Prime Minister Modi’s first big test in handling contentious issues will be to resolve the Ram Mandir conundrum to the satisfaction of all, or, as he loves to say, with ‘Sabka saath, sabka vikas, sabka vishwas’.
Today, Ram Mandir has lost much of the emotive power that helped it sway Hindu and Muslim minds in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Much water has flown in the past several decades and for the BJP it is just an unfulfilled commitment that it must fulfil now, as it virtually runs out of excuses. Even the anger and resentment of Muslims is slowly giving way to passive resignation.
Secondly, a generational change, over the years, has led to a situation where the younger lot among both Muslims and Hindus wants closure on the controversial issue.
The political atmosphere has undergone a sea change between 1992 and 2019.
The Ram Mandir-Babri Masjid dispute had been languishing in courts for decades, since before Independence. It was only the BJP, with other right-wing Hindu outfits like the Bajrang Dal, RSS, Shiv Sena and Vishwa Hindu Parishad among others, that brought it to the national forefront and galvanised Hindus behind a long-drawn-out battle for the construction of a Ram Mandir.
Horrifying though it might sound, the truth is that on December 6, 1992, the majority community in India used its brute force to correct what it believed was a grave historical wrong.
For a brief while that day (till the mosque was razed to the ground) there was not only no constitutional authority in control, but no serious effort was made, by either the state or central machinery, to protect the mosque.
The mindset of people who joined the Ram Janmabhoomi Movement and BJP leader L.K. Advani’s Rathyatra indicates that they had just one goal – to construct a grand temple at the “birthplace of Lord Rama”.
The revelation that a Ram Mandir at the spot was destroyed and a mosque built atop it must have acted like a festering wound in the Hindu psyche, powering the destruction of the Babri Masjid.
Interestingly, many in the Muslim community would say yes, when asked today if Lord Ram – revered throughout India as an incarnation of Lord Vishnu with innumerable temples dedicated to him across the country and his idol adorning virtually every Hindu home – should have a grand temple at his own birthplace.
As a community, class or religious group we cannot seek some kind of retribution for every wrong done, but at some places Hindus do have a fair and valid point, which many Muslim leaders also accept.
Ram Mandir is one instance when many in the Muslim community understand the feelings of Hindus or of a majority of Indians. Lord Ram is given high regard, cutting across communities. So, his temple at his birthplace is not like any other temple anywhere else for Hindus, but one akin to the Kaaba in Mecca for Muslims or the Church of the Holy Sepulchre at Jerusalem for Christians.
Actually, had politicians not vitiated the atmosphere, both communities would have sorted the matter out amicably by now.
The BJP has flogged the issue so many times since the Ram Mandir issue propelled it to power that it has stopped yielding it any more electoral advantage. So much so that the Opposition caricatures BJP’s delaying tactics by jeering “Mandir wahin banayenge, par date nahin batayenge (They will build the temple there, but they won’t say when)”.
With socio-political and religious sensitivities attached to the whole issue, there is no easy solution. The matter has been pending in the courts, too, for a very long time.
As the matter pertains to “faith” and that too of a large number of people, a cut and dried hardcore evidence-based legalistic solution may not be the answer. Any solution which seems forced may lead to more serious problems.
On the question of whether there was a Ram Mandir at the site before the mosque came up, the ASI has submitted its report to the courts. The evidence must be taken at face value, but then a section has already challenged and disputed it.
The Archaeological Survey of India has, after its excavations and surveys, pointed to the existence of a massive structure under the disputed mosque, with distinctive features of a 10th century temple with stone and decorated bricks, mutilated sculpture of a divine couple, carved architectural members including foliage patterns, amalaka, kapotapali, doorjamb with semi-circular shrine pilaster, lotus motif, 50 pillar bases with Sanskrit inscription, holy fire-place – yagna kund, slabs with Devnagri inscription, walls with stones that had carvings of Hindu ornaments such as lotus and Kaustubh jewel, terracotta figures of serpent, elephant and saints.
While the Sunni Central Waqf Board has dismissed the findings of the report as “vague and self-contradictory” others have pointed to evidence suggesting it might have been a Buddhist site.
There are a plethora of issues which make this an extremely complex case.
Actually, the highest court has to weigh several issues and put its mind to clarifying several basic concepts like what constitutes a mosque in Islamic law, is there a concept of faith; rights of a deity, what existed at the disputed site prior to Babri Masjid, what is the scientific evidence regarding existence of a temple underneath and whether the temple was destroyed.
Then the court has also to peruse the Archaeological Survey of India report and evidence on the basis of the findings in the excavations. The data must be above any dispute.
The likes of Subramanian Swamy have within days of Modi 2.0 assuming office started putting pressure on the government to build a Ram Temple at Ayodhya. According to Swamy, as the government had taken over the land, the entire 67.703 acres belongs to the Union Government and it could begin construction of the temple at once.
Once the Supreme Court comes to a decision, the winning party can be given compensation from the government. The BJP government is virtually in a bind because it has a massive majority in Lok Sabha. For years, the BJP had been telling its Hindu votebank that a Ram Mandir would be constructed once the BJP has a majority of its own in Lok Sabha and is not dependent on any other party or bound by any coalition dharma.
Today, the BJP’s core constituency, which has been with the party through the Rath Yatra, is disheartened and has no patience left. No wonder then that many in the NDA, including the Shiv Sena, have started talking in terms of Ram Mandir now.
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