Ram Temple: Why such a long wait? – Balbir Punj

Ram Temple in Court

Balbir PunjWhile the Ayodhya dispute is presented just as a title dispute for a small piece of land between two warring groups in a court of law, in fact it is a fight waged by a wounded civilisation to reclaim its original glory and self-respect. – Balbir Punj

Within less than two decades of raising the demand for a separate homeland, the Muslims of the subcontinent who put forth the demand managed to vivisect the country and get for themselves a theocratic Pakistan. In contrast, the majority Hindus have been struggling to reclaim Lord Ram’s birthplace in Ayodhya for the last few hundred years, with little success.

The two situations, however, are not comparable, either in their scale or their ramifications. The creation of Pakistan led to the killing of thousands and displacement of millions of innocents. Islamic Pakistan’s sole agenda since its birth has been to destabilise and dismember residual India. Rebuilding the Ram Temple in Ayodhya, in the manner of Gujarat’s Somnath, would not have hurt anyone. Instead its reconstruction would have removed a major irritant in Hindu-Muslim relations. And the proposition still holds good.

How did Pakistan become a reality in such a short time-span? Firstly, barring a few notable exceptions, the entire Muslim community rallied behind Mohammad Ali Jinnah after he articulated the demand for a separate Islamic nation in the 1930s.

Secondly, the then establishment—the Britishers—supported Jinnah’s bloody endeavour for their own strategic reasons. Since Jinnah’s divisive goal overlapped with the Left’s ideological paradigm, Communists happily worked with the Muslim League for a shared objective of dismembering India.

In contrast, the then Congress leadership, though opposed to Partition, lacked the courage to fight the divisive stratagem of the British-Muslim League-Left combine and meekly accepted it as a fait accompli. Have things changed for the better since Independence? If they have, the fate of the Ram Temple would not still be hanging in the balance.

Interestingly, the very caucus consisting of Communists, the Establishment and Islamic zealots, who worked for Pakistan’s creation, has also actively opposed the Ram Temple. The Establishment does not necessarily mean the party in power. It refers to the colonial mindset which pervades the ruling dispensation, the alienated English-educated and mostly Left-leaning elite that controls the bulk of the English media, academia, law and bureaucracy.

Despite the repeated destruction of four iconic temples—Somnath, Kashi, Mathura and Ayodhya—at the hands of Islamic invaders, the temples’ subsequent phoenix-like rise from the ashes sums up the indomitable spirit of people of the subcontinent and the struggle they put up against the 800 years of alien rule to save their timeless inclusive civilisation.

Mir Baqi, when he demolished the Ram Temple on Babur’s orders in 1528-29, did not bring down a mere building. He destroyed a value system. The Babri structure erected by him on that very site was not a place of worship, but an ideological statement by a barbarian victor to humiliate the vanquished. It was the defeat of pluralism at the hands of bigotry.

Ram is not only a deity worshipped by millions since aeons. His value system and life are intrinsically linked to the identity of the nation and civilisational ethos of pluralism and morality that define the Indian public and private life. While it is presented just as a title dispute for a small piece of land between two warring groups in a court of law, in fact it is a fight waged by a wounded civilisation to reclaim its original glory and self-respect.

How has the establishment dealt with issues relating to faith in India since Independence? In 1988, Salman Rushdie’s novel, The Satanic Verses, provoked protests from Islamic zealots in several countries, including India.  The government, under PM Rajiv Gandhi, feared a Muslim backlash and was the first in the world to ban Rushdie’s work [available online]. No legal or expert opinion was sought before denying non-Muslims (87 per cent of the population) their right to read the book, if they so wished.

The ban on the book was not based on merit, but was in deference to the supposed Muslim sentiments, or an abject surrender to a threat of violence by Islamic zealots. I am not sure if even all the Muslims in the country favoured such a ban. On 23 April 1985, the apex court in the Shah Bano case decided that a divorced Muslim woman was eligible for alimony from her husband. The Muslim orthodoxy took to the streets against it. Fearing a hostile reaction from Muslims, the Parliament hurriedly passed the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act 1986, effectively overturning the SC judgment.

The Noble Sanctuary in Jerusalem hosts Islam’s third holiest site, the al-Aqsa Mosque, and the Dome of the Rock, a seventh-century structure believed to be where the Prophet Mohammad ascended to heaven. The compound’s Western Wall, known as the Wailing Wall to Jews, is believed to be the last remnant of the Second Temple. The Islamic tradition refers to it as the al-Buraq Wall and believes it is where the Prophet tied the winged animal upon which he later ascended to the sky.

There have been numerous skirmishes and battles for the control of this site. In all such disputes, the Communists have always sided with the warring Muslims. But none has ever questioned the Muslim belief that the mosque was built over the Prophet’s footprint and other such beliefs.

But Hindus are asked for evidence in support of their belief that Ram was born on that very site in Ayodhya. And they are also asked to prove that there was a temple prior to the construction of the Babri Mosque, which they in fact have done. Can issues relating to matters of faith (and it applies to all religions) be put to test by any known tools or adjudicated by human institutions, including courts? – The New Indian Express, 15 November 2018

Balbir Punj is a columnist in New Delhi. He is a member of the Rajya Sabha representing the BJP.

Ram Janmabhumi Graphic

Ayodhya Dispute Timeline

3 Responses

  1. No one can stop the construction of Ram temple in Ayodhya if Hindus unite: Subramanian Swamy – India Today – New Delhi – 18 Nov 2018

    ~ Swamy said it was the fundamental right of Hindus to offer prayers at the birthplace of Ram in Ayodhya.

    ~ The BJP leader said Muslims can pray at any other place.

    ~ Swamy was addressing a conference at the BHU’s Swatantrata Bhavan.

    Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Subramanian Swamy on Saturday said that no one could stop the construction of Ram temple in Ayodhya if all Hindus unite.

    Swamy said the temple should be built in Ayodhya, the place where Lord Ram was born, as Hindu sentiments are associated with the place, pointing out that Muslims can pray at any other place.

    He said it was the fundamental right of Hindus to offer prayers at the birthplace of Ram and added that even the Supreme Court would agree on the issue of their faith.

    Swamy was addressing a conference at the BHU’s Swatantrata Bhavan organised in the memory of former Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Ashok Singhal.

    The Vishwa Hindu Parishad president Champat Rai appealed to the students to unite for building the temple. He said the Ram temple was a matter of prestige for Hindus.

    BJP legislator Surendra Singh also joined the chorus demand for construction of Ram Temple in Ayodhya while criticising Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath for not being able to build the temple, despite holding powerful positions.

    Speaking to the media on Saturday, the BJP lawmaker from Ballia said, “We have a great Prime Minister like Modi Ji and a great Chief Minister like Yogi Ji, who are both believers of Hinduism. But unfortunately, during their governance, Lord Ram stays in a tent. This is unfortunate for India and the Hindu society. One should make such a situation that Ram temple must be created in Ayodhya itself.”

    Singh further said that there should be no more delay in the construction of the temple. “God is beyond the Constitution. There should be no delay. Ram Temple should be constructed in its designated place Ayodhya,” said the BJP lawmaker.


  2. PM Modi Should Resolve Ram Temple Issue, Says Baba Ramdev – The Quint

    Yoga guru Ramdev said on Sunday, 18 November, that the construction of the Ram temple in Ayodhya is not a political issue, but a matter of the country’s pride. “I don’t see any resistance on the issue of temple construction,” he said.

    He said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi should intervene to ensure that a bill is passed in Parliament

    “It’s time that we make the most of ‘the temple of democracy’ that is our Parliament. ‘Ram bhakt’ Modi Ji should gear up to resolve the matter that has been going on for about 200 years now.” Ramdev said, adding that: “It is only a matter of time… We will find a way out – either through the Supreme Court or through Parliament.”

    “PM Modi should ensure that a bill on Ram temple is passed in Parliament, so that its construction is not delayed any further. All the efforts to resolve the differences on the issue have gone down the drain.”
    Baba Ramdev, Yoga Guru


  3. Fine article. However, yes the law can establish the Hindu fundamental right to pray at Ayodhya’s Ram Mandir.


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