HomeExpositionsHistoryWhy Homecoming of Rama Took 500 Years

Why Homecoming of Rama Took 500 Years

Atheist Jawaharlal Nehru, opportunist Indira Gandhi, unsure Rajiv Gandhi, tentative PV Narasimha Rao, callous Sonia Gandhi ensured the delay

Now, as Lord Shri Ram (Rama/SriRama/Sri Ram/Sri Rama/ShriRama/Shri Rama) has come home gracefully with the completion of Ram Mandir prāna pratishthā at Ayodhya right at His birthplace, a question is being painfully asked: How come the most revered Hindu deity had to wait 500 years for homecoming? Too many explanations have often been given for this inordinate delay from time to time, some of which looked pretty evasive, some quite funny and wholly absurd.

Many interested political and religious satraps sought to make out that no Rama temple ever existed below the Babri Masjid. So, any question of a temple having been ever demolished did not arise, they vociferously claimed.

Attempts at bringing Rama home failed during Raj

However, history suggests many brave hearts surfaced from time to time to reclaim the deity’s honour even before Bharat attained independence in 1947 but could not do much in the face of the massive foreign yoke. After Partition, some not-so-strong political parties and religious groups launched protests to compel the long-serving Congress rulers to order a survey of Babri Masjid to ascertain the facts buried under the rubble of time. But all pressures and exhortations proved futile.

Congress under Sonia Gandhi may claim today that her party was never averse to the temple’s construction, but the facts speak otherwise. Nothing can gloss over a long and chequered history of flip-flops involving all top Congress leaders, from Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv to Sonia and Rahul Gandhi.

Nehru didn’t do much to resolve Rama-vs-Allah dispute

Under the influence of his powerful ministers — among them, some prominent Muslim faces — Jawaharlal Nehru himself, the first ruler of Bharat, took no effective initiative to bring justice to Hindus on their religious demands that sounded pretty genuine in historical perspective. This prime minister, as we know, was a confessed atheist.

However, under pressure from some religious leaders, a time came soon after Independence when Nehru had “agreed to go to Ayodhya” to have a close look into the Babri Masjid-Ram Mandir dispute. However, for whatever reason, he never visited the holy city, often saying he was “busy with some more pressing issues”.

Dispute intensified in 1949

The Ayodhya dispute firmed its roots in 1949 when on the intervening night of 22-23 December, two idols were placed inside the central dome of the Babri Masjid. The idols were Lord Rama and his wife Sita. Some priests and devotees claimed that the idols “appeared miraculously on their own” inside the mosque which, they claimed, was built on the site of a temple in 1539 by a military commander of Mughal king Babar. Others claimed that a gang had broken into the mosque and placed the idols. Nehru, however, wrote to GB Pant, the then-chief minister of United Province (as Uttar Pradesh was known then) to look into the matter and get the idols removed from the mosque, but the district administration didn’t act, considering that removal of idols could result in violence.

It is pretty reasonable to believe today that the dispute would have been solved right at that time if Nehru had seriously tried to get to its roots with the intent of finding a legitimate, peaceful solution. Subsequently, the dispute turned worse and at a point in time looked intractable, mainly because the Congress leaders were sharply divided over this burning issue. Later, the matter got entangled in a prolonged legal battle. Nehru knew that after the Ayodhya, disputes would also crop up in Kashi, Mathura, Kashmir and several other places. Sheikh Abdullah was already demanding an independent, Muslim-majority Kashmir. So, Nehru chose to play safe and decided to go slow on all sensitive religious disputes,

Indira promised only ‘facelift’ to Ayodhya

Later, since Indira Gandhi, the next prime minister, was persistently accused of ‘courting’ Muslims, she planned to give a facelift to Ayodhya as a pilgrimage centre. She conceived it as a balancing act to please Hindus who had been blaming her for being extremely biased against their faiths, culture and heritage. If that was not the case, why did she speak of “Rising Hindu hegemony and arrogance?” In 1966, shortly after she assumed power, seven sadhus were shot dead and about a thousand injured as the police were ordered to open fire on the swelling mass of the anti-cow slaughter agitators.

Indira Gandhi lost power in 1977 to the Janata alliance, following the draconian Emergency which had united the opposition but soon staged a comeback in the 1980 election with the diverse opposition segments withering fast. Later, when the Congress swept the 1983 elections in Jammu and Kashmir and the Municipal Corporation of Delhi, wiping out BJP even in its strong Jammu fort, Gandhi forgot Ayodhya and focused on freezing the growing saffron power, which was destined to have a meteoric rise in times to come — from a mere two seats in 2084 to 303 seats in the Lok Sabha in 2019, sailing on the Modi wave.

Rajiv promised ‘Rama Rajya’ but retracted

After the assassination of Indira Gandhi, her son Rajiv rose to power, riding a sympathy wave. Since the Ayodhya issue had become a big challenge for this reluctant politician and inexperienced prime minister, he tried to consolidate the Sawarna Hindu vote in 1986 by ordering the opening of the locks of the Babri Masjid complex. Not only that, in 1989 he sent his Home Minister Buta Singh to participate in the Shilanyas ceremony, which involved laying the foundation stone for the temple, though on an ‘undisputed’ site.

Not only that, Rajiv launched his party’s campaign for the 1989 parliamentary election with a rally held in Ayodhya-Faizabad, promising to establish ‘Rama Rajya’, from which he gleefully retracted later on. However, he lost power in his party’s poll defeat and became leader of the opposition. A few months later, Rajiv was assassinated.

After VP Singh, Chandrashekhar attempted breakthrough

After Rajiv Gandhi, Vishwanath Pratap Singh became the National Front prime minister but failed miserably on the Ayodhya front despite his promise to solve the problem “within four months”. In 1990 began the mass exodus of Kashmiri Hindus from the valley and the government failed to stop the Hindu genocide there, coupled with Singh’s stout opposition to the Ram Rath Yatra, an irate BJP withdrew its support to the Front government, leading to Singh’s ouster as prime minister in November that year.

Young Turk, socialist thinker Chandrashekhar, who espoused the cause of the downtrodden and attacked the disproportionate growth of the monopoly houses then, assumed the office of prime minister, replacing Singh. He took the bull by the horns and arranged serious meetings between the feuding Hindu and Muslim groups of Ayodhya. With his strenuous efforts, the two sides came up with a settlement. Under this broad agreement, the Muslims said,

We agree to hand over the masjid structure to the Hindus, in keeping with their sentiments, but this structure we hand over on two conditions. First, you give us some other land, to make our masjid. Second, you pass a law that after this, no other issue will be reopened. As of 15 August 1947, what is a masjid is a masjid, what is a temple is a temple.

This was what both sides had agreed to, but the pact remained fruitless as Rajiv Gandhi, with whose support Chandrashekhar had become prime minister, withdrew his party’s support to his government as he did not want Chandrashekhar to take credit for the breakthrough in Ayodhya imbroglio.

Rao brought unequal, biased law

In the 1991 election, no party could muster a majority in the Lok Sabha, resulting in the Congress forming a minority government under Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao with the support of other parties. Rao could have easily sealed the Ayodhya settlement reached under Chandrashekhar’s tenure, but he paused. One and a half years after Rao took over, that masjid was gone, though the deal was all there, albeit on paper and must be in the home ministry’s record today.

For his reasons, Rao passed no orders, nor did the UP Chief Minister Kalyan Singh, for tough police action, as the mosque was being demolished. Rao even brought an unsustainable law that imposed status quo on religious places, one that AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi talks of almost every day. The act prescribes 1947 as the cut-off date to maintain the status quo for all places of worship, abates all existing disputes as of this date; makes an exception for the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid, buildings under ASI governance and cases settled by mutual acquiescence or judicial decree prior to the law. The Places of Worship Bill was brought in as part of a commitment made in the Congress manifesto, as a response to the nationalist buildup created by LK Advani’s Rath Yatra, and the purchase of land by the Kalyan Singh government next to the Babri Masjid.

Mulayam Singh Yadav, as the Samajwadi Party chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, proved atrocious beyond words. On 30 October 1990, he ordered police to open fire on karsevaks who had gathered at Ram Janmabhoomi in Ayodhya on the call given by the VHP, RSS and BJP as Advani’s Rath Yatra for Ram Mandir was to culminate there. At least 17 karsevaks were killed and many more were injured. A man sans spiritual insight, Mulayam always spoke irritably against the Rama temple coveted by millions of Hindus, keeping an eye on Muslim votes.

For Sonia, Ayodhya was never area of concern

Sonia Gandhi as UPA chairperson, under whom Manmohan Singh served as prime minister for 10 years, never took the Ayodhya tangle seriously, which had refused to die down as a decade passed by. It’s only Prime Minister Narendra Modi who took up the challenge and settled the issues for good with the construction and prāna pratishthā of Ram Mandir. ASI surveys brought the facts to light.

A similar approach must be adopted to peacefully resolve the ongoing disputes over other religious places of Hindus, In this exercise senior, conscientious Muslim leaders must help correct the wrongs of the past.

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Satya Pal Singh
Satya Pal Singh
Former senior editor at The Hindustan Times and Right Impact Media Inc

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