A symbol of pluralism
Ayodhya is a sign of Hindu faith; make it a site of secularism too
On August 5, nine months after the Supreme Court (SC) decided in favour of the Ram temple at the disputed site in Ayodhya, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will preside over the bhoomi pujan to mark the beginning of the construction in the holy town. Ayodhya, in Indian history and mythology, is associated with the Hindu faith as the birthplace of Ram, and the Ram
Rajya that he presided over after a long battle against evil. Ayodhya, in Indian politics, has been associated with unprecedented Hindu political mobilisation, the rise of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), a protracted legal dispute, and yes, Hindu-Muslim tensions and communal violence.
As the construction of the temple commences, Mr Modi has a rare opportunity to fuse together both these strands of Ayodhya. The temple is a political, intellectual and legal victory for the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, for the BJP, for its countless workers who participated in the rath yatra that brought the issue to national centre stage, for Mr Modi himself whose political life has coincided with the rise of Hindu political consciousness, and for millions of devotees who wanted to see a temple at the disputed site. This is a victory which the devout will, undoubtedly, mark with renewed faith. Mr Modi will not be off the mark in acknowledging this.
At the same time, the contentious history leading up to the temple cannot be erased. The fact that Muslims have abided by the rule of law and accepted the SC verdict in the spirit of closure is laudable — but cannot take away from the insecurity they have felt at the political mobilisation around the issue. The fact that the Babri masjid was demolished, and this was illegal according to the same SC verdict that allowed the temple, cannot be denied either. It is, therefore, incumbent on Mr Modi to not only mark the day as one of celebration for the devout, but also a day of sobriety, reaching out to those on the other side of the divide. There can be no better occasion to enunciate the “sabka
vishwas” slogan of the government than in Ayodhya, to mark the end to an era of contentious political polarisation, and inaugurate a new phase of pluralism, secularism and harmony. Ram took care of all his subjects, with compassion and empathy. PM Modi must reach out to all citizens, with the same compassion. That would be a true tribute and redefine the meaning of Ayodhya in Indian political lexicon.