The Ram Mandir in Ayodhya

Amalendu Upadhyaya
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By Justice Markandey Katju

The Ram Mandir in Ayodhya

These days the entire focus of the media in India is about the Ram Temple in Ayodhya, which has been built at a huge cost of Rs 18,000 crores on the site of the Babri Mosque demolished in December 1992

The temple is going to be consecrated by a 'pran pratishtha' ceremony on 22nd January, 2024 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi with great pomp, fanfare, festivity and flourish, as if a historical event will take place.

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 the people ? Does it give them better lives ?

To my mind, building of 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 organisations in India ), cow protection, etc are all political stunts, charades and flimflams, with an eye on the coming parliamentary elections in India due in the first half of 2024 , and have nothing to do with the lives of the people.

They are only diversionary gimmicks, shams, and facades to divert people's attention from the real issues facing the nation viz. 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, there are really two Indias, the India of the stock market, and the India of the vast majority of its 1400 million people

Even assuming the Indian GDP is growing, the question to be asked is: who is getting 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 30th December 2023 to inaugurate an international airport ( named Maharshi Valmiki Airport, after the name of the author of the Hindu epic, the Ramayan ), and a railway junction ( named Ayodhya Dham ) there.

Immediately after the Prime Minister's departure, a loot began of the thousands of plants in pots, flowers, etc kept on the roadside for Modi's welcome, as can be seen in this video.
This reminds one of the 'Potempkin villages' in Russia in the reign of Empress Catherine the Great.

When the Empress wanted to tour the Crimea in 1787, her Minister Potempkin 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. But 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 brobdingnanian revelry, carnival, hoopla, shindig, burlesque and fanfare is over ?

(Justice Katju is a retired judge of the Supreme Court of India. These are his personal views.)

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