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Welcome to the new era, where "integration" only works if everyone sings the same tune: The Ram Mandir Journey

In the heart of Ayodhya, a city steeped in religious fervor and historical controversy, stands a monument that embodies the collision of faith, politics, and identity. The Ram temple, a symbol of Hindu devotion and nationalist aspirations, now stands tall where the Babri Masjid once stood, razed in 1992 amidst the surge of Hindu nationalism.

Its consecration, which took place on January 22, 2024, marked the culmination of a decades-long saga that has shaped India's socio-political landscape. Led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, this event symbolizes the triumph of muscular Hindu nationalism and serves as an unofficial prelude to his impending re-election campaign. 

Yet, beneath the grandeur lies a narrative of historical discord, legal battles, and communal violence, underscoring the complexities of India's secular fabric. As the nation grapples with questions of identity, justice, and the delicate balance between religious freedom and political power, the consecration of the temple stands as a testament to the enduring impact of religion   on India's collective consciousness.


Post-Consecration Chaos


Following the consecration of the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya, India, a surge of religious tension has gripped the nation, leading to a series of alarming incidents:


Reports emerged of a  Muslim graveyard ablaze in Bihar , while in southern India, a Muslim man was  paraded naked.


In central India, Hindu activists targeted four Protestant churches, raising concerns among local Catholic leaders who have called for  increased security measures.


In Mira Road, Mumbai, a group aligned with Hindutva ideology violently assaulted three Muslim men, subjecting them to  brutal beatings.


Similar acts of aggression have occurred across states, with motorcycle-riding individuals wielding saffron flags and chanting religious slogans targeting Muslim neighborhoods.


Additionally, heated debates have erupted on several campuses regarding the temple inauguration. In different cities, students faced violence and harassment while attempting to organize screenings of the documentary film "Ram ke Naam," which delves into the controversial history behind the Hindu nationalist campaign to build the temple in Ayodhya.


In Pune, students promoting the documentary screening faced aggression as a group of over 20 men stormed the campus, scuffling with students and setting their posters ablaze. Although the police briefly detained some of the perpetrators, they later filed a complaint against six organizers of the screening, alleging that they had "outraged religious feelings" and acted against "national integration." These incidents underscore the challenges faced by those seeking to engage in critical discourse and cultural expression amidst rising religious tensions.

Overall,  sums up to - the higher one tries to hoist their flag, the taller they build the wall against open discussion.


Economic boom or Ethical Bust – The game of thrones continues

The establishment of the Shree Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust, composed of 15 members, was hailed as a proactive step by the government to ensure effective oversight of the temple's construction and management. This move promised efficient execution and governance, instilling hope for a smooth and timely completion of the project. Alongside this administrative maneuver, reports surfaced highlighting an economic upsurge in Ayodhya. Arvind Awasthi, the pro-vice chancellor at the University of Lucknow, projected a staggering state economy growth of 19% in the ongoing fiscal year. Such growth hinted at a promising ripple effect of development in the region, potentially translating into increased job opportunities and overall economic prosperity.

The preceding fiscal year, ending in March 2023, bore witness to an impressive state economy growth rate of 14.3%, further solidifying the notion of Ayodhya's economic resilience and capacity for growth. Moreover, the besan ladoos, a revered offering to the deity, were granted a Geographical Indication (GI) tag, amplifying their cultural significance and unique heritage. This recognition not only added to the cultural identity of Ayodhya but also paved the way for enhanced marketability of the product, potentially benefiting local traders and artisans.

However, beneath the surface of these promising developments lies a narrative of disenfranchisement and economic disparity. The demolition of approximately 1,000 shops within a 5km radius of the temple for a road widening project has triggered a wave of discontent among local traders. Vaibhav Gupta, a 34-year-old sweet seller, found himself grappling with the loss of two of his four shops due to the expansion, despite receiving compensation. His ordeal sheds light on the challenges faced by small businesses in navigating the intricacies of development projects and compensation procedures. The discrepancies in compensation demands, as highlighted by the demand for a higher sum for relocation, underscore the inherent inequities within the system.


Moreover, the political undercurrents surrounding the Ram Mandir saga cannot be overlooked. The timing of the temple's inauguration, strategically positioned just before elections, serves as a stark reminder of the political maneuvering at play. The ruling BJP's utilization of religious sentiments as a political tool is not a novel strategy but rather a recurrent motif in their electoral playbook. While proponents of the government's actions may emphasize the spiritual and economic dividends of the temple, it is crucial to acknowledge the genesis of this contentious issue – a history of hurt feelings and communal tensions exploited for political ends.

In essence, the Ram Mandir saga encapsulates a complex tapestry of promises and realities, where economic prospects collide with the harsh realities of displacement, and religious symbolism intertwines with political ambitions. As citizens, it is imperative to scrutinize the narratives presented to us, demanding transparency and accountability from our leaders. While the temple may stand as a symbol of faith, its journey from conception to construction serves as a poignant reminder of the intricate interplay between religion, economics, and politics in shaping the socio-cultural landscape of our nation.

Conclusion: Redirecting Our Focus

Amidst the chaos that followed the temple's consecration, let's ask ourselves: Shouldn't a country like ours be concentrating on things like education and healthcare, instead of getting tangled up in religious conflicts and political games? Let's shift our attention back to what truly matters: building a society where everyone has a fair shot for  a better life, regardless of their beliefs. It's time to prioritize progress over division and focus on what really moves us forward as a nation. The choices we make now will decide whether we're headed for a better future or slipping into a time of more intolerance. If we are finally over with “ mandir wahin banega” shall we move on to “schools, colleges and hospitals kahan banenge”?


Photo credit: News9live

Edited by: Jaya Jha

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