When India became independent, Nehru’s ‘Tryst with Destiny’ speech set the tone for the future course that India planned to undertake. He pledged, “The service of India means the service of the millions who suffer. It means the ending of poverty and ignorance and disease and inequality of opportunity…The ambition of the greatest man of our generation has been to wipe every tear from every eye. That may be beyond us, but as long as there are tears and suffering, so long our work will not be over.” And in this direction, he defined the temples of Modern India in the speech while inaugurating Bhakra Nangal dam. A report in HT archive describes it thus; “with great feeling the Prime Minister described these sites as “temples and places of worship” where thousands of human beings were engaged in great constructive activity for the benefit of millions of their fellow beings.
The ‘Temples of Modern India’ phrase was the underlying theme for conceptualizing the public sectors, educational institutions also promoting the scientific temper, health facilities, and academies for the promotion of culture and what have you. The nearly four to five decades’ journey with this undercurrent of ‘Modern Temples’ was to be turned upside down from the decades of the 1980s when on one side the response to Shah Bano’s fiasco of dealing with minorities opened the floodgates of divisive politics. The communal forces unleashed a massive propaganda war against the religious minorities. At the same time the affirmative action for the downtrodden, and the Mandal Commission implementation gave the fillip to temple politics which was already in the strategy books of Hindu nationalists.
In contrast to Nehru’s ‘temples of Modern India’, the search for ‘temples underneath the mosque’ brought to the fore the Babri Mosque dispute. The RSS progeny BJP took birth (1980) wearing the clothes of ‘Gandhian Socialism’ with moderate posing Atal Bihari Vajpayee at the helm. He was steeped in the RSS ideology. He wrote Hindu Tan Man-Hindu jeevan (Hindu soul and body-Hindu life) and masked his Hindu nationalist politics with élan. He yielded his place to Lal Krishna Advani, who came up with the slogan of ‘Mandir Wahin Banayenge’ (We will build the temple where Babri mosque is located).
RSS Combine was able to create a perception that Lord Ram was born precisely at the spot where the mosque is located. Ram Rath Yatra, got more muscles after the Mandal Commission implementation. This yatra left a series of trails of violence. In the wake of L.K. Advani’s rath yatra, nearly 1,800 people died in different parts of India around 1990. This yatra was aborted when Lalu Yadav arrested Advani.
The mosque was demolished on 6th December 1992, by the Kar Sevaks, some selected ones of which had well rehearsed the demolition. Advani, Joshi and Uma Bharati were sitting on the stage from where the slogan, Ek Dhakka Aur do, Babri Masjid Tod do (Give one more push, break the Babri Mosque) and “ye to keval Jhanki hai Kashi Mathura baki hai” (this is just the beginning, Kashi Mathra will follow). After demolition violence did follow in Mumbai, Bhopal, Surat and many other places. To cut a long story short, the legal system bent over backwards to give the verdict of the case based on ‘faith’ while naming those who led the demolition, but not giving them any punishment for the crimes committed by them. The judiciary in all its wisdom or lack of it; gave the whole Babri Mosque land to the “Hindu Side”.
In the glee of this ‘success’ by RSS combine; large funds were collected from home and abroad and a huge temple is ready to be inaugurated by the Prime Minister himself with all Hindu rituals. This will be a ceremony undertaken by the head of a ‘formally secular’ state. Babri Masjid was a regular election plank till it was demolished and after that building of the ‘grand Ram Temple’ was part of BJP’s election manifestos and electoral promises. The communal violence shot up regularly along with the ghettoisation of the Muslim community, the polarization and the rise of the electoral might of the BJP.
The present plight is well summed up by AM Singh, “Since coming to power, much of the BJP’s political discourse has exacerbated communal tensions between Hindus and Muslims. Their actions have followed suit, with the abrogation of Article 370 in the Indian Constitution and the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) in 2019… By redefining and remanufacturing Indian citizenship on the principles of Hindutva, the BJP government has broken the fate and legacy of India’s secularism enshrined in its constitution.” Now a ghettoized Muslim community has been pushed to the margins as second-class citizens.
Now as the temple is to be inaugurated all round efforts are on to mobilize the large section of Hindus around this. In America and other countries, a large number of NRIs are preparing for the occasion by organizing different programs. Here at home, all the progeny of RSS have been activated to mobilize the Hindus for the occasion, either by visiting the new temple or by visiting the local temples and performing rituals.
There are minor controversies about who has been invited and who is left out. Lal Krishna Advani, the Chief architect of the demolition movement and his close aide Murali Manohar Joshi were initially advised by the temple trust, not to visit the inauguration due to their old age and biting cold in Ajodhya, on second thought VHP, the overarching organization has invited them.
As the Babri demolition helped these sectarian politics to come to power, the inauguration of the temple seems to be yet another mechanism to consolidate the polarization and to reap electoral dividends. A large number of special trains and buses are being planned for the occasion. Temple politics has reached its acme.
It is time to recall Nehru’s concept of ‘temples of Modern India’ with the promotion of scientific temper! Currently, religiosity and faith blind faith are being heightened. As India started coming out of the colonial darkness it also ensured a direction where the ‘last person in the line’ was to be the primary focus. With the politics revolving around Ram Temple, to be followed by temples in Kashi and Mathura, the deprivations of the ‘last person’ and Nehru’s ‘Tryst with Destiny’ promises have been dumped along with holding him responsible for all the ills of the country!