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Home > News > Columnists > Swapan Dasgupta

Ayodhya remained an almost-revolution

September 24, 2003

There were no boisterous and jubilant crowds of the faithful shouting "Jai SriRam" on Friday afternoon in the BJP central office. The media, which had turnedup in full strength to get their teeth into a delicious political crisis, hadthe hangdog look of those entering a bar expectantly and being told it is adry day. The dispiritedness was particularly evident among televisionreporters whohad been deprived their moment of insolence, their opportunity to taunt Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani into resigning.

The verdict from the Rae Bareli magistrate's court was in every sense acolossal anti-climax. With Advani cleared of the charges of criminalincitement, there was no big story, only some gossipy speculation over thefuture of Human Resource Development Minister Murli Manohar Joshi.

It was so unlike the heady scenes in Ashoka Road that December morning in 1992when Advani was arrested from his Pandara Park residence and dispatched to agodforsaken corner of Uttar Pradesh. Then, the emotional outpourings of thesaffron faithful matched the spirited indignation of the secularist activistsproclaiming "Sharm se kaho hum Hindu hain (I am ashamed to be a Hindu)."

Ayodhya may once again be back among the headlines and as a debating point forprofessional and amateur archaeologists, but it no longer generates theintensity of feeling it aroused a decade ago. Those who imagined the demolition of the Babri shrine would usher an explosion of Hindutva wereguilty of unwarranted optimism. Likewise, those who spent New Year's Day in1993 hearing the distant thud of fascist jackboots were simply fantasising.

Ayodhya left a definite mark on the way India thinks and acts but it didn'ttrigger an upheaval. It remained an almost-revolution.

There is a strong temptation to believe otherwise. Credible opinion pollsstill suggest that a majority of Hindus are strongly committed to theconstruction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya. Yet, as most political practitioners,including those who were in the forefront of the movement 10 years ago, willreadily admit, it is a passive support, not one that will set the heartland onfire. Lusty cries of "Mandir Wahin Banayenge" no longer fetches the sameelectoral dividends, and certainly not in Uttar Pradesh, once the epicentre ofthe saffron surge. Indeed, there is every likelihood of the law of diminishingreturns setting in.

The prime minister knows this as does Advani and the rest of the BJP. Only afraction of the VHP clings to the self-serving belief that the ideologicalfickleness and opportunism of the BJP leadership is the only stumbling blockto Hindu resurgence.

The public indifference to the VHP's adventurism has, however, generated acynical reluctance on the part of the secularist lobby to accommodate Hindusentiment. The peremptory rejection of the Kanchi Shankaracharya'sinitiative by the Muslim Personal Law Board and the contrived rubbishing ofthe Archaeological Survey of India have given rise to the impression thatminorityism is back in business. It was precisely such a feeling that gave theAyodhya movement its impetus 10 years ago. Now, with Islamist terrorismproviding an added fear, the sense of Hindu hurt could yet again turn to rage.

It happened in Gujarat last year and it can still happen elsewhere.

That Advani has been liberated from the litigious encumbrance of Ayodhyashould not prompt the simplistic conclusion that the temple issue will returnto the centre-stage. In the past decade, Hindu nationalism has both stagnatedand evolved. On the narrow issue of Ayodhya it has been bogged down byjudicial restraint and public weariness, unable to either advance or retreat.

At the same time, however, it has enlarged its scope into areas like nationalsecurity and economic policy.

Indeed, the past five years have witnessed the shortening of the distancebetween what was regarded as Hindu nationalism and what passed off as Indiannationalism. Ayodhya began the process but cannot complete the merger.

Viewed in this light, the Rae Bareli judgment has been liberating not only forAdvani but also for the Prime Minister and the party. Collectively they haveacquired the political space to look beyond Ayodhya.

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Number of User Comments: 7

Sub: Dasgupta and Ayodhya

The pseudo secularist crowd cannot digest the well-written column byDasgupta.Had he written a bloodcurdling article condemning the court and Advani they would have acclaimed him ...

Posted by ved

Sub: Keep up the good work...

Without a collective identity no country can bring a sense of nationalism. In India from Ayodhya (north) to Kanyakumari (south) - this is how Ram ...

Posted by Agg

Sub: You Get What You Deserve

Ain't this true...I am sure the Hindu revolution has begun though it will take another 25 years to make a fundamental change in world order...


Sub: Ram

The distance from Allahabad to Kanyakumari is all of 2335 kilometeres. Thence across Palk Straits and then upto, say, Kandy. Round it off to 2,500 ...

Posted by GB

Sub: Ayodhya and Hindu nationalism

Dasgupta is in a world of fantasy as he attempts to pass off ersatz nationalism for the genuine and suggests that the great divide could ...

Posted by Gauzbig



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