Mukul Kesavan: Against forgetting // Mitali Saran: Temple of the King

NB: Recently I noticed a line of dialogue in a TV western: 'if a person ain't careful; they can make a profession out of revenge'. The title of the series was 'Godless'. DS  
The administrative deceit, political complicity and organized violence that led to the razing of the Babri Masjid and then roiled its aftermath is erased and replaced by an alternative narrative... the long-suffering Hindu majority’s spontaneous, reasonable and just demand for a temple... This is a sleight of hand that progressives should refuse... The political project that trivialized pogrom, normalized lynching, criminalized dissent, physically attacked universities, and introduced a religious test for citizenship also gave us the Ayodhya movement. To make out that the building of the Ram temple is a necessary concession to a deep well of religious feeling is disingenuous...

The bhoomi pujan in Ayodhya with the prime minister of India presiding was an important moment in the political evolution of the Republic. Narendra Modi had a double role. He was both jajman and karta: the Hindu client who had commissioned the ceremony on behalf of the Hindu Undivided Family, now known as India, of which he was the regnant patriarch. 

The most stringent critic of nationalism will concede that nations frame our lives. A sense of national belonging shapes our leisure (watching Test cricket), our collective sense of the past (Gandhi and Ambedkar as fictive ancestors), our literary output (Ghare Baire and The Shadow Lines) and our mental maps of the world. We have learnt from historians of nationalism such as Benedict Anderson and Eric Hobsbawm that nations aren’t given, they are imagined. The ritual at Ayodhya, carried live by every television news channel in India, marked the enthronement of the idea of India as a Hindu Nation, governed by an ideologically Hindu prime minister, on behalf of its mainly Hindu People. 

The construction of the Ram Mandir where the sangh parivar wants it built won’t lead to apocalypse. The world will look the same the morning after, but the common sense of the Republic will have shifted. It will begin to seem reasonable to us and our children that those counted in the majority have a right to have their sensibilities respected, to have their beliefs deferred to by others. Invisibly we shall have become some other country....

Mitali Saran: Temple of the King
So there will finally be a Ram temple at Ayodhya. Based on its plans, the plans for Central Vista in Delhi, and the extant BJP headquarters, the governing party is evolving its own architectural stamp. You could call it Hindutva Brutalist - big, and ugly, and large, and bullying, and did I mention big? It reflects the RSS-BJP’s political, cultural and administra-tive style, technically termed ‘We’re in charge around here, and we aren’t nice about it.’

I didn’t watch the temple ground-breaking ceremony; gods leave me cold, especially the human ones made up entirely of snake oil and television. Over the top coverage was predictable evidence that the event was one more brick in the even larger shrine that Mr Modi is building to himself. I did see a print photo of him prostrated full-length before the idol of Ram. It reminded me of a six-year-old photo of him touching his head to the steps  of Parliament, and a one-year-old photo of him touching his forehead to the Indian Constitution. It doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes to grasp that anything he treats with suspicious humility is a thing he means to hollow out and pervert in his quest for absolute power…

see also
History of the middle finger // Importance of the horse's ass

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