The sting missing in Ayodhya this time

There is a major difference between 1992 and 2018 that appears to have changed the rules of the game in Ayodhya. The sting is gone from the issue

By Zafar Agha

Will Ayodhya 2 be a repeat of what happened in 1992? It was a question that was hotly debated during the customary edit meeting in our newsroom on Saturday, November 24. There was no consensus on the issue. Some said the Sangh parivar cannot repeat a 1992 type of mobilisation that led to the demolition of the Babri mosque on December 6, 1992 and changed the course of Indian politics.

But those of us who had witnessed and reported on 1992 were not so sure and felt the VHP, with active help from the Sangh Parivar and the BJP, which is the ruling party at the Centre as well as in Uttar Pradesh, the nightmare of 1992 could well return to haunt us.

Well, sponsors of the Ayodhya 2 show, the RSS and the VHP, have claimed 200,000 ‘Ram Bhakts’ would turn up at Ayodhya on Sunday, November 25. But our reporter, Vishwadeepak, camping in Ayodhya to cover the event informs that the build up till Saturday afternoon did not match the 1992 mobilisation. “It’s a TV show rather than a peoples’ show so far,” he quipped.

Local residents are keeping a distance while the sundry ‘Ram Bhakts’ strutting around, start shouting Jai Sri Ram slogans as soon as TV crews hover into view, he added. Ayodhya is crowded but not as if a sea of humanity has turned up here, he said a day before the D day.

What is missing this time around is that Ayodhya 2 threatens to be a damp squib as compared to Ayodhya 1? Why is the fanatics’ fervour nowhere near what one witnessed in 1992 when the Babri Mosque was pulled down? For one, there was a Babri mosque in 1992 that most of the Hindus thought was built on Lord Ram’s birthplace. Besides, soon after Babri mosque was unlocked through a judicial order in 1986, there was a huge Muslim mobilisation against building a Ram temple there. Muslims, under the Babri Masjid Action Committee’s banner, held huge rallies declaring they would die in defence of Babri mosque but would not permit any temple to come up there.

In 1992, when LK Advani went on a Rath Yatra, there were clear battlelines drawn between “us versus them”. It was this rousing passion that was fanned by the sponsors to mobilise Hindus who poured into Ayodhya in lakhs, charged with the mission to fix people who had dared to stop the construction of the Ram Temple

It was a just the recipe for a communal backlash that the RSS-VHP-BJP combine needed to fire Hindu passions. There was a clear ‘Muslim enemy’ in the shape of a mosque as well as the Babri Masjid Action Committee with its anti-temple rhetoric to provoke those who wanted a Ram temple in Ayodhya.

So, in 1992 when LK Advani went on a Rath Yatra, there were clear battlelines drawn between “us versus them”. It was this rousing passion that was fanned by the sponsors to mobilise Hindus who poured into Ayodhya in lakhs, charged with the mission to fix people who had dared to stop the construction of the Ram Temple. The result was the demolition of the Babri Mosque and a chain of communal riots that took the wind out of any resistance that the Muslims may have thought of offering.

Now in November 2018, nearly 26 years later, much water has flowed down the river Saryu in Ayodhya. There is no Babri Mosque there anymore. Nor is there any Babri Masjid Action committee provoking Hindus with their rallies declaring that they would not allow a Ram Temple to come up in Ayodhya. The issue is pending before the Supreme Court for a final hearing. Both Uttar Pradesh, where Ayodhya lies, and the Central government have BJP run governments. There is no Muslim party this time around to oppose the Ram temple construction in Ayodhya.

This is the major difference between 1992 and 2018 that appears to have changed the rules of the game in Ayodhya. The sting is gone from the issue. The battle is refusing to turn into an “us versus them war”. It is making it hard for the Sangh Parivar’s game plan to succeed. Besides, there is no “Maulana Mulayam” in the frame in the Ayodhya battle in this round. Non-BJP secular parties seem to have taken a conscious decision to keep quiet on a religious issue that could give a political handle to the BJP.

There is neither a religious rival to turn Ayodhya 2 into a communal cauldron. Nor are the BJP’s political rivals giving any opportunity to the BJP to crystalise Hindu anger into the Hindu vote bank to cash it in elections. The Ram card seems to have lost its sting this time. It’s making Ayodhya 2 a pale shadow of 1992.

PS: By the time I was finishing writing, Vishwasdeepak called to inform that the Shiv Sena rally on Saturday was a big flop with not even 5,000 people turning up for the event. Going by the day’s non-show at Ayodhya, the turnout tomorrow may disappoint the saffron camp which is pinning all its hope on the Ram card to win the 2019 Lok Sabha election as the Modi card has already lost its lustre.

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