That the Ramjanmabhoomi movement was more political than religious in nature was evident from its very beginnings in communal frenzy and bigotry. And that the demand for the construction of a > Ram temple in Ayodhya at the site where the >Babri Masjid stood would become more strident with every approaching general election was a foregone conclusion. Even so, the offloading of truckloads of pink sandstone at the premises of the >Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) in Ayodhya this month adds a new element of provocative divisive politics in Uttar Pradesh, which goes to polls for the Legislative Assembly in a little over a year’s time. The elaborate ritual performed on the stones, the ‘shila puja’, is in itself an indication of the symbolism sought to be evoked with the arrival of every batch of stones. Already, about one half of the total requirement of the stones necessary for the building of the temple is lying at the premises, but the offloading of each truckload is celebrated as an event in time marking the journey to the construction of the temple at the >Babri Masjid site . Although the VHP insists that the entire exercise is a routine affair, the fact that this is the first time in eight years that such activity is happening gives it an ominous colour.
Issues relating to the site, whether a Ram temple was pulled down or modified to build the Masjid, and who could claim ownership of the plot of land believed by some sections of Hindus to be the birthplace of Ram, are still part of an unresolved legal dispute after the Supreme Court stayed an order of the Allahabad High Court that split the disputed site in three parts. With the restoration of status quo ante , no construction is possible at the site. By making preparations for the construction of a temple without waiting for the court verdict, the Ramjanmabhoomi Nyas, a trust run by the >VHP , is clearly attempting to whip up communal passions over the dispute. Although the Samajwadi Party government of Akhilesh Yadav put the law and order machinery on alert, in such tension-charged atmosphere it would take no more than a few rumour-mongers to disrupt communal peace. However, with the Bharatiya Janata Party in power at the Centre, senior leaders are a lot more circumspect, not wanting to be seen as defying court orders. Indeed, the BJP is at present fighting under the cover of the VHP, assuming that any political gains from communal tensions over the issue would accrue to it, but the cost would be borne by the VHP alone. But the BJP is mistaken if it thinks it can harness the demons the VHP unleashes. Hate campaigns have a life of their own, and could spiral into unstoppable violence. The Ayodhya dispute should be left to the courts of law to adjudicate on. There can be no room for political games to stir communal passions.