The Supreme Court’s Ayodhya verdict has put to rest the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title dispute that Indians had been living with for decades. One of the five judges from the constitutional bench that delivered the verdict rightly said later on that “it is (now) time for healing”. With this, two decades of Ram-bashing politics that has bedeviled India and hurt Hindu sentiments should also come to an end.
At the same time, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his deputies once again demonstrated their ability to manage a day of very difficult and sensitive ruling with clear vision and efficient administration. From Ayodhya to Article 370, the Modi government has proved that it can administer and shepherd India through transformative decisions without plunging it into chaos.
As the day of the Supreme Court judgment on Ayodhya drew to a close, no untoward incident was reported from anywhere. Indians showed restraint, not stoking triumphalism or grief. The Ministry of Home Affairs is keeping a close watch and has advised all state governments to keep the police on alert. Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath had issued a statement ahead of the verdict that his government was committed to maintaining peace. All schools were closed and Section 144 was imposed in sensitive areas as a precautionary measure. The Uttar Pradesh Police was scanning social media handles all day to spot “trouble makers”. It also arrested 37 people for “objectionable posts”.
BJP’s clear stand
But the day has come after more than two decades of cynical political games and advantages that were reaped by brandishing the minority card and fanning their insecurities. Because of its Ram Janmabhoomi campaign, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was treated as a political untouchable during the years of coalition governments. Democratically-elected governments in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan were placed under President’s Rule in December 1992.
However, the BJP did not aver from its clear ideology of defining nationalism as Hindutva or the Hindu way of life. And the voter who wanted a Ram temple in Ayodhya was dubbed to be dangerously bigoted and communal. Hindutva was purposely misinterpreted as a fanatical belief for creating a theocratic Hindu Rashtra.
But Indians think differently. They have deep cultural reservoirs and are not swayed by 20th century’s outdated slogans. In fact, these slogans hurt them immeasurably. Bhagwan Ram to most Hindus is God, not mythology. Vedic researchers have deduced Ram’s date of birth to be 10 January 5114 BC.
Similarly, the final battle in Ramayana and the Ravana’s death occurred in Ram’s 39th year. His descendants, their lives, times, sages and philosophies have all been chronicled through ages in literature, songs, prayers and kathas. Ram has a presence in the temples of Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, and elsewhere. He has been mentioned in Tibetan religious texts. In the Ramayana, the author Valmiki describes Ram’s nature as “karuna nidhan” (ocean of compassion).
Politics of Ram bashing
Yet, Indian political leaders repeatedly challenged the existence of Ram. Late DMK patriarch and former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi had declared Ram to be “an imaginary character” of an ancient poem. To make insulting statements to dismantle the Hindu identity was the agenda of India’s politics for more than two decades. Karunanidhi wanted to develop a Setusamudram Shipping Project that many feared would destroy the Ram Setu bridge.
The politics of the 1990s and the 2000s was dominated by caste arithmetic and minority appeasement, which were the mantra for success in elections. The BJP is the only party that countered this Ram-bashing politics and successfully spoke about reclaiming the lost self-respect of Hindus.
The Supreme Court’s Ayodhya verdict has given the disputed 2.77 acres of land to the enshrined deity Ram Lalla. The central or the Uttar Pradesh government has to give five acres of land to the Sunni Waqf Board. So, there is no winner or loser in the judgment. Taking this cue, we must bury the politics of the past and come together to build a temple and a mosque. If we acted with restrain, it will contribute to the healing that the Indian civilisation needs.
The author is a former BJP MP from Bijnor (2014-19), Minister of State in Uttar Pradesh (2002-03), and two-term MLA. Views are personal.