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BJP exploits tested divisive ‘Hindu card’ for re-elections

28th Dec 2018


Sajeda Haider

With India’s General Elections a mere six months away, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is again resurrecting the divisive Ram Temple row to consolidate its Hindu vote.

The BJP is inciting the atmosphere around the Ram Temple using its ideological mentor organisation the far-right Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, and its various affiliates to pressurise the Supreme Court of India, which is adjudicating into the Ram Temple/Babri Mosque land dispute to rule in favour of the Ram Temple.

The BJP, has already reaped considerable electoral dividends from the Ram Temple row. The Party will hope to again divert the electorate away from its disastrous performance in the last four and a half years, in terms of the economy, governance and religious issues in the hope that it will win them the General Election expected in May 2019.

The Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy shows unemployment spiking over the year reaching 6.62 per cent as of last month. This is on top of a growing realization that rural India is suffering, and not presently reaping the gains of national-level economic growth. Most of India remains rural. The Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy stated that new project investments have dropped to Rs 6.62 trillion ($96.6 billion) in fiscal 2017-18 “from Rs 18.7 trillion in fiscal 2015.”

Two years ago Prime Minister, Narendra Modi ‘s ban on the largest currency bills spectacularly backfired and set off cash shortages hitting the country’s most vulnerable people hard.

Figures released in August by the Reserve Bank of India showed that 99 per cent of the value of the old bills that had been removed from circulation eventually found its way back into the financial system. And the figures suggested that criminals and other hoarders, like nearly everyone else, found ways to change their old bills for new ones.

The Ram Temple dispute dates back to 1948 when idols of the Hindu god Ram were surreptitiously placed inside the 16th-century Babri Mosque in the temple town of Ayodhya in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.

Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, who saw the dispute as an explosive issue in the newly created country, had the mosque locked. Local Muslims filed a case demanding the mosque be reopened and the idols removed.

As the case languished in the judicial system, in 1986, the BJP saw the dispute as an opportunity to make political mileage. They promised Hindus, who constitute 85 per cent of the population, that they would ensure that a grand Ram Temple was built on the very spot of the Babri Mosque.

This is the very spot, claimes the Hindus, that Ram was born. In the lawsuits Hindus claim that there was Ramjanambhoomi Temple at the site constructed around 100 BC, which was demolished by Mughal Emperor Babur, to build the Babri Mosque in 1582 AD.

“Muslims have categorically denied this, claiming the Babri Masjid was constructed on vacant land by Meer Baqi, a commander of Babur,” said Zafaryab Jilani, convener of the Babri Masjid Action Committee and one of the lawyers fighting the case on behalf of Muslims.

From 1986 to 1992 the RSS affiliated organisations of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad Bajrang Dal and the BJP raised the rhetoric on the Ram Temple and began demonising the country’s (13 per cent) Muslims.

Finally on December 6, 1992, in the presence of BJP leaders, thousands of workers of the BJP/Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and other far-right groups tore down the 450-year-old mosque chanting ‘Jai Sri Ram’ (Victory Lord Ram). The destruction sparked nationwide sectarian riots leaving more than 2,000 people dead, predominantly Muslims.

Over the last 26 years since the Babri Mosque was demolished ‘Jai Sri Ram’ has become a rallying cry for the far-right groups and Muslims have become their whipping boys. It has consumed thousands of more lives and created a religious divide in Indian society that is simply getting wider.

The fact that this is a disputed land currently under the highest court of the country is lost on Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh /BJP/ Vishwa Hindu Parishad cadres.

They flouted a Supreme Court order with impunity in 1992 when they destroyed the Babri Mosque and they are demanding that the Modi Government circumvent the Court again to begin construction of the Ram Temple.

The BJP national President, Amit Shah, has demanded that the Government bypass the Supreme Court and introduce a law that hands the disputed land to Hindus, so as to immediately begin construction of the Ram Temple.

On November 26 thousands of Hindu religious leaders owing allegiance to the BJP gathered in Ayodhya demanding the same thing. A few days later on December 9 thousands of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh leaders and workers held a protest rally in New Delhi claiming that the patience of Hindus was running out and that the Modi Government must do something to circumvent the Courts.

Though all these protests are made out to be threats to the current BJP Government, they are in fact done in league with the BJP to pave the way for the Modi Government to bring in a law to circumvent the Supreme Court who would then they did it because of popular demand.

Political analysts point out that building the Ram Temple has been on the election manifesto of the BJP since 1986 and the party has ruled India for 11 years since 1992 but it has made no moves towards fulfilling its promise. Even the timing of the current campaign points to its political expediency.

“Modi has been in power for four and half years and yet the BJP kept quiet about the Ram Temple till now. Every time there are elections the Ram Temple is trotted out by the BJP to keep the sectarian pot boiling and consolidate Hindu votes,” said political commentator, Seema Guha.

The next hearing of the Supreme Court is in early January but it is unlikely that any verdict will be delivered before April when the General Election campaign will be in full swing. Having failed to provide the ‘development’ it had promised in 2014, it seems clear that the BJP is returning to its tried and tested ‘temple politics’, symbolic of its ‘populist nationalist’ manifesto for the 2019 election.

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