THE announcement made recently that the construction of the Ram mandir in Ayodhya — upon the ruins of the Babri Masjid — will begin within six months serves as just another troubling sign that India’s transformation into a Hindu rashtra is nearly complete. Rather than a purely religious edifice, the temple would be a victory monument for the Sangh Parivar, announcing the triumph of extremist Hindu thought over what remains of Indian secularism. The representatives of a Hindu religious trust made the announcement last week; the Indian supreme court had ruled last year that the temple would be built on what is believed by Hindus to be Ram Janmabhoomhi — the birthplace of deity Ram. But far from religious matters, the drive to build the temple, and before it to demolish the Babri Masjid, is part and parcel of the ruling BJP’s ideological make-up. After all, the party’s stalwarts were at the forefront of the movement of Hindu zealots that culminated in the demolition of the mosque in 1992, marking the beginning of the end of Indian secularism, and the bloody, violent arrival of Hindutva on India’s national stage.
The Pakistan Foreign Office has criticised the decision, observing that the move is part of a pattern in which “Muslims in India are being marginalised, dispossessed, demonised and subjected to senseless violence”. Indeed, the monster of Hindutva has emerged from the rubble of the Babri mosque and spread its tentacles across India, smothering minorities, particularly Muslims, and recreating the country in the image of the Sangh Parivar. Whether it is cow vigilantes lynching Muslims on suspicions of eating beef, the shock troops of Hindutva terrorising Muslim men, women and children, or the Indian state introducing discriminatory legislation designed to disenfranchise the Muslim population, all indications are that hatred and majoritarian arrogance have now been mainstreamed in India. The ideologues of the Sangh have never accepted Pakistan and constantly seek to provoke this country, while internally they are meting out treatment to Indian Muslims not too different to what the fascists of Europe did to Jews in the 20th century. There is great horror and revulsion over Nazi crimes — and rightly so. But though the Hindutva brigade is seeking to replicate what their ideological twins did in Europe during World War II, the world is mostly quiet, courting the ‘world’s largest democracy’ that looks the other way as its Muslim citizens are beaten, harassed and murdered.
Published in Dawn, May 30th, 2020