ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Ayodhya Minefield

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There are exceptions to the rule that the second occurrence of an event in history comes as farce. Ayodhya is one such. The demolition of the Babri mosque at Ayodhya eight years ago reverberated across the country with a tragic resonance. What the frenzied ‘karsevaks’ (volunteers) of Hindutva pulled down was not so much masonry as the Indian state’s commitment to secularism. Hundreds of people died in communal clashes and the minorities saw in the Bombay blasts portends of what they had to do in order to ensure their security. Indeed, the number of minority spokespersons who attribute the relative easing of communal violence in the country in the next half a dozen years to the logic of mutually assured destruction testifies to the iron that has entered the nation’s soul.

And yet, prime minister Vajpayee chose to describe the building of a Ram temple at Ayodhya as a national sentiment. He repeated this assertion twice, raising fundamental doubts about the BJP’s evolution from a party of majoritarianism to a party of governance and greatly boosting the morale of the votaries of Hindutva in the ‘Sangh parivar’. The assertion dented Vajpayee’s own image as a moderate trying to draw the BJP away from its sectarian moorings and created fissures within the ruling coalition, although the NDA and its ally, the Telugu Desam, stood together in the face of opposition censure in parliament. The prime minister modified his stand thereafter, in two articles published in several newspapers after his holiday at Kumarakom in Kerala, saying that a Ram temple at Ayodhya was a national sentiment till the demolition of the Babri mosque took place on December 6, 1992 and became divisive thereafter.

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