Justice Markandey Katju: About the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya

By Justice Markandey Katju–

These days the focus of the Indian media is on the Ram Temple in Ayodhya, built at a cost of ₹18,000 crore (approximately $2.1 billion) on the site of the Babri Mosque demolished in December 1992. The temple is going to be consecrated by a ‘pran pratishtha‘ ceremony on January 22 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi with great pomp, fanfare, festivity and flourish, as if a historic event will take place. Ayodhya is also being modernized and developed.

What is the truth about these developments?

The test of every public activity is one, and only one: does it raise the standard of living of citizens? Does it give them better lives? To my mind, building the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya, ‘restoring’ Hindu Mandirs in Varanasi and Mathura after demolishing the mosques there (which is being demanded by some right wing Hindu organizations), cow protection, etc, are all political stunts, charades and flimflams, with an eye on the parliamentary elections due in the first half of 2024, and have nothing to do with people’s lives.

They are only diversionary gimmicks, shams, and facades to divert people’s attention from the real issues facing the nation — massive poverty, record unemployment, skyrocketing prices of food and other essential commodities, appalling level of child nourishment (every second child in India is malnourished, wasted and/or stunted, according to Global Hunger Index), 57% Indian women are anaemic, there is almost total lack of healthcare and good education for the Indian masses, etc.

Much is said about India’s phenomenal GDP growth and steep upward trend in the Indian stock market. But, as mentioned in the article below, there are really two Indias — the India of the stock market, and the India of the vast majority of its 1.4 billion people.

Even assuming Indian GDP is growing, the question is: who is enjoying the fruits of this growth, the Indian masses, or just a handful of big businessmen and corporates?

An idea of the ground situation in India is provided by events following Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Ayodhya on December 30, 2023 to inaugurate an international airport (named Maharshi Valmiki Airport, after the author of Ramayan), and a railway junction (named Ayodhya Dham) there.

Immediately after the Prime Minister’s departure, people began looting thousands of plants in pots, flowers, etc kept on the roadside for Modi’s welcome.

This reminds one of the ‘Potemkin villages’ in Russia in the reign of Empress Catherine the Great. When the Empress wanted to tour the Crimea in 1787, it is said that her lover and statesman Grigory Potemkin got wooden houses built in the villages on her route painted in bright colours, and the poor villagers supplied with fine clothes, to give the Empress an impression that people in her Empire were happy and prosperous. Immediately after the Empress had left, the houses were dismantled, and the fine clothes taken away, only to be used in the next village on her route.

One wonders what will happen to Ayodhya after this Brobdingnagian revelry, carnival, hoopla, shindig, burlesque and fanfare is over?

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