Skip to main content

Ram ke naam? Upper caste Hindus 'created' the demand for temple in Ayodhya

By Sahil Mital* 

Documentary filmmaker Anand Patwardhan brought an important issue to the forefront with ‘Ram ke Naam’ (In the Name of God). At a time when religious fundamentalism and fanaticism is on the rise, this movie brings to light the reality behind the thought process of people involved, both inside and outside such issues.
The movie begins with the return of Lord Ram to Ayodhya to mark his birthplace ‘Ramjanamabhumi’. The surprise here is how a loose narration of a story of Lord Ram’s birth without any logical backing, peddled on by the right-wing party BJP and leader LK Advani was bought by the Indian masses.
As per the story, on the night of December 23, 1949 Lord Ram appeared in the dream of a priest in Ayodhya, and inspired by this dream the priest placed some idols inside Babri Masjid. With this the community turned to District Magistrate KK Nayyar who gave backing to the priest and let the idols stay inside the mosque. This move openly denied the rights of Muslims who were promised a resolution, one which they never got.
The beauty of this movie lies on the director's emphasis on how the message, propagated by BJP, struck an emotional chord with the Hindus. An image of a person tearing up while watching the movie of a small child dressed as Ram unlocking the Babri Masjid beautifully captures how propaganda can capture the imagination of the masses. It also captured how people are willing to buy into propaganda, but not make the effort of finding the facts.
During the movie, the director asks the supporters of building the temple if they knew when Ram was born. Even priests could not answer this question and had to give some excuses, while being confident that he was born exactly inside Babri Masjid.
The absurdity of this situation is compounded by the fact that these very people were “willing to do anything for the construction” while they did not know much about their own God. Such questioning and prodding provided evidence on how people conform to their beliefs but are unwilling to verify or fully understand a situation.
Even the court appointed priest Pujari Lal Das revealed how this was just a political play to divide Hindus and Muslims and garner votes. As he says in the movie – people from these parties (such as VHP) have never made a single offering to the temple.
His voice is echoed by a lot of other people, as seen throughout the movie. A majority of the masses, even those living in villages near Ayodhya, prefer living in peace and maintain the unity and harmony between Hindus and Muslims. For them, this disharmony is being propagated by outsiders such as Advani. It is surprising to see how even the political system buckled under pressure, with the police backing off and allowing the rioters to enter the mosque on the final day.
Anand Patwardhan
And this perhaps leads to one of the most interesting aspects brought out by the director. The caste divide is extremely prevalent in the support for the movement. People from lower castes do not care about the construction of the temple. People from these communities were plagued by much more important issues such as lack of basic amenities, food and the low price for their crops.
Even the court appointed priest Pujari Lal Das revealed how this was just a political play to divide Hindus and Muslims and garner votes
It was the upper caste Hindus that created the demand for Ram temple, which was also partly a reaction to the acceptance of the Mandal Commission report asking for reservation for jobs. The anger generated over this move translated to a stronger, more violent support for the demand for Ram temple. This anger was purposefully misguided by the right-wing Hindu groups such as VHP and BJP to tap into the extremist personalities of upper class Hindus.
Anand Patwardhan’s movie is not just a relay of the events that led to the demolition of Babri Masjid, but holds up a mirror to the society to show how easily we are swayed by extremist thoughts put in our heads by politicians and parties for their own gain.
Even though the Babri Masjid issue has now been “resolved” by the court, we see an almost repeat of the sentiment built by the BJP and its leaders during that time. Institutions such as the Supreme Court which are meant to protect the interests of all, are being controlled by the government and majority sentiment.
The Babri Masjid ruling, which now awards the entire land for the construction of the Ram temple, displays the disregard for minority interests and the forcefulness of the majority, something that the movie also shows. Hatred and divide sell easy, and cause irreparable destruction and loss of lives.
In today’s time, ‘Ram ke Naam’ acts as a reminder as well as a lesson, telling us to recognize the patterns of history and to avoid the same mistakes. In conversation with Anand Patwardhan, he rightly said: 
“When I was shooting this movie there was still hope that secular democracy would prevail. Today, forces that believe in fascism and crony corporate control are in power, so it’s a much more uphill battle to protect democracy”.
As often happens in such religious issues, humans often become a toy and collateral damage for votes of political parties. Perhaps the most touching dialogue in the movie, which encompasses this entire issue, is question all of us should be pondering upon:
“In this village many people have their birthplaces. Yet they’re being evicted. In this very village 150 hutments face eviction. On the other hand there’s one Ram. For his birthplace everyone is so frantic. They are running after it, why should I run?”
---
*Second year MBA student, Indian Institute of Management-Bangalore

Comments

TRENDING

'Flawed' argument: Gandhi had minimal role, naval mutinies alone led to Independence

Counterview Desk Reacting to a Counterview  story , "Rewiring history? Bose, not Gandhi, was real Father of Nation: British PM Attlee 'cited'" (January 26, 2016), an avid reader has forwarded  reaction  in the form of a  link , which carries the article "Did Atlee say Gandhi had minimal role in Independence? #FactCheck", published in the site satyagrahis.in. The satyagraha.in article seeks to debunk the view, reported in the Counterview story, taken by retired army officer GD Bakshi in his book, “Bose: An Indian Samurai”, which claims that Gandhiji had a minimal role to play in India's freedom struggle, and that it was Netaji who played the crucial role. We reproduce the satyagraha.in article here. Text: Nowadays it is said by many MK Gandhi critics that Clement Atlee made a statement in which he said Gandhi has ‘minimal’ role in India's independence and gave credit to naval mutinies and with this statement, they concluded the whole freedom struggle.

BSF should take full responsibility for death of 4 kids in West Bengal: Rights defender

By Kirity Roy*  One is deeply disturbed and appalled by the callous trench-digging by BSF in Chetnagachh village under Daspara Gram Panchayat, Chopra, North Dinajpur District, West Bengal that has claimed the lives of four children. Along the entire stretch of Indo-Bangladesh border of West Bengal instead of guarding the actual border delineated by the international border pillars, BSF builds fences and digs trenches well inside the Indian territory, passing through villages and encroaching on private lands, often without due clearance or consent. 

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

Students, lawyers, professors detained in Delhi for demonstrating in support of farmers

By Our Representative  About 25 protestors, belonging to the civil rights network, Campaign Against State Repression (CASR), a coalition of over 40 organisations, were detained at Jantar Mantar for holding a demonstration in support of the farmers' stir on Friday. Those detained included students, lawyers and professors, including Prof Nandita Narain and Prof N Sachin. 

Social justice day amidst 'official neglect' of salt pan workers in Little Rann of Kutch

By Prerana Pamkar*  In India’s struggle for Independence, the Salt Satyagraha stands as a landmark movement and a powerful symbol of nonviolent resistance. Led by Mahatma Gandhi, countless determined citizens walked from Sabarmati Ashram to Dandi in Gujarat. However, the Gujarat which witnessed the power of the common Indian during the freedom struggle is now in the throes of another significant movement: this time it is seeking to free salt pan workers from untenable working conditions in the Little Rann of Kutch (LRK).

How GMOs would destroy non-GMO crops: Aruna Rodrigues' key submissions in SC

Counterview Desk The introduction of Bt and HT crops will harm the health of 1 billion Indians and their animals, believes Aruna Rodrigues, who has made some 60 submissions to the Supreme Court (SC) during the last 20 years. As lead petitioner who filed Public Interest Litigation in 2005, during a spate of intense hearings, which ended on 18 January 2024, she fought in the Apex Court to prevent the commercialization of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in Indian agriculture. 

Jallianwala massacre: Why Indian govt hasn't ever officially sought apology from UK

By Manjari Chatterjee Miller*  The king of the Netherlands, Willem-Alexander, apologized in July 2023 for his ancestors’ role in the colonial slave trade. He is not alone in expressing remorse for past wrongs. In 2021, France returned 26 works of art seized by French colonial soldiers in Africa – the largest restitution France has ever made to a former colony. In the same year, Germany officially apologized for its 1904-08 genocide of the Herero and Nama people of Namibia and agreed to fund reconstruction and development projects in Namibia. .

Interpreting UAPA bail provisions: Is Supreme Court setting the clock back?

By Kavita Srivastava*, Dr V Suresh** The Supreme Court in its ruling on 7th February, 2024 in   `Gurvinder Singh v State of Punjab’ held that its own well-developed jurisprudence that "Bail is the rule and jail the exception" will not apply to those charged under the UAPA.

Will Budget 2024 help empower city govts, make them India's growth engines?

By Soumyadip Chattopadhyay, Arjun Kumar* Cities in India are envisioned as engines of growth. Any meaningful long-term vision for India would be incomplete without planning for the cities and quite rightly, urbanization is considered as one of the country’s top developmental challenges. Realization of full potential of cities depends crucially on their ability to provide ‘enabling’ environment especially in terms of sustained provision of a wide range of urban infrastructure and services.

A 'distorted narrative' of Indian politics: Congress failing to look beyond LS polls

By Prem Singh*  About 15 days ago, I told a senior journalist friend that there are not even two   months left for the Lok Sabha elections, Rahul Gandhi is roaming around on a delectation (tafreeh). The friend probably found my comment exasperating and replied that he is not on a delectation trip. The conversation between us on this topic ended there.