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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

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