News about the head priest of the Ram Temple at Ayodhya blessing the Bharat Jodo Yatra is being seen as a morale booster for Rahul Gandhi and the Yatra since Acharya Satyendra Das belongs to the ranks of the BJP and its allied organisations like the VHP. “I wrote a letter to Rahul to send him my blessings for his mission of uniting all people in the country,” Das said. “The country’s prosperity is only possible if different castes and religions come together.”
The BJP has been ridiculing the yatra. The Ram temple is the most crucial element in the Hindutva project, which this yatra is trying to combat. If someone connected to this project comes out in support of the Yatra, it obviously assumes significance.
At first, I did not know how to react. I read more and discovered that the letter inviting prominent people to participate in the yatra was sent by the local unit of the Congress party.
So the local Congress leadership invited the chief priest of the temple – which is being constructed on the land on which the Babri Masjid stood for more than 500 years and was demolished in a criminal act, if we heard the Supreme Court right. The court handed over the land to those who had committed this crime.
Das is the chief priest of a temple which could not have existed without an even older criminal act. On the night of December 22-23, 1949, idols of Hindu gods and goddesses were smuggled into the mosque. The Supreme Court held it to be a crime.
The criminals hid behind the name of Ram. They declared themselves to be friends and guardians of the child Ram, who could not take care of his interests, and his friends and guardians in the VHP usurped the land on which the Babri Masjid stood – all the while claiming to act on his behalf.
The Supreme Court, by some divine logic, even after accepting the existence of a live mosque, even after noting that it was violated by goons in 1949 and destroyed by a mob led by BJP, VHP and RSS members in 1992, gave its land to the very people who had committed the crime.
Ideally, the Babri Masjid should have been rebuilt. The Congress-led government of the day could not save it from the marauding mob, and allowed the demolition to happen. Though it announced its resolve to rebuild the mosque, more resolute were the destroyers who wanted the land at any cost, and turned what was once considered fantasy into reality.
The Babri Masjid is now a memory. The temple is a monument to the crimes committed, the deceit of the communal forces, the cowardice of the secular forces and the utter spinelessness of our state apparatus, including the judiciary.
The Ram Temple is a reality. But is it at all necessary to recognise it as a spiritual abode? What does it remind you of? The power of conceit, lies, opportunism, muscle. It is a monument to the victory of Hindutva, to the defeat of what Gandhi and Nehru stood for.
The Ram Janmabhoomi campaign was the first organised attempt to divide India into two zones of sensibilities. Lal Krishna Advani’s Toyota ‘chariot’ drew a line of blood and tears across India, sundering and transforming it forever. Narendra Modi was his assistant in this campaign.
Many Congress leaders did not agree with Nehru. Otherwise, UP chief minister Govind Vallabh Pant could have taken steps to undo the illegality committed at the Babri Masjid in 1948. But Rajiv Gandhi, Nehru’s grandson, allowed the deadlock to break in a different way, and facilitated the march of the Hindutva juggernaut. This act decimated the common ground which Nehru and others had created against all odds. It is this ground which the Bharat Jodo Yatra is trying to regain.
Can this yatra then seek the company of those who were party to the campaign to humiliate Muslims and show them their place? We know that after the announcement of the construction of this Ram Temple, many Congress leaders tried to take credit for it. Some of them even complained that they were not invited to the foundation laying ceremony. Some flaunted their donations to the temple. They rubbed salt into the wound of the Muslims. But the Congress leaders did not care.
The Bharat Jodo Yatra is or should be an exercise of atonement for the Congress. A cleansing act. It has to get its secular soul back. But that cannot happen if it is not uncompromising on certain issues.
What is the rupture that this yatra is trying to undo? Many people juxtapose this yatra against the Advani Rath Yatra. While Advani rode that Adharma Rath, Rahul is walking on the path of righteousness. But what does that mean? What is the principle on which the Congress will rebuild unity? Courting the Hindutva forces betrays the lack of confidence in its own project of secularism.
Can you invite everyone to your party? When you invite someone, you accord him respect. What does this act of invitation signify to a man who presides over a place which is a constant reminder to Muslims of their powerlessness, their insignificance? Can you ask Muslims to walk with you while their tormentors shower blessing on you? Is there no non-negotiable principle left for the Congress? Have we lost our sense of justice? Should I befriend criminals if I lose in my battle for justice?
Unless the Congress makes the idea of unity clear, Rahul Gandhi’s journey is bound to end in a haze from where no new direction is visible.
Apoorvanand teaches Hindi at Delhi University.
This piece was first published on The India Cable – a premium newsletter from The Wire & Galileo Ideas – and has been republished here. To subscribe to The India Cable, click here.