Hindu Council of New Zealand President Professor Guna Magesan has sent us the following. He was the sole invitee from New Zealand to attend the Prana Pratishtha Ceremony held in Ayodhya on January 22, 2024. Professor Magesan is a long-standing friend of Indian Newslink.
This has reference to the news article “Ram enshrined: Myth and politics mingle as elections loom in India” published on 20 January 2024 by an Indian Newslink reporter. While the article raises concerns about the construction and inauguration of the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya, it is important to provide a response based on factual information:
First, the inauguration of the Shri Ram Temple in Ayodhya is significant for several reasons:
Religious Importance: Ayodhya is the birthplace of Bhagwan Rama. The construction and inauguration of the Ram Temple at his birthplace hold immense religious significance for millions of Hindus worldwide.
Cultural and Historical Significance: Ramayana is a part of Bharat’s cultural heritage. The construction of the temple in Ayodhya is seen as a symbol of reclamation and preservation of Bharat’s ancient cultural and historical roots.
Legal and Political Journey: The Supreme Court of Bharat’s verdict in Nov 2019 ruled in favour of building a Hindu temple helped in resolving a long-standing legal dispute.
National Unity and Symbolism: The construction and inauguration of the temple are seen by many as a step towards national unity and reconciliation. It symbolizes the idea of inclusivity and harmony among diverse religious communities in Bharat.
Emotional and Spiritual Connection: For millions of devotees, the completion and inauguration of the Shri Ram Temple fulfil a deep emotional and spiritual connection with Bhagwan Rama.
Overall, the inauguration of the Shri Ram Temple in Ayodhya holds immense religious, cultural, and emotional significance for the people of Bharat, particularly for the Hindu community, and marks a pivotal moment in the country’s history and heritage.
Now, let us investigate the recent article written by a reporter, published in Indian Newslink, especially during the important “The Event of the Millennium” the phrase coined by Venkat Raman, the Editor and General Manager of the same newspaper Indian Newslink (refer the article published on 2 January 2024).
The Ram Mandir in Ayodhya is being readied for inauguration by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on January 22, while its construction is underway.
In many religious traditions, the consecration is seen as a crucial step to purify the religious places and make it suitable for worship. The Pran Pratishtha (consecration) rituals may include the installation of the main deity, prayers, purification ceremonies, and other specific rites depending on the religious and cultural practices. However, religious practices can vary, and specific traditions may have their own customs and beliefs regarding temple consecration.
Bhagwan Ram personally constructed a Sivalingam in Rameshwaram and offered prayers, with the temple itself being built later. Likewise, at the Somnath temple, the Pran Pratishtha, or consecration ceremony, was performed before the completion of the entire temple construction.
The timeline is set to the electoral calendar and aimed at signalling to the party base of the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), as general elections loom, that Modi has kept his pledge to build a temple marking the birthplace of the Hindu deity Ram.
The Bhumi Pujan for the construction of the Shri Ram Mandir in Ayodhya took place on August 5, 2020. The ceremony saw the participation of numerous political and religious leaders, including Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The event marked the laying of the foundation stone for the Ram Temple’s construction, with an announcement that the temple is projected to be completed by 2024. Importantly, this timeline is unrelated to the schedule of general elections.
But it sends a mixed signal to a nation that defines itself as a secular democracy in the eyes of the world.
The original constitution of India, known as Bharat, did not include the term “Secular” in its Preamble. The inclusion of the word “Secular” took place through the 42nd Amendment Act of 1976, a period marked by the Emergency, during which the Parliament operated under abnormal conditions, with several opposition leaders put in prison.
Effective from January 3, 1977, the amendment introduced both the words “Secular” and “Socialist” into the Preamble, defining the nature of the Indian Republic as sovereign, socialist, secular, and democratic. It’s worth noting that this amendment, implemented during a state of emergency, has been criticized for potentially suppressing the majority population instead of embodying the values of equality for the entire populace. Notably, churches and mosques operate without direct control from the supposedly secular government, while Hindu temples, representing over 80% of the population, are subject to government oversight.
In summary, the construction of the Ram Mandir does not necessarily contradict India’s identity as a secular democracy. The legal decisions and subsequent construction process have undergone scrutiny within the framework of India’s secular and democratic values.
The celebration in Ayodhya fans the atavistic fears of over 200 million Indian Muslims who recall the Babri Masjid, a mosque that stood on the same site for almost 500 years before it was razed to the ground by Hindu activists in 1992.
The reporter covering the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya overlooks the crucial historical context of the original temple that once stood at the same location.
Historical records strongly indicate the existence of a Hindu temple on the site, believed to have been destroyed during the medieval period. Prior to the construction of the Babri Masjid, the location was revered as the “Ram Janmabhoomi,” associated with a Hindu temple dedicated to Bhagwan Ram, a revered figure in Hindu Dharma.
The Babri Masjid, constructed in the 16th century by the Mughal emperor Babur’s general, Mir Baqi, replaced the pre-existing Hindu temple after its destruction. These details are documented in none other than the ‘Babar Nama’.
The protracted litigation (preceded by bloody communal riots) that ensued culminated in 2019 with a ruling by the Supreme Court of India paving the way for the construction of a Hindu temple over the debris of the demolished mosque.
The Supreme Court of India, in its 2019 verdict, ruled in favour of the construction of the Ram Mandir, acknowledging the historical and religious significance of the site. The decision was based on a thorough examination of historical and archaeological evidence, and it provided a legal resolution to a long-standing dispute. The building a Hindu temple not only helped in resolving a long-standing legal dispute but also seen by many as a step towards national unity and reconciliation.
The Muslim community was compensated with an alternative site on which to build a new mosque.
The article correctly mentions that the Muslim community was compensated with an alternative site to build a new mosque. This highlights the efforts to address the concerns of all religious communities and promote religious harmony.
Uttar Pradesh was the flashpoint for the clash of faiths. It is also India’s most populous state and the bellwether of national elections, with the largest contingent of representatives in the Lok Sabha, India’s lower house of Parliament.
Uttar Pradesh is the state which has produced majority of Prime Ministers of Bharat including Jawaharlal Nehru, Lal Bahadur Sastri, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, Charan Singh, VP Singh, Chandrasekar, and Narendra Modi (his constituency is Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh) although he is originally from Gujarat. Also, most of the Hindu sacred places such as Ayodhya, Mathura and Kashi are all in Uttar Pradesh.
The inauguration of the Ram temple is part of a slew of measures aimed at advancing the Hindu nationalist agenda of the BJP, that includes the 2019 repeal of Indian-administered Kashmir’s special autonomous status. The move allows New Delhi tighter control over the Muslim-majority region.
The article critiques the BJP’s Hindu nationalist agenda, yet it is crucial to acknowledge that political parties can have multifaceted agendas. The construction of a religious site does not necessarily imply an exclusionary policy towards any specific community.
The BJP secured a majority in national elections, and in line with their manifesto, they are fulfilling the promises made to the electorate. Under BJP governance, Bharat has gained respect globally, and Shri Narendra Modi has been consistently recognized as the most outstanding politician in the world for seven consecutive years.
That was followed in 2020 by the controversial exclusion of Muslims from an amendment to a citizenship law giving refugees fleeing religious persecution in Pakistan, Afghanistan, or Bangladesh a pathway to Indian citizenship.
Nations like Pakistan and Bangladesh were established with Muslim-majority populations, resulting in the creation of distinct entities separate from India. Hindus facing persecution in these countries often find refuge in India, where they can live peacefully without the risk of forced conversions to other religions. It would be beneficial if the reporter could provide statistical data on the Hindu population in those countries: for instance, from 20.5% at Independence to only 1.6% in Pakistan today, and from 24% at Independence to 8.9% in present-day Bangladesh. Such statistics would offer readers a clearer understanding of the evolving situation.
The Ram temple is at the core of an electoral strategy that has successfully galvanised 80% of India’s 1.4 billion population, that identifies as Hindu, into a distinct polity.
While the article implies a political motive behind the timing of the inauguration, it is crucial to recognize that the Ram Temple movement has been ongoing for an extended period, spanning multiple elections. The completion and inauguration of religious structures are routine events and may not necessarily signify a political agenda. I suggest the reporter conduct a more thorough investigation into this matter to provide a comprehensive and accurate representation of the situation.
It is a strategy that has left the opposition Congress Party and its allies too enervated to mount a credible political challenge against the BJP.
A thorough investigation by the reporter would reveal that the movement originated during the tenure of the Indira Gandhi government. At that time, the issue did not receive the attention it deserved, likely due to the government’s control and influence. This underscores the importance of diligent research to uncover historical contexts often overlooked in the past.
What troubles middle ground sentiment in the country is the right-wing swing to the subversive politics of revisionism, which manifests by censoring Muslim historical references from school textbooks and renaming cities, streets, and train stations to reflect a monistic Hindu identity.
After gaining independence, the removal of British statues, symbolic of colonialism, and the renaming of roads marked a significant step towards reclaiming our national identity. Similarly, addressing historical textbooks and renaming cities, streets, and train stations is an overdue recognition of the brutal and imperialistic conquests of the Mughals. The current government’s initiative to correct these historical narratives is now embraced by the people of Bharat, reflecting a positive stride towards a more inclusive and accurate understanding of our past.
The concerns about the alleged right-wing swing should be contextualized. Historical revisions and renaming may be controversial, but they should be examined on a case-by-case basis. The government’s actions in these areas may be subject to public debate, and it is essential to ensure a balanced and inclusive approach.
But for now, the ruling BJP is preoccupied with installing an icon of the Hindu pantheon in his birthplace of Ayodhya.
The reporter himself agrees that Ayodhya is the birthplace of Bhagwan Ram.
In conclusion, while acknowledging the sensitivities surrounding the Ayodhya issue, it is crucial to recognize the legal processes, compensation measures, and the broader context within which the construction of the Ram Mandir is taking place. It is also important to foster constructive dialogue and understanding among communities to promote unity and religious harmony.
Professor Guna Magesan is President of the Hindu Council of New Zealand based in Rotorua. He is currently in India.