Ayodhya - Another Chapter Is Closed PDF Print E-mail

“My efforts at finding a solution to the Ayodhya issue are over. I will not interfere hereafter. However my doors are always open if somebody comes to me on this issue”. With these words, the Kanchi Sankaracharya closed another chapter in the story of the unremitting struggle by the Hindus to liberate the Ramjanmabhumi from the clutches of the Muslims, the judiciary and the anti-Hindu polity of this country. What makes some of us so angry is that this struggle continues even with a BJP led coalition at the center. And what makes some of us even more angry is that the Kanchi mutt was dragged into this unseemly controversy so cynically and thoughtlessly by the BJP.

But this is not the end of the story, it is just the end of a chapter. And that is what Harish Khare is afraid of. He wants not for just the chapter to end, he wants the movement ‘capped’, the genie bottled, the lid screwed on so tight, the movement won’t see the light of day again. “The larger and long-term interests of the Indian republic require that the Ayodhya movement be de-legitimised and de-glamorised, and if necessary, tamed”. Before going into the details of why this chapter in the saga of liberation had to be closed, a quick look at Harish Khare’s rhetoric. He wants the Ayodhya movement to be de-legitimised. That is a wooly-headed demand. A ‘movement’ is well, a movement of the people and denotes collective aspirations. It may be pertinent to ask who or what gives these movements legitimacy and when is it ‘legitimate’ to end the movement by use of State power and force. If 'democracy' is the ideal of modern polity and is celebrated because it is an expression of people’s choice, then one cannot call for de-legitimising people’s movements without calling for de-legitimising democracy too. And as for Khare’s call to have the movement ‘tamed’, that is interesting too. I have always associated taming with curtailing freedom, physically controlling the object that is being tamed, and even breaking its spirit so totally that the object will do only the bidding of the tamer. It will no longer act independently. We do this almost naturally to animals as a matter of right, for expediency, or for sport and through slavery we did this to humans, both as sport and for expediency. Advani, in his capacity as Home Minister had, in March 2002, both de-legitimised and tamed the Ayodhya movement, when the interim orders of the Supreme Court weighed more heavily on his scales than the sanctity of the Ayodhya movement. Advani issued instructions for Ayodhya to be sealed, for the railways to stop issuing tickets to Ayodhya, for stopping inter-state and inter-city buses from plying into Ayodhya and threatening Ashok Singhal and others with arrest if they went ahead with the planned shila puja on the undisputed land! The VHP should be demanding his head or at least his resignation for standing the BJP promise of the Ayodhya movement on its head.

So when Khare asks Vajpayee to tame the Ayodhya movement, he is in fact asking for breaking the spirit of the leadership of this movement, controlling the Hindus of this country, making the movement do the bidding of the political class. If Khare didn’t intend all this meaning to go into his words, then he is as careless with his words as he is with acknowledging the ground reality with regard to the sentiments of the Hindus about Ayodhya, Mathura and Kashi. . Harish Khare befitting his poor understanding of the nature of the movement believes that if the BJP were to withdraw support to the movement, the movement will be effectively de-legitimised and de-glamorised; and if the BJP exercised its political will to deal sternly with Praveen Togadiya and Ashok Singhal, the leadership will ‘meekly cave in’ and the movement will be effectively ‘tamed’. He has concluded simplistically that the movement gathered strength only because of the BJP and now because the BJP has already achieved the objective of neutralising the power of the 'Muslim veto' by playing the Ayodhya card, they should cease support for the movement.

Harish Khare’s article merits scrutiny on several grounds. One, because it calls for the de-coding of the language he uses to describe the Ayodhya movement and two for its contents. Look at what he is actually saying in the context of neutralising the Muslim power of veto in Indian polity. He actually approves of it! “As far as the BJP leadership is concerned, the Ayodhya ‘movement’ has already achieved its political objective. That objective, never articulated but always insinuated, was to exorcise the Indian polity of its “Muslim veto…In many ways, the Congress as well as other political parties have fallen in line. Gone are the days when the Congress would nominate an A.R.Antulay to be the Chief Minister of a state like Maharashtra". The words ‘exorcise’ and ‘Muslim veto’ are Khare’s own, not that of the BJP’s. and if I were to do a Carl Jung, I would say these words express Khare’s sub-conscious attitude to Muslims. Similarly the insinuation that neutralising the Muslim veto in Indian polity was the sole objective of the Ayodhya movement too is his insinuation. Not that of the BJP’s. But what is remarkable is that he sounds actually pleased that even the Congress has fallen in line and will no longer impose a man like A.R.Antulay on Maharashtra. The reference to Antulay, a Muslim and to Maharashtra, Khare’s home state is revealing. For some reason, Khare did not like the Congress ‘imposing’ Antulay on Maharashtra. Witness folks, Khare coyly refusing to specify why he found the imposition offensive. But he approves; and having achieved the objective of ending such imposition, Khare wants the Ayodhya movement capped.

This chapter had to end because it did not have a well-planned beginning nor was its course chartered in advance. The fatal flaw that afflicted the Kanchi Acharya’s efforts to bring about a negotiated settlement of the dispute was that all parties active in this chapter, the visible and the invisible alike, saw the temple in Ayodhya as an end in itself. Building the temple in Ayodhya on the disputed site is indeed an end in itself, but the Ayodhya movement is not merely the means towards this end; this movement which includes Kashi and Mathura has a different, a larger objective – larger than rendering the Muslim vote bank ineffective. The objective of the Ayodhya movement as defined by our sadhus and sants and as shaped by the RSS and the VHP is to put a Hindu face to this nation. I know this will provoke Advani to immediately undertake a foreign tour so that he can wave his hands about and declare on every foreign soil that India can never be a theocratic state. Why he has to state the obvious is anybody’s guess. Malaysia is an Islamic nation without being a theocratic state as is Indonesia or Iraq under Saddam Hussein.

Restoring the Hindu face entails doing several things – liberating three very sacred shrines from Muslim occupation, banning cow slaughter, opposing religious conversion, activating our temples to undertake all their historic and traditional responsibilites like annadaanam, cultural/religious education, cow protection, protecting and propagating our vedas, shastras, and ithihaasas and constantly striving to maintain cohesion in our society threatened by foreign money power acting in several guises. The Ayodhya movement also seeks to keep a watchful eye on the religious demography of this country, defending this nation’s territory and integrity from threats by Islamic terrorists, separatists and Christian fundamentalists. In short the Ayodhya movement is aimed at re-kindling the fire and passion of nation-building and nationalism in the hearts of Indians who have forgotten what it was to be enslaved by invaders of various hues and religions.

Reducing the movement to simply connote building a bigger temple in Ayodhya, is only reflective of the fear that haunts Khare and his like when confronted by the big vision that the RSS has for this nation of Hindus, which motivates and ignites this movement. The Kanchi Acharya’s latest effort to engage the AIMPLB to negotiate a settlement was doomed to fail because no matter how it is glossed over, the effort was initiated in a hurry and in secrecy. It also sought to limit the scope of the movement to just building the temple. It also kept away all Hindus except the Kanchi seer away from the negotiations and the terms of reference of the proposals were not discussed with either the RSS and the VHP or with other Hindu religious leaders who have been in the forefront of this movement since its inception. This effort was seen to have been initiated by the seer at the behest of the present government at the center whose motives have therefore come into question. Let us not forget, the BJP stepped into this movement when the movement was at its peak in the late 1980s, when the movement was spearheaded only by the VHP and our sadhus and sants. For the government now to marginalise the VHP and encourage the Kanchi Acharya to seize control of the movement, is to betray the RSS and the VHP and insult all those sadhus and sants who began this movement. More than anything else it is a gross betrayal of Mahant Paramhans Ramchandradas, the 94 year old grand patriarch of the Ayodhya movement and described by T.J.S George disrespectfully as the Ayodhya movement’s pin-up boy. And the biggest betrayal is to trade-off Kashi and Mathura to buy short-term peace with the Muslims.

It is the responsibility of the Muslims of India and their social and religious leaders to understand the scope of the Ayodhya movement and act accordingly. The temples at Ayodhya, Kashi and Mathura, an intense religious issue goes beyond religion. To put it bluntly, these temples will decide the Hindu-Muslim equation in this country. The Muslims must understand that they cannot forever lean on the rootless, de-culturised intellectual class of this country to legitimise their obduracy and intransigence. The BJP has only itself to blame if instead of using the Ayodhya movement to become effective deliverers of the RSS vision for this country, the leadership believes it is riding a tiger which will not let them dismount. The BJP is now suffering from the delusion that if they could somehow, anyhow build the temple in Ayodhya, the tiger will become a lamb. And that is why, instead of making the Muslims see reason, they are once again resorting to the old and safe method of asking the Hindus to compromise their self-respect by trading off Kashi and Mathura for Ayodhya.

An impression has gained currency that the Kanchi Acharya had allowed the AIMPLB to believe that the RSS and the VHP would give up claims to Kashi and Mathura if the Muslims were to ‘gift’ Ayodhya to the Hindus. The Ramjanmabhumi site does not belong to the Muslims for the Kanchi Acharya to ask them to gift it to us. It was never theirs to ‘gift’. The word ‘gift’ has emboldened the motley collection of Muslim groups to treat the suggestion with contempt and has only encouraged them to dig deeper into their rut of obduracy. And the trade-off with regard to Kashi and Mathura could only have been Advani’s suggestion. This monster is raising its head after a gap of 10 years. According to the BJP White Paper, even in 1990, Advani had placed a similar proposal before the Muslims which the BJP white paper triumphantly declares, was refused by the Muslims. The BJP white paper however doesn’t tell us about how the RSS and the VHP reacted to Advani’s outrageous proposal that he would persuade the Hindus to give up their claims on Kashi and Mathura.

I had said earlier that Ayodhya is a bone in the BJP throat. Shamelessly manipulating a high institution like the Kanchi mutt to negotiate secretly with the Muslims, was a desperate gamble by Advani and co. to spit out the bone. Unfortunately for them, the bone is stuck deeper in their throat. The BJP must either go back to its original Hindutva ideology or risk being rejected by the Hindus en masse. It must legislate or fade into oblivion. This time round if the Congress or the Communists manage to sit on the throne any which way, we can rest assured the BJP will be consigned to political wilderness for the next twenty years. If the BJP has any political sense it will see the wisdom of sticking to the Hindutva poll plank for a clear majority. If the BJP retracts from the promises it made to the Hindus with regard to the Ayodhya movement, it will be trashed summarily.

Radha Rajan
No talks with Kanchi seer: Muslim Law Board