Ram Mandir And Modi's New India

The collapse of secular India into the quagmire of religious fundamentalism is now seen as a vindication of the two-nation theory

Ram Mandir And Modi's New India

India appeared on the map of the world as a sovereign independent country on 15 August 1947. The founding fathers of this new country, such as Mahatama Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, were ardent believers in the concept of secular democracy and preached equal rights for all citizens irrespective of caste colour or creed. Today, 77 years after birth of that secular and democratic republic, India under Narendra Modi has been transformed into a Hindu fundamentalist society. 

The centuries-old Babri Masjid, a relic of the Mughal period, has been razed to the ground and the controversial edifice of the Ram Mandir has been built with the blessings of the Indian Supreme Court. The fanatic self-proclaimed followers of Ram are still busy in the construction of the mandir and staggering amounts of money have been collected as donations by the believers. According to rough estimates, over US $4.2 billion have been collected and money is still pouring in like a deluge. Religious fanatic organisations like the RSS are in the front of the efforts to collect money, food and construction materials and consecration ceremonies are being conducted with great religious fervour. The central government of India is doing everything in their power to turn this area around the Mandir into a religious headquarters of the Hindu religion on the pattern of the Vatican City near Rome. 

The government is arranging free rides in trains, buses and cabs for the devotees of the Ram Mandir from all over the country, and five star hotels are coming up all around the area. Narendra Modi, the Indian Prime Minister and a great champion of the Ram Mandir campaign, will reach Ayodhia on 22 January for the consecration ceremonies, and he had this to say to his ardent followers: 

“The whole world is waiting for the historic moment. With folded hands I am requesting the 140 crore people of the country that on January 22 when the consecration of Ramallah’s idol takes place, light the Ram Jyoti in your house and celebrate Diwali.” 

The founding fathers of India must be turning over in their graves to see the land of their dreams turned into a theocracy with scant regard for other religions and beliefs. The purpose of all these celebrations is to announce to the world that under Modi the Hindu India is reborn, an India that has nothing to do with the original India of 1947. A reborn India is now exclusively for Hindus – and minorities particularly Muslims have no place in it, just as Muslim Pakistan treats its Hindu and Christian minorities as second-class citizens. The fundamentalist Hindus of today consider Indian Muslims as the unwanted offspring of foreign invaders who looted and plundered India.

The temple consecration ceremony will take place on 22 January with Prime Minister Narendra Modi as the chief guest at the event. More than 7,000 people, with leading personalities from all walks of life including politicians, industrialists, saints and celebrities will be attending the grand opening apart from over 100 representatives from different countries. During the first week of the New Year, all Indian media houses and political analysts seem to agree that in India the Ram Temple in Ayodhya is the most important political issue. 

As the day of the consecration ceremony draws closer every news channel is telecasting and talking about the ongoing preparations and the latest news from the Ram Mandir. Every minor detail of the ceremony is discussed repeatedly from who will be seated in the sanctum sanctorum and how the puja will be conducted to the Prime Minister’s decision to fast on that day. Breathless TV pundits report that he always fasts before religious ceremonies because ‘you have to be pure, really pure.’ Adding that he is good at keeping long fasts since he is in the habit of living on water for nine days during Navratri. 

Mixing religion with politics is nothing new in the sub-continent. One prominent example is the situation after the defeat suffered by the Muslim League in the 1937 elections, when religion was weaponised and thrust into politics. Later still, it was General Zia-ul-Haq who injected religion with a vengeance, followed by Imran Khan and his utopian dream of Riasat-i-Madinah. Today all our political stalwarts use religion to defame and destroy their political opponents. The PTI during their chaotic rule of four years used religion against the PML-N and the PPP, and now the media mouthpieces of Mariam Nawaz are paying back in the same coin to attack Imran Khan and the PTI leadership. 

In India, Jawaharlal Nehru would have fought tooth and nail and done all in his power against any scheme of making Hinduism the official religion of India. Even in 1947, when the government decided to rebuild the Somnath Temple destroyed by Mahmud Ghaznavi, Nehru refused to be any part of it because he believed that the state should not be involved in any such venture. In 1951, when President Rajendra Prasad wanted to visit the temple, Nehru refused permission. If Gandhi were alive, although a devout Hindu himself, he would have definitely rejected the construction of the new Ram Mandir. Why, argued Gandhi, does God need a building or idol to be worshipped

In his prayer meeting on 21 November 1947, he said “As per information I have received, about 137 mosques of Delhi have been virtually destroyed in the recent riots. Some of them have been turned into Hindu temples. In my opinion this goes against every tenet of religion---The magnitude of this act cannot be mitigated by saying that Muslims in Pakistan have also despoiled Hindu Temples or turned them into Mosques.”

The collapse of secular India into the quagmire of religious fundamentalism is now seen as a vindication of the two-nation theory, which held that Hindus and Muslims are two entire different nations and they just cannot live together peacefully. What will become of the large Muslim minority in India and a very few surviving Hindus in Pakistan? 

It is hoping against hope that India will once again become the land envisaged by its founding fathers and revert back to secular democracy and Pakistan will be the land envisaged by the Quaid-i-Azam, run according to liberal and secular values. Both countries have to find their way back to pluralism, if they are to survive and thrive.