New Delhi: Leading English-language national dailies, in their editorials on Thursday morning, cautioned against “majoritarian chest-thumping” and said that the current moment should be used for promoting communal amity. These editorials are pegged on the Ayodhya Ram Mandir bhoomi pujan that took place on Wednesday, attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992, on the same spot where temple will now be built, brought down the foundational vision of the republic and the principle of secularism, newspapers argued. They called for restoring the Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb which Ayodhya signifies, and for reclaiming Ram as a symbol of unity through compassion and empathy, which he symbolised.
The Telegraph, in its editorial, said during the resolution of the Ram temple issue, with the case dragging on for decades and being “accompanied by widening fissures in India’s body politic,” amity was rare and almost absent among the contesting parties. It said a reason for this was the demolition of the Babri Masjid.
`Destruction, desecration of mosque were infringements of law’
Acknowledging that “the mandir’s adherents have, time and again, drawn attention to the Supreme Court’s order that removed the hurdles on the path of temple construction at the site of the mosque” and that the judgment was unanimous, the newspaper remembered how “the court had been forced to acknowledge that the wanton destruction and desecration of the mosque were infringements of the law”.
So, it said, “the rule of law has been brought under duress, repeatedly, on account of the pursuit of a dangerous politics of conflagration. It cannot be denied that the saga of the temple dedicated to one of India’s most revered deities has been marked not by consensus but, sadly, by division and conflict.”
Pointing out that “the Bharatiya Janata Party and the sangh parivar have shown an unmatched energy when it comes to transforming faith into political capital”, the editorial, without naming “other parties”, said they too did “not always resisted the temptation to follow suit”.
‘Redemption lies in reclaiming Ram as symbol of unity’
Stating that “an inclusive, accommodating nation has lost out in the process”, it said, the “one way of redemption — perhaps the only way — would be to reclaim Ram as an emblem of unity”, but not the “hegemonic unity that the BJP dreams of but the unity that is achieved by the seamless cohesion of multiple identities and beliefs”.
The Hindustan Times too insisted that “Ayodhya is a sign of Hindu faith; make it a site of secularism too”.
It said, “Ayodhya, in Indian history and mythology, is associated with the Hindu faith as the birthplace of Ram, and the Ram Rajya that he presided over after a long battle against evil” and in Indian politics it has been “associated with unprecedented Hindu political mobilisation, the rise of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), a protracted legal dispute, and yes, Hindu-Muslim tensions and communal violence”.
“As the construction of the temple commences,” it said, Prime Minister Narendra Modi “has a rare opportunity to fuse together both these strands of Ayodhya.”
It termed the temple to be “a political, intellectual and legal victory” for the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, for the BJP, for its “countless workers”, for Modi himself and for millions of devotees, but said “the contentious history leading up to the temple cannot be erased”.
`Muslims abided by rule of law, need to be mindful of the insecurity they felt’
As for Muslims, it wrote, the fact that they have “abided by the rule of law and accepted the SC verdict in the spirit of closure is laudable — but cannot take away from the insecurity they have felt at the political mobilisation around the issue”.
In such a scenario, the newspaper said “there can be no better occasion to enunciate the “sabka vishwas” slogan of the government than in Ayodhya, to mark the end to an era of contentious political polarisation, and inaugurate a new phase of pluralism, secularism and harmony. Ram took care of all his subjects, with compassion and empathy. PM Modi must reach out to all citizens, with the same compassion.”
The Times of India too said, “BJP must seize the moment to shape an overarching national unity based on social cohesion.”
`Reconciliation offers hope of repairing civilisational fabric’
It said the bhoomi pujan ceremony “marks a culmination of over three decades of struggle by Sangh Parivar to claim the land where the Babri Masjid once stood, beginning from when Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi set the ball rolling for the temple by permitting laying of its foundation stone”.
But this, it said, “is also the moment to recognise that devotion to Lord Rama must dominate in the spiritual, religious and personal spheres, while politics branches off for other constructive pursuits”.
Noting that “opposing parties in the decades-old litigation like Iqbal Ansari have signalled reconciliation” and how “reviving the spirit of harmony was also the central message in Supreme Court’s verdict,” the newspaper said its acceptance “offers hope that the brief rupture in India’s civilisational fabric can be repaired with political parties and communities coming together for preserving communal amity.”
`Hindutva triumphalism, politicisation will disrupt unity’
India, it said, is now at a crossroads where it must focus all energies on development and economic progress, instead of frittering them away in pointless identity wars. The editorial also cautioned that “too much Hindutva triumphalism and politicisation of religious differences will not only disrupt internal social cohesion and unity, it will also hinder India’s ability to join an incipient strategic alliance of secular democracies to counter Chinese expansionism”.
The Indian Express observed that “August 5 is the culmination of movements that powered the BJP’s idea of India, how it takes it forward is the test”.
The newspaper’s editorial said, “India’s secularism has been a variant of the traditional western notion of the strict wall of separation between church and state.”
It noted that “of the two large national political projects that reconfigured India’s politics in the early 1990s — Mandal and Mandir — the former met with only scattered and fragmented success while the BJP has led the latter to full and unequivocal fulfilment”.
But, it said, “if the BJP has reason to celebrate a conclusion, for India, the beginning of temple construction at Ayodhya underlines a challenge.”
`Masjid demolition was held illegal, case is on’
It added that “as the ruling party at the Centre of a diverse nation, the BJP must be mindful of the dangers of majoritarian triumphalism.”
Recalling how the Supreme Court verdict had described the 1992 destruction of the Babri masjid as illegal, and that the demolition case continues in court, the editorial said: “At Ayodhya on Wednesday, there was no mention of the debris of the mosque that lies under the proposed temple, or of the exclusions of faith-based politics. These need to be acknowledged and addressed. Only then can the invocation of national unity — by virtually the entire political establishment today — ring sincere.”