Nirmala Kumari was born in 1992 but until recently she did not know why many around the country attach significance to that year. “I found out on WhatsApp,” she said. “I am on a group with my friends and many videos about the Ram temple were circulated.”
On December 6, 1992, Hindutva mobs brought down the 465-year-old Babri Masjid in Ayodhya, Uttar P6radesh, claiming that it was built on the exact spot on which the Hindu god Ram had been born. The demolition triggered riots between Hindus and Muslims across India.
Twenty-six years later, Hindutva groups are once again fanning the demand to build a Ram temple at the site, as Kumari found out on WhatsApp. “The videos were about how only a Ram temple should be built there and nothing else,” she said.
Kumari also overheard her neighbours in Mayapuri in West Delhi talk about the temple. The conversation left her puzzled. “We are far from this,” she said. “How will it affect us?”
The eldest of five sisters, Kumari studied till Class 10. She then started to look for work. “These days the house doesn’t run if there’s just one person earning,” she noted.
In 2016, Kumari found work in a factory that produced parts of air conditioners. She earned a salary of Rs 5,000. “I really liked going to work,” she said. “But the men used very bad language around women and never looked at us nicely.” She quit the job last year.
In March, she sat for Class 12 exams but did not pass them. She got married in June. She wants to return to work, but there are obstacles. “My husband will allow me because his thinking is different,” she said, “but my mother-in-law will not give me permission.”
Her husband has recently appeared for the police constable examination in Uttar Pradesh. The competition is tough as nearly 19 lakh candidates compete for 41,520 positions.
The Bharatiya Janata Party came to power in 2014 on the back of the promise of creating jobs. In its final year, however, many of its leaders are focusing public attention on the Ayodhya dispute.
Kumari supports the construction of both a temple and a mosque at the site. “There must be a God, that’s why people want something there,” she said.
But she is anxious of the fallouts of one trumping the other. “There are chances of riots,” she said.
Kumari offers another solution: “It will be better if they make a nice garden there where all kinds of people can go.”
This is the first part in a series of articles interviewing Indians born in 1992 about the Bharatiya Janata Party’s efforts to bring its plan to build a Ram temple in Ayodhya back to the political centrestage. The second part can be read here.