Ayodhya-Issue: Still Alive?

Undeniably, there still prevail several elements keen to make religious noise over the Ayodhya-issue. But does their noise have the force, mass-appeal and also the level of acceptance that it seemed to have around two and a half decades ago? There is a difference between simply making noise over any issue and also the level of fervour that the same can excite among masses. It is no secret that when this appeared to be the most important religious, social as well as political issue for the concerned people, it seemed to be given utmost importance at all levels, including media coverage. Compared to the peak that it had reached then, today the same appears to have minimal importance as well as relevance at the same levels.

The preceding point may be to a degree countered by saying that this year’s anniversary of Babri Masjid’s demolition coincided with death of Tamil leader Jayalalitha. Not surprisingly, media headlines, etc were dominated by news regarding her. The intensity of this point can, however, be defeated by stating that for several anniversaries the issue has not been receiving much importance. And this has not been because of some other more important news dominating media. The simple fact is that it has not been considered important enough to be given much coverage. Now, what does this imply?

Certainly, Indians of all religious communities are still as religious as they were around two and a half decades ago. Rather, it would not be wrong to state that the importance of religious beliefs, practices, etc has only increased in recent years. The same is marked by increasing popularity of television serials with lots of emphasis on religious practises. At the same time, the socio-political reality of religious and secular consciousness of people cannot be ignored or sidelined. This implies that they are no longer willing to be blinded by religious dictates of political nature. This certainly does not suggest that the entire country went through this phase during the pre-demolition and demolition phases of Babri Masjid.  People, who actually participated in the demolition and the accompanying riots, did not represent even 10 percent of the country’s population.

Yet, there is no denying that the demolition phase was a dark chapter in the secular and political history of this country. It marked the degree to which certain individuals, groups and others could be moved in the name of religion. The level of religious frenzy to the extent of communal rioting could be aggressively incited among certain sections. And this frenzy was spread across most parts of the country. That phase also helped Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) gain prominence as an important national party. In the subsequent years, however, the same fervour over the same issue was not witnessed again. What does this suggest?

Clearly, the degree and nature of fervour excited during the demolition-period was a temporary phase. Had it a permanent nature, it would have been witnessed again. The frenzy did not reoccur because of several key factors that marked the post-demolition phase. One of these was people’s refusal to be blinded by religious dictates of politicians. Secondly, though religion remained important for them, they were not interested in abusing the same along communal lines. These two factors were also propelled by their consciousness of not allowing their religious, social and political ethics to be abused over communal issues.

It may be noted here that whenever riots take place, even when Muslims are primarily targeted, tension in the atmosphere contributes to harming the interests of all communities. Willingly or unwillingly, interests of most are harmed. To a degree, the demolition-phase opened eyes of the majority to this dark aspect of communal rioting. Not surprisingly, the post-demolition period has not witnessed riots over a common issue spread all over the country. True, there still remain several elements keen to disturb the secular harmony of the country. However, the impact of their designs has been largely confined to select areas and not beyond. This is further supported by the Gujarat-carnage having been confined to only some areas of that state. The limitation of Ayodhya-issue is also exposed by not having been used in this state to excite communal frenzy here in 2002.

Considering that assembly elections in UP are not too far away, there remains ample reason for interested parties to make noise over the Ayodhya-issue. However desirous and keen these parties maybe, common Indians are apparently no longer willing to let their interests suffer and be abused. This point is further supported by the minimal coverage accorded to the noise made over Ayodhya-issue. If people were still interested in the same, if the issue was still active enough to arouse their frenzy, media would probably not have refrained from according the same greater coverage. Rather, media would have been compelled to do so, had the issue still remained alive. Certainly, it is yet too early to say that Ayodhya-issue is totally dead. But it can hardly be projected as active enough to arouse communal frenzy among masses across the country.     

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-31 December 2016 on page no. 11

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