The government of India has declared January 22 as a holiday in several states on the manufactured occasion of “Pran Prathistha Diwas” or consecration day of the Ram Temple. This is relevant because the ones in power in India – the Bhartiya Janata Party – has an ideological strain of an extremist right-wing Hinduism, otherwise known as Hindutva. This ideological strain has proven be a bane for India in its entirety, for poor people, for the working class, for farmers, for journalists, for students, for Muslims, for the so-called lower castes, for the tribals, for women and everyone in opposition to this extremist government.
The question is, why is this a manufactured holiday?
The region of Awadh in ancient India, and present-day Ayodhya, is a site of religious significance to three major religions: Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam. During the time of the Mughal Emperor Mir Baqi a mosque was constructed, called Babri Masjid, in honor of the Mughal Emperor Babar in the year 1528.
India, like several countries in the world, was a subject of colonization from the British Empire, so when the British arrived on Indian shores the goal was to subjugate India and create an atmosphere of communal and religious disharmony.
The seeds of disharmony were spread by the British in order to perform their goal of divide and rule and they did so by creating a sense of division between the Hindu and Muslim communities. The British also wrongly deduced in their own observations that India had no documentation of their own history, so they went ahead to reconstruct India’s past through the lens of their own goals and interests.
As Romila Thapar, a notable Indian historian observes, several British historians from the time of colonization would establish that India had two nations, a Hindu nation, and a Muslim nation, distinct, separate, and with no interaction between each other, whereas in reality, this was absolutely a falsehood.
Several Hindu kings would often allow the construction of Islamic structures, and many Muslim landlords would allow Hindu temples to be constructed within their empires. The Babri Masjid was one such mosque. It was the target of controversy by the British empire, who cemented the idea into the minds of several kings, and in particular Jai Singh II, that the site of Bari Masjid was the birthplace of the mythological character from the Ramayana, Ram.
In the 1800s British surveyors Francis Buchanan-Hamilton and Montgomery Martin alleged that the mosque was built on that site of a Hindu temple, despite there being no tangible evidence of this being the case at the time. Several Indian historians, such as R.S. Sharma, Suraj Bhan, M. Athar Ali and Dwijendra Narayan Jha, pushed back against the narrative that the site was occupied by a Hindu temple and point out that calls for destructions of the Masjid started only in the 1900s and after the rise of the Hindu nationalist movement.
In 1925 the Rashtriya Samajsevak Sangh (RSS) a right-wing organization was formed on the basis that India was a Hindu country and their one only objective was to establish a Hindurashtra or Hindu ethnostate, drawing their inspiration from Mussolini’s fascist party.
By 1947, the RSS was declared a terrorist organization and banned several times, preventing from contesting in elections. The RSS then formed the precursor of the Bharatiya Janta Party, known as the Jan Sangh.
In December 1949, the Hindu organization Akhil Bharatiya Ramayana Mahasabha led a nine-day protest just outside the mosque and ended the event by placing idols of Ram inside of the mosque. By the 1980s the RSS facilitated the creation of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, or the international wing; the Bharatiya Janata Party, it’s electoral wing, and the Bajrang Dal or the youth wing.
These groups openly called for the destruction of the masjid and the creation of Ram Mandir or Ram Temple in its place. with their reasoning being that the Bari Masjid was built on top of Hindu shrines in 1984. By 1989 LK Advani of the BJP embarked on a cross country Rath Yatra (religious-political rally) that would unite the right-wing elements, flaming the tensions between the Hindu and Muslim communities and leaving a trail of murder and destruction.
By 1992, the Rath Yatra came to a close in Ayodhya where the RSS, BJP, VHP and the Bajrang Dal arrived with the intension of being karsevaks (religious volunteers) and destroyed the Babri Masjid.
In the days following the destruction of the Babri Masjid, 3000 people were killed, in the following weeks several religious riots followed, across India and lead to the creation of Islamist groups in India and present-day Pakistan.
In 2003, the Archaeological Survey of India, on the orders of the Allahabad court, conducted an inspection of the mosque site, and their report concluded that there was a shrine underneath the mosque remains but were unable to conclude exactly what religious structure this was. Several politicians and historians criticized the fact that the report ignored the animal remains and lime-mortar presence at the site. Pressurized by Hindu groups, the court however upheld this report in 2010, and by 2019, at the height of the power of the BJP government, the site was handed over to a trust to construct a Hindu temple at the site.
Today in 2024 this temple has now been constructed with much fanfare from the BJP government, which declared this day as the “Pran-Prathista Diwas” or consecration day of the temple. This is a holiday built on several dangerous, and vile lies on the backs of thousands killed and millions disillusioned by the idea of a sovereign secular democratic republic that India promised to be after Independence.
The other question: Is the temple demand relevant in today’s India?
The short answer is no.
The temple cost was approximately 1800 crore ($200 million). This comes at a time when India has some of the highest unemployment rates in Indian history following independence and a poverty rate of 11%, with over 190 million people going to bed hungry every night. The right-wing government has alienated millions and millions of its poorest people.
Political and religious lynchings are becoming an everyday reality and progressive news sites either becoming absorbed by the capitalists or being shut down and investigated by government agencies on falsified charges. Journalists are harassed and jailed for questioning the powers at be, and historians of international repute are vilified and labeled liars and anti-Indians.
How is this relevant for the U.S.?
The VHP, or the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, is the international wing of the RSS; it is the international wing of the Hindu right wing. This organization exists in the U.S., Canada and the UK. Historically the VHP has been accused of funneling in foreign cash to fund Hindu nationalist groups existent in India. The VHP was established in New York in 1970 as a non-profit organization by Mahesh Mehta, who received training from the RSS chief M.S. Golwalkar, who himself idealized Nazism and was a violent anti-communist. He even suggested a holocaust of Muslims in India. This organization has also pressurized local state governments across the U.S. to bend local laws in their favor.
The VHP operate in 21 chapters across the U.S. and has smaller local organizations such as the American Hindus Against Defamation, Hindu Students Council, Hindu Mandir Executive Conference and Hindu University of America. Leading up to the consecration day, the U.S. chapter of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), has erected over 40 billboards in ten states, including Texas, Illinois, New York, New Jersey and Georgia, and are planning car caravans in 12 or more cities across the U.S. The VHP in the past has also received funding to the tune of millions of dollars from the U.S. government and transferred these funds to hundreds of right-wing groups across India.
The BJP government has utilized several issues to build its election campaigns. In 2024 they have made the temple consecration the primary issue that they believe will create a wave of support to get them back into office. They believe that despite their several failings, this will be the uniting issue that will keep them in power. What they are missing, however, is that people are embittered by their governance and that it will be difficult for them to retain power to the extent that they expect.
In any case, the consecration day remains a stain on India’s contemporary history, and only with the removal of the vile reactionary BJP government can India begin to wipe away this stain.