The challenge from fanatics

The challenge from fanatics

The article first appeared in MumbaiMirror

The tension regarding the Ayodhya verdict by the Supreme Court of India is gradually mounting within the Central government and the State government of Uttar Pradesh. In such an atmosphere journalist and SAWM member Radhika Rameseshan throws  light on a different incident which has become important in the recent context. To know more read the article.

As the temple-mosque “dispute” heads towards a pivotal moment, the Centre and Modi will be on test for holding back the Hindu firebrands

For once Yogi Adityanath, the Uttar Pradesh chief minister who survived the crises in his tenure with a smirk, is on the backfoot. His police’s vain claim to have solved the murder of the founder of the Hindu Samaj Party in Lucknow within 24 hours has been hotly challenged by the kin of the victim, Kamlesh Tiwari. Unmistakeably, under the diktat of the political masters – or may be directives are no more required after Lucknow’s establishment absorbed the BJP and Yogi’s working mores – the police’s plot connected the dots in the Tiwari’ three clerics from Surat and Bijnor and two laypersons, also from Surat. All of them were nabbed. The murder was done allegedly to pay back Tiwari for insulting Prophet Mohammad back in 2015. Why it took five years to get at a “mohalla” leader of no political heft through an elaborate web of conspiracy is puzzling.

Tiwari’s mother was not convinced. She blamed a local politician linked to the land mafioso for the killing and boldly spoke her piece to the camera. She said the criminals wanted their temple land. Surprisingly, the UP channels played the mother’s outburst in a loop while Tiwari’s son, Satyam, said he had doubts if the quintet in detention were the actual culprits.

Ideally, a dram of communal churn suits Adityanath and the BJP because their politics is firmly moored to underlining religious divisiveness. The Hindus need to be reminded that the “terror threat” (that’s what the chief minister called Tiwari’s murder) is pervasive through the agency of the “maulanas” and their followers, while Muslims require repeated warnings that their adventurism, targeting Hindus, will not be countenanced. But the Tiwari family’s version obviously convinced many more persons because clan feuds within the Hindu “parivar” are the staple of temple and faith politics. Petty fights over a piece of land or a niche on a “ghat” overlooking a river bank or temple offerings have claimed lives in UP’s pilgrim hubs. When the VHP created a golden goose out of the Ram temple in Ayodhya, innumerable sadhus and mahants wanted to make a quick killing that the RSS disallowed. Instead it let the “movement” linger on so that the BJP could feather its electoral nest.

Those who believe in the land grab angle of the Lucknow murder outnumber those who think there may be a terror plan. Yogi’s theory threatens to ricochet on him.

Like other political tactics, the “communal” card is not inexhaustible, even in the current ambience of a Hindutva overload. After all, the Ram temple yielded dividends to the BJP until the mid-’90s after which its thinkers and strategists dived deep into other wellsprings, far removed from Ayodhya, and hit pay dirt.

The Centre and the BJP must be looking expectantly and nervously at the Ayodhya verdict from the Supreme Court that will come in mid-November. Expectant, because the temple-mosque plank, that carries the weight of troubled history, is an extravagantly embroidered piece of fiction and flaunts political success, will likely divert attention from a rickety economy. Importantly, the perennially defensive Opposition will be lost for words. Nervous, because the hotheads in the Hindu clergy as well as the VHP will legitimately demand that they helm the process of temple construction.

Can Adityanath rein in such elements or more pertinently, is he inclined to? Adityanath’s spiritual forbear, Mahant Avaidyanath, was inseparable from the VHP although for form’s sake he maintained a separate identity as the custodian of the Gorakhnath monastery. He was as political as the next BJP leader and won elections from Gorakhpur before passing on the baton to Adityanath. Although the UP administration has girded Ayodhya with police, if the VHP and the sadhus were to break into celebrations or protests, depending on which way the verdict goes, there’s no way Adityanath will crack down on them.

What of the Centre? Prime Minister Narendra Modi has had a problematic relationship with the VHP and never thought twice of containing its leaders in Gujarat when they were out to create problems, while allowing the VHP and Pravin Togadia a free run in 2002. Can Modi afford to be tough with the VHP and the clergy, however compelling the reasons might be? The reality is that today, after the VHP lost its spearheads such as Ashok Singhal, Giriraj Kishore and Onkar Bhave, it’s a shadow of its former self. The president, VS Kokje, a retired judge, is rarely seen or heard while the working president, Alok Kumar, a lawyer, once told me he fashioned his politics after Vajpayee and believed that being a “moderate” was the key to success.

If the verdict favours the Hindu petitioners, the chances are without losing time, the Centre will step in and take custody of the Ramjanmabhoomi Nyas, a trust that was created by Adityanath’s guru to raise funds and mobilise support. The Nyas will initiate the procedure for building a temple, with or without the VHP. That’s the scenario that would suit the government supremely.

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About Radhika Ramaseshan