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'Ram Mandir Is With 2024 Election In Mind'

By SHOBHA WARRIER
January 24, 2024 10:57 IST
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'We should not underestimate the power of Hindutva.'

IMAGE: Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi arrives at the Shri Ram Janmaboomi Temple in Ayodhya for the pran pratishtha ceremony, January 22, 2024. Photograph: Shrikant Singh/ANI Photo

If Narendra Modi returns to power in 2024...

In what way will India's politics, Indian society and the Indian economy change?

In the first of a series, where we will speak to voices across the political and social spectrum, Rediff.com's Shobha Warrier quizzes Delhi University Professor Apoorvanand.

"Hindus are being made to believe that they are getting their land back. That if they loosen their grip, Muslims will get back to the dominating position," Professor Apoorvanand says in the concluding segment of a two-part interview.

 

In 2014, the BJP spoke about achche din. In 2019, it was the Balakot attack.
Do you think in 2024, the Ram temple is going to be their trump card?

Definitely. From the way it is organised, from the way it is projected, that too very close to the Lok Sabha elections, they have made it very clear that Ayodhya will be their trump card.

They have chosen the idol from Mysore, not because it was the best. It was a political choice.

Now, the BJP and Narendra Modi is creating a Tamil-Varanasi link by holding a Tamil Sangham in Varanasi and harping on Sahibzada on Veer Bal Divas; everything is done with 2024 in mind.

The Ram Mandir in Ayodhya is also with the 2024 election in mind.

What they are offering to the electorate in this election is a cocktail of religion, development, and prosperity. And Ayodhya is the best representative of that.

Hindus are being made to believe that they are getting their land back. That if they loosen their grip, Muslims will get back to the dominating position.

They are showcasing Ayodhya as a tourist spot. The more religious things are, the more the possibility of development.

People are told, Varanasi has become a tourist spot. Ayodhya will also be a tourist spot, and in the process, people will earn more.

In the absence of any other development, this is what people are going to fall for.

I have seen videos of body builders who are influencers on social media with a following of 8 million, 10 million, etc. talking about religion.

It is a combination of fitness, glamour and religion. You are seeing increasing religiosity in all aspects.

Hindus are persuaded that this is the first time they can display their Hindu-ness unabashedly.

IMAGE: A view of the illuminated Ram temple. Photograph: Rajesh Karkera/Rediff.com

Soon after the demolition of the Babri Masjid and later too, I had heard many people in the southern part of India saying, what difference would a Ram temple in Ayodhya make when we have so many Ram temples here.
Three decades later, do you think the attitude has changed, and the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya will unite Hindus in India?

Yes, there is a change in the attitude. I have seen pictures of the RSS people going door to door with Akshat which is yellow unbroken rice, extending invitation to Hindus.

This is in a way like the Ram Shila poojan where they had asked Hindus to donate one brick from each household to build the temple at Ayodhya.

This is the method they are using to create unity among all Hindus, to persuade them to align with the politics of the BJP.

We have to study what impact it will have. Anyway, we can see the effort. When you put in such an effort, it is not going to go waste.

IMAGE: A glimpse inside the Ram temple. Photograph: Rajesh Karkera/Rediff.com

So, if the BJP were to win in 2024, do you think it will do everything they can to make India a Hindu Rashtra? And in the process, will the minorities be totally silenced?

You have already seen how the minorities are being silenced. You have seen Muslims going silent, you have seen Christians going silent.

You have seen Christian leaders meeting Narendra Modi on Christmas day, praising him and not uttering a word against the attacks on Christians.

So, I feel a win will impact in the silencing of minority voices and marginalisation of minorities not only politically, but socially and culturally.

You will also see increased authoritarianism across institutions. For example, universities will lose whatever autonomy they have.

There will be total saffronisation of campuses. We are already witnessing it in our university, Delhi University, and other educational institutions.

You will see a degradation of universities, higher institutions, school education which will lead to degradation of lives in all aspects.

Education will get reduced to the propaganda of the RSS world view.

IMAGE: Devotees struggle to enter the Ram temple after it was opened to the public, January 23, 2024. Photograph: Adnan Abidi/Reuters

Surveys show that unemployment is rising, and the rich-poor divide is increasing.
When people have no jobs and no money, how long will the Hindutva card work?

There are different kinds of autocracies and dictatorships in the world and dictatorships have survived for 2-3 decades despite people facing hardships. That's what history tells us.

And the nature of economy is also changing, also the way people feel wellness. WhatsApp and other social media have changed the way people look at themselves.

I will give you an example. After coming back from an anti-CAA protest, I asked my taxi driver what he felt about the protest.

He, a Hindu told me, 'This is not our problem, it's their problem'.

When I asked his opinion on the government, he said, 'bahut acha hai.' When I asked him to say one good thing the government had done, he thought for quite some time, and said, sir, 'Data bahut sasta ho gaya!'

He considers this as an achievement of this government. That's why I said, people's perception of economic well-being has changed.

Now, people have started blaming themselves for the tough situation they are in. They are attacked for not having any sense of responsibility to the nation if they complain.

See how Sakshi Malik was attacked. There was no sense of sympathy or solidarity.

That's why I feel unemployment or other things will not lead to any change.

We should not underestimate the power of Hindutva. Therefore, what we need is a credible, sincere critique of Hindtuva.

IMAGE: A devotee takes a selfie at the entry gate of the Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Temple, January 23, 2024. Photograph: Shrikant Singh/ANI Photo

The last assembly election results show that politically, there are two Indias with the BJP dominating the Hindi heartland while they have not been able to penetrate the south of the Vindhyas.

I agree that we have two Indias politically. But we have to see how long this is going to last.

IMAGE: A devotee waits to enter the Ram temple after it was opened to the public, January 23, 2024. Photograph: Adnan Abidi/Reuters

Are you worried about the India of the next five years?

I am deeply worried because the way India has moved in the last 10 years is an indication, I have a feeling of a sense of doom for India if Narendra Modi returns.

Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/Rediff.com

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SHOBHA WARRIER / Rediff.com
 
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