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Wounds of Ayodhya: The Challenge

The dispute in Ayodhya has been a big setback for Indian politics, forcing the real issues— poverty, unemployment, paucity of resources, agrarian crisis, corruption — to take a back seat, and in the wake of the Allahabad High Court verdict, that should not be allowed to happen again, writes Sandeep Pandey.

(Above): Indian Home Minister P. Chidambaram addressing a press conference on the Ayodhya Issue in New Delhi Sept. 29. The principal director general of Press Information Bureau, Neelam Kapur, is also seen. [Photo: PRESS INFORMATION BUREAU]

The demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992 and the campaign for Ram temple construction in Ayodhya has been a big setback for the politics of this country. The real issues of people — poverty, unemployment, paucity of resources, agrarian crisis, corruption — were pushed into the background. While people were grappling with this emotive issue, economic policies were implemented which have benefited only the corporate sector. We were fortunate that the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance was defeated in the 2004 general elections and the United Progressive Alliance came to power. With the putting into place of the Right to Information Act, National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, Forest Rights and the forthcoming Food Security Act at least there is a semblance of policymaking in favor of common citizens of this country. Had NDA continued in power it is not clear whether this country would have moved beyond the issues of Ram temple and Ram Setu.

On the other hand, the Babri Masjid demolition was followed by serial bomb blasts and various terrorist incidents. In this sense the origin of terrorism in India can be traced to the demolition of Babri Masjid. How can we forget that the then Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Kalyan Singh made a mockery of his commitment given to the Supreme Court to protect the Constitution.

Communalism is not compatible with the concept of democracy because it is sectarian thinking. On the other hand, it can only degenerate into fascism. We are fortunate that the people of U.P. and the country have rejected this brand of politics. We hope that they will not be fooled by this politics again. To derive political mileage out of people’s religious sentiments is utterly unethical.

People should respect the judgement of the court on the Ayodhya dispute. The party which is not happy with the judgement always has the option of approaching the Supreme Court. However, to instigate people’s religious feelings by taking the issue to the streets would be unconstitutional. The Sangh Parivar organizations have already become active on this issue. Hanuman Chalisa recitations are going on in some temples of Ayodhya for construction of Ram temple. SMS messages are in circulation. Leaders of Hindutva organizations are issuing statements. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad president Ashok Singhal has claimed that stones are being cut at Karsewakpuram in Ayodhya for temple construction and about half the work is complete. Such activities are, actually, contempt of court. The court must, suo moto, take this into consideration.

(Above): Sangh Parivar leaders at the inauguration of “Ayodhya” magazine.

For the people of Ayodhya and the country the Babri Masjid-Ram temple issue is not a real one. It has been foisted upon them. A dialogue with common people will reveal in Ayodhya how they have gotten sick of this issue. Their lives have been adversely affected. The continuous presence of security forces is a cause of tension. There is danger of curfew being imposed at the slightest provocation. The stream of worshippers to temples other than that of the makeshift Ram Lalla temple at the disputed site has diminished, affecting the economy of Ayodhya. The livelihood of a large number of families in Ayodhya depends on the temples. From growing flowers offered in temples to making of other materials used in worshipping, common families, including Muslims, are involved.

We expect the U.P. government to deal strictly with anybody trying to take political advantage of the court decision. We cannot afford giving a free hand to Hindutva forces to provoke communal riots in the country. If the state and the central governments put their foot down and the common people refuse to be moved by their communal instigations, the atmosphere of peace and harmony will prevail.

In reality, the Sangh Parivar finds itself in a bind with respect to the Ram temple construction issue. So far, this issue has only been used to promote the politics of BJP. If they were really interested in making a Ram temple they would have demonstrated the kind of political will which Mayawati has displayed in U.P. She has built dalit memorials on government land, after felling trees, with public money, right in the heart of the capital city, after making a suitable law. But the Sangh Parivar was never interested in constructing the temple. They merely wanted to exploit it politically, which would not have been possible once the temple was built. If the Sangh Parivar is actually interested in constructing a Ram temple in Ayodhya why doesn’t it do so on the land of Karsewakpuram owned by VHP? Why is it necessary to construct the temple on the disputed land? They can build a grand temple and set to rest the dispute forever. Will it demonstrate the magnanimity?

Sandeep Pandey, a Magsaysay award-winning activist, is India editorial consultant for Siliconeer.


Click here to read the Current Issue in PDF Format

Feet of Clay?
China and India

China and India have made impressive strides, but anticipation of future greatness is based largely on myths created by the media and part of academia, writes Pranab Bardhan.

Wounds of Ayodhya:
The Challenge
Following the Allahabad Court verdict, the Ayodhya dispute must not again force the real issues — poverty, unemployment, corruption — to take a back seat, writes Sandeep Pandey.

Truth Unvarnished:
Sakharam Binder
Vijay Tendulkar’s ‘Sakharam Binder is controversial because it mercilessly skewers Indian moral hypocrisy, writes Ravi Bhatnagar.

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