Ayodhya (Uttar Pradesh): A grand Ram Temple, network of roads, and an International Airport connecting the ancient city with other states of India and far beyond is being inaugurated on January 22, but the event has generated controversy and fear of larger divide.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi along with the officially chosen five would dedicate the temple–a dream first seen by Hindu nationalists including the RSS –to the nation, but there are visible divisions not only within the political spheres and communities, but also within the Hindu religious structures which earlier were together in the temple movement.
The temple movement got a fillip after the Bharatiya Janata Party, political offshoot of the Sangh Pariwar, decided in 1989 that what stood then as Babri Masjid for the preceding 421 years was in fact the site of ancient Ram temple in the birth place of Lord Ram, and temple must be built in the same place again.
On December 6, 1992, the Babri Masjid, a ‘protected monument’ was razed to the ground by determined supporters of the movement in the presence of senior leaders of BJP, RSS and the VHP.
Shankaracharyas and leading Sadhus formed the ‘Ramalaya Trust’ to explore through all means–dialogue, legal process and political campaign–to have the land handed over to it so that a grand temple could be built. Last year, the court gave permission to the Hindus to have the temple built. The government led by Modi then wrested the initiative, formed another trust, and fixed January 22 as the auspicious day for temple inauguration even though the construction works are only around half done.
In a highly polarised politics, the event being scheduled around four months ahead of the General Elections is understandably significant.
But the way the event is being planned, Modi eclipsing everybody in the event has divided the ‘Sadhudom’ with all the four Shankaracharyas –Puri, Jyotish Peeth, Kanchi and Dwarka–refusing to attend the function. ‘Why should we go there? To clap when Modi inaugurates it?’ says Nischalananda Saraswati of Puri Peeth. They are also opposing the consecration (Prana Pratistha) of the idol of Lord Ram in an incomplete state, a bad-omen. They are also raising questions about the Vedic rituals being ignored in the whole process.
Non-BJP parties that including Congress and the left group have spurned the invitation saying it is a BJP event, nothing to do with religion.
But a huge chunk of Sadhudom including Acharya Mhmandaleshwar of Juna Akhada, Avdeshananda Giri have stood by the government.
The city of Ayodhya that is around 130-km away from Lucknow, the state capital of Uttar Pradesh, is closed for the general public from Jan 18 to expedite the construction works for the inaugural event although the completion of the planned site may take years.
Last week, Prime Minister Modi began a 11-day rigorous austere life for purity of body leading to the inaugural event implying he is performing the God’s command, but this has injected another dimension to the discourse; Prime Minister of a secular and Democratic India is guided by the constitution whereas ‘God’s command’ is the dictating spirit in ‘Theology’.
There are around 7000 people being invited for the inaugural event but the locals will have no entry that day. According to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister who is also the head of the most powerful Gorakhnath Mutt in Gorakhopur, about 100 aircraft may be put into service as the international airport opens, and the Ram Janmabhoomi dream is ‘realised’.
The Hindu campaigners have said that the day marks the liberation of India’s soul, trampled by the invaders centuries ago.