hindu cause – the demolition of one holy site to built another one on its ruins. This potentially small issue was exploited by right-wing politics to kick off a nationwide movement to cash in Hindu votes.

Ram’s Vanar Sena (quite literally, an army of monkeys), “can do anything to anyone who opposes them in their mission” declares an electrician, who has taken a sabbatical from work to join the ‘elite’ force for the cause. Patwardhan crafts a narrative for the viewer that does not miss the evolution of the primary ‘Indian’ identity – from being ‘Indian’ to ‘Hindu’ or even ‘BJP’.

The BJP began their Rath Yatra from Somnath and planned to culminate in Ayodhya on October 30, 1990. Their leader L.K Advani leads the campaign on a Toyota decorated to resemble a religious chariot with a BJP logo. An extensive coverage of this campaign in the film suggests how man and his actions can drive religion. The Rath Yatra was meant to attract volunteers or Kar sewaks.

A crucial part of the film lies in the fact that in all of its interviews and clips, no historical claim has ever been backed by evidence. L.K Advani claims in his speeches that Ram’s exact birthplace is the existing site of the mosque. The grand new Ram temple, thus, must be built over it.

However, there are hundreds of Ram temples in Ayodhya claiming the same. A Left leader in the film says, “which part of Ayodhya isn’t sacred with Ram’s divinity?”. Seen in this light, if asked when was Ram born, most supporters of the cause are unable to answer. “Only someone who has immersed themselves in ‘history’ can answer this,” says a Law student-turned kar sewak in the film.

In similar fashion, Muslims were declared to be “tenants” in a Hindu land by a BJP MLA from Haryana and as “trespassers” by others. Patwardhan forces you to wonder why history is a crucial part of any cultural, political or religious belief. The film is an attempt to record the misrepresentation of a certain religious beliefs to evoke a national ‘Hindu’ sentimentality.

Raam ke Naam also portrays the prevalence of classism within the communal forces. One side shows that while amidst popular slogans and nationwide movements people who live on the streets have no knowledge about what is going on around them. The other side is a legacy of political resentments. Upper caste Hindus are resentful of the government to implement the Mandal Commission Report that reserves jobs for backward castes. Thus, they support the opposition party – the BJP, and its Ram temple cause. The conflict was born and bred at the ‘top’ to be disseminated as a political propaganda to the greater population.

“Can the courts decide whether Ram was born or not? All I say is don’t get in the way…. which government can stop it?” says Advani speaking to an audience to justify everything from capitalism to an aggressive anti-Mandal Commission Stand, all in the name of Ram.

The film is a reminder of the illogical reasoning of religious extremism. The Ram temple agenda has sidelined other pertinent issues of society. At a gathering organised by the Leftist parties, their leader rightly points out how this local issue has transcended into a national havoc. “After 43 years of independence, prices are sky high, thousands of youth are unemployed, over half the population is below the poverty line, illness and illiteracy are rampant, but it would seem from recent events that none of these problems exists. The only issue is that of the temple and the mosque,” says the leader.

Anand Patwardhan’s documentary film is a reminder of the rare commodity called truth. The film cannot be completely viewed as resistance to religious ideology but rather a resistance to being a staunch, blind and irrational believer. The film in a way suggests how people are God-fearing and not God loving, and how politicians take advantage out of it.

Religion is used as a tool to create division between two communities and as a platform for political agenda. “In this village,” a lower caste Hindu recalls in the film, “many people have their birthplaces. Yet they are being evicted. On the other hand, there is one Ram. For his birthplace, everyone’s so frantic.”

It is critical to examine Hinduism’s reformation into a modern, consolidated political power, through this film. The Hindus have, in the process of this conflict forgotten their responsibility as the nations vast majority. Tolerance, pluralism, and secularism seem to be a pipe dream in India. Why is it that people, blinded by their love for god, follow leaders who preach hatred? Pujari Lal Das ends in a reply to this question quoting a Doha from the Ramayana, “When the rains are heavy, the grass grows so tall that its difficult to find the right path; so when charlatans speak, the truth gets hidden; but the rainy season is short-lived, when it’s done, people regain their ability to reason.”

You must be to comment.

More from Aditya Sharma

Similar Posts

By Akanksha kapil

By Hrishikesh Sharma

By Abhishek Sharma

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below