Ram Mandir ceremony stokes raging controversies

·5 min read

Even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi gears up to lay the foundation stone of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya on August 5, several controversies have erupted that could dampen the spirit of the much-awaited ceremony.

REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui
REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

1. A group of naysayers is of the opinion that the prime minister of the nation should not attend the foundation stone ceremony of a temple of a particular religion as it would set a wrong precedent. Congress leader and Member of Parliament Husain Dalwai even put forth the example of former prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru who did not attend the ‘bhoomi pujan’ of the Somnath temple as he was the leader of a secular nation.

AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi, also directed his ire at the prime minister. “Attending the bhoomi pujan in official capacity will be a violation of the Constitutional oath. Secularism is part of the basic structure of the Constitution. We can’t forget that for over 400 years Babri (mosque) stood in Ayodhya and it was demolished by a criminal mob in 1992,” he tweeted.

2. Another point which many media outlets, politicians and people on social media are raising is whether there’s any need to begin the construction at a time when the country is griped by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The cases in India have already touched 15 lakh and several thousands have died. At a time, when the government should be focusing on upgrading health infrastructure and devising financial policies/plans for people massively affected due to pandemic, the government machinery, including the prime minister, many cabinet ministers and chief ministers of states, is engaged in organising a lavish ceremony.

Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar has publicly questioned the prime minister’s upcoming visit to Ayodhya for the ceremony. He even asked whether there is any need for a temple at a time of crisis like this.

3. Another controversy that is raging ahead of the foundation stone-laying ceremony is the announcement that it would be broadcast live on Doordarshan. Many have objected, saying that the state-owned public broadcaster should not telecast the religious ceremony of a particular faith and proclaimed it to be a contravention of secular ethos enshrined in the Constitution.

Communist Party of India MP Binoy Viswam has written to the Information & Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar, opposing the telecast of the foundation stone-laying ceremony for the Ram temple in Ayodhya on Doordarshan on August 5 as it would be ‘contrary to accepted norms of national integrity’. However, many others point that the public broadcaster had telecast religious congregations and ceremonies of other faiths in the past and still continues to do so.

4. Interestingly, the date of the foundation stone ceremony, August 5, coincides with the first anniversary of the abolition of Article 370 which granted special status to Jammu and Kashmir. The abolition of Article 370 and construction of Ram Temple in Ayodhya have been the long-pending asks of the saffron party and by entwining the date of both the events, Prime Minister Modi, a master at optics, clearly wants to send across a strong message to his constituency.

His detractors clearly aren’t amused at this clever ruse designed to please his constituency.

The supporters and party colleagues of PM Modi are having none of it. The plans to celebrate August 5 with fanfare are in full swing. Even the broader public mood is upbeat.

Majority of Hindus see the foundation ceremony as the second homecoming of Lord Rama and are expected to mark the event like the Diwali festival. Many are of the opinion that the Opposition is being done to continue appeasing certain sections of the society who are these parties’ vote banks, under the garb of social distancing in the times of COVID-19.

The more cultivated minds believe that the dissenting voices opposing the ceremony betray their displeasure with the Supreme Court’s verdict in favour of the Hindus and the Ram Temple.

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