Against the Tide

Newspaper Editorials & Op-eds on Ram Mandir Inauguration

Amid the Ram Mandir inauguration in Ayodhya, the Godi Media, along with the state machinery, left no stone unturned to further the BJP-RSS propaganda branding the religious event as ‘civilizational and national triumph’. From 24x7 live coverage of the consecration ceremony, to Ram Mandir themed newspapers, studios and OB vans, the majority of media pulled out all stops to drill Modi regime’s talking points into public consciousness. But some refused to be part of this exercise to erase the history and part of Modi’s push for “Dev se Desh; Ram se Rashtra” (from God to country, and from Ram to nation). In this Liberation issue, we are publishing excerpts from English news editorials and opinions that warn us about the disastrous impact the event of January 22nd, 2024 will have on the future of India, its people and its democratic moorings. 

The erasures that made January 22 possible – collective amnesia of December 6, 1992, by Suhas Palshikar (Indian Express, January 23, 2024)

With the inauguration of the new temple at Ayodhya, it is said, historical wrongs have been righted. But more than that, with the new temple, a new Ram is being launched. The talk of the town is not so much about deep devotion or faith, but about the grandiose nature of this moment.

This spirit of plurality is actually not being denied. In fact, sometimes it’s trumpeted, superficially but vociferously. Yet, it’s being exorcised. Once this spirit is erased, it becomes easy to create a collective psyche that automatically begins to uphold homogeneity and produces suspicion about the coexistence of difference and the possibility of syncretism. It is unthinkable today to imagine the acceptance of a critique such as Ambedkar’s The Riddles of Hinduism. We are also a long way away from Gandhi’s Ram. The coexistence of different ideas of religion and god that Gandhi’s Ramdhun proudly propagated is now alien.

The collective amnesia of December 6, 1992: Nobody vandalised a structure that day. The new temple is historic in this respect. It not just absolves the society or any group or party of criminal vandalisation, it simply erases that fact from history. Public opinion surveys after 1992 — even up to 1996—showed that among Hindus, there was a sense of guilt, an admission that something wrong was done, although they would want the Ram Temple at the disputed site. As time passed by, our politics made sure that the guilt was softened and then pardoned. But if there is any single most effective instrument that makes the new temple guilt-free, it is the SC ruling. What was being politically managed, the Court put a stamp of formal approval to it by granting permission for the temple construction. For today’s supporter of the temple, there is nothing legally wrong with its construction. After all, the highest court has not only allowed it but suggested the mechanism for it — a separate trust.

New chapter: Editorial on impact of the Ram temple consecration on the country (The Telegraph, January 23, 2024)

The attendant social costs — one of which has been the profusion of communal sores on India’s body politic — have, unsurprisingly, left the BJP and the spectre of Hindutva unconcerned. Even the country’s civic life is no longer immune to interventions that would be deemed unwarranted in a constitutional democracy: a consecration ceremony organised by a private trust was declared a public holiday by many states. The sightings of a theocracy, or at least of an elected kingship — the prime minister is the conductor of the national orchestra — can no longer be dismissed as a chimera. There have been glimpses of what this implies for democracy, pluralism, and the marginalised in India since 2014. Then what of that much-maligned ghost of secularism? This constitutional principle, along with that of pluralism, lies lifeless. Though the hour is dark, it can still be the hour for a reset of India’s compact with secularism. Its defenders — they are not negligible numerically — must ponder the potion of its resurrection. But secularism’s revival cannot be left to the politicians’ whimsical investment in it. In its second coming, it must be a truly public endeavour, powered by the strength of institutional muscle as well as the ingenuity of the people’s mind.

To Combat Communal Hysteria, the Idea of Inclusive India Must Be Reinforced; Ram Puniyani (The Wire, January 23, 2024)

What accompanied the ‘idea of India’ was a coming together of different sections of society to fight the colonial powers, striving to establish liberty, equality, fraternity, and justice for all. This massive movement had the overarching ‘idea of India’, which culminated in the values of the Indian constitution. The only ray of hope for the ‘idea of India’ is the same classes of society who ushered in the Idea of India during the freedom movement to come together. It is their collective movement; the overarching effort to undermine the forces which gloat over the birth-based hierarchical values in the name of religion, those who uphold the Holy Scriptures in contrast to the Indian constitution. Their movements have been scattered. Their group interests may be different but their interests in protecting the Indian constitution and Idea of India which emerged during freedom movements do need a collective expression, cutting across the groups- party lines.

Against the Tide- Newspaper Editorials & Op-eds on Ram Mandir Inauguration