Socialist India

International Socialist Alternative
Ram Mandir: Fight Back Against Hindutva, No More Monuments of Malice

Following the completely undemocratic suspension of 141 MP’s and the ramming through of the BNS, BNSS, BSA and Telecommunications Act, the BJP has mounted its crown jewel of communalism in the most lavish and expensive display of chest beating so far. The Ram Mandir is a testament to the undying hatred of the Hindutva right wing and its drive to make India an Orwellian nightmare. It is no coincidence that these events have taken place in rapid succession, as the spectacle of this architectural embodiment of oppression is a supreme tactic to distract from the BJP’s numerous and egregious violations, including the aforementioned suspension of MP’s and complete overturning of the legal system as well as the illegal assassination of Hardeep Singh Nijjar on foreign soil, ongoing weapons deals with the genocidal Israeli regime and the enablement of further ethnic cleansing through scabbing of Palestinian labor permits to Indian non-union workers—and from policies that have, despite all the talks of India’s economic rise, mostly favored the billionaire elite. Neither does it come as a surprise that the ruling class’s two most prominent representatives, Ambani and Adani, were among the guest stars at the temple consecration.

India has erupted in a conflagration of saffron flames as Hindutva mobs have carried out indiscriminate attacks against Muslims across the country. Elderly people have been beaten with sticks, rods and chains, a graveyard was set ablaze, Muslim shops were bulldozed, and peaceful gatherings of minority and Bahujan communities have been interrupted with mass violence and destruction. Among the most egregious violations has been the desecration of houses of worship, both by mobs and the organized violence of the state. Masjids and churches have been pelted with stones and defaced with saffron flags. The Delhi government, seizing the moment, bulldozed not only the 800-year-old Mehrauli Masjid but also the adjacent Bahrul Uloom school for orphans and the masjid’s graveyard, leaving human bodies exposed to the outside to be eaten by wild animals.

How did we get here? For millennia, Ayodhya has been believed to be the legendary birthplace of Lord Rama and capitol of his thousands of years-long reign. It goes without saying that the entire narrative, including the existence of Ram and the continuity of Ayodhya to the Vedic Age, is predicated wholly on faith. Yet though the Babri Masjid was built in 1528, the dispute only truly began in 1947 in the fissile violence of partition.

The timeline of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement is one of continuous and flagrant violations of law and secularism. When the temple was desecrated (as the worship of idols is considered a cardinal sin in Abrahamic faiths) by the placement of the Rama and Sita idols in the sanctuary in 1949, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister G.B. Pant refused, stating “there is a reasonable chance of success”. The next year, the UP government through manipulation of an emergency order seized the masjid and de facto converted it into a mandir by allowing only Hindus to worship there. By the 1980’s, the Hindu supremacist Vishwa Hindu Parishad had sued the government for official worshipping rights, and begun a campaign to “liberate” the site. Though the movement itself was the chief domain of the VHP and the growing Bharatiya Janata Party (Indian People’s Party) under L.K. Advani, this didn’t stop Rajiv Gandhi from attempting to cash in on the growing movement by allowing the inner courtyard to be unlocked in 1986, and in 1989, the laying of a foundation stone for the Ram Mandir on the very grounds of the mosque.

The bourgeois media likes to portray the destruction as a spontaneous and uncontrollable event–nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the VHP, RSS and Shiv Sena had previously attempted this very act just two years earlier in 1990, when the 10,000 “kar sevaks” (“volunteers”) were outnumbered by 28,000 UP police and repelled at the cost of 17 lives. In contrast in 1992, undercover journalist Sanjay Kaw reported that he had multiple conversations with police personnel who had already begun the process of weakening the mosque by removing bricks from the structure. The UP police were quite open about their close ties with the kar sevaks camped outside the Masjid, even sharing breakfast and tea with them. There were almost 1 lakh (100,000) kar sevaks camped out in Ayodhya in the days leading up to the 6th of Dec. The RSS not only made arrangements for feeding and lodging but also made arrangements for tools that were to be used to pull down the mosque. As a matter of fact, Karnataka BJP‘s joint spokesperson Prakash Shesharaghavachar mentions that on 5th December they were already given instructions and responsibilities regarding their mission for which they had gathered in Ayodhya.

On 6th Dec at 8 am in the morning, under the leadership of V Manjunath, the onslaught began. Thousands of kar sevaks rushed to the mosque, climbing to the top of the dome with trishuls and axes and started breaking down the mosque with bare hands. By 6pm, all the towers were demolished. It was such a well organized attack that within a few hours on the same day all the debris was cleared out with bare hands and the foundation stone of a temporary Ram Mandir was completed under the direction of BJP MLA Vijaykumar. The UP State police were mute spectators while from the temporary dais veteran BJP leaders like L K Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Ashok Singhal, Uma Bharti, and Saadvi Rithambara continued inciting the mobs. It was only on the next day that the Center declared President’s rule, but by then the BJP had already been successful in their mission. As a matter of fact by 4 am 7th December, the kar sevaks had already started clearing out even before the RAF jawans had arrived.

As if in a constitution-trampling contest, the 2019 Supreme Court verdict on the property dispute once again defied any and all logic, save that of ratifying mob rule. It was determined then that where the Masjid had been built, a temple had been destroyed 400 years earlier in the 12th Century, yet this somehow validated both its destruction and the erection of a new mandir in its place! The 2019 court verdict neither delivered justice or adhered to the fundamental tenets of the law. Under the Places of Worship Act of 1991, the religious character of any place of worship cannot be changed post 1947. It is legally a crime to demand or attempt to change the character of a religious place of worship. However, what can be done when the very Chief Justice of India  Chandrachur Singh has commented that the Act should be revisited? The Supreme Court, through handing over the site of the Babri Masjid to the very people who destroyed it, has opened the floodgates for similar such incidents and court cases. As a matter of fact the Supreme Court’s willingness to entertain an archeological survey of the Gyanvapi Mosque in Varanasi and the removal of the Shahi Idgah Mosque in Mathura are proofs that even the Judiciary is completely corrupt and indoctrinated in the ideology of “Hindi, Hindu, Hindustan”. Judges who don’t toe the party line have been sidelined and blacklisted.

Despite the spectacle bringing flocks of celebrities like vultures to the rotting corpse of Indian secularism, many poor and working-class Indians are disgusted at the excess of 100 crores spent by the UP government alone on the consecration ceremony, to say nothing of the over 3,000 crores privately collected. One need go no further than the words of Dalit youth activist Adarsh Raj who so eloquently noted “temples only bring beggars…schools are what is important!” In a state where the last census revealed one in three residents cannot read and write, “Yogi” Adityanath insists that the best allocation of the equivalent of over 15,000 people’s yearly income is on a 10-week-long celebration of Babri Masjid’s destruction.

Adityanath plans to re-create the Babri Masjid catastrophe with another manufactured crisis in Gyanvapi, as his corrupt court slowly wedges the door open to another organized riot. The granting of rights to worship idols in the basement of a mosque is not only one of the most grave forms of desecration possible, but is also purposefully designed to provoke more controversy, more violence, and foment another 1992. During the writing of our initial statement on the Ayodhya Mandir and the subsequent violence, another, more severe outbreak of state oppression occurred in Haldwani, Uttarakhand when a masjid and madrassa were demolished by police leading to 6 deaths and a hundred during the protest against this obvious violation.

Central to the madness is the one idol above all others: the god-king Modi, who in his lust for power has put himself in the shoes of the temple priests by personally consecrating the still-unfinished temple in violation of Hindu traditions. To a man described as a “king of gods” by his own party, the particulars of Hindu spiritual practice matter little compared to the practical considerations of timing this farce to coincide with the looming 2024 elections and the anniversary of the illegal annexure of Kashmir. Yet to simply echo the right wing’s chants of “Modi, Modi, Modi” would be a disservice to the numerous, populous and murderous organizations that have contributed to this parade of bigotry. The blame for this incident rests not only on Modi, but the entire Bharatiya Janata Party, Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, as well as every so-called “opposition” party that did nothing to stop this, including the INDIA Alliance who simply rolled over and played dead as the funeral music sounded for India’s “secular, socialist republic”.

The words “Ram Rajya” (kingdom of Rama) to most Hindus means not only the legendary reign of the god-king, but perhaps more importantly the belief in a lost utopia: a land where justice and good will prevailed, people lived long lives free of violence, and peace and prosperity reigned. But Rama is more than a symbol of moral purity. The name of Ram however is also a symbol for the so-called “natural” order of caste hierarchy, the holy conquest and cleansing of land from evil, and the usage of violence to create and enforce this order. It is no coincidence that “Jai Shri Ram” (hail Lord Ram) is used as a rallying cry not only for Ayodhya but for communal and caste violence everywhere in the country. After all, it was Ram who, in the enforcement of his mandate, decapitated Shambuka the Shudra for the crime of performing tapas (austerities), in order to bring a Brahmin boy to life.

The proportion of Dalit castes in the Muslim population is disproportionately high–up to 75% according to one article, but of course the Indian public is quite familiar with the concept of escaping (or attempting to escape) the caste system through conversion, as the Christian and Buddhist communities of India share similar composition. The Meenakshipuram conversion of Dalits to Islam in 1981 is just one recent example of how Islam has been used as a vehicle by Dalits to reject the caste system. The ongoing attacks against Muslims, including the erasure of Muslim history in India are also in this sense an attempt to drag the descendants of converts back into untouchability (though it must be said that the caste system was not abolished by either the Delhi Sultanate or the Mughal Empire). The RSS has in fact taken a leading role in successfully advocated for legal restrictions on conversion and intermarriage, and imposed a “Ghar Wapsi” (“Coming Home”) program aimed at bringing Dalit Muslims, Buddhists and Christians back into the Hindu fold–yet still as untouchables, in their eyes fit only for menial and degrading labor, slums and colonies. In these acts of extreme violence and parades of chauvinism against Dalits, both Hindu and non, the Hindutva movement seeks to rescue its own dead child, the promise of peace and prosperity which has been killed not through the actions of a scapegoat but through its own heartless and cruel neglect.

Socialist Alternative condemns the Ram Mandir and everything it stands for: wasting of public funds, celebrating bigotry, reinforcing casteism, and above all the Hindutva ideology and its senseless destruction of all diversity in India. We must remain aware that the issues of communalism, casteism, and class division are not separate from each other, but rather reinforced in an interconnected web of oppression and exploitation under the system of capitalism. We can neither destroy capitalism without destroying these elements, nor can we annihilate these elements without equally destroying the system that they exist in. The working class of India must stand united against the continued encroachments against Bahujans by the ruling class, not only through direct violence but also through the legal entrapment that is steadily encircling these communities. We must excise the cancer of Hindutva and destroy the toxic capitalist system that has created the conditions for its rise. Together we can build a socialist India and a socialist world!