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Mainstream, VOL 62 No 4 January 27, 2024

Multiple Meanings of Consecration Ceremony of Ram Temple | Arup Kumar Sen

Saturday 27 January 2024, by Arup Kumar Sen


On January 22, 2024 India witnessed a unique political event. Thousands of people participated in the consecration ceremony of Ram temple at Ayodhya, physically and digitally. The uniqueness of the event lies in the fact that this modern way of celebrating Ram, the epic hero, was a fully state-sponsored public spectacle.
The consecration ceremony carried different meanings in the public sphere. On the eve of the ceremony. the RSS chief, Mohan Bhagwat, called for an end to ‘bitterness’, ‘dispute’ and ‘conflict’. He stated: “Now, the conflict that has arisen… should be ended. The bitterness that has arisen in the meantime should also end. The enlightened people of society must see that the dispute ends completely. Ayodhya means a city where there is no war, a place free from conflict.” Bhagwat said: “In the devotional celebration of Jan 22, along with the reconstruction of the temple, all of us have resolved for the reconstruction of Bharat and through it paving the way for the reconstruction of the entire world…”
How to read the ‘liberal’ interpretation of the Ram temple celebration by Mohan Bhagwat? Hilal Ahmed has offered us a seminal reading of the political acumen of the RSS chief: “…overstretching of temple-centric politics might be counterproductive. Mohan Bhagwat’s comment that ‘there is no need to look for a shivling in every mosque’ is very relevant to understand the limits of temple politics.” (The Times of India, January 22, 2024)
Whatever may be the political agenda of the BJP and the RSS in the coming days, the members of the Muslim community felt scared on the eve of the Ram temple ceremony at Ayodhya. A local Muslim organization submitted a letter addressed to the Inspector General of Police, Ayodhya division, on January 16, 2024 and expressed their fear: “In Ayodhya town, Hindus and Muslims have lived in peace, but in the past, due to mobs of outsiders at various events, the Muslim community has suffered loss of life, property and religious places. From January 22, after inauguration of the Ram temple, it is estimated that a large crowd of outsiders are slated to visit, hence Muslims residing in Ayodhya town are fearful of life, property and religious places.” The president of the Sunni Central Waqf Board sub-committee in Ayodhya, Mohammad Azam Qadri said in this context: “Some Muslims have sent their children and women family members to relatives’ homes in Lucknow, Barabanki or other nearby districts. We tried to convince them as administration guaranteed security, but the fear of 1990 and 1992 communal incidents is difficult to forget for many people.” (See The Hindu, January 22, 2024)
We, the ‘secular’ citizens of India, should address such deep-rooted fears of the Muslim community of Ayodhya and elsewhere.

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