Justice Markandey Katju: What is the next step after Ram Temple Pran Pratishtha?

Justice Markandey Katju

By Justice Markandey Katju–

(Justice Markandey Katju is a former Judge, Supreme Court of India, and former Chairman, Press Council of India. The views expressed are his own)

The ‘Pran Pratishtha’ (instilling life in an idol) ceremony taking place today, 22nd January, in the Ram Temple in Ayodhya in which Indian Prime Minister Modi is the ‘yajmaan’, has riveted the eyes of much of India, and everything is astir and abuzz around it. Most of the Indian TV channels are focussed on it, and all are showing it live. Religious fervor has been raised to a high pitch in many parts of the country.

Outside my flat in Noida, as I write this, loudspeakers chant ‘Bolo Shri Ram’, and there is singing of Ram bhajans, and blowing of conch shells. Not everyone is allowed today in the Ram Temple for the ceremony at Ayodhya (only invitees can come today), but the Prime Minister had declared that those not invited should celebrate the event throughout the country as a national festival like Diwali, by prayers and singing bhajans everywhere. Government offices, educational institutions, etc, are closed for today by the Central and many state governments, which have declared it as a public holiday.

All this will assuredly ensure victory for the BJP in the forthcoming Indian parliamentary elections, which are likely to be held in a few months from now. Eightty percent of India’s population is Hindu, and such occasions will step up the religious polarization in the country,  which has already been going on in recent years. Secularism, which India professed with pride earlier and is enshrined in its Constitution, has gone with the wind, and exists only on paper.

One may ask: What next? In my opinion, after this event, which has been characterized as a victory of the Hindus after centuries of oppression and atrocities by the “demoniac Muslims”, a campaign, which has been going on for some time, will resume with intensified, aggressive vigor at Varanasi for the demolition of the Gyanvapi mosque, and at Mathura for demolition of the Shahi mosque, and building Hindu temples there (just as the Babri mosque was destroyed in 1992 and the Hindu temple being consecrated today was built on its site).

The question is whether all this will abolish/reduce the massive poverty, unemployment, child malnutrition, skyrocketing price rise, lack of proper healthcare and good education for the masses, etc in India? The test of every public activity is one, and only one: does it raise the standard of living of the people? Does it give them better lives?

In my opinion, the answer to this question, so far as building the Ram Temple at Ayodhya is concerned, can only be in the negative. So this event is just a gimmick and a pantomime.

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