Ram Rajya Rath Yatra: Road to Power

Ram Puniyani

The decades of 1980s were a turning point in the history of the country. For the first time emotive issue like Ram Temple took the better of social issues related to economic and social justice. On the heels of opening of the locks of Babri Mosque, Advani of BJP planned his Rath Yatra and in the aftermath of V.P. Singh’s implementation of Mandal Commission report, the Yatra was intensified. The Yatra was the first major polarizing event in the history of the country and it left trail of violence in its aftermath. The demolition of Babri Mosque and the consequent increase of the electoral power of BJP are too well known. BJP which had made the pretense of having the agenda of ‘Gandhian Socialism’, had bitten the dust at electoral level. Rath yatra came as a rejuvenating elixir for this party, whose electoral strength saw the steep rise to power with forming a minority Government in 1996, forming alliance Governments NDA from 1998 and then getting the full majority on its own in 2014 general elections.

The formula of success for BJP has been well internalized by the party; divisive emotive issues, return of Lord Ram in election seasons, supplementing other identity issues like Holy cow, Vande matram, Love jihad etc.; have formed the powerful armamentarium of this party. As we are to face the general elections in a year to come, Lord Ram is being brought back to the social political scene yet again.

This time around, RSS chief Mohan Bhagawat set the ball rolling with his prodding in Udupi Dharma Sanasad of VHP in November 2017. The cue was taken up by VHP and under the aegis of VHP and Muslim Rashtriya Manch; and yatra started from Ayodhya in UP to Rameshwaram in Tamilnadu. The organization convening the whole exercise is Shri Ramdas Mission Universal Society from Maharashtra. It is having the Rath shaped in the pattern of proposed temple at Ayodhya. The yatra’s agenda is politically clear; its major aims reveals yet again as to what do these followers of Hindu nationalism aim at. Their demands include establishing Ram Rajya, grand temple at Ayodhya, to include Ramayana in school syllabus and to shift the weekly holiday of Sunday to Thursday etc.

While Muslim Rashtriya Manch is a organization handy in for RSS to pretend as if Muslims also support it, the truth is that majority of Muslims by now realize that the religious minorities are being relegated to second class citizenship, with all the violence around Beef, Love Jihad, Tiranga (tricolor) etc. Surely among the nearly 16 crore Muslim population there are bound to have the likes of Zafar Sareshwalas, who will like to curry the favors’ from BJP for various reasons and blow the trumpet of ruling party. Let’s have a look at the demands posed by the Yatra. As far as the establishment of Ram Rajya is concerned, the same Ram Rajya can be looked at in various ways. Gandhi tried to look at it in an inclusive way, by seeing the parity of Ram and Rahim, Ishwar and Allah. Ambedkar and Periyar were deeply disturbed by Lord Ram’s killing of Bali from behind and killing of dalit Shambuk as he was doing penance, despite caste norms not permitting it. Ram projected by Advani-BJP-RSS is intimidating to minorities and has exclusive approach.

Many a Muslim majority countries are having weekly off on Friday, on those lines the demand has been put forward to have it on Thursday. What is to be seen primarily is that India is currently connected with offices worldwide, business offices will have better functioning in keeping with global norms. As far as introducing Ramayana in school syllabus is concerned RSS VHP again seems to have a narrow view. One recalls that ABVP, the student wing of RSS had created ruckus against the seminal essay on Lord Ram by A K Ramanujan, Three Hundred Ramayana’s… and got it deleted from the syllabus. This essay tells us that there are many versions of Lord Ram story. The telling of these diverse Ramayana’s is at variance with each other. For example Ram story, ‘Ramkin’ prevalent in Thailand, has Lord Hanuman not as a celibate but a family man. The Ramayana prevalent in parts of Andhra have a version which is from the angle of women. Again Valminki Ramayana and Tulsidas Ramayana also have some nuanced difference. RSS combine has a single version to uphold. So which Ramayana will be introduced?

As such the issues raised by this combine have no relevance to the needs of Hindus, despite the claims that RSS is for Hindus. What social and economic goals will be achieved by the Ram Temple or Ram Rath yatra? Will it solve the issues of Hindu farmers, or Hindu jobless youth? Will this enhance the health and nutritional status of Hindu women and children? Will it address the issues of dalits who are facing caste atrocities or will it any way helps the women, incidents of violence against whom are rising by the day?

The yatra is being taken out at time when Supreme Court is in the process of hearing the case related to land dispute where Babri mosque was located. What signal this Yatra gives regarding the upholding the decisions of the Courts? The Hindu nationalists are diverting the social attention and resources in directions which relate purely to emotive aspects of dominant sections of society. Yogi Adityanath in his budget has given provisions for Ram Idol in Ayodhya, allotted money for celebrating Divali and Holi. A state where children have died due to lack of Oxygen cylinders such a budget is an insult to concept of social welfare. Such Yatras are purely having political goals. If Gandhi’s Ram is asked what will he prefer to have at the site where Mosque was demolished, surely his answer would be to have a public utility like a Hospital or a University, and not his temple!

Category :- English Bazaar Patrika / OPED

Communal violence has been the bane of our society. There had been a perception that this violence is a spontaneous clash between two communities. Over a period of time, it is becoming clear that it is not a spontaneous phenomenon, nor is it a clash between two communities, it is a planned violence. Scholars basing themselves on analysis of the inquiry commission reports and the pattern of riots show that violence is generally a planned event to polarize the communities for electoral benefits. Surely apart from communal parties other parties also have to be blamed for various slips of mainly omission and partly occasionally for active commission of the violence. The main source of this curse of our society is communal politics, which aims to rule in the name of religious identity. If there was any doubt about it, that got cleared in the Kasganj violence in UP on the Republic day 2018.

The story so far is that in Kasganj in Shahid Abdul Hamid chowk a program was organized by minority community to celebrate the day, chairs were laid etc. The motorbike rider youths nearly 90 or so belonging to RSS affiliates ABVP came, carrying tricolor and the saffron flags. They also had clubs and other armaments as per some reports, videos. They insisted at the Chowk to remove the chairs as they had to pass from there. The local Muslims asked them to join the program rather than disturb it. The clash ensued. The tricolor-saffron flag wielding youth shouted the slogans, ‘Pakistan Murdabad’ (Death to Pakistan), Hindi Hindu Hindustan, Katve Bhago Pakistan, (Muslims go to Pakistan) ‘Is Desh Mein Rahna hai to Vande Matram kahna Hoga’ (If you want to live in this country, you will have to say Vande Matram). In the clash and bullet firing that followed two men received bullet injuries of which Chandan Gupta, who was also a participant of the bike rally died and other Muslim labor Naushad is being treated in hospital, having been severely injured.

A section of TV and other media presented it as if Muslims were resisting the tricolor hoisting so they opposed the bikers and forced them to shout pro Pakistan slogans, something which is far from truth. The role of a section of media is very negative in communal violence. Police as usual did not stop or control the inciting mob. On the following day Rajveer Singh, BJP MP, at the cremation of Chandan Gupta further added to the fury after which the mobs resorted to selectively burning vehicles and shops in the Muslim locality. Yogi Adityanath Government has by now announced a compensation of 20 Lakhs for Chandan Gupta, hopefully compensation for other injuries and damages will be forthcoming.

An interesting sidelight took place this time around. Raghvendra Vikram Singh the DM of Barilly in his Hindi face book post criticized the event saying that “by now it has become a trend to take out procession in Muslim localities and shout anti Pakistan slogans. Are these people Pakistanis?” The post was taken down after intimidating trolling and the state administration expressing displeasure over the post, he wrote, "I apologize if some sentiments were hurt by what I said, but there is no denying that our secular ethos is at stake; there are things which need to be protected at all cost." Another officer, Rashmi Varun (Deputy Director, Statistics, Saharanpur) in another post said that Chandan has been killed by saffron politics. (Hindustan.com)

The tragic violence has led to loss of one innocent life; injuries to few and loss of social property. The compensation so far has been selective. The whole incident and the face book post of DM reveals the deeper dynamics of how the violence gets orchestrated, The mechanisms of these do keep changing over a period of time, but what is constant is an evil innovation of techniques to target the vulnerable minorities. Earlier it had been taking the procession with loud music in front of the mosque and putting beef in temple. With time one saw that in Mumbai violence of 92-93 Maha Artis (Invocation Prayer) were devised to mobilize Hindus, the dispersing mass after the prayer would indulge in anti minority violence. One has also seen the issue of love jihad being used in Mujjafar nagar violence. The girl who is supposed has been victim denied being harassed by the Muslim boy, but the mobilization of Jats-Hindus continued nevertheless. One can see the changing pattern of issues which are used to incite the violence.

What strikes one in Kasganj is that anatomy of violence is very clear. Seems this may be a preparation for the elections which are in the offing a year later. The tiranga (tricolor) issue is quite paradoxical for Muslims. They hurl it or abstain from it, both ways they are damned. What is more interesting is that tricolor, which was opposed by RSS at the time of independence on the ground that number three is evil as per Hindu ethos and that the real flag of Hindus is saffron alone, today stands to use the same tricolor to browbeat and to make it a vehicle for polarization, through its affiliates like ABVP and VHP.  It seems as a backup to what has happened in Kasganj now RSS is organizing rallies in different cities and towns across the state. The rallies at this juncture look to be a “show of strength” in which uniformed cadres of the RSS and its affiliates in the Sangh Parivar will be marching with sticks.

To cover the whole thing BJP leadership wants to project that minorities opposed the tricolor and shouted Pro Pakistan slogans! One knows that all through BJP electoral strength has been going up courtesy violence and consequent polarization. The society needs to protect itself against such aggressive abuse of tricolor for inciting violence, and be careful not to fall in the traps of provocation on any ground whatsoever.

Category :- English Bazaar Patrika / OPED