RAM TEMPLE ISSUE

Explainer: Adityanath’s appointment as Uttar Pradesh CM is a boost to the Ram Mandir movement

His predecessors at the Gorakhpur temple have been the guiding force behind efforts to convert the Babri Masjid into a temple.

The decades-old movement to build a Ram Mandir at the site of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya has got a boost with the appointment of Yogi Adityanath as Uttar Pradesh’s chief minister.

Adityanath, the five-time MP from Gorakhpur, is the mahant or chief priest of the Gorakshapeeth temple in Gorakhpur. Like his predecessors – Digvijaynath and Avaidyanath – he has carefully used the symbol of the Ram Mandir to bring about the large-scale polarisation of Hindus.

Brief history

Digvijaynath, the mahant of the Gorakshapeeth temple from 1935 till his death in 1969, did not only conceive of the entire plot to convert the Babri Masjid into a temple, he also presided over the operation in which the idol of Lord Ram was surreptitiously installed in the mosque on the night of December 22, 1949.

As the lieutenant of Hindutva ideologue Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, and one of the top leaders of the Hindu Mahasabha, it was Digvijaynath who controlled and pulled all the strings of that operation, while members of the Hindu Mahasabha in Ayodhya – working under the banner of the All India Ramayan Mahasabha – carried out the operation on the ground.

After Digvijaynath died, his disciple Avaidyanath, who is the guru of the new Uttar Pradesh chief minister, scripted the Sangh Parivar’s Ayodhya movement that culminated in the demolition of the Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992. This paved the way for the rise of the Bharatiya Janata Party in the politically crucial state and at the Centre.

Avaidyanath’s speech at the Dharma Sansad – a meeting of sadhus – organised by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad at the Kumbh Mela in Allahabad in 1989 laid the foundation for the movement that made the demolition of the Babri Masjid three years later almost inevitable.

The Statesman reported in its February 1, 1989, edition: “Mahant Avaidyanath of Gorakhpur pointed that the Quran prohibited Muslims from constructing mosques on the holy places of other religions. ‘And telling us to construct the temple in another place to avoid conflict is like telling Lord Rama to wed another Sita to avoid war with Ravana’.”

Babri Masjid demolition

Avaidyanath’s involvement in the Ayodhya movement was such that his name figured prominently in the list of people found culpable for leading the country to the brink of communal discord by the Liberhan Commission, which investigated the destruction of the Babri Masjid.

The Commission’s report said:

“There is sufficient and believable evidence on the record […] that provocative speeches were delivered by Uma Bharti, Sadhvi Ritambra, Paramhans Ramchander Dass, Acharya Dharmendra Dev, B.L. Sharma, […] Mahant Avaidyanath etc.”

Adityanath, whom Avaidyanath declared his successor in 1994, two decades before he died in 2014, has taken the tradition set by his predecessors to a new level. Not only does he brazenly espouse the rioter’s politics, his outfit – the Hindu Yuva Vahini – specialises in running a toxic campaign of communal politics, turning even small incidents into full-blown communal wars and projecting Muslims as the enemies of Hindus.

Like Digvijaynath and Avaidyanath, Adityanath has also been a strong votary of the construction of a Ram temple at the disputed site in Ayodhya. It is this that seems to have led the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh to back his candidature for the post of Uttar Pradesh chief minister.

Adityanath kept the issue of the construction of the Ram temple alive throughout the recently-concluded seven-phase elections in the state.

Days before the first phase of polling in February, Adityanath told journalists: “The hurdles on the path of construction of a grand Ram temple will be gradually removed and its construction will soon start in Ayodhya.”

At one stage during the campaign, Adityanath declared: “Karbala and kabristan [graveyard] would be created if the SP [Samajwadi Party] or the BSP [Bahujan Samaj Party] wins the election, but the BJP’s victory will pave the way for construction of Ram temple in Ayodhya.”

With Adityanath taking over as Uttar Pradesh chief minister, the BJP is sure to use the Ram Mandir as a major poll plank in the 2019 general elections.

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