The inauguration ceremony of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya today closes a chapter of the political Hindutva-isation of India that starts with Rajiv Gandhi’s unlocking the Babri Masjid in 1986, L.K. Advani’s Rath Yatra in 1990 and the demolition of the Babri Masjid two years later, and ended with the sweeping electoral successes of Narendra Modi in 2014 and 2019, 12 years after the Gujarat riots.
In this interview, Dr Faizan Mustafa, Vice Chancellor of NALSAR University of Law, Hyderabad talks about the legality and propriety of Prime Minister Modi inaugurating the Ram Temple, given that he is the head of government in a country that calls itself secular, and what secularism means in a country where the state often manages places of worship, religious institutions, and pays the salaries of those who run them.
Can Prime Minister Modi attend the inauguration of the Ram Temple as the PM of India?
The Constitution does not tell us where the Prime Minister should go and not go. The Constitution does not say that the Prime Minister cannot go to a religious event. It is not there in the text of the Constitution.
There is something called legality, constitutionality and propriety. If you are a secular state then you are supposed to be a religion neutral state. Since the Prime Minister signifies the state, the overt public participation in any religious event is not the ideal thing to do. But we don’t live in an ideal world. I recall that when (then President) Rajendra Prasad went to Somnath Temple (its inauguration in Gujarat in 1951 at the invitation of Union Minister K.M. Munshi), (Prime Minister Jawaharlal) Nehru publicly criticised it.
Prime Minister Modi has gone to the UAE mosque. He has gone to a number of churches. And every year, Prime Ministers, even PM Modi, do send a chadar to Ajmer Sharif (Dargah). Unlike other leaders like L.K. Advani and Uma Bharti and Vinay Katiyar, who are founders of the temple movement, one has to appreciate that the...