Hindu Vivek Kendra
A RESOURCE CENTER FOR THE PROMOTION OF HINDUTVA
   
CHAPTER - I
THE BACKGROUND
Introduction

1.1 The Ayodhya movement is a watershed in Indian history. Indeed, it has been the greatest mass movement in recent history. The movement had a religious and cultural origin. But it has profoundly influenced the political destiny of India because of the insensitivity of the current political leadership to the spiritual and cultural aspirations of the Indian nation. To understand the Ayodhya movement and how it has struck so deep a chord in the Indian mind we must see how the Ayodhya issue was always a potentially political issue and eventually graduated into one; how the Indian leaders ignored history and wanted the people too to ignore it; how the provocative ocular effect of the invaders' monuments was underplayed rather than understood as to its political effect; how false unity was promoted instead of an understanding rooted in facts and resulting in assimilation; how the consequence was distorted secularism; how Rama and Rama Rajya are our national heritage whose potentiality is being realised only now; how the evolution from Somnath was suspended after the death of Sardar Patel and how Ayodhya is the recommencement from the point where the spirit of Somnath stood suspended.
 

What does Ayodhya symbolise?

1.2 The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had always affirmed that the Ayodhya movement was not just a plea for a temple for Sri Rama, that instead it reflected a far deeper quest for recapturing our national identity. The movement is firmly rooted in the inclusive and assimilative cultural heritage of India. It represents the soul of the nationalist thrust of our freedom movement. The post-independence political creed of the Congress and of most other political parties had come to regard every thing that inspired this nation in the past as less than secular - in fact, communal, and even anti-national. The movement for restoration of the Temple at the birthplace of Sri Rama evolved as a corrective to this distortion. It developed into a massive protest against the derailment of all that inspired the freedom movement the elevating chant of Vande Mataram which Maharishi Bankim Chandra gave to this nation, the goal of Rama Rajya held out by Mahatma Gandhi as the destination of free India, the ideal of Spiritual Nationalism expounded by Swami Vivekananda, the spirit of Sanatana Dharma which Sri Aurobindo described as the soul and nationalism of India, and the mass devotion to the mother-land built around the Ganapati festival by Bal Gangadhar Tilak. The Ayodhya movement symbolised the re-establishment of these roots of our nation-hood which had dried up due to post-independence politics and a spiritually bankrupt idiom. Indeed, 'secularism' became a perverted slogan - merely a means to catch votes, and a slogan to shout down every nationalist.

1.3. Thus, the BJP is convinced that the quest for a Temple for Sri Rama at Ayodhya, at the very place where the Maryada Purushotam is believed to have been born, is the expression of a brooding national conscience that had been held in check since the partition of India by pseudo-secular leaders and parties, that it is a symbol of the greatest national introspection and cultural resurgence of the present century. The people's participation in the Ayodhya movement and its reach cutting across all barriers of caste, religion, language and region showed and emphasised its national and political thrust.
 

People's Mandate for Ayodhya Temple

2.1. It is in view of its importance as a mass movement to correct the distortions which have derailed Indian nationalism and weakened the Indian Society and State, that the BJP decided in June, 1989 to lend support to the construction of the Temple for Sri Rama. The Manifesto of the BJP for the Parliamentary elections in 1989 and the Parliamentary and UP Assembly elections in 1991 clearly set Rama Rajya as the goal of the party and the ration, and made a commitment to erect a grand Temple for the great national hero, Sri Rama, elevated to the status of God. The Manifesto of 1991 had stated.

"As the party of law, order and justice, it (BJP) would ensure the security of life, liberty and honour of all citizens. It seeks the restoration of Ramjanmabhoomi in Ayodhya only by way of a symbolic righting of historic wrongs so that the old unhappy chapter of acrimony would be ended and a grand national reconciliation be effected. Hindu and Muslims are blood brothers, but on account of historical reasons, their relationship has not been harmonious. It shall be the endeavour of the BJP to make all Indians fraternal and friendly once again.

The BJP firmly believes that construction of Ram Mandir at Janamsthal is a symbol of the vindication of our cultural heritage and national self-respect. For BJP it is purely a national issue and it will not allow any vested interest to give it a sectarian and communal colour. Hence, the party is committed to build Shri Ram Mandir at Janamsthan by relocating the super-imposed Babri structure with respect."

Based on this commitment, the BJP secured an absolute majority in the elections to the UP Legislative Assembly. In the Parliamentary elections, also held in June 1991, the BJP secured over 25% of the popular votes, and 119 seats. The BJP had thus secured, and was, in fact, obliged by the mandate of the electorate to remove all hurdles in the way of constructing the Rama Temple at Ayodhya.

2.2. Despite the mandate, time and again, the BJP and also the organisers of the Ramajanmabhoomi movement, had maintained that, although the disputed structure, at Ayodhya was not a mosque at all, the structure would be shifted with all reverence to another place, respecting the sentiments of the Muslims who believed - rather, who had been led to believe - it to be a 'mosque'. The BJP did not create or organise the Ayodhya movement. From 1983 to 1989, that is, before the BJP lent its support, the movement had already begun to stir the people. The commitment of the BJP to the electorate to remove the hurdles in the way of construction of the Temple at the very place where the idols of Rama were, and the hostile and antagonistic stance taken by other political parties, were the mere consequences of a mass movement that had already taken shape, challenging the existing post-independence political practices of all parties other than the BJP.
 

How Ayodhya evolved as a Political Issue

3.1. The ruling Congress and its overt and covert allies in the opposition relentlessly charge the BJP with politicising the issue of the Temple at Ayodhya. This charge no doubt suits the pseudo-secular political parties in their competitive pursuit of Muslim votes, but clearly lacks substance and a sense of history without which no polity, and certainly not the polity of a nation with a known history extending back to 5000 years, can function at peace with itself. The erstwhile structure at Ayodhya, as was the one that existed at Somnath till 1947, were not built as symbols of a religious order as Saranath was, but as testimonials of the victory of the political order of the vandals who invaded our motherland. These structures and mosques are not - and were never intended to be - symbols of the purely religious sensibilities of Muslims which every Hindu ought to respect; but were intended to be, and are mementoes of the atrocities on this great nation perpetrated by the Ghaznavis, Baburs and Aurangzebs and of their victories, as also of the defeat of our countrymen and their spiritual and political humiliation. Thus, these mosques, unlike the hundreds and thousands in this country that vibrate only religion and not the visual evidence of political conquest, are not sanctified by religion, but by the invaders' might. Political intent is implicit in these invaders' testimonials. This is what acknowledged historians have had to say on these so-called religious monuments.
 

Invaders' Mosque on Hindu holy places ocular demonstration of political victory over our country

3.2. Arnold Toynbee, one of the great historians of the present century, while delivering the Azad Memorial Lecture, said:

"As I have been speaking, some vivid visual memories have been flashing up in my mind's eye. One of these is a mental picture of the principal square in the Polish City of Warsaw some time in the late nineteen twenties. In the course of the first Russian occupation of Warsaw (1614-1915) the Russians had built an Eastern Orthodox Christian Cathedral on this central spot in the city that had been the capital of the once independent Roman Catholic Christian country, Poland. The Russians had done this to give the Poles a continuous ocular demonstration that the Russians were now their masters. After the reestablishment of Poland's independence in 1918, the Poles had pulled this cathedral down. The demolition had been completed just before the date of my visit. I do not greatly blame the Polish Government for having pulled down that Russian Church. The purpose for which the Russians had built it had been not religious but political, and the Purpose had also been intentionally offensive. On the other hand, I do greatly praise the Indian Government for not having pulled down Aurangzeb's Mosques: I am thinking particularly of two that overlook the ghats at Benares, and of one that crowns Krishna's hill at Mathura.

"Aurangzeb's purpose in building those three Mosques was the same intentionally offensive political purpose that moved the, Russians to build their Orthodox Cathedral in the city centre at Warsaw. Those three Mosques were intended to signify that an Islamic Government was reigning supreme, even over Hinduism's holiest of holy places. I must say that Aurangzeb had a veritable genius for picking out provocative sites. Aurangzeb and Philip II of Spain are a pair. They are incarnations of the gloomily fanatical vein in the Christian- Muslim-Jewish family of religions. Aurangzeb - a poor wretched misguided bad man spent a lifetime of hard labour in raising massive monuments to his own discredit. Perhaps the Poles were really kinder in destroying the Russians self-discrediting monuments in Warsaw than you have been in sparing Aurangzeb's Mosques. Anyway, it is Aurangzeb, and not the Hindu holy ground on which his Mosques are planted, that suffers from their very conspicuous presence...

"Aurangzeb's Mosques are not outstandingly beautiful works of Indian Muslim architecture. But the standard of all Moghal works is high. I have noticed the loving care with which the Indian archaeological service looks after such world-famous masterpieces as the Taj Mahal, and the forts at Agra and here in Shahjehanabad (Delhi). Not only the Islamic world but the whole world ought to feel grateful to India for this. But the careful preservation of public monuments is perhaps not so meritorious when these are supremely beautiful, as it is when they do not have this intrinsic appeal. The British rulers of India followed their Muslim predecessor's practice of perpetuating the memory of their fleeting presence by leaving monuments behind them. Unfortunately for the British, the style of their epoch in India was no longer the Moghal's, it was the Victorian Gothic. If any of my countrymen still had a say in determining the policy of the Indian Ministry of Public Works, I suspect that they might press for the demolition of some of' these Philistini reminders of the British phase in the history of India. But not so the Indian authorities. They are, so far as I know, being as tender to these British monstrosities as they are to the Taj." (One World and India, compiled by National Book Trust, pp. 59-61).

So the construction of mosques on Hindu holy sites pained even a scholar like Toynbee. He would not object if the Hindus had removed these political insults as the Poles had removed the Russian insult.

3.3. Summing up what the Mohammedan invasion of India meant in history, Will Durant has said:

"The Mohammedan conquest of India is probably the bloodiest story in History, a discouraging tale, for its evident moral is that civilisation is a precious thing whose delicate complex of order and liberty, culture and peace may at any time be overthrown by barbarians." (Will Durant, The Story of Civilisation, Vol. I, Our Oriental Heritage, p. 459)


History cannot be ignored - invaders' provocative monuments cannot have a peaceful appeal

3.4. This historical background of the Mohammedan invasion and the provocative ocular reminders of that violent and barbaric invasion were completely ignored even after the partition of India. This neglect resulted in the failure to evolve a sound basis for Indian nationalism and durable relationships between Hindus and Muslims. The effort was to suppress the historical facts from history books, and explain away irrefutable facts by falsehoods such as claiming that Babur was secular and tolerant. If, instead, there had been an honest admission that the invaders were foreigners and that the Indian Muslims, 90% of whom were converts from Hindus, were not their descendants but of the forefathers of their Hindu brethren, that would have prepared the ground for cultural and social assimilation and unity. On the contrary, the post-independence political leadership indulged in concealing and suppressing the truth in a desperate bid to promote false unity instead of an understanding based on truth. Far from persuading the Muslims to disown such provocative symbols, the political parties encouraged them to own them and to regard them to be symbols of Islam. The reason was evident: the pseudo-secular political parties regarded the Muslims merely as captive votes, and not as co-citizens of Hindus. They, therefore, fomented in Muslims feelings of separateness, and of insecurity. Having done so they presented themselves as the ones who were special solicitors of the separate identity of Muslims, and their only available saviours. The separatist mentality articulated by the Jinnahs of the Muslim League which kept the Muslim mind separate from the Hindus finally led to the partition of the motherland. Any statesman would have learnt from this most grievous error of the past, seized the aftermath of partition to dissolve notions of the separateness amongst Muslims, and opened up the gates of cultural and societal assimilation that is the national tradition of India. But the post-independence political leadership of India particularly of the Congress and Communist variety, did precisely the reverse and, as a result, achieved even greater separation.
 

The effect of false unity instead of understanding rooted in facts - distorted secularism 

3.5. The post-independence Indian leadership, while preserving those invaders' mementoes and even convincing the Muslims that they are a heritage of India, invented and legitimized every means by which the Muslims would feel different from the Hindus and also feel that the difference was their veal essence and, in response, make the Hindus too feel different from the Muslims. The composite-culture theory as propounded and the Marxian discovery that India was not just multi-lingual and multi-religious, but a multi-national State, a geographical construct, were the two strands for rationalizing the stoking of separateness among Muslims. While normally one would not object to what Pandit Nehru had said namely, that Indian culture was a composite one, it was not intended to nor did it convey the meaning that our culture was one continuous flow into which several streams had merged. Instead, the concept of composite culture was cited to support and sustain distinct cultural and even political identities outside the mainstream. The more appropriate view nearer to truth is that Indian culture is one with continuity and change over 5000 years and if it has a name it is only Hindu. As Ramsay MacDonald had said, "India and Hinduism are organically related as body and soul," the culture of this nation is essentially and dominantly Hindu. In fact, Shri G.M. Syed the veteran Sind leader says that the culture of Sind dates back to the Vedas. The fact that this nation has interacted with various thoughts and civilisations which have added to its richness does not detract from its Hindu character, just as the Ganga from Gangotri down through its course is only the Ganga, notwithstanding the fact that many tributaries have added to its flow - after its merger even the Yamuna is only Ganga and no more Yamuna and not even Ganga and Yamuna or a composite reiver. This is the true illustration of the assimilative cultural basis of India. Of course, the theory of distinct culture instead of a single cultural thought admirably suited the vote arithmetic of political parties. But a united Muslim vote bank and divided Hindu electorate pressed the political atmosphere to move away from the 5000-year old national and cultural roots. It is not that political power shifted to the Muslim masses or that their social, educational and economic conditions improved. On the contrary, there was deterioration in both and only the brokers of Muslim votes benefited. The net result of this disastrous political consensus around a vote-inspired and distorted secularism was the sustenance and promotion of multidimensional separatism, relegating the assimilative aspects of Indian nationalism as narrow and even communal, and unacceptable to modern, secular statecraft.
 

The effect of distorted secularism

3.6. How did this dishonest and distorted secularism translate itself in practice? A separate - rather, separatist - Article 370 and Constitution and Flag for the only Muslim majority State (Jammu & Kashmir) in India; a proclaimed and uncontested statement that the Muslim League and that too in Kerala (where it had a bigamous and alternating political alliance with the Congress and Marxists) is secular, the legislative reversal of the Supreme Court finding that the Aligarh University was not a minority institution, to proclaim its minority character; the creation and legitimisation of Muslim majority Mallapuram District; the silent acceptance of the right of the Muslims to riot in religious matters like Hazrat Bal, and Al-Aqsa Mosque, and even non-religious matters so long as they could be given a religious column - like the hanging of Z.A. Bhutto in Pakistan; the legislative reversal of the Shah Bano ruling; the banning of Salman Rushdie's Satanic Verses on the ground that it was liable to offend Muslim sentiments; the Muslim militancy in Kashmir which rendered non-Muslims refugees in the streets of Delhi and Jammu for whom no Prime Minister, neither V.P. Singh nor P.V. Nirasimha Rao, cared even to utter a word of consolation; the confession by the UP Government of its inability to abide by the binding judgement of the Supreme Court on the Varanasi burial ground case on the ground that the Sunni Muslims might riot; the setting up of a Minorities Commission to please essentially the Muslims; the undeclared political faith that the Personal Law of Muslims is inviolable and the constitutional directive of common civil code is not sacrosanct; the secularist opposition to the Assam movement against infiltrators and the deafening silence of the pseudo-secular parties on the Bangladesh infiltration who have usurped large tracts in Assam and elsewhere. The list is unending, bearing undeniable testimony to the national drift.

3.7. The theory and practice of secularism (an intra-religious evolution in the West which had no application to a multi-religious situation which always existed and existed peacefully till the invaders arrived in this great nation) resulted in greater erosion of our national identity and national consciousness than even under the rule of the invaders. The Ramajanmabhoomi movement was evolved by the very process of history as a corrective to this denationalised politics. The quest for the Temple of Rama at Ayodhya became the symbol of resurgent nationalism based on our indigenous ethos, just as the salt that Mahatma Gandhi picked became the symbol of the quest for the political freedom of India. The dormant national mind which had its centre of gravity in the spiritual centres of Indian history - the Ramayana and Mahabharata, Ayodhya and Mathura which had been brooding for manifestation, found expression in the Ayodhya movement. This movement was not the product or the work of BJP. It was an evolution of history that gathered momentum and developed into a political movement. The BJP decided to support the Ayodhya movement a full six years after the movement had begun and after it had assumed mass dimensions incapable of being politically ignored.
 

3.8. The charge that BJP made the Ayodhya movement and Sri Rama a political issue is incorrect and betrays lack of appreciation of the cultural and integrative impact of Rama in India. Ironically, similar criticism was levelled by Mohammed Ali Jinnah against Mahatma Gandhi who drew inspiration from Rama and Rama Rajya for drawing up the national agenda for the freedom struggle. To the Mahatma, Rama and Rama Rajya were not religious expressions normally conceived but national symbols. Could it be said that Gandhiji politicised Rama? As for the Ayodhya movement, when the BJP began to support it, it had already become an issue of the people. If not the BJP, any other party, even the Congress which now champions the anti-Ayodhya thrust, could have supported it. How else would one explain the inauguration of the Congress Party's 1989 election campaign at Ayodhya instead of at Delhi, by the late Shri Rajiv Gandhi and his proclamation that the Party would establish Rama Rajya? That the BJP happened to be the first political party to support it does not mean that, but for its support, the Ayodhya movement would have had no political implications, or political support.
 

The Integrative effect of Rama, Rama Rajya and Ayodhya

4.1. No one - not even those who oppose the Ayodhya movement - can deny the fact that Sri Rama is not just an idol of worship, but provides cultural and spiritual, and even physical linkage throughout India and the psychological glue that animates and integrates the Indian mind cutting across the barriers of language, caste, religion and region. There is no language in India into which the Ramayana has not been translated or written. There is no caste or region which does not have names that do not include Rama in some form or the other. The Sikhs, the Jains, the Buddhists and the Arya Samajists have their own version of Rama and Ramayana. The Guru Granth Sahib celebrates and invokes the name of Sri Rama about two thousand four hundred times. The Kutchi Memon Muslims have, in their only book Dasavatar, accepted and revered Rama as an avatar. Rama thus provided the finest illustration of national integration.
 

Ram Rajya as Mahatma Gandhi perceived it

4.2. No one realised this more than Gandhiji who admirably linked Rama to the movement for Indian freedom. His famous 'Ramadhun' was on the lips of every freedom fighter. This is how Gandhiji viewed Rama Rajya and equated Swaraj to Rama Rajya:

"In my opinion Swaraj and Ramrajya are one and the same thing. However, I do not often use the latter expression before audiences of men.... They want Swaraj but not Ramrajya and of Swaraj too, they give strange definitions which, in my opinion, are absurd.... The concept of Swaraj is no ordinary one, it means Ramrajya. How will that Ramrajya come to be established? When will it come into being? We will call a state Ramrajya when both the ruler-and his subjects are straightforward, when both are pure in heart, when both are inclined towards self-sacrifice, when both exercise self-restraint and self control while enjoying worldly pleasures and when the relationship between the two is as good as that between a father and son.... This is the true meaning of democracy. It is not democracy but something else that is reflected in the support received by some one like me who makes a vote catching speech. The democracy that I believe in is described with Ramayana in the essence that is derived from my simple and straightforward reading of it. What was the manner in which Ramachandra ruled? The rulers of today assume that it is their birthright to rule and they do not recognise the people's right to voice their opinion" (The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol. XXXV, pp. 489-90).

4.3. When Gandhiji set out to define the goal of the freedom movement, he held out Rama Rajya as the destination of the Indian polity. What is this Rama Rajya? This is how a Roman Catholic, Father Premananda (a Sanskritised name, part of the indigenisation policy of the Church) defined Rama Rajya:

"All Ram's subjects were equal. They were free from fear of any kind. They loved one another and were honest.... There was no need for magistrates to punish criminals for there was no crime. The staff (symbol of the power to punish) was used only by wandering sanyasins as a symbol of self-discipline.... Ayodhya the seat of King Ram excelled all other places in beauty and prosperity.... In Ram Rajya, not only human beings but every creature was happy and contented....

"Tulsidas does not place all his hopes for an ideal society on a set of laws or structures to certain evil and promote good. Neither does he believe that abundance of material goods can make man happy. It is Bhakti, nearness to the Supreme source of good, Paramatman (the cosmic self) that makes the people good in themselves and good to others" (Ramcharitmanas by Father Premanand. pp. 113-115).

Thus, Rama as the ideal human being and Rama Rajya as the ideal governance are the heritage of Rama and Ramayana in India. No one can complain against Rama Rajya or equate it with a theocratic state like Dar-ul-Islam. Gandhiji who swore by Rama and Rama Rajya, did not even remotely suspect or suggest that it had any theocratic ingredients.
 

Rama and Rama Rajya as symbols of nationalism, of Swaraj and Swadeshi, as well as of religious pluralism

4.4. Thus Rama, Ramayana and Rama Rajya are great symbols of national integration and are national idioms which provided continuity consistent with the culture and ethos of this great nation. Whether the State in this country helped to make the temples of Rama or broke them as the invaders did, the loyalty of the nation was always to the values which Rama symbolised. The nation in India always remained Hindu, whether the State was controlled by Turks, Afghans, Moghuls, Portuguese, French, English or Nehruvian Secularists. The Ayodhya movement became relevant and inevitable when the post-independence digression in the national mind seriously undermined the ethos and traditions of tile nation in India, and as a result, the state and the nation again got virtually divorced by the rupture of national identity and the mindless adoption of the Western as the modern. The Ayodhya movement is intended to recapture the lost identity and restore the national pride which is the basis for Swarajya (sovereignty) and Swadeshi (economic independence). The Ayodhya movement thus implies she recommencement of our national journey as a 'politically independent state for the attainment of Rama Rajya that is Swarajya by Swadeshi as codified by Mahatma Gandhi. The BJP firmly believes in this message of the Ayodhya movement. 

4.5. The Ayodhya movement also clears the confusion as to what is nationalism and what constitutes the ideal basis for inter-religious harmony. It asserts that it is not the spiritually bankrupt Western concept of secularism, but the assimilative Hindu cultural nationhood that, is the basis for religious harmony. The pre-Moghul India, which had only the Hindu or Buddhist kings in power, but housed and harmonised all religions, is the ideal example of how only a Hindu nation could guarantee plurality and freedom of faith to all non-Hindu citizens. India was the only example of a multi-religious society since ancient times. Whether it was a religion like Zorastrianism of the Parsis or the religion of the Jews who had been persecuted elsewhere, or the proselytising religions like Islam and Christianity, India nation welcomed them and made them full members of an ever-expanding commonwealth of religions. It is the invasion by fanatic religious statecraft that intervened and introduced inter-religious disharmony and hatred towards all indigenous faiths. The surest way to restore inter-religious harmony is to disown and do away with symbols of fanaticism and bring back the values of 'Sarva Pantha Samabhava' (equal respect for all religions) which is rooted in the Vedic declaration, "Ekam sad viprah bahudha vadanti" (Truth is one, sages describe it differently). This is the spiritual injunction of the Hindu civilisation that operated on all religions and their followers, whether native or Semitic, in India. Thus, the Ayodhya movement define, in terms of the native idiom, the tenets of Indian nationalism rooted in plurality of thought, religious and secular, rejecting Semitic intolerance and exclusivism. And Sri Rama is not just an abstraction to be worshipped. He is the living symbol of our nation, as well as of our dedication to our nation.
 

The Somnath Parallel - from Somnath to Ayodhya 

5.1. The digression of Indian nationalism in the post-independence period into pseudo-secularism can be demonstrated by drawing a parallel between Somnath and Ayodhya. One of the first acts of the independent Government of India under the leadership of Shri Jawaharlal Nehru was the decision to restore the Somnath Temple at Prabhas Patan, a small town on the southern coast of Saurashtra in Gujarat.

5.2. Here was an ancient Temple which had been ravaged, looted, and ransacked repeatedly by foreign invaders from Sultan Mahmood Ghaznavi to Emperor Aurangzeb. Every time the Temple was razed to the ground and a mosque put up in its place by the marauders, it sprouted again - only to be pulled down again. The last of such destructions took place in 1706 when Prince Mohammed Azam, the 39th Viceroy of Gujarat, carried out the orders of Aurangzeb "to destroy the Temple of Somnath beyond possibility of repair" (Bombay Gazetteer, Vol. XXII, p. 292). A small mosque was put up in its place. 

5.3. The Somnath Temple at Prabhas Patan was part of Junagarh State. On the eve of Independence, the Nawab of Junagarh announced the accession of Junagarh, which had over 80% Hindu population, to Pakistan. The Hindus rose in revolt and set up a parallel government under Shri Samaldas Gandhi. The Nawab, unable to resist popular pressure, bowed out, and ran away to Pakistan. The provincial government then formally asked the Government, of India to take over. On November 9, 1947 the Deputy Prime Minister and Union Home Minister, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, accompanied by Shri N.V. Gadgil, Minister of Public Works, went to Saurashtra. The very first thing Sardar Patel did was to declare at a public meeting that the first Government of free India would reconstruct the great Temple of Somnath and re-install the Jyotirlingam, the idol that originally adorned the Temple. At that time too, as now, there were anglicised intellectuals everywhere, even in the Archaeological Survey of India, who suggested that Somnath be declared a protected monument. Sardar Patel did not think of seeking judicial opinion, nor was he concerned about how many votes would be won or lost, and he rightly recorded:

"The Hindu sentiment in regard to the temple is both strong and widespread: In the present conditions it is unlikely that the sentiment will be satisfied by mere restoration of the temple or by prolonging its life. The restoration of the idol would be a point of honour and sentiment with the Hindu public."

The iron man of India just shut up the mischief and proceeded to initiate steps to reconstruct the Somnath Temple at the same spot where the ancient temple stood. When Sardar Patel conveyed to Mahatma Gandhi the decision of the Government to reconstruct the Somnath Temple, Gandhiji blessed the move, but suggested that the funds for the construction should be collected from the public and the Temple should not be funded by the State. Thus, in Gandhiji's view, it was not the reconstruction of the Somnath Temple that would offend the secular character of the Indian State, but the State funding of such construction.
 

K.M. Munshi on Somnath - Nehru and Secularism

5.4. This is how Kulapati K.M. Munshi, who was the Union Minister of Food and Agriculture and also the head of the official committee to supervise the reconstruction recalls the Somnath renovation in his book Pilgrimage to Freedom.

"When Junagadh fell, Sardar Patel, as Deputy Prime Minister, pledged the Government of India to the reconstruction of the historical Temple of Somnath. The cabinet, Jawaharlal presiding, decided to reconstruct the Temple at Government cost. But Gandhiji advised Sardar not to have the Temple reconstructed at Government cost and suggested that sufficient money should be collected from the people for this purpose. Sardar accepted this advice. The Government of India appointed me as the Chairman of the Advisory Committee for the reconstruction of the Temple, and I had also a hand in preparing the Trust Deed and participated in implementing the scheme.

"Jawaharlal, more than once criticized me for working for the reconstruction of the Temple and I had to point out to him in a long letter that everything was done from the very beginning in accordance with the decision of the Cabinet taken under his guidance. When the time came to install the deity in the Temple as Sardar had passed away, I approached Rajendra Prasad and asked him to perform the ceremony, but added a rider to my invitation that he should accept it only if he was prepared not to fail us.

"My correspondence with the Prime Minister was not secret to Rajendra Prasad. He promised that he would come and install the deity, whatever the attitude of the Prime Minister and added, 'I would do the same with a mosque or a church if I were invited.' This, he held, was the core of Indian secularism. Our state is neither irreligious nor anti-religious".

"My foreboding proved correct. When it was announced that Rajendra Prasad was attending the inauguration of the Somnath Temple, Jawaharlal vehemently protested against his going to Somnath. But Rajendra Prasad kept his promise.

"His speech at the time of the installation of the deity was published in all the newspapers. The speech is a masterpiece of literature by any standard. It briefly traced the role which the Temple had played in the past, analysed the true role of religion and took a pledge for die future. I shall give here only two passages which I have translated from the original Hindi: 

'Even as the Creator of the Universe, Brahma, resides in the navel of Lord Vishnu, similarly in the heart of man reside the creative urge and faith, and these surpass in power all the armaments, all the armies and all the emperors of the world.' 

'In the era, India had been a treasure-house of gold and silver.... Centuries ago, the major portion of the gold of the world was in the temples of India. It is my view that the reconstruction of the Somnath Temple will be complete on that day when not only a magnificent edifice will arise on this foundation, but the mansion of India's prosperity will be really that prosperity of which the ancient Temple of Somnath was a symbol.' (pp. 287-88)

When Pandit Nehru expressed his reservations about Dr. Rajendra Prasad participating in the Somnath function, Kulpati Munshi wrote a letter to Pandit Nehru in which he said: 

"You pointedly referred to me (yesterday) in the cabinet as connected with Somnath. I am glad you did so; for I do not want to keep back any part of my views or activities.

"Yesterday you referred to Hindu revivalism..... I cannot value freedom if it deprives us of the Bhagwat Gita or uproots our millions from the faith with which they look upon our temples and thereby destroys the texture of our lives."

In the course of this letter Shri Munshi forcefully argued against the concepts which had started taking root after Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Patel whereby "secularism" was becoming only an euphemism for allergy to Hinduism. And describing how the word "secularism" was being distorted Kulpati Munshi said:

"In its name, again, politicians in power adopt a strange attitude which, while it condones the susceptibilities, religious and social of the minority communities, is too ready to brand similar susceptibilities in the majority community as communalistic and reactionary. How secularism sometimes become allergic to Hinduism will be apparent from certain episodes relating to the reconstruction of Somnath Temple."

"These unfortunate postures have been creating a sense of frustration in the majority community.

"If, however, the misuse of this word 'secularism' continues, if Sanskrit, the bond of unity is not given a place in our language formula, if eve" time there is an inter-communal conflict, the majority is blamed regardless of the merits of the question, if our holy places of pilgrimage like Banaras, Mathura and Rishikesh continue to be converted into industrial slums by establishing huge industries, the springs of traditional tolerance will dry up.

"While the majority exercises patience and tolerance, the minorities should learn to adjust themselves to the majority. Otherwise the future is uncertain and an explosion cannot be avoided" (Ibid., p. 312).

5.5. The symbol of the conquest of the country that was built where the Jyotirlingam had been, was replaced by a grand and imposing Temple. Yet how prophetic was Kulapati Munshi! It is also evident from the conduct of Pandit Nehru after the death of Sardar Patel that allergy to any thing Hindu had become an integral part of the precept and practice of secularism in India.
 

From Somnath to Ayodhya - the recommencement of a suspended evolution

5.6. The Somnath parallel is important to understand how, the very same secular government headed by the most respected 'secular' leader of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, took the initiative to rebuild the Somnath Temple on a site where an alien invader's symbol stood. No Muslim leader, no secular party, objected to the construction of the Somnath Temple. But the moment Sardar Patel passed away, the attitudes changed. Pandit Nehru now could not tolerate his colleague, K.M. Munshi, taking part in the Somnath Temple reconstruction although it was his own Governments' decision. Nor could he relish the idea of the President of India participating in the installation of the deity in the Temple whose construction was undertaken by a resolution of his own cabinet. This is how a beginning in the cultural reassertion of the nation that was made at Somnath, and which could have defined the national identity and properly directed the destiny of the country, was deliberately and consciously interceded and interfered with. This distortion later legitimised the vote bank "secularism".

5.7. No one could challenge the nationalist credentials of Sardar Patel or Kulapati Munshi or Dr. Rajendra Prasad. They symbolised the Somnath spirit. The Ayodhya movement is the continuation of the spirit of Somnath. That is why the BJP linked Ayodhya to Somnath when the then President of the party begun the Rathyatra in 1990.

5.8. This is the sweep and the canvas of the Ayodhya movement. And this is how the BJP perceives it. The Ayodhya movement and the quest for Rama's Temple at his birth-place has smashed the political censorship on any attempt to debate the width and scope of what is secularism and nationalism, and what is the role of minorities in India - whether they should for ever remain separate or join and merge into the national mainstream by processes which the sages of this country had evolved as an alternative to the annihilation which Semitic religions espouse. No one can stop the nation now from debating these vital issues. The legitimacy of the labels secular, communal, national with distorted meanings, have been seriously questioned as has been the credibility of those who had usurped the authority to issue the labels. Whatever the nation decides in this ongoing debate will be based on dialogue and not on labels that prevented the debate for so long.

Without this background, the origin of the Ayodhya movement and how it reached its crescendo on December 6, 1992 cannot be understood in proper perspective, nor can its full implication be appreciated. What happened on December 6, 1992 is the culmination of a battle that commenced not in 1989 when the BJP decided to join the Ayodhya movement, or in 1984 when the VHP launched the mass struggle to liberate the Janmabhoomi; it is the fruition of 400 years of Hindu struggle to regain their holy place.


 
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