The Kashmir-to-Ayodhya common template was clearly intended to overtly demonstrate the suppression of Muslim aspirations in India
We are limping toward our 73rd Independence Day with little enthusiasm. The mood cannot but be downbeat after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s morale eroding recent Ayodhya foray.
The most narrow-minded Hindu, who (even if inadvertently) takes his cue from an outfit with a militaristic anti-democracy mindset that espouses antagonism toward particular religions, and weakens the core concepts of modern Indian nationhood rooted in our freedom movement, may have been charged up that day.
But even such people have to think of their home fires, the pandemic at the door, and the push of expansionist China’s army inside our borders.
Their evidently pseudo “Ram bhakti”, or devotion to the exalted ideals exemplified by Lord Ram, has no basis in religion.
Its fundamentals lie elsewhere — in the corrosive alleyways of politics that seek religion-based domination of society and the political space — as in Pakistan, for instance, and can without exaggeration be called non-sacred devotion to the divine.
The entire Ayodhya temple project has, in fact, been a massive enterprise in the politics of bigotry in which religion is whipped up as a mobilising tool with the aim of acquiring and retaining power on premises that are unconnected with the demands of everyday life.
And this is why, eventually, it is likely to prove of little avail against such powerful counter-urges as have been noted above — those of pressing concerns of the country.
Even if an ideologically-crazed and politically greedy Prime Minister is not ready at present to comprehend this, he is likely to be brought down to earth when ordinary Indians begin to feel the pinch and hold him and his buddies to account.
A (probably modified) Turkish proverb runs thus: “The forest was shrinking but the trees kept voting for the axe, for the axe was clever and convinced the trees that because his handle was made of wood he was one of them.”
In this the metaphor of our present politics (and indeed that of Turkey) becomes clear as day.
Just 10 days before India was to mark the 73rd anniversary of its freedom from colonial rule — and of attaining in that process the composite identity of a common nationhood, which is an overarching canopy across our complex identities of religion, caste, language and ethnicity — the Prime Minister struck at the fundamental precepts enshrined in the idea of Indian independence.
These had even served as a model to many countries as the process of decolonisation unfolded across the world.
It was careful choreography that the temple-building trust (which seems an extension of the PMO) chose August 5 — the very date last year on which the constitutionally-ordained autonomy of Jammu and Kashmir, India’s only Muslim-majority state, was snatched away by the Centre by adopting illegal and irregular ways that have been challenged in the Supreme Court, and the region brought under militarised suppression with not even a semblance of democratic governance -- to lay the foundation of the Ram temple in Ayodhya.
The Kashmir-to-Ayodhya common template was clearly intended to overtly demonstrate the suppression of Muslim aspirations in India by the Indian State under the RSS-BJP aegis, although
Muslims were equal participants in the freedom movement.
The RSS-BJP cohorts had declared from the start that the temple of their dreams would be erected at the exact spot where the Babri Masjid, a 16th century mosque of no particular significance (the Supreme Court rejected the propaganda that the mosque was on built on the ruins of a temple), had stood and was violently pulled down on December 6, 1992.
This was ruthlessly ensured through an illogical and justifiably condemned decree of the Supreme Court in November last year.
A judgment in favour of Ram Lalla (beloved Ram) would hardly have presented a problem since it is widely recognised now that many of democracy’s characteristic institutions appear to have been all but superseded by the executive under the Narendra Modi
Modi is known to bring communal mobs to their feet without breaking a sweat, and for full theatrical effect he seldom fails to appear in the attire of ancient Hindu sages as depicted in kitsch art.
For him, it would have been quite enough to satisfy the faithful by just being around to lay the first symbolic brick for the construction of the temple in Ayodhya, no matter how constitutionally unseemly this is.
And yet, the PM thought it best to make a big deal about invoking the freedom movement, and giving the (patently false) impression that building the temple was the second edition of the glorious struggle for independence, which is imprinted in the psyche of every Indian. Why did he do so?
The reason seems clear.
He wanted to steal the emotional association every Indian has with the long-drawn freedom struggle for an act of violent bigotry at Ayodhya — arguably the most reprehensible in free India.
Even if no one dared to inform him of this earlier, the Prime Minister may as well be made conscious that his August 5 speech in Ayodhya eviscerates the ideas that underlie the independence of India.
“The soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance,” Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru had said as the midnight hour struck proclaiming the emergence of India on the world stage as a new kind of free nation, one whose very concept had mesmerised the world on account of its perplexing diversity, plurality, and its ambition for democracy.
But the present PM presses the delete button on such thoughts every single day. Yet, nothing bestows legitimacy like favourable allusions to the independence movement.
So, speaking from Ayodhya, Modi engaged in yet another act of misappropriation by falsely linking the temple project with the freedom movement. He sought to portray the construction of the Ram temple as an act of “liberation”.
But we have been a free country for over 70 years, and no one in India feels enslaved except by caste, class, gender or communal oppression. That makes Modi’s “liberation theology” a grand deception.
Truth to tell, the PM has already made his Independence Day address on August 5, and it had little to do with the core values of India and the immediate concerns of all Indians. From the Red Fort on August 15, he can only give us a round of rituals
and some more propaganda.