Hindu fundamentalists celebrate atop the 16th century Babri Masjid (mosque) 06 December 1992 at a disputed holy site in this city. The mosque was reduced to rubble after thousands of fundamentalists attacked it with pickaxes, hammers, and swords. PHOTO: DOUGLAS E CURRAN/AFP

After replacing Babri Masjid with Ram temple, can the Hindus of BJP claim to be the owners of India?

The Ram temple campaign is not against a temple but the whole Islamic and non-Hindu history of India.

Sanjay Kumar June 07, 2017
The Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) rose to national consciousness through the Babri Masjid agitation in the 80s and 90s. Through this movement, it laid the foundation for majoritarian politics in India. The victory of the BJP in 2014, where it got a majority in the parliament for the first time in the history of independent India, is the fructification of the campaign that started in the late 80s.

The Hindu right-wing party wants to build a temple on the site of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya. They claim it was built by the Mughal ruler Babur in the early 16th century on the place which is supposed to be the birthplace of the Hindu God, Ram.

Ayodhya and Ram are ingrained in the Hindu psyche. By dragging Ram into the political arena, the BJP managed to mobilise Hindu masses and that led to the demolition of the mosque on December 6, 1992. This happened despite the assurances given to the court by the leaders of the Hindu right-wing party. Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee admitted that it was a mistake.

Several senior leaders of the BJP were present at the site when the demolition took place. Present Prime Minister Narendra Modi was an active organiser of the campaign for the Ram temple in 1990. He travelled with senior leader Lal Krishna Advani, mobilising and inciting masses to join the campaign for Ram temple.

After 24 years, the Lucknow High Court charged Advani, Central Minister Uma Bharti and former Minister Murli Manohar Joshi with criminal conspiracy for the 1992 Babri Masjid demolition case. The court has asked the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), the chief investigating agency, to wrap up the case within two years.

Not many have any interest in what happens to the aging leaders of the BJP. At the same time, not many are optimistic about the court coming out with any verdict on the merit of the case or whether the temple existed at the place where the Babri Masjid was built. No one is sure whether the court will hold anyone accountable for the loss of hundreds of lives during the Ram temple campaign in the 80s and 90s.

Though the temple is not still built at Ayodhya, the BJP, however, succeeded in its political mission. The party has an overarching presence in major parts of the country. It has managed to alter the political ethos of India and created majoritarian politics, which was not imaginable till few years ago.

Those who understand politics can tell you that the BJP and its patron Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s (RSS) project is not just to replace a mosque with a temple, but to convert secular India into a Hindu nation. Their campaign is not against a temple but the whole Islamic and non-Hindu history of India.

We should not delude ourselves over whether the BJP will stop talking about the temple or divisive politics once Ram’s temple is built at the site of the mosque.

The last three years of the BJP regime are ample proof that the party’s agenda is to hinduise India and undermine social, cultural and religious diversity. The ban on beef eating shows how the party wants to thrive by polarising the society. It is formulating a stringent law for those who slaughter cows and cattle but does not react when a mob kills someone just on the mere allegation of having beef at home.

The temple agitation created a mob frenzy that claimed not only the mosque, but also many innocent lives. Nothing happened to those who committed the crime. This pattern is continued till date.

India is now in the hands of those who always stood against the idea of India as a secular and multicultural nation. It is now ruled by the party and the ideology which always thrived on polarisation, sectarianism and extremism. After independence, the nation building process involved taking everyone along and trying to forge inter-cultural and inter-religious bonding. This in turn made India a strong democratic and secular nation.

Now a new narrative has taken over. India has never been overwhelmed by such aggressive Hindu agenda as it is now witnessing. The temple agitation has radicalised the majority community in India.

The court can decide the entitlement of the disputed site, but the question here is not about the ownership of the land, it is about the question of the ownership of India. The larger issue is, can the Hindus of BJP claim to be the owners of India? No. They represent the worst of what India can imagine itself to be.

It is the idea of India which is at stake. If we fail now, we will be staring at a future which is full of social and religious conflicts.

India is at a dangerous cross road.
Sanjay Kumar The author is a New Delhi based journalist covering South Asian and international politics. He tweets as @destinydefier (https://twitter.com/destinydefier).
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.