Inside a television studio on 11 March, while making sense of the charge of the saffron brigade, my mobile phone vibrated. During the next ‘break’, I downloaded the WhatsApp image posted by a self-proclaimed bhakt in the group, comprising friends from my housing colony. Not surprisingly, the image was of Modi. But my disquiet did not stem from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s image but from the words below it:
Hamari shaksiyat ka andaza tum kya lagaoge gaddaron,
Hum to Saudi Arab mein bhi Jai Shri Ram ke naare lagwa dete hain
(Hey traitors, how can you gauge my personality? I have the ability to ensure that the slogan of Jai Shri Ram echoes even in Saudi Arabia.)
Fervent Call for a Ram Temple
On Sunday, 12 March, MG Vaidya, the nonagenarian father of the Prachar Pramukh of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), Manmohan Vaidya, declared that the verdict in Uttar Pradesh was a mandate to build the Ram temple in Ayodhya.
Vaidya Senior had once held the position his son holds now – who says dynasties are exclusive to ‘pseudo-secular’ parties? – and played a significant role in publicising the RSS’ views during the Vajpayee era.
The BJP’s Lok Kalyan Sankalp Patra, as its UP poll manifesto was called, was unabashed in being Hindutva-centric.
It pledged to build a Ram temple at Ayodhya, besides promising to gather views on the issue of triple talaq, ban mechanised and illegal slaughterhouses, form ‘Romeo Squads’ to check eve-teasing (read love jihad) and prevent forced migration of Hindus from Muslim-dominated rural areas, if voted to power in Uttar Pradesh.
When asked how the pace of construction would be speeded up, party president Amit Shah opted for caution. He said if voted to power, the BJP would make all efforts to build a ‘grand’ Ram temple but would conform to the constitutional and legal framework.
With the overwhelming mandate in UP now, the moot question is whether the BJP will deliver on the long-unfulfilled promise.
Why Ram Temple is Not a Possibility in Near Future?
Indeed, the question will acquire greater importance as we come closer to 6 December this year, as it marks a quarter century since the mosque – ‘disputed shrine’ for some – was demolished by rampaging kar sevaks mobilised by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad.
There is a need to understand that the Ram temple will not be built in the near future for two reasons.
1) Legal Obstacles
First, there is a legal injunction since 2011, when the Supreme Court stayed the Allahabad High Court verdict on title suits related to the Ayodhya dispute.
The High Court, in September 2010, had ordered division of the disputed land in Ayodhya into three parts – 1/3 for the temple, 1/3 for the Sunni Wakf Board and the remaining to the Nirmohi Akhara, one of Ayodhya’s militant sects.
Despite the fierce political dispute, the primary conflict is a civil dispute – whose land is it actually?
There is no way that the temple can be built legally because since 9 May 2011, when it stayed the HC judgement, the apex court has shown little inclination in taking the matter forward. No bench has been constituted yet and the matter has not been listed till date.
No judge of the Supreme Court has ever stated this, but ever since PV Narasimha Rao attempted to get the court involved in the Ayodhya dispute, the judges have steered clear of the issue. They possibly consider that the disagreement is political in nature and must be tackled either by the executive or the legislature. Evidently, no judge wishes to earn the wrath of any religious community because any judgement will fail to satisfy all the parties.
Besides a lack of progress in the SC, ownership of the disputed land is vested with the Centre after the Acquisition of Certain Area at Ayodhya Act was enacted in April 1993 by Parliament.
The legal validity of this law was challenged but without success. Consequently, the BJP government will not dare take the law into its hands and earn the apex court’s wrath and invite contempt.
2) Sangh Parivar’s Reluctance on Ram Temple
The second reason why the Ram temple is unlikely to become a reality for long, is that the Sangh Parivar is not keen on undertaking construction of a temple. This is because the temporary structure that stands in place of the demolished mosque is a convenient symbol that can be used as a political tool for mobilising support. There is also a need to understand that temple construction was never the main objective of the VHP agitation.
Ram Temple Should Remain BJP’s Unfinished Agenda
The so-called movement, in the words of LK Advani after his release from post-demolition detention, was aimed at popularising the idea of cultural nationalism (read propagating Hindutva).
In their zeal, the cadre mobilised by the VHP, concluded that the main goal was to demolish the Babri Masjid because it was projected as a symbol of hate, a structure that personified proclaimed subjugation of Hindus by Muslim emperors. Advani called 6 December 1992 as the saddest day of his life partially because he realised that with its demolition, the BJP lost a symbol which could be used to evoke Hindu rage.
The Ram temple must always remain an unfulfilled agenda of the BJP because once the mission is accomplished, it will be tough to mobilise people on emotive issues.
Other Issues Take Centrestage
Moreover, other issues raised as part of the Hindutva pitch have now acquired centrality and are being used as tools to harness majoritarian sentiment. For instance, BJP’s stance on triple talaaq does not stem from the intention to liberate Muslim women from patriarchal control, but is motivated by its ambition to hegemonise the community by forcibly intervening in personal matters.
The new BJP government, once it finds its feet, is likely to first take up ‘doables’ like the Ram museum and tourist circuits, besides, of course, shutting down illegal back of slaughter shacks and even mechanised slaughter houses, provided law permits. Romeo squads will be another populist measure.
As far as the slogan ‘Kasam Ram ki khate hain, mandir waheen banaenge’ (We swear in the name of Ram that the temple will be built at that spot) is concerned, it will remain just that. At least for now.
(The writer is an author and journalist based in Delhi. He has authored the book ‘The Demolition: India at the Crossroads’ and ‘Narendra Modi: The Man, The Times’. He can be reached @NilanjanUdwin. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)