Return of Ram Rajya!
With the Babri Masjid-Ram Janamabhoomi dispute finally coming to fruition, the proponents of Ram Mandir saw the foundations of the temple being laid down at Ayodhya by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on August 5th. In a moment of triumph that the common people of the country had worked toward for years, Prime Minister Narendra Modi set the ceremonial cornerstone for a new Hindu temple at the site of a destroyed mosque in Ayodhya.
Hindus and Muslims have clashed over the Ayodhya site for decades, setting off waves of sectarian violence that has killed thousands. As the Prime Minister sat cross-legged and chanted mantras in front of a Hindu priest, part of the elaborate groundbreaking ceremony for the temple, millions of Indians watched the ceremony on television or on social media. But because of the coronavirus pandemic, the gathering in Ayodhya itself was more muted than originally planned, with the crowds kept away. Hindu priests chose 5th August, and specifically at 12:44 p.m., as the most auspicious time to begin building the new temple.
Ahead of the foundation-stone laying ceremony of the Ram temple in Ayodhya, Prime Minister Narendra Modi offered prayers at the Hanumangarhi temple as it is said that no work of Lord Rama starts, without worshipping Lord Hanuman.
Accompanied by Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, the Prime Minister arrived at the temple dressed in traditional dhoti-kurta. Around 175 eminent guests had been invited for the ‘bhoomi poojan’ of Ram temple. Besides Prime Minister Modi, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat, Mahant Nritya Gopaldas Maharaj, Uttar Pradesh Governor Anandiben Patel and Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath were also present on stage.
After performing the ‘bhoomi pujan’, Prime Minister Modi said the wait of centuries has ended and India is creating a golden chapter in Ayodhya,
Beginning his speech with “Jai Siya Ram”, the Prime Minister told the gathering that a grand temple will be built for “Ram Lalla”, the infant Ram, who had been living in a temporary tent for years.
“Many people made sacrifices for the Ram temple. I pay my respects to all of them,” the Prime Minister said after the ground-breaking ceremony of the temple at the spot where many devout Hindus believe Lord Ram was born. Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his speech expressed gratitude to all citizens of the country, the Indian diaspora across the world and all the devotees of Lord Ram as he laid the foundation stone for Ram temple in Ayodhya. This is the first time that a Prime Minister has visited Ram Janmabhoomi to offer prayers at the sanctum sanctorum where the deity has been worshipped since 1949. He also said that Ram Lalla (infant Lord Ram) who has been living in tents for years will finally get a temple of his own now. “Today, Ram Janmbhoomi breaks free of the cycle of breaking and getting built again – that had been going on for centuries,” said PM Modi.
He further said that attempts were made to finish the existence, but Lord Ram is the basis of India’s culture. “The movement for building a Ram temple had dedication, struggle and resolve. I bow to those people whose sacrifice has made this possible,” PM Modi said.
In 1991, when he last visited Ayodhya, Modi had said that he will come to city only when the construction of Ram temple begins. That was made possible by a judgement of the Supreme Court in November last year when a bench headed by former chief justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi ruled in favour of Hindus.
A historical judgement
<Muddai lakh bura chahe to kya hota hai, wahi hota hai jo manjoor-e- khuda hota hai>, these lines were once again proved true with the Supreme Court delivering the verdict in Ramjanmbhoomi case. The verdict not only paved the way for the temple to be made, but it also clarified what the lakh and crores of people of this country had said and believed that Lord Rama is real and Ayodhya was/is his birthplace. The verdict which was waited upon for last 491 years was finally delivered by the then Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi led five bench Constitutional Bench of the Supreme Court. This was one historic verdict which had paved the way for creation of new India, India which will now move forward with new vigour and new hopes.
The Apex Court pronounced in a historic judgement on 9th day of November 2019 that a temple be constructed for Hindus on a 2.77-acre site in Uttar Pradesh’s Ayodhya town, which has been the epicentre of independent India’s biggest religio-political battle, while Muslims should get an alternative land to build a potential mosque.
The five-judge Constitution bench, headed by the then Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, ruled unanimously that the spot, where lakhs of Kar-sevaks spent their blood and sweat for the construction of temple, should be handed over to a trust that the Centre must constitute in three months to oversee the construction of a temple, subject to conditions. In the judgement of 1045 pages, the apex court said a report by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) gave enough evidence of a building “that was not Islamic” beneath the Babri Masjid that was demolished in 1992. The bench, also comprising Justices SA Bobde, DY Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S Abdul Nazeer, noted that the faith of Hindus that Ram was born at the site of the now-razed masjid is undisputed, and the existence of structures like Sita Rasoi, Ram Chabutra and Bhandar Grih are testimony to the religious fact of the place. However, the title cannot be established on the ground of faith and belief and they are only indicators for deciding the dispute, the five judges also said.
On September 30, 2010, the Allahabad High Court had ruled that the disputed land be split into three parts: the site of the Ram Lalla idol would go to the party representing Ram Lalla Virajman (the installed infant Ram deity), Hindu ascetics’ outfit Nirmohi Akhara to get Sita Rasoi and Ram Chabutara, and the Sunni Waqf Board to get the rest. All three parties then filed a review petition citing dissatisfaction from the judgement, in the Supreme Court. On October 16, the apex court concluded hearing 40 days of arguments on the pleas, after an earlier attempt for an out-of-court settlement through mediation was unsuccessful.
In the judgement, the court said “On the balance of probabilities, there is clear evidence to indicate that the worship by the Hindus in the outer courtyard continued unimpeded in spite of the setting up of a grill-brick wall in 1857. Their possession of the outer courtyard stands established together with the incidents attaching to their control over it,” said the top court in its ruling on the historic day.
“As regards the inner courtyard, there is evidence on a preponderance of probabilities to establish worship by the Hindus prior to the annexation of Oudh by the British in 1857. The Muslims have offered no evidence to indicate that they were in exclusive possession of the inner structure prior to 1857 since the date of the construction in the sixteenth century,” it said.
According to the judgment, five acres of land will also be allotted in Ayodhya to the Muslim community. “Justice would not prevail if the court were to overlook the entitlement of the Muslims who have been deprived of the structure of the mosque through means which should not have been employed in a secular nation committed to the rule of law,” the court said.
“Having weighed the nature of the relief which should be granted to the Muslims, we direct that land measuring five acres be allotted to the Sunni Central Waqf Board either by the Central Government out of the acquired land or by the Government of Uttar Pradesh within the city of Ayodhya,” it said.
Historical blunder set right
It is said that when religion and politics ride in the same cart, a whirlwind follows. And, that’s precisely what happened in post-Independence India. Right from 1528, when Mir Baqi, a general in Baburs army constructed Babri Masjid at the disputed site to the restoration of the land to Sri Ram on 9 November 2019 by a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court headed by the then Chief Justice of India, Ayodhya has remained witness to wrestling between both religion and politics and thus impacting the nation as a whole.
Jawaharlal Nehru had once said that he was Hindu by the accident of birth and Muslim by culture (contested though) and correspondingly opposed the reconstruction of the Somnath Temple — sacked, looted, disfigured — arguing that it would lead to “Hindu revivalism”. Sardar Patel had ignored him and, backed by President Rajendra Prasad, had gone ahead with the reconstruction project. When an attempt was made to force the Government’s hand on Ayodhya, Nehru had his way as Patel was no longer around.
Ironically, Nehru’s grandson Rajiv Gandhi was Prime Minister when the locks that had been placed on the disputed site following a court order to maintain status quo after an idol of Ram Lalla (or baby Ram) appeared under the main dome of the mosque, were opened and worship by Hindus was allowed. That was in 1986 and the politics of the time determined the Government’s response which was primarily aimed at mitigating the Hindu backlash to parliamentary subversion of the Shah Bano judgement. Arun Nehru, a close friend of Rajiv Gandhi and Minister for Internal Security in his government, is believed to have advised Rajiv Gandhi to play the ‘Ayodhya Card’ as a balancing act. Rajiv Gandhi was to later launch the Congress’s 1989 election campaign from Ayodhya, though that did not fetch the expected result.
The unlocking of the disputed site also unlocked pent up emotions of the people and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) took up the issue of Ram Janmabhoomi. As the revived battle for Ram intensified, L.K. Advani moved a presidential resolution at the Bhartiya Janta Party’s (BJP) national executive meeting at Palampur in 1989, adopting the Ayodhya Movement as the party’s political project. Advani’s Somnath to Ayodhya Rathyatra, conceived as a counter to V.P. Singh’s divisive Mandal politics, and the fallout over his arrest in Bihar, in a sense marked the shift from Hindu revivalism to Hindu resurgence in the country.
With decades of fighting, both in court and otherwise, the Apex Court had finally ruled that a trust was to be set up by the government to oversee the use of the disputed land, and Muslims, represented by the Sunni Waqf Board, will be given land to build a mosque. With this, the chapter of Ayodhya’s history initiated by Mir Baqi building a mosque above a non-Islamic structure, as determined by the Archaeological Survey of India, came to an end.
While kudos should be given to not only government- both at centre and state- but also people of India for maintaining peace and harmony during the tumultuous years of struggle for the Ram temple, there are many takeaways from the ‘bhumi-poojan’ which needs to be seen in wider context. First, the BJP can now claim that two of the three issues that formed its ‘core agenda’ have been settled with the abrogation of Article 370 and the Ayodhya verdict. The third, Uniform Civil Code, is a work in progress. If a UCC were to be put in place in the coming months, then the BJP would have implemented its ‘core agenda’. That would open up space for a shift in its politics from identity to issues of contemporary relevance, for instance, the national economy. While triumphalism would be misplaced, the BJP would make the most of the popular perception that strong leadership and an overwhelming parliamentary majority are sine qua non for delivery. The possible rough edges of policy in the offing would be smoothened by success on the core agenda front.
Second, the Congress has been once again left holding the proverbial can although the process of liberating Ram Janmabhoomi was started in an era when the party was in power with a humongous parliamentary majority. As the Congress’s strength steadily declined, that of the BJP grew exponentially through the closing decade of the 20th century and the opening decades of the 21st century. The space that the Congress occupied has since been ceded to the BJP, potentially irrevocably.
Third, through its judgement of 9th November 2019,the Supreme Court has reasserted the primacy of ownership of property, either by individuals or legal entities (in this case Sri Ram) underscoring the fact that this remains an inalienable Fundamental Right in our constitutional scheme. The deletion of Right to Property from the list of Fundamental Rights by the post-Emergency ragtag regime of conflicting ideologies was a monumental blunder which continues to erode freedom and restrict liberty. The BJP would do well to reconsider this exclusion and restore Right to Property where it belongs. If this right were to be once again made inalienable, fractious disputes like what has been witnessed in Ayodhya would dissipate even if they do not disappear entirely.
Fourth, seven decades after declaring itself a republic, India must come to terms with its history. There is no percentage in whitewashing the past, as has been done by historians guided by state patronage and party ideology. That has only contributed to what a commentator had described during the height of the Ayodhya movement as the “past imperfect, future tense” syndrome. Soviet-style airbrushing of unsavoury bits and pieces of history has never worked, including in the country from where this fad to remould the truth to suit a state’s ideology travelled to India. It has long been argued that India must discontinue the practice of state writing of history. The time has come to dismantle India’s history project of Soviet era vintage. Mature democracies confront their past and move on to the future without allowing the present to be an undue hindrance. Nanny states feed their citizens with doctored history, a lot of which was iterated in the Allahabad High Court as well as the Supreme Court.
Fifth, the much-touted ‘Idea of India’ as a utopian and idyllic state where secularism is a one-way street of limitless concessions needs to be discarded, if only for the damage it has inflicted on both polity and society. Faith, as the Supreme Court’s judgment tells us, cannot be subject to judicial scrutiny, nor should theology concern the state in a republic. The state must act in the best interest of the largest possible number of citizens without seeking to balance its decisions by conceding ground to one community or the other. That never works. India is what it is, a civilisational nation whose people are deeply religious. There is little or no scope to enforce borrowed ideas that are intrinsically antithetical to Hindu faith and belief.
Millions of Indians are filled with joy, with the ‘bhumi-poojan’ and the feelings are manifest in the lighting of diyas and burning of crackers all over the country on the auspicious day. This enormous feeling can be summed up in the words of Omendra Ratnu (written in OpIndia) “The day doors of this Mandir are thrown open, what the world would witness is not just a structure of stone- they will see a monument to the indomitable spirit of humanity in the face of the worst religious persecution. It’ll tell one and all that the past glories and legacy can be recovered.
Ram Janmabhoomi will be the epicentre of Hindu Shraddha, hope and valour.
The destruction of their holy shrines by the Muslims has led to Hindus having journeyed from denial to rage- and this has made Hindus more flexible, powerful, and resilient against atrocities.
It’s time to recognize our own resolve, and orient our faith towards the Dharma- that is in our blood and bones. Our Vedas, Shastras, Sadgurus, and rituals have put in us a fire that may flutter, but cannot be extinguished. A light that makes us stand up again every time we fall.
The specialty of Rama Janmabhoomi is that aside from being the birthplace of Sri Rama, it’s also the most sacred place of Hindu memory and consciousness, that never died and that showed that it can never be erased. We have shown those who jeered at us as “idolators” that we can die for the vacant spot of land.”
By Nilabh Krishna