Saffron-robed leaders of the myriad minor sects within Hinduism, who are mistakenly described in the English-language media as “seers” and “saints”, are a common quantity in northern India. Many have been patronised by the RSS-linked Vishwa Hindu Parishad for some two generations, and are in reality a hardcore political cadre by now, partially analogous to similar pseudo-religious outfits in some of our neighbouring countries.
Their large-scale well-organised gathering in Ayodhya by the VHP on Sunday for a so-called “Dharam Sansad”, or religious assembly, to pronounce on the deeply controversial subject of building a Ram Mandir at the site of the destroyed Babri Masjid in Ayodhya, is a regrettable attempt to give a deep communal colour to national politics while the process of important state elections are on in key BJP-ruled states and in the runup to next year’s Lok Sabha elections.
The effort is to force the Narendra Modi government’s hand in passing a law sanctioning the construction of a temple in Ayodhya even while the matter is before the Supreme Court and while well-meaning efforts are made from time to time for an amicable settlement outside the judicial framework to reach a workable accord between those who are litigants in the title suit at Ayodhya for the land where the Babri Masjid once stood.
In this setting, the Shiv Sena leadership has also played a provocative role in mocking the Modi government’s record in remembering the issue only before elections and doing nothing about it over the past four-and-a-half years. It is yet to be seen how the government rises to the challenge posed by the Sena, which is also urging it to bring an ordinance.
The fundamental issue that has the effect of vitiating the national atmosphere is the mobilising of thousands of people in the famous temple town for a deeply political purpose. It is against such mobilisations that former Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar had spoken about in Parliament in the wake of the demolition of the Babri Masjid (at a time when he was not the PM).
He had spoken of the absence of wisdom of the P.V. Narasimha Rao government in not preventing the gathering of large crowds at a sensitive location. On that occasion, a Supreme Court-monitored supervisory arrangement had also utterly failed. The Modi government has similarly failed. Any act of provocation by communally charged crowds could be beyond the capacity of the UP government or the Centre to stop. This is the question today. Something untoward in Ayodhya in a febrile atmosphere could impact social cohesiveness....