On Ram Mandir, Modi progressive, Congress regressive

It is after a long arduous struggle that the new India has understood and realised that Hinduism is not a contradiction but is synonymous with the Constitutional values of justice, liberty, equality, and fraternity. No one deserves to be on that pedestal at Ayodhya more than Prime Minister Modi, who represents the Indian fraternity collectively.

| Updated: 13 January, 2024 10:44 am IST
Illustration by Manjul Prakash- The New Indian

NEW DELHI: Your relationship with God should always be a personal choice. How you reach and communicate with Him/Her is your private affair. No one can dictate it, and no one should try. This is precisely how Sanatan has evolved in India, with millions worshipping their Gods or Goddesses in countless ways – some extremely private, some with show and aplomb, and some in between. There are no doctrinal diktats, no fossilised laws cast in stone, and no need for middlemen. If there is one place on Earth where humans exercise enormous freedom to quench their spiritual thirst in whatever way, form, or manner they like, it is India. Sanatan has room for everyone, allowing even sceptic Hindus like me to explore, inquire, and critique without imposing any penalties.

 

The most admirable aspect is that it constantly evolves along with us as our needs change in an ever-changing world while keeping its fundamental philosophical core intact. All old practices that may have been necessary in their times get discarded, and more humane and egalitarian practices are easily adopted. For example, from abolishing Sati, untouchability, and child marriage to now having women priests as the lead performers of rituals and Dalits freely entering temples, we have come a long way. My community has reintroduced the practice of Yagnopavit (earlier limited to boys alone) for girls as well. This ability to evolve and reinvent itself for centuries is indeed the greatness of this eternal value system.

 

So, it is absurd for the Congress party to suddenly see Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s involvement in the January 22 Ram Mandir ceremony through a very constricting framework of Sanatan Dharma. The Ram Mandir has been both a socio-spiritual cry and a political slogan of the BJP. Here was an opportunity for the Congress to be part of that socio-cultural journey that’s finally coming to its logical conclusion on January 22, 2024. It shouldn’t have mattered to the Congress, on this historic occasion, that the BJP had volunteered to be the vehicle for that journey for decades. But its baggage comes in the way—Congress did little to either reestablish that Lord Ram was born in Ayodhya or resolve the Babri dispute outside the court. Instead, it went out of its way in 2007 to file an affidavit in the Supreme Court to deny the existence of Ram, dismissing the belief of millions.

 

Behind this denigration of Hindu beliefs is the Congress party’s political arithmetic aimed at the Muslim vote bank. The beleaguered grand old party is focused on the consolidation of the Muslim vote bank in Uttar Pradesh, a state where it has been reduced to fringes by both former allies, Samajwadi Party (SP) and BSP. The loss of Rahul Gandhi in Amethi in 2019 and desertion by Jitin Prasad, a Brahmin face who has joined the BJP, added to its challenges. This math led to the Congress initially accepting the January 22 Ram Mandir invite for Sonia Gandhi and its president Mallikarjun Kharge, and later declining it.

 

Had the Congress just stopped at choosing to stay away from Bharat’s socio-spiritual accomplishments, it would be along predictable lines. However, it has gone beyond that and has now chosen to bank upon the traditionalists to drive a wedge through the Sanatan on Ram Mandir. The party, which relied all along on Muslim Conservatives, is now also eyeing the traditionalists among Hindus. Hence, the latest convenient turn towards “appropriate Hindu rituals and customs (pran pratishtha)” as suggested by the Shankaracharya.

 

The Congress, till recently, projected itself as representative of progressive Hindus and Orthodox Muslims. But this is a new turn in its political history and strategy, clearly ahead of the 2024 parliamentary elections. It is probably reinventing itself as the party of the old era (the old Darbar too), of the traditionalists, and of those who find it harder to change with time and the needs of human societies. That is politically very suave for a party that completely failed to capture the imagination of the nation in the 2019 elections under Rahul Gandhi’s leadership. A large chunk of the country is deeply traditional and would certainly like to have their representatives in the Parliament. The irony is that this traditional block concerning Hindus, till recently, was seen as aligned with the RSS—the ideological fountainhead of the BJP. But it seems the BJP under Prime Minister Modi is truly a new dawn in the history of Bharat.

 

Modi’s BJP is emerging as a party representing progressive citizens irrespective of their caste, colour, creed, and religion. Modi’s BJP is now the party that truly represents the constitutional values as envisioned by the freedom fighters of India. One may make a case that perhaps that’s how it has always been, but that argument can be debated separately and at some other time. For now, the debate is that the four Shankaracharyas have declined to attend the Ram Mandir consecration on January 22 because the ceremony, according to them, does not conform to the Brahmanical rituals and customs. The four religious figures have their respective space in society with their codes, and they are free to follow their path as they deem fit. If they don’t want to attend the grand occasion, it is their choice. That is Sanatan and/or Bharat, after all. Their absence will not take away the validation of the Ram Mandir, already granted by the nation, its elected Parliament, and the Supreme Court of India. For that matter, people’s sentiments and belief in Bhagwan Ram and Ram Mandir won’t lessen either.

 

In the new Bharat, we shall indeed have an OBC Prime Minister presiding over the rituals of Ram Mandir. He is the duly elected collective voice of Naya Bharat—where no one is no longer afraid to identify himself or herself as a Hindu/Sanatani/Bharatiya. It is after a long arduous struggle that the new India has understood and realised that Hinduism is not a contradiction but is synonymous with the Constitutional values of justice, liberty, equality, and fraternity. No one deserves to be on that pedestal at Ayodhya more than Prime Minister Modi, who represents the Indian fraternity collectively.

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