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Mainstream, VOL 62 No 4 January 27, 2024

Letter to the Readers, Mainstream, Jan 27, 2024

Saturday 27 January 2024


Letter to the Readers, Mainstream, January 27, 2024

Select thousands saw in person the pomp and grand spectacle of the inauguration of a Ram Temple in Ayodhya on 22nd January by our showman Prime Minister doubling up as a Hindu Priest. A brazen breach of secular norms just days before India’s 75th Republic Day. Live broadcast of this event marking the making of a veritable ’national temple’ being showered with flowers by taxpayer-paid helicopters, was shown in cinema halls, government auditoriums, on large TV screens in Parks, and Temples on YouTube, and at home on TV. Public memory is short and people don’t know or remember the story of a very political agitation behind this temple. In September 1990 a BJP politician Lal Krishna Advani (also an old RSS hand) launched the Ram-Rath Yatras across India (Through the states of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, and then on to UP) to mobilise public sentiment for building a Hindu Temple on the site of a 16th century Babri Mosque in Ayodhya. [1] The Rath yatras became a very militant anti-muslim agitation run by the BJP along with a religious right-wing organisation called the VHP. Eventually, on December 6, 1992, a huge mob of militant Hindutva activists demolished the Babri Mosque in Ayodhya and built a makeshift Ram temple there in a tent. [2] There was a trail of violence and communal riots that this agitation provoked creating much social turmoil and social rifts in society. This agitation of the 1990s generated a huge political dividend for the BJP which became a mass political party and a major electoral player in the process. Decades on, the January 2024 launch of this very contentious Ram Temple at the site of Babri Mosque has also launched Narendra Modi-led BJP’s election campaign for the 2024 general elections. And like many previous electoral campaigns in India show how whipping up of social frenzy and public sentiment on issues of religious identity leads to a good harvest of votes between divided groups. We were misled into naively believing that once this Babri Masjid / Ram Janmabhumi dispute is resolved there will be social peace. Targeted anti-muslim violence led by Hindutva goons in the immediate aftermath of the Ram Temple inauguration has already erupted in multiple locations across, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Bihar. Organised rallies of militant youth carrying saffron flags and dancing to the beat of loud music barge into shops run by Muslims damaging the premises, or the vehicles parked around while provocatively chanting ‘Jai Shree Ram’ the VHP slogan from the Babri agitation days. among the multiple incidents reported is violence on Mira Road in Bombay where the BJP/ rebel Shiv Sena-run municipal administration acted in a partisan manner and demolished many Muslim-run shops or eateries that have been around for decades. There have been incidents of a Hindutva Saffron flag being planted atop a Church in Chhattisgarh state, and a Muslim graveyard vandalised and set on fire in Bihar. Public screenings of ‘Ram Kay Naam’ an award-winning documentary film were stopped in different cities. Right-wing groups attacked students of the Film School in Pune after they put up a banner reminding people that the Ram temple in Ayodhya is built atop the ruins of the Babri mosque. The election season is beginning and there is likely to be a surge in incidents of communal violence to fuel hatred based on a set formula perfected by the Hindutva right. The very opposite is being attempted by Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo yatra to spread a culture of empathy, social solidarity, and peace. All secular political parties must show social responsibility and actively campaign with a message for collective mobilisation against violence, and hate, and to oppose discrimination and communalism from all sides.

Jan 26, 2024 — HK

[1Gopal, Sarvepalli; Thapar, Romila; Chandra, Bipan; Bhattacharya, Sabyasachi; Jaiswal, Suvira; Mukhia, Harbans; Panikkar, K. N.; Champakalakshmi, R.; Saberwal, Satish; Chattopadhyaya, B. D.; Verma, R. N.; Meenakshi, K.; Alam, Muzaffar; Singh, Dilbagh; Mukherjee, Mridula; Palat, Madhavan; Mukherjee, Aditya; Ratnagar, S. F.; Bhattacharya, Neeladri; Trivedi, K. K.; Sharma, Yogesh; Chakravarti, Kunal; Josh, Bhagwan; Gurukkal, Rajan; Ray, Himanshu (January 1990). "The Political Abuse of History: Babri Masjid-Rama Janmabhumi Dispute". Social Scientist. 18 (1/2): 76–81. doi:10.2307/3517330

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