Communalism

RSS' next target, Mathura

Print edition : October 23, 2020

The Sri Krishna Janmabhoomi temple and the Shahi Idgah mosque in Mathura. Photo: PTI

Facsimile of the agreement signed between the Shri Krishna Janmasthan Seva Sangh and the Shahi Masjid, Idgah Trust on October 12, 1968, involving a give and take of land between the two sides.

The Sangh Parivar carries on with its project of using religion to further political mobilisation. This time its target is what it calls Krishna Janmabhoomi at Mathura.

The Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) does not believe in family planning. It has set up a host of organisations—not to forget its shakhas. It set up the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) on July 9, 1949, to evade the ban on the RSS. It is a body of stormtroopers, though it claims to be a students’ body. Narendra Modi was one of its leading figures. The RSS set up the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Body) in keeping with its claim to be Jagatguru (Teacher to the World). It was founded in Mumbai on August 29-30, 1964 by RSS leader S. Golwalkar. K.M. Munshi was also one of its founders. As its Ayodhya campaign picked up speed, the VHP set up the Bajrang Dal in 1984. The RSS became a grandfather and controlled all its offspring with a tight leash. Among these were its political creatures, the Jana Sangh (1951) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (1980).

As the BJP suffered a humiliating defeat in the 1984 election, the RSS discovered a good instrument for mobilisation—religion. Members in India and abroad, especially the sadhus, were pressed into service and they enjoyed a taste of worldly life. All these bodies enthusiastically jumped into the election fray to support the BJP—provided the RSS so ordered. In 1984 it declined.

To remove the BJP’s depression and show it a promising path, the VHP’s (read: the RSS) first Dharma Sansad adopted in 1984 a resolution for the “liberation” of the Ram Janmabhoomi at Ayodhya. It also drew up an 18-point code of objectives and rules of conduct, “Achar Samhita for Individuals, Families and Political Leaders”. Its main objective was to prescribe the order of “dharma” relevant to the modern age for “developing the Hindu society”. The RSS’ concept of modernisation is set out clearly—practice of religion and unification of the community. In short, political mobilisation through religion. “Object No.7” says “To develop maths, mandirs….”; Object 12 enjoins “to compel the state to safeguard Hindu interests”; “No.18 says: “Cinema films should not be allowed to ridicule Hindu Dharma, Hindu culture, Hindu gods and goddesses and Hindu life value.” It is preceded by Object No.11, which reads thus: “Shri Rama and Sri Krishna Janmasthan, Kashi Vishwanath Mandir and all other historic temples should be returned to Hindu.”

The timing, the context and the tenor of the entire document reveals that it is aimed at political mobilisation. The VHP’s fortnightly organ Hindu Chetna establishes that. Manjari Katju writes in her book Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Indian Politics: “In the first two decades after its formation the VHP followed its original charter, involving itself in Hindu unification at home and overseas, and opposing the work of Christian missionaries in India. Thereafter, it took to direct political issues, trying to influence state policies through political mobilisations. Its campaigns on what it calls the Ramjanmabhoomi at Ayodhya, the Krishnajanmabhoomi at Mathura, the Kashi-Vishwanath temple at Varanasi, as well as the periodic “call to the Hindus” by the Dharma Sansads to vote for a ‘Hindu party’ helped the BJP expand its support base in northern and western India. Moreover, issues such as cow slaughter and conversions came in handy for the BJP to garner votes during elections” (Orient Longman, 2003; also see her book Hinduising Democracy; New Text, New Delhi, 2017).

The late Sushma Swaraj admitted in Bhopal on April 14, 2000, that the temple movement was “purely political in nature and had nothing to do with religion”. Arun Jaitley’s confession to a top American diplomat was more candid and elaborate. Manjari Katju writes: “The Ramjanmabhoomi or Ayodhya issue had united several sadhu orders behind the VHP which, in turn, strengthened and extended the BJP’s social base. One can see a correlation between the surge of Hindutva (as manifest in the Ram temple campaigns) and the electoral rise of the BJP in the Ayodhya Assembly and Faizabad parliamentary (to which the Ayodhya segment belongs) constituencies, as also in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly as a whole.” L.K. Advani attributed the BJP’s rise in the country to the Hindutva surge.

It is important to study the stand of the BJP and the VHP on the three temples in the early 1990s before they demolished the Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992. Advani would off and on promise to give up the Mathura and Kashi temples if the Muslims abandoned the Babri Masjid. On other occasions, Advani and other BJP leaders would say that the temples in Kashi and Mathura were not on their agenda “now”—a meaningful qualification.

Teaching Muslims ‘a lesson’

On December 29, 1997, the VHP’s Ashok Singhal said, “It is time to catch Muslims by their necks and tell them where their place lies.” He added: “Kashi and Mathura are ours. If the Muslims want to avoid further humiliation, they should hand over those shrines quietly.” A.B. Vajpayee did not denounce these remarks. Formal dissociation became necessary only because of the barbaric nature of the remarks. On the day on which Singhal was fulminating in Lucknow, Advani spoke at the temple town Tirupati.

The Hindu reported: “He took the occasion to affirm ‘categorically and unequivocally’ that Kashi and Mathura were not on the agenda of the BJP. He, however, said that Kashi and Mathura formed part of the BJP manifesto, while the dominant issue in the elections would be stability and good governance. He hastened to add that it did not mean that the two temple issues were put on the back burner but said that just as each election had its own ‘key issues’, it was ‘stability’ this time.

“Advani himself had earlier, on 16 March the same year, explained what this meant: ‘[Kashi and Mathura] are not on the agenda. Ayodhya, to begin with, was also not on the agenda.’ Predictably, on 1 January 1998, Singhal poured scorn on Vajpayee’s denial. He ‘knew very well the meaning of such statements … the decision of the Sangh Parivar was final and binding.’ A day earlier he had said in Ayodhya: ‘There is no difference between the BJP and the VHP on the temple issue. Their language might be different, but ideologically we are one.’ On 9 January, he pledged that ‘there won’t be any conflict between the two arms of the Sangh Parivar in this regard.

“RSS supremo Rajendra Singh’s speech on 10 January made the situation crystal clear. He justified the BJP’s ostensible shift in emphasis from Ayodhya, Article 370, and other contentious issues. ‘If you are ill, you don’t take a bath. But that does not mean that this will be the arrangement forever, in all circumstances’.”

On September 9, 2020, well after the Supreme Court’s one-sided judgment, The Times of India reported: “The RSS will not take up the demands for ‘restoration’ of the Kashi and Mathura shrines after the Ayodhya Ram temple and also feels that public opinion should be prepared for implementation of a uniform civil code before a law is brought forward.

“The view in the RSS seems to be that it remains to be seen if there will be any public sentiment in favour of the Kashi Vishwanath and Krishna Janmabhoomi issues raised by some groups in the wake of the SC verdict on the Ramp temple.”

Only a few days later, the press published extensively from a plaint in a civil suit claiming possession of the mosque at Mathura. The court dismissed the suit. But the RSS’ record shows deceit, which has marked the entire movement. Its goal is not the temples; they are symbolic. The goal is a Hindu state, the political and legal obstacles (Places of Worship Act) notwithstanding. If the Hindutvaites could flout, with state help, the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958, the case can hold no terrors for them.

But what of the solemn accord on the mosque between Hindus and Muslims in 1968? The text is reproduced here as a facsimile. The accord’s object was to settle “longstanding disputes” between the parties. The RSS and the Jana Sangh were very much alive then. The agreement records the authorisation which each party had received. It was actually registered 50 years ago. The Muslim side ceded some land, which the Hindu side accepted and occupied. Likewise, some land of the Hindu side. There was give and take. Cases filed by both sides were withdrawn. Recourse can be had to the courts only “for having the agreement implemented”.

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