How many temples have Mughal invaders destroyed

Temple of Contention

"We, the people of India, have solemnly decided to make India an independent, socialist, secular and democratic republic," it says in the preamble of the Indian constitution. Every year on January 26th, Republic Day, this document, which marked the road to independence in 1950, is solemnly commemorated. Certainly also as an international business card. Although the ideology of a Hindu India does not correspond to the spirit of the constitution, the Bharatiya Janata Party (Indian People's Party), which has ruled since 2014, did not spare pompous appearances on Independence Day.

But this year everything is different: there will be no international guest of honor and only small parades will take place. Last year the Brazilian Prime Minister Jair Bolsonaro visited the Indian capital, this year Prime Minister Narendra Modi invited his British colleague Boris Johnson. But because of the current wave of pandemics in Great Britain, it has been canceled. On the other hand, numerous farmers' organizations have announced that they will be protesting on Republic Day in New Delhi against a government legislative package for the "promotion and protection of farmers". They fear that they will not be protected by the new laws, but will be subjected to the price dictates of agricultural corporations and supermarket chains. Almost half of the Indian population lives from agriculture.

In midsummer 2020, in the middle of the corona lockdown, Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to Ayodhya. The small town in central India has become an important political issue in the past few decades: the new temple for the Hindu god Rama is to be built here. Before that, the Babri Mosque stood there, which was destroyed in 1992 by supporters of what is now the ruling party, the Indian People's Party, the BJP. It was only in November 2019 that the highest court in New Delhi gave the green light for the construction of the controversial temple, which had been the subject of a legal dispute between the two religious communities in India for decades.

Modi came to lay the foundation stone for the construction of the Rama Temple, for which his party and many Hindu nationalist organizations have been mobilizing for more than 30 years. The start of the campaign coincided with the opening of the Indian market and marked the beginning of the political success story of the BJP.

The country that produced Gandhi, the global symbol of nonviolent resistance, is now on the way to a totalitarian state, says the Indian writer Arundhati Roy in relation to the »nd« »At that time, two types of totalitarianism were set free: neoliberal market fundamentalism and this religious one , Hindu-chauvinist nationalism, "says Roy, explaining the rise of the BJP. "Sometimes these fundamentalisms appear to be contradicting one another - one medieval, the other modern, but in fact they have ensnared one another."

The rebuilding of the temple was one of the central promises in the election campaign for the Indian lower house last year. "This temple will become a symbol of our heritage, of our unshakable faith," Modi triumphed. The day the foundation stone was laid at the supposed birthplace of the god Rama "has a similar meaning for the country as Independence Day." Just as "every part of society supported the struggle for freedom", the building of the temple was based on the "cooperation of people from all over the country."

Modi began his political career in the voluntary organization RSS, which was founded in 1925 on the model of Mussolini's Black Shirts. "You talk openly about declaring India a Hindu nation and changing the constitution," said Roy. "Modi is a member there, as are almost all of the ministers and MPs in his party."

Back then, in the struggle for independence against the British colonial system, the RSS played no role. They did not come up against the two popular personalities who pursued a completely different political line: Jawaharlal Nehru, who later became Prime Minister of India, and Mahatma Gandhi. Both had visited Europe and largely shared the anti-fascist attitude of their contacts there. Cooperation with the Axis powers Japan, Germany and Italy as allies in the fight against the British colonial rulers was out of the question for them.

In contrast, the Indian Muslims played a major role in the independence movement. Their share of the total population at that time - the colonial empire also included today's Pakistan and Bangladesh - was far greater than it is today. With his comparison on the occasion of the laying of the foundation stone, Modi deliberately excludes the current 170 million Indian Muslims. Two Muslim representatives were also present at the ceremony, but they only had an alibi function. Since the destruction of the Babri Mosque there have been numerous pogroms and lynchings of the religious minority, accompanied by hate propaganda by many BJP politicians.

Hindu nationalists have wanted to take control of the independence movement for years in order to strengthen its acceptance among the population. The BJP and its cadre organization RSS maintain a victim myth for this purpose. India has been invaded time and again in history by "foreign invaders" who oppressed the Hindu majority: first the Muslim Mughal rulers, later the British colonial rulers who ruled India until 1948. Gandhi, the icon of the independence movement, is hated by many Hindu nationalists: They make him jointly responsible for the "division" of the former colonial empire in India and Pakistan. The Gandhi murderer Naturam Godse also invoked this ideology; he accused Gandhi of being too compliant with Muslims.

It is no coincidence that the Hindu nationalists have had success with their policies in the last three decades of all places. Until the early 1990s they played no significant role in politics, the Indian population was held together by a post-colonial consensus: Among other things, this consisted of the hope that all Indians, regardless of their caste or religion, would at some point share in prosperity and progress . The congress party that emerged from the independence movement was until then - despite corruption affairs and intrigues - the guarantee of this promise, which was anchored in the collective consciousness against all social injustices.

But this consensus was canceled by the Congress Party itself: Under pressure from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, heavily indebted India had to open up to the world market and thus to competition for the cheapest production costs at the beginning of the 1990s, deregulate its economy, which means, among other things, subsidies for the Slash agriculture, cut tariffs and let foreign investors into the country. At the same time, the neoliberal turn enabled the Indian elite to enrich themselves more shamelessly than ever. The social gap grew wider and wider. With their India-wide campaign to destroy the Babri Mosque, the Hindu nationalists succeeded in filling this vacuum by popularizing a "new" collective identity.

The British historian Perry Anderson speaks of an "attempt at religious compensation that came like a tidal wave" when "the social promises of the Congress Party had faded." Today the Hindu nationalists ensure power and prosperity for the country's corrupt elites. At the same time, they suggest to the lower castes an alleged common struggle and turn social dissatisfaction into hatred of other religions and minorities.

Renowned historians question the myth of the Rama Temple, which is so important to the BJP, including K.N. Panikkar, now professor emeritus for cultural history at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi. If a Hindu temple had previously stood on the site of the Babri Mosque, as Hindu nationalists claim, it would have to appear in the written sources of the 16th and 17th centuries, according to his thesis. Many of these sources instead referred to the tolerant attitude of the Mughal ruler of the time, Babur, towards other religions. "Out of consideration for Hindu shrines, Babur even refrained from building mosques," says the historian, who dates the myth of the Rama temple to the century before last. "The fact that the Babri Mosque was built instead of a temple is a relatively new assumption," explains the scientist. »It has its origins in the attempts of the colonial rulers in the 19th century to rewrite the history of the subcontinent. In doing so, they focused on the mutual hostility of religious communities. "

In this sense, the Hindu nationalists are the executors of the colonial "divide and rule", but not the anti-colonial legacy of the independence movement, as they themselves like to claim. So far they have not succeeded in pacifying the social conflicts.

Even if the BJP with its fundamentalist agenda was able to win an absolute majority in the Indian lower house twice in a row - no party had succeeded in this for over 30 years - it is still far from being able to count on the support of all Hindus. Many Hindus are still skeptical of the BJP. Different religions have lived together on the subcontinent for centuries. In addition, the majority of Hindus take a tolerant attitude towards other religions. This is also underlined by the election results: the majority vote has made a significant contribution to the success of the BJP. Although 80 percent of Indians are followers of Hinduism, of the 604 million people who voted in the polls only a third voted for Hindu nationalists. In view of the fragmented and weak opposition, however, that was enough for an absolute majority.

The current resistance by Indian peasants is supported by large sections of society, including many scientists and intellectuals. If the protest continues to pick up speed, it will significantly weaken the government and its attempts at religious division.

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