Thursday, April 18, 2024
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MANDIR-LED POLITICS

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Religion has both good and ugly sides. Religion can be a source of hope and act as a balm to soothe troubled souls. Gandhi had aptly stated that God has no religion. For the Dalai Lama, his religion is “kindness”. Karl Marx stated, “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.” Organised religion helps the society maintain moral codes. But, when religion and politics are mixed, the effect could often be toxic. Church at one time was at the core of politics in England. It keeps influencing politics across western nations in subtle ways. Unlike in the sophisticated West, this obsession took on crude forms in several situations under the BJP’s quest for supremacy. But what the BJP promotes is an aggressive form of Hinduism – or Hindutva which is closely linked to the idea of mandir and the birth place of Rama.

The Congress party ostensibly has a commitment to the cause of secularism. Yet, it too adopts strategies with religious overtones to win elections. Gandhi himself stated, “Those who believe that religion and politics aren’t connected don’t understand either.” He used religion too in his fight against the British Raj.

The tastefully built Ram Temple in Ayodhya is due for inauguration on January 22. The Hindu outfits, whose political prop is the BJP, are palpably euphoric about this. For the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the timing is “perfect” as the nation is at heading towards the Lok Sabha elections. Modi engineered situations to this finale through his second five-year term. With the Supreme Court ending the long-lasting dispute between Hindu and Muslim outfits in 2019, the PM himself set the ball rolling for the erection of the temple. This, after “appeasing” the Muslim entities with a large plot of land to erect a new mosque a distance away from the demolished Babri Masjid as was ordered by the Court.

Invitations for the inauguration have been sent by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, linked to the RSS, to leaders of political parties including the Opposition and other celebrities including Bollywood actors. Openly, the government is not in the picture but the Modi-stamp is written all over the inaugural function. The PM would be in Ayodhya on Friday to inaugurate projects worth Rs 11,000 crore, including works on an airport, a railway station and roads. The interlinking of religion and politics is all too clear even to the casual eye.

Hindutva forces vitiated the social atmosphere in the country by their ham-handed demolition of the Babri Masjid in December 1992 without sincerely exploring opportunities for a negotiated settlement. The BJP reaped a political harvest on the demolition of the Babri Masjid and the violence that followed thereafter in different parts of India.

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