Liberation from cultural subjugation hallmark of 5 August bhoomi pujan in Ayodhya.


Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s sashtaang dandavat pranam to the deity of Ramlalla on 5 August was not mere symbolism. In his address, Modi placed the idea of liberation from cultural subjugation on the same plinth as India’s overthrowing the British yoke in 1947. His initial act and his concluding remark that afternoon, viewed in tandem, ushered in a new paradigm in Indian politics. It echoed the Palampur resolution of the BJP adopted in 1988, which said that the Ram Janmabhoomi movement “symbolises the public unrest against a politics of appeasement and minorityism indulged in for electoral gains by Congress and others”. Most political parties, with the exception of the two Communist parties, have chosen to accept the reality of India which Modi enunciated in his action and speech in Ayodhya.

In post partition India, Jawaharlal Nehru tended to be protective towards the minorities, especially the Muslims who opted to stay in India rejecting Jinnah’s Two-Nation theory, which fathered Pakistan. (The liberation of Bangladesh in 1971 dismantled Jinnah’s dogma.) The first fissures in post 1947 Indian polity appeared when in November 1947 Sardar Patel backed the restoration of the Somnath temple in Saurashtra. After his death, stalwarts in the Union Cabinet like K.M. Munshi took forward the move. Nehru viewed Somnath as “Hindu revivalism”. Munshi countered Nehru in a Cabinet meeting by terming it as symbol of “Bharatiya collective consciousness”. President Rajendra Prasad supported the latter view and consented to be part of the installation ceremony in 1951. The official media of the Government of India blacked out President Rajendra Prasad’s speech at the ceremony—such was the apprehension about “Hindu revivalism” in the minds of the executive of those times. Modi’s comparison of 5 August 2020 with 15 August 1947 stems from this.

Mobilisation of Hindu consciousness against minorityism is attributed to Rajiv Gandhi regime’s flip flop on the Shah Bano issue. The events of five years preceding the April 1985 Supreme Court verdict in the Shah Bano case need to be recalled to appreciate why the decision to overrule by legislation of a Supreme Court verdict as a result of pressure of Muslim orthodoxy triggered the angst. On 19 February 1981, 1,100 Dalit Hindus were converted to Islam at Meenakshipuram in Tamil Nadu’s Tirunelveli district. The media reported that the conversions were induced by Gulf money. The bedlam echoed in Parliament and Home Minister Giani Zail Singh and his deputy Yogendra Makwana air-dashed to Meenakshipuram. The AIADMK regime of M.G. Ramachandran, after much persuasion, introduced an anti-conversion legislation. After admitting monetary inducements, most of the converts returned to Hinduism. The message of Meenakshipuram was seen written on the walls of remote Pokhran in Rajasthan by this writer when he had gone there on an assignment in May 1981. The Meenakshipuram echo was jarring. The act of leaders like Syed Shahabuddin, who asked for prayers to be held even in dilapidated and abandoned mosques, sharpened the divide. Shah Bano came within four months of Rajiv Gandhi’s unprecedented electoral triumph. The inexperience of the new regime was reflected in its actions and Congress penchant for “retaining” minority vote bank triggered the attrition of its base. The government, bowing to the wishes of Muslim orthodoxy to reverse by legislation a progressive Supreme Court judgement, chagrined Hindu thought. (In sharp contrast, when triple talaq was criminalised by the Modi regime last year, the pressures of orthodoxy did not affect government action.)

On 1 February 1986, the District Judge of Faizabad, reversing a 1949 order, cleared the way for opening of the lock of the Ramlalla temple, which existed at the Babri site. The lock was opened in an hour in the presence of TV cameras, under the supervision of Union Minister Arun Nehru and UP Chief Minister Vir Bahadur Singh. Like Shah Bano, here too Congress dithered thereafter and the rest is history.

Now that Ayodhya and Article 370 promises of the BJP manifesto are fulfilled, will attention be riveted on launching a Uniform Civil Code, which has been in BJP manifesto since 1998? In 1962, post liberation of Goa, India’s Parliament accepted the continuation of the Portuguese Civil Code of 1867 in the Indian territory of Goa, Daman and Diu. Common law on marriage, succession, divorce is in force in a part of India for the past 58 years. Will the government now evolve a consensus to provide that all citizens irrespective of religion, sex, caste, birth or tribe are brought under one uniform civil law to signify the unity of India?