The grand ceremony in Ayodhya that saw Prime Minister Narendra Modi lay the foundation stone for the Ram Mandir has given birth to a new question: is this the end of a long struggle or the beginning of a new one? The glorious event in itself was unique in many aspects. Use of foundation laying/inauguration ceremonies as a poll plank is not new in Indian politics. But this is probably the first time that a court battle has resulted in closing the chapter of a struggle that spanned over centuries.
The two important attendees in the bhoomi pujan ceremony were PM Modi and RSS Sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat. It is clear that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are working as a team with their ears to the ground, and have a better understanding of the Hindu sentiment. The Ayodhya verdict doesn’t pronounce any preconditions for the Hindus — like requiring them to forgo their claims on other sacred places of worship, faith or identity. Devotees visiting the ancient Kashi and Mathura temples have to put up with a mosque that became part of the temple structure during the Mughal rule. The presence of these mosques adjacent to the Hindu ancient sacred sites of worship hurts the sentiments of not just the ‘political Hindu’, but also of those religious ones who have nothing to do with politics.
The demand, by the devotees for the redevelopment of Kashi and Mathura temples, removal of encroachments and to make these places of worship more accessible to Hindus, so that they do not have to share it with those who are against idol worshipping, is a long standing one. The Ayodhya verdict, and the presence of a strong government at the centre and in the state, has further raised the hopes of the already assertive Hindus. With the groundbreaking ceremony in Ayodhya performed without hitches, one third of the original agenda of the BJP and the RSS of laying claim to the three important sacred Hindu spaces has been achieved. The ‘liberation’ of Kashi and Mathura may not even need an agitation.
And Pakistan-occupied Kashmir
Besides the Ram Temple in Ayodhya and the abrogation of Article 370, the BJP is also committed to bringing a Uniform Civil Code. Issues such as restoring the pride of places of Hindu worship or even non-religious issues such as Article 370 or the Uniform Civil Code have gotten inextricably mired in controversies through a singularly political approach adopted by other parties which look at them through a Hindu versus Muslim prism. With the BJP under Modi’s leadership consolidating its political hold, and the party growing its influence in many states, the Hindu unity is only getting strengthened. Hence, the BJP-RSS agenda now seems easily achievable within a short span of time.
While these issues on the BJP’s agenda are more domestic in nature, a much challenging task would be to strategise for regaining complete control over the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). A resolution to this effect was unanimously passed by both the Houses of Parliament under the Congress regime. It should, therefore, be easier for the Modi government to evolve domestic political consensus at home. However, dealing with the global ramifications would require a much detailed strategy, and also time. But given the enthusiasm and heightened expectations post Ayodhya, the Modi government could well be under pressure to prioritise its agenda. Besides all these issues, closer to election, the government also has to tackle the economic crisis aggravated by the Covid-19 pandemic.
It would be prudent for the political class, especially the Modi government to evolve a consensus and leave the question of faith to be decided amicably by the community leaders rather than political leadership or the courts. Ayodhya is the beginning of a new Hindu renaissance movement. It will be in the best interest of the country to strategise, channelise this energy and sense of achievement to foster unity, work for economic resurgence and strive towards achieving global pre-eminence.
Congress toeing the line of faith
Many senior Congress leaders, including its top leadership, have posted messages on social media platforms welcoming the bhoomi pujan and even claiming credit for the opening of the locks of the Ram Mandir at Ayodhya by former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1989. This mirrors their attempt to correct the 2007 faux pas in 2019 when they passed a CWC resolution supporting the construction of Ram Temple at Ayodhya after the Supreme Court verdict.
In 2007, the Congress-led UPA government in an affidavit filed in the Supreme Court in Ram Setu case admitted that “Lord Ram lacks scientific and historical veracity”. The Manmohan Singh government had said, “Valmiki Ramayan and Ramcharitamanas admittedly form an important part of ancient Indian literature, but these cannot be said to be historical records to incontrovertibly prove the existence of the characters and occurrences of events depicted therein”. The UPA not only lost the case but also ceded political space to the BJP by substituting faith with what it thought was political pragmatism. Ironically, the BJP did not make Ram Mandir or Ram Setu an election issue in 2004, 2014 or 2019. But the subtle message to the electorate was conveyed unambiguously.
The message of Ayodhya is no less clear and unambiguous.
The author is a member of the National Executive Committee of the BJP and former editor of Organiser. Views are personal.