Religion behind the Ram Mandir and Babri Masjid
As the silver stone is laid down to commence the construction of the controversial Ram Mandir at the much disputed Ramjanmbhoomi site in Ayodhya, one cannot help but go back to the glory of the ‘90s. Religious fundamentalists have talked much about the protection of their religion and tried harming communal sentiments of the people. These fundamentalists included top politicians and bureaucrats out rightly back in the day. With the demolition of Babri Masjid, more harm was caused than good, it led to a loss of around 2000 people from both sides.
The idea of protection of a majoritarian religion in the country goes back to the 1920’s when Savarkar published ‘Who is a Hindu?’, which defines the ‘Hindu Culture’ and intends to transform India into a Hindu-Rashtra. The formation of the Rashtriya Swyamsevak Sangh (RSS) in 1925 by Hedgewar was a ‘reaction’ to the khilafat movement in India. However, this reaction now is an extremist organisation which tries to stir up issues in the name of religion. The RSS bore out the Bharatiya Jana Sangh which later was called the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP); a national political party which was an offshoot to a ‘religious’ organisation. This together was known as the Sangh Parivar which had a shared ideology of pro-hindu cultural nationalism. In the 1980’s, the powerful symbol of Lord Ram was propagated to mobilise the majority community. The tearing down of Babri was a clear reflection of anti-secular agendas of the Sangh Parivar which remains its core identity till today.
LK Advani addressed a rally in 1991 saying, “Pseudo-Secularism, we do not accept. A statement that there will be communal riots is most unfortunate. I know it takes only a few people to stir up trouble but our Rath Yatra will not be the cause as it’s taken up with responsibility and determination.” Secularism truly means separation between religion and politics. It is concerned with the creation of a social and political order that is free from the domination of religion. Indian state emphasised the equality of all faiths. The concept of equality of all religions was inspired by the ‘sarva dharma sambhava’ permeated by Gandhi’s understanding of pluralism and religious tolerance in India. Hence, the ‘pseudo-secularism’ Advani spoke about was actually a practice that he followed. The powerful symbol of Lord Ram has been shown in a political instead of a religious light.
Due to the domination of political leaders talking about religion, people adopted a god-fearing and not god-loving philosophy. The leaders were put on a high pedestal where their names were chanted all over as if they were the supreme commander. They used speeches to exploit the communal harmony using slogans like, ‘Babar ke santano se khoon ka badla lena hai”. This seems like a clear defection from the idea of religion as believed by Pujari Laldas, who was the court appointed pujari in 1991 of the ramjanmbhoomi temple. He said that the program started by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad is a political game. The idea of Ram had been hijacked by political leaders for their propaganda.
Even as PM Narendra Modi lays the stone for the temple on 5th August, 2020 which is also marks one year to the abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir is a little ironic. The area for the ‘Ram Mandir’ has been granted after a historic judgement which came out last year; a court verdict which should have been waited for back in 1991. The spectacle created around the the ‘Bhoomi Poojan’ seems very over the top with political leaders and gurus attending the ceremony amidst a global pandemic. Despite COVID-19 cases on a rise each day with medical infrastructure on the brim of collapse, the ceremony seemed like a viable option. The celebration took place while the country is in the grip of a migrant and economic crisis. The priorities and ideology of the government are pretty much in the open.