National Situation

Resisting the Radical Right: Political Mobilisations the Only Way

The following article was written for uploading in our website on 28th September. Owing to certain technical difficulties we were unable to do so. Despite the fact that we have now the verdict out, the article is being placed before our readers. An article or a statement on the implications of the verdict will follow in a few days.

Administrator, RS

Resisting the Radical Right: Political Mobilisations the Only Way

Soma Marik

Reading newspapers and watching the television news channels, one might get the impression that with the High Court verdict, at most after a final appeal to the Supreme Court to change the verdict, the tangle over Ayodhya will be over. Such a constitutionalist view is utterly false. Even a look at the title suits show that political motives form the core of the cases. The three-judge Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court has to answer, among others, the following questions: Did a temple exist at the disputed site before 1528 when Mir Baqi constructed the Babri Masjid? Was Ayodhya really the birth place of Lord Ram and is there evidence to show that Hindus have been worshipping at this place for a long time? Was Ram Lalla’s appearance inside the mosque was indeed a miracle? Can one go to court to decide on history? Can one go to courts, based on law built by human reason, to seek guidance over whether there are truly things beyond reason?

This has serious implications for the practice of history. Barring simple chronology (with even that under the occasional question, as with the death of Subhas Chandra Bose) unanimity will not even be found in text books. Was the Reign of Terror good or bad, and why was it initiated? French historians have debated this for two centuries with unflagging zeal. If courts dictate unanimity and enforce them legally, we will be facing a destruction of basic freedom of ideas and expression, and academic views could soon become as dangerous as heresy was in the Christian middle ages.

The entire Ram Janmabhoomi agitation was part of a grand design of a radical right force to mobilize in order to march to power. Some of its more sophisticated defenders have been saying of late, that it was not ‘fascist’ or some sort of radical right, because it did not take power as thoroughly as it might have liked. This is to misunderstand, or deliberately sow confusion, about the radical right, a phenomenon very different from the traditional right with its conservatism backed by reliance on state violence as the legitimate form of force. This is why, certain scholars originally trained in Stalinist, top-down Marxism, even discovered back in the early 1990s elements of laudable subaltern assertion of identity in the first kar-seva movement and even in the speeches of Sadhvi Rithambara.

In fact, the radical right uses techniques of mobilization, but in a different way than the radical left. In the present case, the invocation of History was aimed at creating a mobilization that would overcome lower class, or lower caste unity. Hence the focus, not on some specific wrong done to some Hindus, but a wrong done for all time to all Hindus for which all Muslims must atone or be punished. According to the myth created, the Babri Masjid was constructed exactly where Rama was born, by destroying a temple, under instructions from Babar. From that very period, Hindus have fought valiantly to rescue this sacred place. RSS run schools teach the story of this spurious “freedom struggle” in a catechism form. But it proved impossible to ‘liberate’ Rama Janmabhoomi even at the end of the British rule. And so, on the night of 22-23 December 1949, Ram Lalla appeared in his own place in order to remind Hindu society of its sacred national task.

Using Goebbelsian techniques, numerous pamphlets have peddled seeming details of the struggle for the soul of Hindutva -- like Ram Janmabhoomi Ka Rakta Ranjit Itihas by Ramgopal Pandey, or Ayodhya ka Prachin Itihas by Acharya Gunduji Sharma. On one hand there was a bid to prove that Ayodhya was the historic Ayodhya, but a second line of argument was to be developed by Justice Deoki Nandan, the secretary of the Sri Ram Janmabhoomi Mukti Yajna Samiti. The author comments that the existence of an ancient Ram temple in Ayodhya is an historical truth beyond controversies. How can one debate about God? If one does, one will be condemned.

Neither archaeological nor literary sources actually provide any link between the present day Ayodhya and the mythical Ayodhya of the treta age. The excavations of B.B. Lal and A.K. Narain (done independently) show that the oldest layer of the present Ayodhya does not go back further than the 7th Century B, C. And if we are to take the myth as history, the treta age was thousands of years in the past – way beyond 7th Century B.C. Lal would change his stance only after the am temple movement had gathered steam, and publish certain dubious claims in an RSS journal, not in any academic journal.

Till the rise of the Ramanandi community in the 18th century, Ayodhya was not a centre of any Ram cult. There is no reference to a temple and its destruction.  Babar’s memoirs are silent on this. It was Beveridge, the translator of Babarnama, who added a comment that he must have ordered such a destruction – a Christian western coloniser assuring us that they know how Muslims and Hindus must have behaved under various circumstances, and the evidence be hanged. Neither Tulsidas, writing less than a century later, expresses sorrow over such a momentous event. Nor does Badauni, the orthodox Muslim, critical of Akbar’s liberalism, shower praise for this alleged act.
The “disputed structure” was an indisputable masjid till the mob pulled it down on 6th December, 1992. Even after independence, it had been used as a mosque. Till a week or so prior to 22nd December, 1949, Muslims had prayed there. But then, by the morning of 23rd December, the idol was smuggled into the mosque. The mosque was promptly declared a “disputed structure” and by order of the district magistrate K.K. Nayar, the Hindus were allowed entry into the Chabutara for purposes of worship but the right of the Muslims to offer namaaz in the over 400 years old masjid was taken away. For his valour, K.K. Nayar was later picked up by the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, the direct predecessor of the BJP, to become one of its MPs.

It was the RSS and its network that turned the issue into the central plank of so called Hindu nationalism. The Ram Temple destroyed by Muslims became the symbol of the oppression of Hindus, as well as evidence of their being “emasculated”. To become truly manly, to ensure a Hindu awakening, reclaiming the Ram Temple was a mobilisation strategy. The very existence of the Hindus as an entity comes to depend on the battle for Hindutva. Ram became a crucial element in this battle. As historian Neeladri Bhattacharyya pointed out, the programme of Hinduisation is a project to create an artificial “Hindu essence”. This was to consolidate a macho and offensive communal spirit. The RSS pamphlet,  “Angry Hindu”? Yes, Why Not?” gives an answer. It depicts toleration as a symptom of weakness, exploited by the Muslims to destroy the great culture and civilisation of ancient India. So the time has come to stand up and resent. Not “womanly tolerance”, but manly aggressiveness is required. Hence riots, mass rapes of women and then murdering them.

The VHP-RSS has already proclaimed a twin track strategy. If the verdict says the land legally belongs to the Hindutva claimants, they want a temple there. It matters nought that to do so they smashed a centuries old mosque. And if the verdict goes against them, they are gearing up for another round of right wing mobilisations – Bharat bandhs, other campaigns. The aim is, in either case, again mobilise people on the basis of religion, but for political purposes that involve the capture of power and the subversion of a pluralist democracy.

Bypassing the debates over whether the RSS-VHP-BJP can be called fascist or not, we can agree that they are a brand of radical populist right. Such politics cannot be countered purely constitutionally. The German Social Democrats voted Hindenburg for President, hoping that this traditionalist would keep Hitler out. A year later, Hindenburg would call Hitler in as Chancellor, and a few further months down the SPD was illegalised. From the 1980s, the rise of new mass rightwing chauvinist nationalisms across Europe have been successfully checked only where anti-racist counter mobilisations have been carried out. The court case will solve very little. No modern democratic society can be based on a foundation of revenge for real or imagined insults of the past. In 1857, the British, after their victory, murdered very large numbers of innocent Indians. An Indian nationalism today, that seeks to situate India in the world by calling for the genocide of present day English people, would be rightly attacked. So why should it be different when the attack is on Muslims – Indian Muslims who are thus pushed outside the identity of Indian-ness at that?