Tuesday, March 21, 2023
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With Ram Mandir, Modi has reversed the tide of history more than any other global leader

Modi isn't alone. The most ambitious & effective of today’s populist-nationalists match themselves against broad sweep of history and seek to reverse it.

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This week, an Indian prime minister, dressed like a priest-king in a saffron scarf, a silver crown and a lockdown-lengthened beard, performed a sacred ritual in the ancient capital of Ayodhya. Narendra Modi thus founded a new Hindu temple on a site where, for hundreds of years, a mosque had stood.

After decades of legal warfare and mob violence, Hindu nationalists have now effectively reclaimed the land where they believe the god Rama was born. The state-sponsored pageantry of the moment, however, proclaimed their greater victory: the transformation of India from a secular-nationalist republic into an ethno-nationalist state.

No mere democratic election could match the elation of this moment, as far as the Hindu revivalists were concerned; theirs was a victory not over politicians but over history itself. In their story of India, centuries of “Muslim oppression” persisted as long as mosques still stood on disputed land and as long as India’s flawed secular leadership sought to include Muslims in a broad governing coalition. Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party effectively ended both, soundly defeating a government led by a Sikh prime minister and a Christian party president. Modi’s two emphatic election victories, the nationalists believe, have shown India that its Muslims can be safely ignored.

Twenty, even ten years ago, there would have been agonizing in the media and in public over an Indian prime minister presiding over such a religious-political spectacle. Certainly, when the mosque that once stood in Ayodhya was demolished by a mob, general revulsion was great enough for Modi’s predecessors to claim they were ashamed. Now, Hindu nationalism’s capture of the soul of India is so complete that television anchors broke into devotional song and newspaper front pages looked more like religious calendars than broadsheets.

Modi, and India, are not alone. The most ambitious and effective of today’s populist-nationalists match themselves against the broad sweep of history and seek to reverse it. When Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan turns the Hagia Sophia into a mosque, he wants to erase not just the legacy of Ataturk but of Ottoman Turkey’s “humiliation” at the hands of the West after the First World War. It’s no coincidence that the first prayers at Hagia Sophia were timed to coincide with the anniversary of the Treaty of Lausanne that the defeated Ottomans were forced to sign.

Viktor Orban’s Hungary mourns its “dismemberment” in the Treaty of Trianon a century ago — most spectacularly through a new monument in the center of Budapest. As for Vladimir Putin, it is not clear which Russia he wants to celebrate — the Soviet Union that he once served, or the vast Orthodox empire it replaced. Regardless, there’s no doubt that he, too, wishes to turn the clock back.

Yet not one of this unprecedented crop of leaders has reversed the tide of history as successfully as Modi has in India — ending, he claimed in his first speech as prime minister, “1,200 years of slavery.” Certainly, none of the others, not even Orban, lead a country that seems as convinced of its leader’s crusade as India does.

Of course, many Hindus do feel estranged from their co-religionists. In a heartfelt column, the prominent public intellectual Pratap Bhanu Mehta wrote: “This temple is the first real colonisation of Hinduism by political power. I feel chained like never before.”

But those Indians who disapprove of their country’s new orientation have been indisputably beaten in two national elections. And many of them are exhausted by the number of defeats they have suffered — on migration policy, on judicial independence, on Kashmir, on state-sanctioned Islamophobia. They remind themselves that the Ayodhya temple is but a symbol of the humiliation of Muslims and liberals and that they had better save whatever energy they have left for the additional persecution that may follow.

Sadly, this colonization of religion, the reduction of what is sacred into what Mehta calls a “banal and nasty … symbol of ethnic nationalism” has been a long time coming. A few weeks before Modi’s first election victory, six years ago, I visited Ayodhya. I walked through barbed-wire corridors reminiscent of a concentration camp, and was hustled past the small area, covered with a makeshift blue tarp, that was the sanctum sanctorum.

That glimpse seemed insufficient for many in the crowd of pilgrims. The real moment to savor came afterwards as they walked through the bizarre revivalist mall that Ayodhya had become, buying DVDs of the mosque’s demolition and mob violence set to hymns about peace and tranquillity. They represented, I had always been told, the hate-filled “fringe,” not India’s tolerant mainstream. Give hate enough oxygen, though, and it will inexorably spread.-Bloomberg

Also read: Secularism gave up language of religion. Ayodhya bhoomi pujan is a result of that


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  1. A sentence about the Supreme Court verdict in favor of building a temple should have been included.
    Oops! Never mind! Forgot that this was written specifically to target the “Modi Government”.
    Ever notice this: Something to attack, the headline says “Modi Government”. Something good has happened, the headline says “The Government of India”. If you hadn’t noticed that before, your mind will be blown moving forward.

  2. Why is Muslim oppression written within inverted commas? Does the author doubt the destruction of Hindu, Buddhist, Jain and Sikh places of worship at the hands of Muslim invaders and rulers? Does he doubt the mass murderers, forced conversions and rapes committed by the same people? I could go on. Just as in many countries in Europe Holocaust denial is a crime, so it must be made mandatory in country too that the horrors inflicted by Muslim rulers, The Portuguese and The British cannot be denied.

  3. Idiots like this fellow are writing in the global newspapers to malign India.
    They don’t understand history whatsoever.

    Anyway, who cares let’s just celebrate the groundbreaking of Ram Mandir.

    Jai Sia Ram.

  4. The rss come here is due to policy of indian muslims and support they got from so called secular politics. Muslim ardent follow the arabic culture in the name of islam and day by day there is huge gap between them and their co religionists. By their dress, food,language, education they are look like arabic not indian. Even they refuse to follow akbar din e ilahi . It is their religious public identity refusal of following secular outlook that is responsible of today situation.
    Akhilesh yadav had made so many mosque and kabristan but no secularism ever criticize them and oppose them . It is collision of secularist with muslim fundamentalist that is responsible for this situation. If we want to change this situation we have to oppose hindu and muslim fundamentalist in same way.

  5. The writer seems to have conveniently forgotten, the destruction of the temple and the building of the mosque over it by the islamic marauders…. Negotiations could have avoided the agitation leading upto the pulling down of the mosque…..But no one seem to have been interested….especially the so called secular parties….. they were not interested in solving the grievance of a fairly large portion of the majority community….. possibly in the fear of loosing the support of the other side…. the consequence is there for all to see…. there is no use crying over spilt milk…. you have to live by your karma…. and what is this state sanctioned ISLAMOPHOBIA….. Has india ever had phobia against anyone in its millenium old history….. Yes there are political and other differences specially with the muslim community…. Does it mean enimity… No way … In a democratic set up, they enjoy the same rights as any other citizens… their grievances can be resolved through their political activity…. So my suggestions is …. STOP CRIBBING…. Create your own political space….

    • So see the judging power of (secular?) writer:
      1. Ram mandir was demolished by Muslim invaders = fair. The mosque created by invader was demolished = persecution. Wow!
      2. The P.M. is an extra terrestrial so he has no rights of religion.
      3. Muslims can be ignored? – You know these biased articles use such sentences to create fear in minorities with a tag to nationalists. A leader of secular country cannot do a thing in favour of majority after order of supreme judiciary, because? – The print will criticise.😂
      4. The title of the opinion is misleading. I strongly doubted how an article on the print can be in favour of Modi. It has no business other than criticising him, perhaps the most loved person of world, and the print again proved me right.
      I am sure how the print recruits people.

  6. Nobody can reverse the ‘tide of history’. The advent of social media has given voice to an uneducated mass of people keen to get even with what they see as an intellectual elite who have dominated the governing space. But as the new media will demand a more nuanced debate as the years go by, this underclass will have to equip themselves with a better understanding of the world in which they live, and crucially, the people that govern them. Fortunately for the world the so called strong men of our times have a shelf life. Most of them will crumble under the weight their own delusions of grandeur,

  7. Very true that Modi’s acts are loaded with symbolism but why August 5 ? The choice of August 5 is not just chance but a deliberate decision just as the choice of August 15 by Mountbatten, the day when Japan surrendered was a deliberate choice.In a now forgotten but then a remarkable act , 5th of August 1938 was observed as Responsible Government Day in Kashmir with people demanding a democratic rule in a Princely State ruled by a Hindu Maharajah. This led to National Demands movement that spread to many Princely States ruled by Hindu Maharajahs and was supported by Nehru.. Ian Copland has pointed out that this anger against feudal rule led to integration of Princely States into a secular India. BJP by linking August 5 with abrogation of Article 370 and Ram Mandir is sending the message that it has avenged the abolition of Hindu rule in hundreds of Princely States by their integration into a secular India, a wrong perpetuated by Nehru the bete noire of BJP.
    IAN COPLAND “The Integration of The Princely States: A Bloodless Revolution ? in D.A.Low,Howard Brasted(Eds) (1998) Freedom, Trauma,Continuities, Northern India and Independence. Sage Publications New Delhi, California, London ISBN 817036-680-1. pages 153-173
    SHEIKH ABDULLAH- A BIOGRAPHY ( The Crucial Period 1905-1939) By Syed Taffazull Hussain. Available for free download at Google Books pages 277-290 and page 302

    • Ha ha funny logic. Why are you mentioning only Hindu rulers? Fact is there were also Muslim rulers in many princely states at the same time. You conveniently chose to ignore this. Half truth is dangerous than a lie.

  8. I get a distinct feeling that the author doesn’t live in Bharat! I think he was quarantined many many years back and suffering from the Rip Wan Winkle affect!! So I strongly recommend to him that go talk to ordinary people across the length and breath of this great country.

  9. Facts

    1) It is proved during research by archaeological survey that the ” structure ” was built where a temple existed. HENCE SHRI RAM MANDIR IS BEING REBUILT.

    2) INDIANS need the teachings of SHRI RAM as no jijiya tax on people who don’t follow SANATAN DHARMA.

    3) KASHMIR the only ethnic place where HINDUS were minority . Hindus were subjected to ethnic cleansing.

    4) Congrass and it’s SUPPORTERS are upset that DIVIDE HINDUS and rule INDIA will never happen again.


    5) HINDUS should unite as Pakistan and Kashmir represents the real face of people branded as “secular votes ” By Congrass intellectuals and or journalists.

    5) To people with HINDU name but with patently anti HINDU or proselytizers agenda. JAI SHRI RAM.


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