The BJP surprised Indian voters in 2013 by abstaining from any talk on the Ram Janmabhoomi temple, during its grand electoral campaigns. Tactfully, no mention was made about the matter even after they formed the government at the Centre with an absolute majority. While the pretence of secularism was in full throttle, its ideological fountain head the RSS and affiliates like the VHP started to propagate the saffron agenda with unprecedented vehemence. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s silence was deemed favourable by the Right as they proceeded unchecked to profess Hindu nationalism.
Recently, amid the mayhem of terror attacks in the country and abroad, the Arundhati Vashishtha Anusandhan Peeth (AVAP), an associate organisation of the VHP, conducted a seminar in Delhi University. The seminar on Ram Janmabhoomi with the agenda to spread awareness about the decision of the Allahabad High Court on the Ayodhya issue as according to the group, ‘‘many do not know the details of the issue’’. The seminar titled ‘Ram Janmabhoomi Temple: Emerging Scenario’ was held in Art’s faculty and booked under name of KP Singh who is an Academic Council member of DU and also a member of the National Democratic Teachers’ Front.
Subramanian Swamy, the current Chairman of AVAP delivered the inaugural lecture at the seminar wherein he stated, “The construction of the Ram temple in Ayodhya is mandatory for the revival of our culture. We have started and we will not give up until it is made but nothing will be done forcibly against the law.” He further stated, “There can be no compromise on three temples — the Ram temple in Ayodhya, the Krishna temple in Mathura and the Vishwanath Temple in Kashi.” Stating that Muslims should also accept this decision, he said that once the Ram temple was constructed, the other two would be streamlined.
Expressing her concerns over the issue, Abha Dev Habib, Joint Secretary of Democratic Teachers’ Front (DTF) said, “The venue is an open space where debates and discussions are held. Such seminars will only create polarisation.” Anmol Ratan, Delhi state President of All India Students’ Association (AISA), agrees, “This event clearly shows the set pattern in which the government is blatantly pushing its agenda.”
Universities across the country are increasingly becoming a space where majoritarian agendas are being pushed. For instance, the students of Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) have been opposing the appointment of Gajendra Chauhan as their chief. Students from Allahabad University stopped BJP MP, Yogi Adityanath, from entering the campus to inaugurate a building and Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) students opposed a lecture by the yoga guru Ramdev.
During his lecture, Swamy drew on Congress to support the construction as “former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi had supported it”. However, Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar hit back saying, “Rajiv Gandhi had supported the construction of the temple in Ayodhya but not on the disputed land. He had objected the plan of demolishing the Babri Masjid.”
The student wing of the Congress, the National Students’ Union of India (NSUI) joined other student organisations such as AISA and Students’ Federation of India (SFI), and protested outside while the seminar was in progress. Ratan remarks, “The seminar, organised by AVAP which is not an academic body, can only give its preconceived ideas which are communal in nature.” Supporting the protests Habib states, “It is one thing to hold seminars on subjects such as gender issues, secularism or even Muzaffarnagar riots for that matter, but such a seminar is only serving their communal agenda.”
In an already communally charged atmosphere, the move towards the construction on the land in Ayodhya may be the harbinger of another calamity similar to the Babri Masjid demolition of 1992. “Support for the construction of a Ram temple is still there, provided Babri Masjid is not harmed. The construction should be outside the disputed land,” says Aiyar.
Meanwhile, Habib comments, “Bricks are already coming in on the site in Ayodhya.” The voicing of this communally charged issue right before the UP Assembly polls could be a strategic move by the right- wing Hindu nationalists, who have gained electorally in the past by polarisation.