Notwithstanding Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s impressive address in Ayodhya to build an inclusive India based on the ideals of Ramrajya of social harmony, justice, piety, love and peace, the edifice of the Indian republic remains damaged.
By performing bhoomipujan for Ram Mandir, PM Modi junked his constitutional oath of office that makes it mandatory for him to “discharge all duties faithfully and conscientiously” for the Union and “do right to all manner of people in accordance with the Constitution and the law, without fear or favour, affection or ill-will”.
The very act signals a resolve to replace constitutional virtues of justice, secularism, equality and fraternity with equivalent concepts acceptable to Hindu majoritarianism.
There is no parallel of such gross departure from the Constitution in the history of independent India.
Only two acts come close enough — installation of Somnath temple after its renovation in May 1951 by President Rajendra Prasad and, Rajiv Gandhi’s approval to open Babri mosque’s locks (where idols were surreptitiously installed in 1949) in 1986.
The first act was strongly opposed by Jawaharlal Nehru. After cautioning his minister K.M. Munshi of the dangers of “Hindu revivalism”, Nehru told Rajendra Babu, “I confess I do not like the idea of you associating yourself with a spectacular opening of the Somnath temple. This is not merely visiting a temple… but rather participating in a significant function which unfortunately has a number of implications.”
Nehru's warning, not to mix religion with statecraft, proved prophetic.
The blunder by his grandson led to shilanayas of the temple in 1989 and a militant movement to release the idols from “captivity”. It prompted L.K. Advani to launch Ram Rath Yatra in 1990 that culminated in demolishing Babri Mosque, thus, badly scarring the syncretic fabric of India.
Innumerable communal riots and rise of extremist Islam in the immediate aftermath bear a testimony of this folly.
Justice suffered a blow in November 2019 when the Supreme Court overturned Allahabad high court judgement and handed over the entire 2.77 acres of land to the deity despite no archaeological evidence to back such a claim.
With this, it removed the final hinge holding the secular character of India to pave way for a de jure Hindu Rashtra.
Why the foundation ceremony in times of crises?
The answer lies in the word — crises. The Hindutva forces chose August 5 precisely to smother the rising anger against the blunders the Modi government committed through draconian demonetisation, faulty GST, accosting crony capitalists at the expense of public exchequer and erroneous handling of Covid-19 pandemic.
Despite efforts to hide and manipulate data, the ground realities show the deep crises India has been sucked into.
PM Modi managed to hide poverty by constructing a wall around a shanty alongside President Trump’s route from Gandhinagar Airport to Motera stadium but walls cannot be built across India.
A rosy picture cannot be painted in the midst of a plunging economy when millions start marching to villages for fear of dying of hunger.
In such a scenario, any people-centric government would pull all stops to tackle the crises. But what a government would do whose sole concern is to win elections to forward its bigoted agenda?
It will do what it knows best, build a smokescreen to divert people’s attention from real issues and keep them on a high with a sense of purpose to win elections.
This is precisely what the Modi government has done despite the dangers of Covid-19 that is now growing fastest in India. The rest of the agenda has already been put to practice.
A web of pliant television channels and an army of social media trolls will try to keep the public discourse limited to Ram Mandir and PM Modi’s aura to help BJP win upcoming elections in states of Bihar, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh.
The ultimate aim is to keep crises shrouded in this smokescreen until the inauguration of Ram Mandir in 2024 to ensure a dream run for a third straight win in Lok Sabha elections.
The onus to save Indian democracy now squarely lies upon Opposition parties and democratic, progressive liberal forces that lie scattered on the Indian political scene.
It has been made a wee bit more difficult by PM Modi’s smart move to change the narrative, from militant Hindutva to Ram’s inclusivity. Yet they can still do the impossible by getting together to pull down this smokescreen and help people see the reality that lies exposed everywhere.
By doing so they will do justice to the Maryadapurshottam who gave up his throne and embraced exile to help his father satisfy the whims of crafty stepmother, Kaikeyi. He is again being used to break the maryada of the Constitution to establish a New Republic by an equally crafty political party. Hey Ram!