I say, we are in an era of movements, resurgence of nationalism, renewed respect for a culture lying undermined, rediscovering pride in history and icons, and assertion of the majoritarian-ism – the mood of the people. Events of the past few years substantiate my point. In this article however, let me just put together some history and how it all started, from my perspective.
Independence of 1947 did not put us high on self-esteem; for that fell to the share of Pakistan. At heart, the majority community of independent India continued to feel betrayed, both politically and socially. Losses in wars, unresolved issue of Kashmir, acute poverty, illiteracy, unemployment, absence of health and sanitation; all this coupled with population explosion on top of stagnating rate of industrialization; shattered the dream that would be India after independence. Successive governments remained confused even on the choice of model of development that suited the country. All this while, it was the majority community that felt the pain and also paid the price. The pressure had been building within. Only some tremor was needed for volcano to erupt.
Shri Ram Janam Bhumi (Mukti) Andolan or just Ram Mandir Movement can safely be attributed as the first mass movement of independent India.
The year was 1989. The day was 30th of October. I can never ever forget this day! Since then, I have seen many a scenes of patriotism and huge gatherings of our beloved prime minister. But the fervour of that day was different. I am sure, those who experienced it, lived it, would recollect, and feel the thrill that ran that day. In many, it awakened the first love. Love for the Nation.
Ram Mandir movement had reached its crest. Election fever was catching up. Panic stricken incumbent Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi either succumbed to the pressure of euphoric movement or just wanted to reap his quota of never to come again votes from Hindus. He had allowed ‘Shilanyas’ to happen on 9th November. As a prelude to the grand event, Hindus from all over the world, all Hindu temples, all sects and sub-sects had started contributing Shilas (Bricks) with ‘Shri Ram’ etched, to be ported to Ayodhya. Delhi was the epicentre of this nationwide phenomenon. This was the moment of exuberance because the call from VHP was to hoist ‘Bhagwa Jhanda’, the saffron flag, on each house and building in the city on 30th Oct. It was a massive show that gripped the society and irrespective of anybody’s following, a flag on every home could be seen. This was the moment of ecstasy I was talking about.
Ram Mandir was set to guarantee a new equation. The shock treatment with which the sleeping majority was made to wake up released tremendous energy of enlightenment. No doubt, Hindu forces have used Ram temple and appropriated all its campaign for political gain; but it has and continues to make far reaching impact in integrating a highly fractured society and nation at large.
For a majority of people Ram Mandir symbolises a much awaited triumph of Hinduism in their own nation. It continues to represent an unfulfilled dream of the mainstream nationalists. It has become the main source of keeping the majority united ignoring all inducements. Even in the demolition of the disputed structure, it never conveyed the feeling of an uprising against the state, but always meant rising of the nationalist majority.
Flash back. Killing of Gandhi had put the majority community to so much of self-guilt that it could just not put itself together or its act together. The ridicule it earned from opportunists, through a staged campaign, for a sustained period, left it with no leadership to emerge from within. That was a moment to have been fought, but was cheaply lost. In the bargain, Nehru continued to reign unopposed.
Stray incidents like the loss of war to China in 1962 made the nationalist regroup again. Except for demonstrating patriotism through voluntary work, meaningful strength still could not be garnered. Consolidation continued for a decade, got jolted by the emergency bomb in 1975, but emerged more powerful as it turned out to be a fillip to play victim of tyranny. By now, ordinary population had started to associate with newly emerging leaderships from majority community.
Third major event that completely consolidated nationalists was the separatist movement for Khalistan. Mostly sponsored from US, UK and Canada by a few misguided Sikhs, the movement became potent enough to threaten our nations integrity and security. Exodus of a few Hindus from Punjab sent newspapers triggering to wake up the government. Operation Blue Star that suppressed the separatists, subsequent assassination of Indira Gandhi and its criminal aftermath in anti-Sikh riots, all episodes strengthened the cause of nationalists.
A vast majority of Indians, including non-Hindus, so to say unanimous, were shocked with terrorism and separatists of any region. I see debacle of BJP, having got reduced to just 2 MPs, in 1984 general elections, as the turning point in its fortunes. In fact, in a wave of sympathy, entire majority had moved enmass to vote for successor Rajiv Gandhi as a mark of respect to the departed soul. This consolidation left the sweet taste of empowerment with the majority for the first time.
Emergence of BJP as the sole advocate of the majority and a force to reckon with is clearly visible from 1989 general elections onwards.
Rajiv Gandhi inherited the legacy and the seat with unprecedented mandate; but lacked charisma and political acumen. It was unfortunate he got killed, for he was losing the reigns of power to his cunning friends and advisors; and had anyways lost the ballot in 1989. The legacy era was decisively on decline. Coalition politics was here to stay; as if waiting for the majority community to decide its role, responsibilities and the political side it would like to lean on. This phase of uncertainty ended in 2014.
25 years is what make a generation. Represented by Narendra Modi, majority community has already thrown some cues as to how the politics will be played in future and the direction in which the polity of the nation will move.
These eventful years of Ram Temple Movement oversaw some of the most turbulent times of modern history. At the same time, many conflicts in society remained unresolved. Hindu society had to open up more, show much more magnanimity and accommodation, think more inclusive and be more acceptable to the marginalized. All this cleansing was due and is an on-going process to date, right on track.
Country had yet to fully emerge out of the Sikh genocide shock. Under the guise of separate identity blown out of proportions, against the very spirit of its foundation in being the saviour of Hindus, Sikh community had got alienated from the mainstream. I distinctly remember the days of the riots on 1st and 2nd November with headlines written in blood. But these were also the days and nights when we all youths from Hindu community patrolled the streets of our localities for a week, protecting our Sikh neighbours, requesting them to stay in-house, arranging them supplies, even after the Army had marched in. Those wounds can never be healed but the trust between and within our wider community greatly restored fast. Hindus respect and want to keep the Sikh identity intact; Sikhs felt reassured. The renewed relationship could be unmistakeably seen in Sikhs openly supporting the Ram Temple Movement and in many a instance through active participation. Their donations, langars and chhabils for Kar Sevaks, and bricks for Shilanyas proved that none in the country is opposed to the idea of Ram Temple at Ayodhya, and the movement itself became a great unifying force of the nationalist mainstream majority.
Advent of 1990’s unleashed nonstop action in social and political arena. On one hand, most unfortunate exodus of entire Hindu Pandit community from Kashmir, to become refugees in their own country, solidly united nationalist majority. However, the issue of Mandal Commission and nationwide Anti-Reservation Protests allowed the mainstream play into the dirty hands of divisive forces. Although the Anti-Reservation Protests were the second biggest movement of its time, it had to be immediately shelved as mainstream nationalist majority exhibited great maturity after initial discomfort, realising that the divisionary opportunists were splitting the society on a hate agenda.
Electoral setbacks were better than a backlash. Leadership realized, if at all we have to appease, we must appease sects and communities within our own nationalist mainstream. Be it the marginalized, socially neglected and under privileged, followers of faiths claiming exclusivity despite origin in mainland, linguistic groups, all these, they alone have to be the real beneficiaries of all appeasement. This will ensure their easy transition to mainstream majoritarian-ism gradually. This shift in position opened the floodgates to the mainstream for all castes and sub-castes resulting in nationalist political elite emerging from hitherto deprived communities.
1992 is a watershed year in India’s modern history. As Advani rode the Rath Yatra from Som Nath to Ayodhya, his entourage touched the hearts of millions of ordinary citizens belonging to tribal and backward communities. It is these people from the interiors with unknown social standing, who were at the forefront of the frenzy. They all now were the nationalist mainstream, a real majority in the making! So encompassing has been the Ram Mandir Movement!
Having lived under hostile and tyrant rulers for several centuries, our multi-cultural society was deep drowned in myth, unscientific dogma and ritualism, abhorrence towards castes deemed low (completely against the Vedic diktat of equality of castes and mutual respect), regionalism, corruption and what not! Ram Mandir movement is basically cleansing of the society, restoring pride in cultural values and ancient heritage, bringing back the neglected to the mainstream and making them equal partners in the growth of nationalist majority.
Eversince the Ram Mandir Movement started, innumerable organisations, irrespective of their allegiance to RSS or not, are working relentlessly in different fields of education, spread of Yoga and Ayurved, rediscovering the knowledge in Vedas, reducing caste rigidities, helping tribals and preventing forced conversions, working amongst minorities to dispel mistrust of majority; and extending unlimited social media support to our brave-hearts protecting our borders. All these are great stimulus for nationalists to eventually become a majority of aware citizens numerically.
Mainstream nationalist majority has been putting its weight behind in almost all contemporary movements which succeeded. Be it Namantar Movement to rename Marathwada University as Dr. B.R. Ambedkar Marathwada University to satisfy dalit pride in 1990s; or creation of newer states to help people realize regional aspirations. And more recently, while India Against Corruption movement of Anna Hazare saw solid mainstream backing; enormous social interest and awareness for women empowerment and their security has been generated through Nirbhaya Movement.
Pending clear verdict and political strategy on construction of Ram Temple in Ayodhya, nationalist majority is continuing to grow further by each day. Worldwide threat of extremists and disturbing developments of J&K have become huge binding factors for nationalists. As for the government of the day, it has already become a catalyst of change, propelling new hopes, New and more Independent India.