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Itís Temple once again
By Ram Puniyani 

With UP elections round the corner, the VHP, a part of the Sangh Parivar (SP) has begun its Chetawani Yatra (warning campaign). Contrary to their expectations they drew flak from public and fortunately it has turned out to be a flop. The attempt of VHP 'Sants' to influence P.M., Mr. Vajpayee, to let them initiate the temple building is unlikely to yield any 'helpful' results as Mr. Vajpayee is adept in the game of 'politics' and knows well how to carry on the RSS agenda without jeopardizing his 'image' and contingencies of the political chess board.

Currently all the components of Sangh Parivar, the progenies of RSS, may be sounding to work at cross-purposes but their deeper coordination becomes obvious when we analyse the whole picture. With the UP elections round the corner the 'search' for an issue that can appeal to their emotion has been on. SP knows well that its Govt. in UP has nothing positive to its credit to be able to lure the voters. 

Just before the attack on Parliament by terrorists, on various occasions Mr. Advani, the 'architect in chief ' of Ram Janmbhumi campaign and demolition of Babri Masjid, had pointed out on various occasions that this campaign will be central to BJP's future programs as it is this campaign which has built up the BJP to its present strength. 

Since the demolition in 1992 this issue has been raised off and on depending on the needs of SP politics. The current effort is one of the most serious in this direction. What are the portents of this politics which breeds hatred and is patronized in the name of religion? What are the dangers posed by this politics which rouses religious sentiments on one hand and tries to create a barrier between two communities at deeper level? 

What is the future trajectory of this politics which buries the issues, which our society should be addressing on urgent basis like the ones related to food, clothing, employment, shelter and health care etc. This retrograde politics ensures the marginalization of the issues of Human rights of weaker sections of society while giving strength to the affluent sections and the prevalent status quo of caste and gender relations.

As a matter of fact a process of trial and error discovered this 'issue' over a period of last five decades. Initially SP had seriously tried the issue of 'protection of mother cow' (Janam Janam ka Nata hai, gau hamari mata hai. "It is a question of generational relations, cow is 'our' mother). 

This cow campaign launched by RSS was a total failure even in the cow-belt. The Babri Masjid was also not made an issue out of the blue. It remained in the freezer for decades after the Ram Lalla idols were installed in the mosque on the night of December 22-23 in 1949. The mosque, where regular prayers were held, was locked on the order of local magistrate and all the efforts of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru to revert the status to pre- 49 situation were foiled by the local administration, especially by K.K.Nayyar the local magistrate, who after his retirement, joined the previous avatar of BJP, Bharatiya Jana Sangh, to become its M.P. The matter remained frozen in the files of the court while a thick lock adorned its doors.

With the rise of the communal impact of the affluent middle class in the 80s, VHP campaigns started drawing some response. VHP, on the pretext that Islam and Christianity are a threat to Hinduism, as they are forcing the gullible to embrace the 'alien' religions, started its yatras etc. Conversion of Dalits to Islam in Meenakshipuram and later the retrograde step of fundamentalist sections of Muslims in getting the Shaha Bano verdict nullified was used as a pretext to intensify the VHP's agenda. 

The upper caste/class sections of society lapped up 'Hinduism in danger' theme and they started supporting SP through and through. At the same time Rajiv Gandhi did play in the hands of fundamentalists of both the religions and after getting the court order in Shah Bano case reversed through an act of Parliament, got the locks of Babri Masjid opened for performing Puja by the Hindus.

Seeing that a section of Hindus is coming in the ambit of religion-based politics, Mr. Advani took it up as 'the' core BJP agenda and made a thorough brew of religion and politics. The earlier goal of BJP, Gandhian Socialism (!), was dumped for the Temple politics and with his Rath Yatra, which bled the nation and led to a series of communal riots, the seeds of the upper caste Hindu vote tree were sown.

Violating all the norms of decency, commitment to judiciary etc. SP mobilized three lakh Kar Sevaks and twenty thousand Kar Sevikas to Ayodhya. The former for Kar Seva with 'bricks and shovels', and the latter for cooking and cleaning. In a well-planned manner the Mosque was demolished in a span of five and a half hours and the debris thrown in river Sarayu. In the aftermath of this act of SP the whole nation was plunged in the ghastly communal riots resulting in the loss of thousands of lives and thousands of cores worth of property. 

The role of SP affiliates (Shiv Sena etc.) in inciting communal violence came out very well in yet to be implemented Shrikrishna Commission report. These assaults on the country put flesh and muscles in to the BJP and the party, which was on the margin of Indian politics, jumped to higher and higher steps reaching its acme in '98 elections with 25% of votes and 200 odd MPs in the Lok Sabha. And surely it cannot go beyond this despite opportunistic alliances with the power hungry outfits and personalities like Fernandes and Mamatas. That precisely is the dilemma, which SP is facing today. Can its vote bank be further broadened? 

Can 'social engineering' to lure the low caste/class into the Hindu fascist politics of SP succeed? Can the 'temple mantra' work again and yield the desired dividends?

Since BJP was unsure about this, it kept vaguely talking about role of temple construction movement (or Babri demolition) in building the BJP as it is today, but did not take it up outright. If we recall, in the decade of 80s also it was VHP which first tested the waters before BJP plunged in it to catch the electoral fishes. Now it seems the maximum dividends have been reaped and this issue may not be gainful any longer to Hindutva politics. 

It is because of this that BJP was keen on Indo Pak war in the wake of attack on Parliament, as the hysteria created in the wake of war would have surely appealed to a newer set of the gullible to come in the ambit of Hindu vote bank. Since Uncle Sam vetoed the war, BJP has been caught in the horns of dilemma. 

The way it has been prostrating in front of US, it dare not go against its dictates. And if it does not do that it invites the serious risk of getting wiped out from the UP scene, and in due course may get marginalized from the national scene as well.

Some facets of this problem need to be recounted. The RSS progeny, VHP has a big collection of persons who are called sants (saints). They participated and worked for demolition of a mosque so that they could build a temple on the ruins of destruction and mayhem. These self proclaimed Rambhakta's claim that they are deprived of worshipping their idol, Lord Ram. 

Probably they do not know that one of the Rambhakta, Tulsidas wrote the story of his idol in the Lokbhasha (language of ordinary people), Avadhi dialect of Hindi, violating the norm of writing in Devbhasha (language of gods, Sanskrit), access to which was not allowed to Shudras and women. For this 'crime' of his, he was banned from entering the Ram Temple and was banished by the Brahmin community. Undeterred by this he wrote Tulsi Gulam sarnaam hai Ram Ko Jako Chahe so kahe vohu,

Mang ke khaibo, Masjid man Rahibo
Laibo ka ek, Na debe Ko Dou

(Tulsi says he is slave of Ram. Whatever people say, let them say; I will survive on alms and live in a mosque. My give and take with the worlds is done-Goswami Tulsidas, from his autobiography-Vinaycharitavali). Was it the same mosque, which the current 'Ram Bhaktas' demolished to satiate their 'love for Ram'? This crop of 'saints' is 'redefining' the virtues of saintliness and is a cog in the politics of Hindu Rashtra that they are being 'used' by RSS for Hindutva politics should be clear to all except those who are feigning to be ignorant of this politics or those who are benefiting from this fundamentalist politics.

The deeper coordination of different wings of SP is clearly obvious. There seems to be a Chaturvrnay (Caste hierarchy and division of labor) in this political conglomerate. While RSS decides the strategy, VHP incites the religious hysteria and BJP converts that into the electoral 'notes' (!votes), while the lowest on the hierarchical scale the Bajrang Dal wields Rampuri knives, disguised as Trishuls. 

Now even the guns are being made available to this layer of SP. Superficially it may sound that there are trishuls drawn between them, but their patriarch RSS, ensures a 'smooth' coordination and so all the stepping on each others' toes is avoided.

With failure of the Chetavani yatra and plea to the PM not yielding the desired results what new strategies this wily outfit, SP, will come forward with, is a million vote question.
The writer is with EKTA, Committee for Communal Amity, Mumbai

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