The visuals of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a yellow silk kurta and white dhoti, lying prostrate on ground, a gesture of humility, submission and obeisance, before the Ram Lalla Virajman, will be etched in minds for a long time. After all, it was Modi, L K Advani’s charioteer, who in 1992 was the star campaigner of the nationwide Ram temple movement.
Wednesday was his first visit to the riverside town in 29 years; in 1992, he had vowed to return only when a Ram temple was built. PM Modi, amid the elaborate rituals and chanting of hymns, laid the first brick made of silver at the Janmabhoomi site, where a grand temple will be constructed.
As he did so, he likened the long-drawn struggle for a temple to the independence movement. ‘‘It is an emotional moment. A long wait of centuries has ended, Lord Ram's birthplace has been liberated. A grand temple will now be built for the Lord who had been living under a tent for many years," the PM said.He stretched the analogy further, bringing within its ambit the struggle for Independence. ''Just like all communities and sections across India came together for the fight for Independence before 1947, today we see that everyone has come together to celebrate this day in togetherness and harmony. This day signifies the sacrifices and resolve of those who fought for the temple, just as August 15 epitomizes India's freedom," said the Prime Minister.
UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat and a motley group of 170 saints, including Uma Bharti, attended the ceremony. But L K Advani, who gave the 'Masjid ko ek dhaka aur do' call to kar sevaks, was conspicuous by his absence. So, was party's other margdarshak M M Joshi. Slogans of "Bharat Mata ki Jai'' and 'Har Har Mahadev'' went up as the ritual ended, indicating that religion remains as potent a force as ever for the BJP, despite the faultlines it has exposed. Only, perforce, it had taken the backseat in these times of pandemic.
The entire temple town was decked with yellow flowers and saffron flags, to mark a watershed moment in one of the longest campaigns post-independence, one that found resonance with millions in the country and abroad.Beginning his address with "Siyavar Ram Chandra ki Jai!" and "Jai Siya Ram" chants against the BJP’s usual “Jai Shri Ram,” minus wife Sita or Siya, PM Modi said, “Ram belongs to everyone. Ram resides in everyone. Ram lives in Bharat’s beliefs and its ideals. Ram is in India’s divinity and philosophy…..It is an emotional moment for India. A long wait ends today. A grand temple will now be built for Lord Ram who had been living under a tent for many years….We have to build this temple with a feeling of brotherhood.”The prime minister’s likening of Lord Ram as a national mascot and a great unifier appeared to be an interesting metamorphosis, because the BJP had virtually established proprietary rights over Ram's name, thereby emerging as a votary of Hindu resurgence, even as it alienated the Muslim community, in the run up to the demolition.But skeptics abound. “Rather than indicating a paradigm shift in the BJP’s policy, the talk of brotherhood and amity seems more like a belated attempt to justify his participation in the religious ceremony at Ayodhya despite holding a constitutional post,” the editor of an English daily said.AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi and several political analysts had criticised the PM earlier, asking him not to attend the event as he holds a constitutional post and India’s constitution is avowedly secular.Ramesh Dixit, political analyst, based in Uttar Pradesh, says, “We should not take the PM's words seriously. Neither he nor the BJP is going to change a bit. This is merely political posturing.”Dixit, a retired professor of Lucknow University, says, “The building of temple has got nothing to do with Hindu religion. It is a blatant demonstration of brute force and almost a barbaric triumph of majoritarianism. The BJP will not allow closure even after building the Ram temple. They will immediately rake up Kashi and Mathura temples to complete the process of division and disintegration of Indian society.’’Congress leader Anshu Awasthi concurs. “PM Modi said ‘Jai Siya Ram’ and ‘Ram is in everyone’ only because our leader Priyanka Gandhi had said the same the day before. The BJP and the RSS don’t respect women. Whatever the PM said today was only for media consumption. The BJP’s policy will always be divisive, anti-women and anti-Dalit and anti-adivasi.”Awasthi even referred to a controversial meme doing the rounds in social media in which the PM Modi was seen chaperoning a toddler Ram into the temple. “This picture says all about the BJP’s politics over Ram temple.”