There is something extraordinary about India. One such occasion—there are far too many—was the inauguration of the Ram Mandir on January 22, 2024. Well, you might wonder what makes it so unique.
The commotion surrounding the occasion was rather unusual.
At the function, the leader of the right-wing cadre-based organisation, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), known for its open antagonism towards Indian Muslims, was seated next to the prime minister of India, who is purportedly supposed to defend constitutional morality.
There were actors, cricketers, businesspeople, politicians, and the usual sadhus you find all over Varanasi, all elites and (some proles) seated in gorged-up heat, for the bhajans would cleanse their inner sanctity.
The TV news, with all their exuberant side-show of who is the most loyal to the Government, played bhajans, and songs, and praises, and prayers to Ram, who until then had been awaiting his return to Ayodhya, the birthplace.
The Babri Mosque in Ayodhya, built in 1529, upon whose ruins the Ram Mandir stands today, has been controversial since India’s independence.
Two years after India’s independence, idols of Ram and Sita mysteriously appeared in the Mosque of Babur. There were even efforts to recite Ramacharitamanas outside the mosque in December 1949.
While Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Home Minister Vallabhbhai Patel directed the idols be removed, the UP-State Chief Minister did not want them removed. Moreso, in 1950, the state even mandated the Hindus to perform puja at the site, which was until then a place of worship for Muslims.
In 1984, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), another right-wing Hindutva group, began its campaign to build a Ram Mandir in Ayodhya. In 1990, BJP leader Lal Krishna Advani spearheaded a campaign to build a Mandir in place of the mosque.
On December 6, 1992, the Hindutva mob pulled down the 16th-century mosque. And nearly four decades since the first demands of a Ram Mandir, the cornerstone of that sweeping vision has come to fruition.
Today, the mosque has had a moratorium, and in its place, stands a grandiose Mandir. However, in Ram’s India, like elsewhere where religions mix with politics, principles are tossed—and temples are built over them.
During the occasion, PM Modi said: “Today our Ram has come. After centuries of patience and sacrifice, our Lord Ram has come.” And he adds: “It is the beginning of a new era.”
Ram Mandir in Ayodhya reflects a new India established on Hindu supremacy.
The secular elite has now been replaced with a more hardcore Hindutva elite and some sellouts (like some faculties in public institutions, who flip their ideologies as a chameleon changes its colours).
Secularism has readily been rejected as a constitutional principle by the ruling elite. And all the praises they held for Nehruvian secular ideals have now come under scanner.
India was never truly secular—both in theory and practice. We just called it names—like Indian secularism as that of a “principled distance”—without really giving it a thought that politics is not often principled. Moreso, politics is never principled. There are no more Jayaprakash Narayan in Indian politics.
There is an inevitable decay of the Indian democratic structure. Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson connote that institutions make for a good democracy.
Today’s India suffers an institutional blow of sorts. Hatred for Muslims in India has increased dramatically in the last few years. For 200 million Muslims, the Ram Mandir has come as a sense of despair.
In today’s India, poverty persists, inequality continues to rise, education is scarce, and prices for essentials have soared like never before, and yet people crave temple structures.
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