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

Economist-editor's allegations on Narmada defamatory, baseless: Medha Patkar

Counterview Desk  In a reply directly addressed to well-known economist, journalist and columnist Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar’s two articles in the Times of India (republished here and here ), calling them defamatory and wondering whether they were borne out of “ignorance or a conspiracy through political alliance”, Narmada Bachao Andolan leader Medha Pakar has said that the Narmada Sardar Saravar Project and the people's movement by adivasis, farmers, labourers, fish workers, potters and all the generations’ old communities from the river valley have suddenly come to be focused on, since the Gujarat elections are in the doorstep. She believes that while the “defamatory accusations with baseless conceptions such as ‘urban naxals’ are to be laughed at as the electoral strategic moves, one gets shocked to read the articles by a known old columnist like Swaminathan Ankalesaria Aiyar, published in a reputed daily like the Times of India." According to her, Aiyar’s two articl

Hindutva groups threat to peace, freedom: US diaspora groups tell FBI, other govt depts

By Our Representative  The Islamophobic and neo-Nazi ideology of Hindutva is a clear and present danger to peace and freedoms in the United States, a coalition of civil rights organizations told key officials of the U.S. Attorney General’s Office, the US Department of Justice (DOJ), and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) at a recent event in Edison, New Jersey. At the event titled United Against Hate, activists from American Muslims for Democracy (AMD), Hindus for Human Rights (HfHR) and Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC) made detailed presentations on this ideology of Hindu supremacism that is committing mass persecution of India’s Muslims and Christians and is rearing its ugly head in New Jersey as well as across the US. Attending the event were David S Leonardis, Special Investigator from the New Jersey Department of Law & Public Safety; Michael E Campion, Chief of the Civil Rights Division for the US Attorney General's Office; and Jonathan R Norbut of the U.S. Dep

Facing tough times, Rajasthan's Raika herders hold first-ever camel cheese festival

By Rosamma Thomas*  During the pandemic, the annual Pushkar camel fair in Rajasthan did not occur for fear of contagion; in 2022, it was called off again as lumpy skin disease affected cattle. At Sadri in Pali district, however, festivity continues – a two-day Camel Cheese Festival was held on November 23 and 24, 2022. Visitors spent time with the camel herds and their Raika, drank camel-milk tea with the herders and then returned to lunch at the Kumbhalgarh Camel Dairy, from where the Kumbhalgarh Fort is visible, to taste camel cheese. The Raika herders have been facing a tough time – camels are no longer used as much for transport or agriculture in Rajasthan. The animals have limited utility, but their milk is prized. Camel Charisma, the dairy at Kumbhalgarh, sends camel milk across the country to people who use it in therapy – for autistic children, improved blood sugar levels, or even to treat cancer. It is believed that the health benefits of the camel milk is because the animals

As polls approach, electorate 'failing to realise': Gujarat model is in a shambles

By DN Rath*  Gujarat assembly elections, scheduled to be held on 1 and 5 December 2022, is viewed by many as dress rehearsal for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. When the suffering people have been pointing towards redressal of some local issues like absence of cleanliness, sewage problem, shortage of water supply, troubles created by stray cattle, insufficiency of streetlights, etc., it is evident that they are not fully aware that assembly elections are being fought on ideological standpoints and policy decisions. Nor is there the realisation that the state is in a shambles and the much-trumpeted ‘Gujarat model’ of development has proved to be a hoax. Like other states, the people of Gujarat are also back-broken by steep rise in prices to the tune of 400% in last 20 years. It is not that the government cannot control the spurt in prices if it so wants. Apart from the fact that price rise is an inevitability in a capitalist economy, artificial shortage triggered by massive hoarding, b

Shedding Hindu-Hindi-Hindustan? New Modi-Shah love for Tamil Nadu 'ignores' Periyar

By Sandeep Pandey*   The Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) or the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) have long argued for ‘Hindu-Hindi-Hindustan’, which into recent years has translated into a crisper English expression: ‘One Nation-One Religion-One Language’. Given this backdrop, it is curious that the BJP government has organised the Kashi Tamil Sangamam in Varanasi, the Prime Minister’s constituency. Why did the BJP and RSS feel the need for such an event? All Narendra Modi events are highly publicised and have multiple political objectives. It is never an innocuous religious/cultural event as it may appear from the face of it. Afterall, RSS calls itself a cultural organisation, but has never ceased to surprise us with its political designs. Tamil Nadu has a long history of opposing imposition of Hindi by Union governments. Periyar EV Ramasamy had opposed the idea of compulsory teaching in Hindi as far back as in 1937. The 1960s witnessed violent protests against Hindi in which a number

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

GM mustard not swadeshi, it's a patent of MNC Bayer, GoI 'misleading' SC: Modi told

Counterview Desk  In a representation to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as many as 42 farmers’ organisations though their representatives , backed by senior scientists and experts, have said that the Government of India (GoI) should stop misleading the Supreme Court “with untrue and incorrect” statements on GM mustard. Insisting that India does not need unsafe GM mustard, in their representation, they urged the Supreme Court to order immediate uprooting of GM mustard crop in various locations. The representation comes even as a penal of experts, coming down heavily on the GoI for refusing to see how in less than a week’s time the pollen from GM mustard will “start contaminating” non-GM mustard fields with transgenes, including male sterility and herbicide tolerant traits. Alleging that the GoI is actively misleading the Supreme Court with untrue and incorrect statements on GM mustard, Kavitha Kuruganti of the Coalition for a GM-Free India said, “We can list at least five areas where Gov

BJP poll gimmick? Bilkis Bano rape case 'pardon' vs Rajiv assassins' release

By Sandeep Pandey*  Supreme Court has released six convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case. This was bound to happen as earlier AG Perarivalan was released in the same case, setting a precedent. Even though four of them are Sri Lankans but a popular Tamil sentiment favoured the release of these convicts which is why Tamil political parties supported this and resolutions were passed by different governments in Tamil Nadu to his effect.  Rajiv Gandhi paid the price of sending Indian Peace Keeping Force to Sri Lanka where it got entangled with Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and eventually the whole operation ended up is a fiasco.  However, most importantly Sonia and Priyanka Gandhi and probably Rahul too do not have any objections to the release of these convicts. In fact, Sonia Gandhi played an important role in getting the death sentence of the only lady among the convicts Nalini commuted to life term through the Tamil Nadu Governor. Priyanka visited Nalini in Vellore Jail and

Demand to withdraw 'anti-environment, anti-adivasi' forest conservation rules 2022

By Gopinath Majhi*  The Campaign for Survival and Dignity (CSD), Odisha, a coalition of adivasis and forest dwellers’ organisations, has sent a memorandum to the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) raising serious concerns over Forest (Conservation) Rules, 2022, notified by the Centre on June 29.  Contending that recent amendments and a host of executive orders/guidelines issued by the ministry undermine and dilute the FRA and threaten the rights of adivasis and forest dwellers, CSD demands that the 2022 FC Rules should be rescinded forthwith. Demanding withdrawal of such anti-people and anti-environment rules CSD Odisha organised a protest Dharana in front of State Assembly today on 25th November 2022 and submitted memorandums to the Hon’ble Governor of Odisha, Chief Secretary and Commissioner-cum-Secretary, ST & SC Development Department for conveying our concerns against the FC Rules 2022 to the Central Government for its withdrawal. The memorandums w

Never-ending saga of sin tax: What if murder is taxed at Rs 1 crore, rape at Rs 5 crore?

By Moses Raj GS, Sangeetha Thomas*  What should have ended by June 30, 2022 as a 5 year experiment has resurfaced. The government has extended the levy of GST compensation cess by another 4 years till March 31, 2026. This cess, dubbed as the sin tax imposed on sin(ful) goods, is double the highest slab on indirect taxes. But only a few pay for it and the majority benefit, unendingly. The year 2017 is a landmark year for indirect taxes. With the grand idea of ‘One Nation, One Tax’ as a fiscal slogan subsuming all State based taxes such as octroi /entry tax, Value Added Tax (VAT), sales tax, taxes on lottery, betting and gambling, luxury tax, purchase tax, entertainment tax, property tax, professional tax and central sales tax into a single framework of Goods and Services Tax (GST) changed the contours of revenue collection. Complicating it further, India, with each State having its own size and revenue problems, has the most complex and highly centralised indirect tax structure in the w