The road leading to Karsevakpuram in Ayodhya is possibly the most well maintained in the town. It is 6.30 on a winter evening in November 2019. The township, spread over five acres, is brightly lit with sodium lamps. The well-maintained brick gate is tall with an arched top. On top of the arch are three saffron flags while right under the arch, in the centre, is an image of Lord Ganesh, a Hindu god who is worshipped at the beginning of all auspicious ceremonies. On both pillars that hold the arch, the name of the gateway – Ashok Singhal Dwar – is embossed very prominently in Devanagari script.

There are two red-coloured gates on either side for pedestrians to walk through. On two pillars inside the main gate are two larger-than-life pictures of the VHP stalwart of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement, Ashok Singhal, standing with his hands folded. Right under his feet is inscribed, “Shradheye Ashok Singhal,” meaning respected Ashok Singhal. A little ahead is a tiny house which exhibits the Ram Janmabhoomi temple structure.

A kilometre inside the gate, and one cannot miss the “holy” dwelling of the cows – Shri Ram Gaushala Samiti. It is a long shed large enough to house 60 animals, but sadly the barn looks bare. I learn that several cows were sold a few years back to get extra funds to maintain a few buildings owned by the VHP. The holy bovines too chip in when the organisation faces a financial crisis!

I walk into the shed. A worker explains his special status. “Do you know that Lord Krishna was a keeper of cows? In fact, he was their friend. It makes me happy to work for gaumatas.” He pats a cow to prove his love for them. The cows look cosy in their newly bought warm jute coats. The calves too have been covered with a similar wrap but theirs have a soft flannel lining under the rough fibre topping. Small sections are cordoned off with iron railings and are meant for bonfires to keep the bovines warm. Large stone bowls filled with water and trenches with hay are visible. There are ten-odd men to take care of the Shri Ram Gaushala.

A little ahead, near the main building of Karsevakpuram, I see a few students sauntering about in the field. They belong to the Sanskrit Vidyapeeth, an educational institute located within the premises and established in 1985. The students are well versed in the Vedas. Their holy threads – signs of being Brahmins – pop out, maybe deliberately. “Hindutva has to be saved by hook or crook,” asserts a student, Ravi Jha, who belongs to Madhubani, a small town in the state of Jharkhand. He announces that his schoolmates, about 50 of them, share the same opinion.

His friend chips in, “Hopefully, we too shall play a vital role in getting rid of those people who have no respect for our religion. We hope to become priests, either in India or abroad.”

Among the four Vedas, which are a part of the curriculum here, special attention is given to the Sam Veda, consisting of Brahmanical chants, and the Yajur Veda, which contains prose and mantras used
for Hindu rituals. The school is affiliated with the ancient Ujjaini Vidyalaya, a renowned institute in Madhya Pradesh.

Far away, I spot an elderly man treading languidly, leaning on his walking stick. He takes each step cautiously. Dressed in a white kurta-pyjama, a sweater loosely hangs over his upper body. He greets
me with the salutation that is used by all here, “Jai Shri Ram! All okay with you?” I return his greeting and check on his well-being.

“Yes, just that I am a little cautious about my health. I have to take care as I want to live to see the magnificent Ram Temple,” replies Purushottam Narayan Singh, who at one time was the central secretary of the VHP in Ayodhya.

We amble towards his room, which is at one end of a long corridor. Despite the physical slowness, he talks with energy about the struggle to construct a “magnificent Ram Temple.” He does not attempt to hide his hatred and anger for Muslim rulers like Babur, Aurangzeb, Muhammad Ghori, and Mahmud of Ghazni. For Purushottam, they were invaders who ravaged Hindu temples and possessions. His words reflect those of Madhav Sadhashiv Golwalkar, the man who conceived and created the VHP and nurtured the supreme aspiration to create a Hindu Rashtra.

Guruji, as Golwalkar is referred to, despised the space that Muslims had created for themselves though he had no severe animosity for them. In his book Bunch of Thoughts, he states, “In fact,
all over the country wherever there is a masjid or a Muslim mohalla, the Muslims feel that it is their own independent territory.” He adds, “Such “pockets” have verily become centres of a widespread network of pro-Pakistani elements in this land.”

As we sit in Purushottam’s room, a student walks in with tea and biscuits. He hands over a glass of water to the senior VHP leader, who pops in a few medicines. Once again, he expresses happiness over the Supreme Court’s decision and hails the ruling party. “Had it been some other political party or Prime Minister, the Ram Janmabhoomi issue would still have remained in the cold storage. We are blessed to have Modi-ji. All is Ram’s will.”

His views remind me of what Mahant Kamal Nayan Das Shastri, secretary to Nritya Gopal Das, chief of the Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas, told me earlier in the day, “Modi-ji is no different from sadhus. He
has regard for our wishes, and he fulfilled them. No one else could have done this, save a true Rambhakt.”

Excerpted with permission from Ayodhya: Past and Present, Sutapa Mukherjee, Harper Collins.