The National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) expresses deep anguish at the initiation of the construction of the Ram Temple at Ayodhya, through the Bhumi Pujan ceremony which culminated in the laying of the foundation stone on 5 August. The participation of none less than the Prime Minister, the Uttar Pradesh administration and its Chief Minister in the ceremony, even though these offices are constitutionally mandated to remain secular, is yet another blow against our constitutional principles.
The significance of the ‘day’ is not lost on anyone. 5 August marks the first anniversary of the revocation of Article 370 which dismembered India’s only Muslim majority state, Jammu and Kashmir, snatching away its political autonomy. Under such circumstances, the laying of the foundation stone on 5th August carries a deep symbolic meaning, marking yet another step in our country’s rapid drift towards a ‘Hindu Rashtra.’ At present, there is a petition pending in the Supreme Court that asks for the removal of the words “socialist” and “secular” from our constitution!
The present moment marks the culmination of a violent process through which a mosque has been forcibly converted into a temple through a combination of street violence, mass mobilization and manufactured histories, and with the complicity of the police and courts as well as that of so-called secular political parties. Last year’s judgement by the Apex Court awarded the entire disputed structure to the “Hindu party” based on dubious logic. The civil case was abstracted from the criminal case and the violence and disruption that lay behind the “Hindu” claim were completely overlooked, rather legitimized!
The Supreme Court, despite noting that namaz was offered at the ‘disputed site’ until 1949, accepting that idols of Ram were sneaked into the masjid that year, that the masjid was unlawfully demolished in 1992 and that it was not built by razing down any temple, did not hold the violators accountable and rather rewarded them by offering ‘disputed land’ to build the temple! The blatantly biased judgement came in the wake of a series of judgements (notably, Ismail Farooqui judgement of 1994 and the Allahabad High Court judgement of 2010) and administrative moves (most importantly, silently enabling the demolition of the mosque in 1992) which have progressively weakened the “Muslim” case.
The Supreme Court judgement of 2019 not only accepts the problematic logic of previous judgements, but also legitimizes the Hindutva narrative of ‘civilizational conflict’ between Hindus and Muslims and the distortions of history that have been central to the Ram Mandir demand. Indeed, the courts and the administration have repeatedly betrayed the secular cause and constitutional principles over the years.
The Hindu Rashtra is all around us today. The spectacular inauguration of the Ram Mandir becomes a governmental priority despite crucial problems such as the hunger, health and economic crisis and the glaring life and livelihood challenges, especially in the flood-ravaged Eastern and North Eastern states. The mass gathering held today despite the Covid-19 pandemic conditions, in the presence of a sexagenarian PM is hailed as an act of ‘national pride’ while gatherings like the one organized by the Tablighi Jamaat are selectively called out by Hindutva politicians and their crony media for perpetuating “corona-jihad”!
Diyas and thaalis are being used to fight the COVID virus while little is being done to strengthen the crumbling public health system. The New Education Policy talks of ‘Indianisation’ even as the public sector in education is further weakened and the perpetuation of socio-economic inequalities in and through education are not acknowledged as burning issues. Sector after sector is being privatized, electricity to environmental to labour laws weakened, entire coal blocks in Adivasi heartlands opened up to private auctions and the nation literally put up on sale by the self-acclaimed patriots in power! The ‘Hindu Rashtra’ is thus not only sectarian but deeply anti-people in multiple ways.
The fight against the fascist and corporate Hindu Rashtra cannot be waged without seeking justice for the evils perpetuated in its name, including the conversion of the Babri Masjid into a Ram Mandir through lies, manipulation and violence. The fight gets even tougher, given the complicity and betrayal of the courts, administrations, large sections of the media and the so-called secular political parties, whose ‘masks’ are rapidly and repeatedly falling off!
We observe 5 August as Day of National Protest, a day of unforgivable breach of democratic and constitutional principles and rights by the highest offices and institutions that are mandated to uphold these values.
We resolve to stand with the overwhelming number of common people, strengthen their cultures of co-existence, fight for the real needs of the poor, working and marginalized people – jobs, livelihood, dignity, security of life and work – and not allow religion to be misused to fuel sectarian strife, to distract us from peoples’ pressing issues and to destroy our secular fabric and constitutional democracy.
We will continue to democratically resist, challenge and question the powers that be on all forms of biases, legal distortions, normalization of Hindutva hate, violence and toxic efforts to erase the historical memory of fascist politics.
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