In December 1988, I was at MS University in Baroda when Arun Shourie arrived to praise the Hindutva leadership. He was then a Ram Janmabhoomi enthusiast and made a speech to a packed auditorium stressing how reason able its demands were.Hindutva was not about vandalism, he assured us. Why , Muslims could even dismantle their mosque and take it away , he said, (as if it were made of Lego) because to them the land beneath wasn’t sacred. For Hindus on the other hand, he insisted, the construction of this temple was an article of faith.
I was 18 and interested more in the girls in the audience than this soft-spoken man, but there were other students who challenged him on secularism and LK Advani’s intentions. Shourie accepted that there might be a thing or two wrong with Hindutva, but said that it was the only solution to the Congress. When one’s house was on fire, he said, one didn’t use Ganga jal to douse it. A hand shot up in the audience and, in Gujarati-accented Hindi, told Shourie that one didn’t use petrol either.
We all laughed -it was a magnificent response (where has that Gujarati spirit disappeared?). I am quite sure that Shourie, who these days finally seems to have discovered that Hindutva is about narrow obsessions, remembers the moment.
As another December 6 appears, it is worthwhile to ask a question: why has the Ram Janmabhoomi movement disappeared? That temple Shourie insisted upon hasn’t been built. And another: why has its champion Advani been so totally eclipsed?
Writing in Indian Express (From core issue to footnote: Ram Mandir’s journey in BJP manifestos, April 16, 2014) Wali Ahmad observed that: “From being top on its agenda, the promise of construction of a Ram Mandir finds a place on page 41 of the party manifesto released ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.“
He listed the way in which the issue found a mention in BJP’s poll manifestos over the years: z 1996: In its election manifesto, the BJP “reiterated its commitment to facilitate the construction of a magnificent Ram temple at Janmasthan in Ayodhya on coming to power as this dream moves millions of people in our land; the concept of Ram lies at the core of their consciousness“.z 1998: “BJP is committed to facilitate the construction of a magnificent Shri Ram Mandir at Ram Janmasthan in Ayodhya where a makeshift temple already exists. Shri Ram lies at the core of Indian consciousness. The BJP will explore all consensual, legal and constitutional means to facilitate the construction…“
z 2004: “BJP reaffirms its commitment to the construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya.“
z 2009: “There is an overwhelming desire of the people in India and abroad to have a grand temple at the birth place of Sri Ram in Ayodhya. The BJP will explore all possibilities, including negotiations and judicial proceedings, to facilitate the construction…“
z 2014: “BJP reiterates its stand to explore all possibilities within the framework of the Con stitution to facilitate the construction of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya.“
Ahmad concluded: “It seems the party’s drubbing in the 2004 and 2009 Lok Sabha elections have forced it to rethink its strategy. From its core ideology to a cosmetic mention of the Ram Mandir in 2014, the party is clearly moving away from its position to make the party more appealing to allies.“
The real reason the Ram Janmabhoomi movement is dead is because it was never about the temple. Shourie had absolutely no clue what he was talking about that afternoon in Baroda. It was against the mosque. Once the vandals flattened it, their passions faded. Hindutva is a negative movement. I cannot stress this enough. It is against Muslims. It offers nothing constructive to Hindus. Its substance is bitterness and resentment. That the prime minister professes it as his ideology is something you must never let go of, particularly when he makes inclusive sounding speeches in Britain (though, unsurprisingly , never in Bihar).
A Gujarati, the young Narendra Modi (then 40), supervised Advani’s brilliant rath yatra starting at Somnath in September 1990. How did he so easily eclipse his mentor? Today Advani cuts a pathetic figure and is unable to assert himself within the Hindutva movement. Why? Because in any ideology based on hatred, on negativism, the progenitor is always vulnerable to the man who positions himself to his right. Modi was able to do that. Cometh the hour in 2002, cometh the man.
Advani’s bleating after the vandalism in 1992 which cost 2,000 Indians their lives (“saddest day of my life“ as he put it) is to be contrasted with Modi’s principled silence after 1,000 Gujaratis were killed on his watch.
If Advani, like Shourie, is today still discovering Hindutva’s true principles, I’d like to offer him a quick tutorial: it is easy to rouse an Indian mob to hatred.
To desist, to resist bigotry, even when it is popular -that is leadership.