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Lord 'Rama' and the Hindutva Politics in India

International Journal of Trend in Scientific Research and Development (IJTSRD)
Volume 4 Issue 4, June 2020 Available Online: www.ijtsrd.com e-ISSN: 2456 – 6470
Lord ‘Rama’ and the Hindutva Politics in India
Sufal Bepari
M.A., Department of Political Science, Rabindra Bharati University, Kolkata, West Bengal, India
ABSTRACT
The ideology of ‘Hindutva’ is an integral part of Indian politics. Discussion of
the ‘Hindu nationalist politics’ in India has become more prevalent in recent
times, focusing on different issues. Many new aspects of Hindutva politics has
emerged. Especially, after the establishment of the Bharatiya Janata Party
(BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government of India in 2014,
the Hindutva politics gained new stimulation. Lord Rama is very crucial in
Hindutva politics. Different right-wing Hindu nationalist political parties and
organizations have repeatedly used Lord Rama as their political weapon to
incite Hindu-sentiment and to maintain their vote-bank. Initially, ‘Ram
Janmabhoomi Movement,’ ‘Ram Rath Yatra,’ and ‘Demolition of the Babri
Masjid,’ these three events were discussed to understand how Lord Rama is
being used in the first phase of Hindu nationalist politics. However, the latter
part of this topic focuses on two significant phenomena of recent Hindutva
politics. Firstly, it has been discussed how a religious slogan like ‘Jai Shri Ram’
becomes an important political slogan. Secondly, it has been highlighted how
the Rama Navami centric ‘Festival Politics’ has emerged in recent times. In this
case, for the detailed analysis of these two issues, special attention has been
given to the latest developments in the politics of West Bengal. Thus,
throughout the discussion, it becomes clear that Lord Rama is intimately
connected with the Hindu nationalist politics of India.
How to cite this paper: Sufal Bepari "Lord
‘Rama’ and the Hindutva Politics in India"
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KEYWORDS: Hindutva Politics, Ram Janmabhoomi Movement, Ram Rath Yatra,
Babri Masjid Demolition, Jai Shri Ram, Festival Politics
1. INTRODUCTION
The exploration of Indian politics is impossible without a
review of Hindutva politics. In the same way, the context of
Hindu deity Rama is inevitable when discussing the politics
of Hindutva. Lord Rama has been used very efficiently in the
Hindu nationalist politics of India. In that case, Rama has a
special contribution behind the successful rise of many rightwing Hindu nationalist organizations and political parties.
Over time, Lord Rama became one of the weapons of their
vote-bank politics.
Before entering into a detailed discussion of the topic, it is
necessary to know briefly about Lord Rama. Rama or Ram,
also known as Ramachandra, is one of the major deities of
Hinduism. He is considered as the seventh incarnation of
another Hindu God Vishnu. Rama was born to Kaushalya and
Dasharatha in Ayodhya. Lord Rama is the central character of
the ancient Hindu epic Ramayana composed by Valmiki.
There are many versions of Ramayana available in India, but
Valmiki’s ‘Ramayana’ is the most popular one. On the
occasion of the birth of Lord Rama, Rama Navami festival is
celebrated in various parts of India. Festivals like Diwali and
Dussehra are also observed in India, focusing on several
incidents related to the story of ‘Ramayana.’
Before the advent of Lord Rama in the post-independence
Indian politics, his active presence can be noticed in the
Indian political thought. Mahatma Gandhi, one of the
pioneers of India’s independence movement, expressed his
idea of ‘Ram Rajya’ (Rule of Rama) while expressing his
political views. However, Gandhi’s concept of ‘Ram Rajya’
and present-day Hindutva politics are entirely different.
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According to M.K. Gandhi, ‘Ram Rajya’ does not mean Hindu
rule, but it is a kind of ‘Divine Raj’ (Kingdom of God). To him,
‘Ram’ and ‘Rahim’ were one. In his ideal state, genuine
democracy would prevail where everyone would have equal
rights, and everybody would find justice easily.
After the independence of India, several political parties and
organizations emerged in the name of Lord Rama. Akhil
Bharatiya Ram Rajya Parishad, Akhil Bharatiya Ramayana
Mahasabha, Sri Ram Sena, were some of the examples in this
regard. Akhil Bharatiya Ram Rajya Parishad (RRP, ‘All India
Council of Rama’s Kingdom) was a right-wing-Hindu political
party founded by Swami Karpatri in 1948. The RRP won
three Lok Sabha seats in the 1952 Parliamentary elections
and two in 1962. In 1952, 1957 and 1962, it won several
dozen Vidhan Sabha seats, all in the Hindi belt, mostly in
Rajasthan. Later, the party eventually merged into the Jana
Sangh, the precursor to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The
Sri Ram Sena (literally, ‘The Army of Lord Rama’), or Sri Ram
Sene, is a right-wing Hindu group. It was founded in the late
1960s by Kalki Maharaj. Recently, it has received media
attention for its acts of moral policing. However, some major
right-wing Hindutva groups and political parties like Vishva
Hindu Parishad (VHP) and BJP have played a leading role in
bringing Lord Rama into the mainstream electoral politics of
India.
2. Review of Literature
Kapur (2014) [15] found that the conflict between ‘Hindu
majoritarianism’ and the ‘right to religious liberty’ has
intensified in the wake of the Ayodhya problem. The ‘Hindu
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right’ has enacted some undemocratic and politically
dangerous encroachments on secularism and the right to
religious freedom. For this reason, a re-democratized
revision of freedom of religion is strongly required.
believe that the idols had miraculously appeared inside the
mosque. The idols remained inside, and the mosque had
converted into a de facto temple. Later, the land was
declared to be under dispute, and the gates remained locked.
Kaul (2017) [16] states that a very powerful ‘Political Right’
has emerged in India, especially after the establishment of
the BJP led NDA government of India in 2014. A mixture of
‘Hindutva’ and ‘Development’ occurred in India in time of
Modi-government, and has being continuing mainly because
of a ‘Modi myth.’
In the 1980s, the VHP, belonging to the mainstream Hindu
nationalist family Sangh Parivar, launched a new movement
to reclaim the site for Hindus and to build a temple there. It
can be said that almost with this, Lord Rama made a strong
appearance in Indian politics. After the formation of BJP as a
political party in 1980, Atal Bihari Vajpayee became its first
president. In his leadership, BJP initially moderated the
Hindu nationalist stance to gain a broader appeal,
emphasizing its link to the Janata Party and the ideology of
Gandhian Socialism. But in the BJP, the Vajpayee model
completely failed. In the 1984 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP
won only two seats. This led to a shift in the ideology of the
party towards a more hard-line Hindu nationalist policy. In
1984, Lal Krishna Advani was appointed as president of the
party, and under him, BJP became the political voice of the
Ram Janmabhoomi movement. The BJP made extensive use
of this movement in his election campaign. This strategy of
BJP led by Advani was a huge success. BJP won 88 seats in
the 1989 Lok Sabha elections, which made its support crucial
to the National Front government of V.P. Singh. In this way,
the BJP made a strong debut in national politics by using the
Ram Janmabhoomi movement as a strong weapon.
Mehta (2015) [18] argued that the Ayodhya dispute was
one of the most important events that brought about a
significant change in Indian politics. The matter of Ayodhya
was mainly located at the crossroads of the secular and
religious culture of India. Before the demolition, judicial
accounts referred to the site as the ‘Ayodhya dispute,’ but
after the destruction, this literature named the disputed area
as the ‘Babri Masjid.’ In this case, Lord Rama constituted in
law as a ‘jural person.’
Srinivasan, et al. (2018) [27] showed how the Babri Masjid
demolition triggered a long-lasting conflict between Hindus
and Muslims of India. This demolition destroyed the
maintenance of peace in a democratic country and respect
for all religions. So, the role of the Supreme Court of India is
especially important in this regard.
3. Ram Janmabhoomi Movement [Beginning of Lord
Rama’s Journey in Indian Politics]
The powerful journey of Lord Rama in Indian politics began
with the Ram Janmabhoomi movement. There is a long
historical debate over the birthplace of Hindu deity Rama.
According to the Hindu epic Ramayana, the birthplace of
Lord Rama was Ayodhya. In present-day India, the city called
Ayodhya belongs to the state of Uttar Pradesh. Some local
Hindus believe that the now-demolished Babri Mosque site
in Ayodhya is the exact birthplace of Rama. They believe that
the Mughal rulers of India demolished a Hindu shrine and
built a mosque at this place. On the other hand, some
opposed this theory and state that such claims arose only in
the 18th century, and there is no concrete evidence that a
mosque was built there by destroying a Hindu temple.
Historian R. S. Sharma states that Ayodhya emerged as a
Hindu pilgrimage only in medieval times since ancient texts
do not mention it as a pilgrim centre. However, the history
and location of the Babri Mosque, and whether a previous
temple was demolished to create it or not, has led to a wide
range of political, historical and socio-religious debates,
which is known as ‘Ayodhya dispute.’
During the colonial rule, conflict erupted in India over this
disputed place in Ayodhya. The colonial rulers adopted
various administrative measures at different times in this
regard. Between 1853 and 1855, there was a controversy
over the ownership of the Babri Masjid site and the conduct
of religious activities there. For the first time in 1883, the
local Hindus demanded the construction of a temple at the
disputed area. Although, that time, the demand did not turn
into a movement in the real sense. In 1946, an offshoot of the
Hindu Mahasabha called Akhil Bharatiya Ramayana
Mahasabha started an agitation for the possession of the site.
In 1949 some Hindu activists broke into the mosque and
placed idols of Rama and Sita inside. People started to
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4. Ram Rath Yatra [A Masterstroke in the form of
‘Yatra Politics’]
From the above discussion, it is clear that BJP already
enriched its vote-bank by using the Ram Janmabhoomi
movement as their political tool. Further, to implement their
strategy more largely, BJP’s masterstroke move was the Ram
Rath Yatra. The BJP built a strong base in Indian politics
through its new type of ‘Yatra Politics.’
In 1990, the government of India, led by V. P. Singh, decided
to implement some of the Mandal Commission
recommendations and announced that twenty-seven percent
of government jobs would be reserved for people from
lower-caste backgrounds. This announcement threatened
the electoral constituency of the BJP. The core constituency
of the BJP were people from upper-castes. Historically, the
upper-castes enjoyed a monopoly over the social, political,
and economic spheres of India. Thus, the new policy fed
resentment among the upper-castes and raised inter-caste
tensions in some parts of the country. After that, the BJP
decided to use the ‘Ayodhya dispute’ to unite the Hindu vote
by mobilizing anti-Muslim sentiment. To implement this
plan, the BJP announced a Rath Yatra or ‘chariot journey’
across the country to Ayodhya. This effort tied in well with
the philosophy of the Sangh Parivar, which also believed in
the unity of the highly fragmented Hindu population. Since
its founding in 1925, support for the RSS (Rashtriya
Swayamsevak Sangh) had restricted to the people of uppercastes. Thus, almost all Hindutva-based organizations,
mostly affiliates of Sangh Parivar, was mutually participated
in this rally and made it successful.
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150,000 volunteers, known as ‘kar sevaks.’ The rally turned
violent, and the crowd overwhelmed security forces and tore
down the mosque. There is no exaggeration to say that this
incident marked the beginning of a new chapter in Indian
politics.
Fig.1. L.K. Advani during Ram rath yatra. Also present,
Narendra Modi, then an RSS pracharak, now prime
minister. (Photo: Reuters)
The Ram Rath Yatra was a political and religious rally that
lasted from September to October 1990. It was organized by
the BJP and its Hindu nationalist affiliates and led by the then
president of the BJP, L. K. Advani. The yatra began at the
Hindu holy city of Somnath on 12 September 1990 and, was
planned to go through the states of Gujarat, Maharashtra,
Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Bihar, before
reaching the city of Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh. Participants in
the procession had two main slogans; ‘Jai Shri Ram’ (Glory to
Lord Rama) and ‘Garv se kaho, ham Hindu hein!’ (Say with
pride that we are Hindus!). Historian Ramchandra Guha
stated that the imagery of the yatra was ‘religious, allusive,
militant, masculine, and anti-Muslim.’
That yatra brought out militant sentiments in the cadre of
the BJP, VHP, and Bajrang Dal, and there were several violent
clashes. These clashes intensified many-fold after Advani’s
arrest on 23 October. Riots targeting Muslims occurred in
Jaipur, Jodhpur, Ahmedabad, Baroda, Hyderabad, and a few
other places. Several hundred people died in these riots.
Militant sentiments were visible throughout the rally, as L. K.
Advani portrayed the Ayodhya dispute as a fight between
Rama and the Mughal emperor Babur. Despite Advani’s
arrest, many kar sevaks or activists reached Ayodhya and
attempted to storm the mosque, resulting in a pitched battle
with security forces, which led to the death of 20 VHP
volunteers. Following these incidents, the BJP withdrew its
support from the Union government.
The BJP’s positive electoral result indicates that Ram Rath
Yatra was successful. The BJP made the Ayodhya agitation a
large part of its campaign in the 1991 parliamentary
elections. Relative to the 1989 general election, the BJP
doubled its percentage of votes nationwide and made its
gains in states like Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh in the
South and Assam in the North-east. It emerged as the
second-largest party in the Lok Sabha after the Indian
National Congress. It captured a majority of the Lok Sabha
seats in Uttar Pradesh, where it also won a majority in the
state legislative assembly and formed the government. The
BJP was also able to win a majority of seats in the state
legislatures of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Himachal
Pradesh, and made gains in several other states.
5. Demolition of the ‘Babri Masjid’ [A Noon and a New
Chapter in Indian Politics]
The demolition of the Babri Masjid was illegally done by a
large group of activists of the VHP (Vishva Hindu Parishad)
and its allied organizations in relation to the ‘Ayodhya
dispute.’ On 6 December 1992, the VHP and the BJP
organized a rally at the disputed site of Ayodhya involving
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The Demolition of the Babri Mosque sparked Muslim outrage
across the country. This resulted in several months of intercommunal riots in which Hindus and Muslims attacked one
another, burning and looting homes, shops, and places of
worship. More than 2000 people were killed, mainly
Muslims. There are different opinions behind the incident of
demolition. According to some, the pro-Hindu activists
spontaneously caused this nasty incident. On the other hand,
some think that this is not just a spontaneous act but a preplanned event. However, in the case of Babri Mosque
demolition, whatever the truth is, it must be acknowledged
that this event greatly benefited the BJP and other affiliated
organizations. In the parliamentary elections in 1996, the
BJP capitalized on the communal polarisation that followed
the demolition to win 161 Lok Sabha seats, making it the
largest party in the parliament. Atal Bihari Vajpayee was
sworn in as Prime Minister but was unable to attain a
majority in the Lok Sabha, forcing the government to resign
after 13 days.
Fig.2. Demolition of the Babri Masjid in December
1992. (Photo: Getty Images)
The final judgment in the ‘Ayodhya dispute’ was declared by
the Supreme Court of India (SC) on 9th of November 2019.
The SC ordered the disputed land to be handed over to a
trust (to be created by the Government of India) to build the
Ram Janmabhoomi Temple. The court also ordered the
government to give an alternate 5 acres of land in another
place to the Sunni Waqf Board to build a mosque. Many
review petitions were filed against this judgment. However,
on 12 December 2019, the Supreme Court of India dismissed
all these petitions. Thus, this judgment ended a longstanding controversial problem.
6. Jai Shri Ram [Rise of a Vigorous Political Slogan]
‘Jai Shri Ram’ (Glory to Lord Rama) is a Hindi-language
religious expression. It is primarily used for informal
greetings and as a symbol of adhering to the Hindu faith.
Although it is a religious slogan, its widespread entry into
Indian politics has turned it into a political slogan. The
Slogan is a weapon that can easily penetrate the psyche of a
large part of the people. So not only in the case of political
movement or propaganda but also in any kind of rally or
procession, the slogan has a significant role. Indian politics is
no exception to this. Many famous slogans have appeared in
Indian politics at various times. Former Prime Minister of
India Lal Bahadur Shastri’s famous slogan “Jai Jawaan, Jai
Kisaan” (Hail the Soldier, Hail the Farmer) and another ExPM of India Indira Gandhi’s “Garibi Hatao” (Remove
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poverty), were some notable examples in this regard. But the
significance of ‘Jai Shri Ram’ as a political slogan is entirely
different from these. Firstly, it is an altogether religious
slogan that has become a political slogan over time, and
secondly, it is completely different in nature and purpose.
The spread of any slogan on such a large scale in Indian
politics is, of course, the first and the most noteworthy.
Therefore, this can be discussed from various perspectives.
In the late 1980s, this slogan was popularized by Ramanand
Sagar's television series Ramayan. However, the BJP, VHP,
and its other Hindu nationalist affiliates collectively
popularized this slogan. The ‘Jai Shri Ram’ slogan began to be
used widely as a tool of increasing the visibility of Hinduism
in public spaces and went on to use it as a war-cry for the
perpetuation of communal atrocities against the people of
other faiths. The BJP has used this slogan in various political
campaigns, rallies and election speeches at different times.
Especially, after the establishment of the BJP led NDA
government of India in 2014, this slogan re-emerged
strongly.
The ‘Jai Shri Ram’ slogan has mainly become a tool of
communal violence in India in recent times. Religious
violence has taken place in different parts of India, especially
against the people of the Muslim community, centering this
slogan. In almost all cases, Muslims have been forced to
chant the ‘Jai Shri Ram’ slogan, and if they refused to do so,
they were subjected to violence. Thus a new type of Mob
lynching was born, the trend of which is terrifying. Such
numerous incidents took place between 2014 and 2019. The
slogan has also been introduced as a debatable matter in
educational institutions mainly by Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi
Parishad (ABVP), a right-wing all India student organization
affiliated to the Hindu nationalist Rashtriya Swayamsevak
Sangh (RSS). This slogan is also very relevant in the case of
the Delhi riots, which took place in February 2020. The main
target of the rioters was the people of the Muslim
community. One of the slogans of the rioters was ‘Jai Shri
Ram.’ It gained more political significance when the rioters
were shouting, “Hindustan me rehna hoga, Jai Shri Ram kehna
hoga” (if you want to stay in India, you will have to chant Jai
Shri Ram).
Fig.3. Some people with the flag of ‘Jai Shri Ram.’
(Photo: Reuters)
In this context, the discussion of West Bengal politics is very
much important. West Bengal politics became heated by the
‘Jai Shri Ram’ slogan in the years between 2017 and 2019.
The BJP has never been in a strong position in WB politics.
However, the BJP has made a spectacular rise in WB politics
in recent times through extreme religious polarization.
There has been a new ‘Saffron Wave’ that occurred in Bengal.
As a result, along with the BJP, a strong appearance of ‘Jai
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Shri Ram’ as a political slogan has inevitably come into WB
politics. All India Trinamool Congress (AITC or TMC), the
ruling party of the WB, had political clashes with the BJP at
different times over this slogan. The TMC has alleged that the
BJP has turned a religious slogan into a political slogan only
for their political interest. As usual, they were trying to
divide people by mixing religion with politics. Thus, slowly
this slogan has become a ‘Political Identification.’ The central
theme of this ‘Identification’ is those who utter this slogan
are against the ruling party. There have been several clashes
between BJP and TMC workers over the chanting of ‘Jai Shri
Ram.’ In May 2019, seven people were arrested in WB for
shouting this slogan. The ‘Jai Shri Ram’ slogan has also raised
the cultural question of Bengal in a new way. The TMC party
has repeatedly accused that this slogan stands outside the
Bengali culture. Even, to counter the BJP’s ‘Jai Shri Ram,’ a
slogan like ‘Jai Bangla’ has also emerged. This resulted in a
‘political tussle of slogans’ between the two sides.
This ‘political tussle of slogans’ has also entered into the
Indian parliament. After the general election of 2019, the
oath-taking ceremony of newly-elected Lok Sabha members
turned into a battlefield of slogans. BJP members raised
slogans like ‘Jai Shri Ram’ and ‘Jai Maa Kali,’ some MP’s from
the TMC ended their oaths with ‘Jai Maa Durga.’ Even
religious slogans like ‘Bismillah, ar-Rahman, ar-Rahim,’ and
‘Allahu Akbar’ were also raised. Such incidents are almost
unprecedented in the history of the Indian parliament. This
raises the question of how reasonable it is to chant religious
slogans in the parliament, which is known as the temple of
democracy. So, there is much debate about what kind of
message the legislature of the world’s largest democracy is
conveying.
Some issues come up from the above discussion. ‘Jai Shri
Ram’ has achieved considerable success as a political slogan.
This is an excellent example of how a religious slogan can be
used for religious polarization in politics. The way this
slogan is being used as one of the weapons of violence
against people of other religions is a cause for considerable
concern. Moreover, this slogan has become a cause not only
of religious violence but also of political violence. Many
political clashes and political murder have taken place over
this issue. Among the popular slogans in Indian politics,
there is a hidden message of development. But this is not
applicable in the case of ‘Jai Shri Ram’ because it has no
purpose other than to provoke religious sentiments.
7. Festival Politics [An Extraordinary Strategy of
Hindutva]
Recently, ‘Festival Politics’ has emerged as a new strategy of
Hindutva politics. Discussion of this topic revolves around
the Rama Navami festival, dedicated to Lord Rama. Rama
Navami is a Hindu festival that celebrates the birthday of
Lord Rama. The festival is a part of the spring Navratri and
falls on the ninth day of the bright half (Shukla Paksha) in the
Hindu calendar month of Chaitra. It typically occurs in the
Gregorian months of March or April every year. Rama
Navami is an optional government holiday in India. It mostly
celebrated in the Indian states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar,
Jharkhand, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, and Tamil Nadu.
However, in recent times, the celebration of the Rama
Navami festival has started on a large scale in West Bengal.
There is an enormous political motive behind this. The Rama
Navami festival has served as one of the strategies behind
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the BJP’s strong debut in the field of WB politics through
religious polarization. However, the process of using
festivals as a strategy is not new in India. During the colonial
period, Bal Gangadhar Tilak started the Ganesha festival and
the Shivaji Jayanti festival in Maharashtra. But there was no
narrow political interest behind such initiatives. Tilak
introduced these festivals to revive and increase the
nationalist consciousness among the Indians against British
rule. However, in the case of Rama Navami centric ‘Festival
Politics,’ it has emerged to serve the ‘Hindutva’ agenda.
Historically, there are many incidents of Hindu-Muslim
conflicts in West Bengal at different times. But the powerful
influence of ‘Pure Hindutva Politics,’ based on Hindi-HinduHindustan, has never been seen in the politics of West
Bengal. Since the formation of the BJP-led NDA government
of India in 2014, the BJP has started formulating its strategy
for empowerment in WB. One of these strategies is the
celebration of Rama Navami. The BJP has achieved great
success in WB by adopting such tools of religious
polarization. In the parliamentary election of 2019, the BJP
won 18 Lok Sabha seats out of 42 from WB, which is one of
the witnesses to this success.
In 2017, the Rama Navami festival was celebrated on a large
scale in West Bengal for the first time. Through this, the BJP
initiated its own style of Hindutva politics in WB. A large
number of people took part in these processions of Rama
Navami. Many critics claimed that the BJP had increased the
size of these rallies by bringing many people from other
states. This claim is not wholly baseless. Despite these
criticisms, it must be admitted that a large number of
Bengali-Hindus of this state took part in these processions.
Through these rallies, the BJP tried to demonstrate its
strength on the one hand and sought to exert a deep
psychological influence on the other. Besides, in WB politics,
the BJP was gradually able to establish itself as an alternative
opponent. In 2018, the Rama Navami festival was again
celebrated extensively. At that time, there were Panchayat
elections ahead in WB. That year, TMC, the ruling party of
WB, also started celebrating its own Rama Navami. So the
issue became even more significant and debatable.
Fig.4. Rama Navami procession in West Bengal, 2018.
(Photo: News18)
In 2019, the Rama Navami festival celebrated in various
states of India, as well as in West Bengal. The saffron brigade
organized more than 700 Rama Navami rallies, over two
days, across the state and increased its presence in districts
where BJP has seen a support surge. The TMC, on the other
hand, took out big rallies with cabinet ministers leading
them. VHP, Hindu Jagaran Manch, and Bajrang Dal took out
approx 500 rallies in districts. The BJP and the RSS organized
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other rallies. This means that the celebration of Rama
Navami is not only a spontaneous event but has a specific
plan and intention behind it. Most of the participants in these
rallies joined in this religious glee with bows and arrows,
swords, and even spades in hand. There was a political and
religious controversy over this issue of armed Rama Navami
rallies. The political battle between the BJP and TMC took
religious color when the TMC started celebrating Rama
Navami to counter the BJP. During the Rama Navami, both
parties organized many processions, bike rallies, and smallscale chariot journey. According to the Bengal-BJP officials,
one of the goals of these rallies' was to unite the Hindus of
West Bengal. On the other hand, the TMC claims that the BJP
is trying to create religious division among the people of
West Bengal.
Two issues became very important regarding the
widespread celebrations of Rama Navami. The first is the
appearance of ‘Jai Shri Ram’ as a political slogan into WB
politics. And the second issue is the question of ‘Bengali
Culture.’ The significance of ‘Jai Shri Ram’ has been discussed
in detail above. So how the cultural question of Bengal
became important at that time can be addressed now.
According to the TMC, the ruling party of WB, the Rama
Navami festival, is not a part of Bengali culture. Even they
claimed that the practice of worshipping Lord Rama is not
very popular among Bengalis. It has been identified as an
attempt to impose Hindi-based culture in Bengal. As a result,
a ‘Linguistic debate’ has also started between Hindi and
Bengali. Basically, the BJP has been trying to turn ‘BengaliHindus’ to ‘Hindutva-Hindus’ by replacing Bengal’s cultural
fabric. For this reason, the BJP has chosen Rama Navami as
its strategy and has started a new kind of ‘Festival Politics.’
There have also been communal clashes in West Bengal over
the Rama Navami celebration. During the Rama Navami
festival of 2018, several communal clashes occurred in
different parts of West Bengal. Communal violence broke out
in areas of Asansol, Murshidabad, Paschim Medinipur, and
North 24 Parganas. Three people were killed, and many
others injured in these religious conflicts. In 2019, scattered
communal tensions were also witnessed in WB on the day of
Rama Navami.
For all these reasons, a new ‘Identity Politics’ has been born
in West Bengal. It started with the ‘linguistic debate’
between ‘Hindi’ and ‘Bengali’ in recent times. It needs to be
discussed here about a ‘flex campaign,’ which took place in
October 2019 in Kolkata, West Bengal. All these flexes
written in Bengali started appearing all over Kolkata and its
suburbs, with the tagline “bhalo bhasha” (good language)
and “nijer bhasha nijer thak” (let your language be yours).
“Parota is better than Paratha,” “Bengal is better than Bangal
(the way non-Bengalis pronounce Bengal)” or “Swachh
Bharater theke poricchono Bharat bhalo, Bolteo, Shunteo”
(Clean Bharat is better than Swachh Bharat, be it in saying,
or hearing), were some of the lines of those flexes. From this,
it can be understood that a new ‘language consciousness’ is
awakening in Bengal. Organization like ‘Bangla Pokkho’ has
helped further to increase such ‘Bengali consciousness.’ It is
a non-profit and apolitical organization dedicated to
promoting the interest of Bengalis. The battle between
‘Religious identity’ versus ‘Ethnic identity,’ and even struggle
between the ‘Hindutva-Bengali, ‘Hindu-Bengali’ and ‘MuslimBengali’ has also started.
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[4] Bangla Pokkho. (2020). Retrieved 16 May 2020, from
http://www.banglapokkho.com/.
[5] Bepari, S. (2020). ROLE OF SOCIAL MEDIA IN RECENT
COMMUNAL VIOLENCE IN INDIA. International Journal
of Advance Research and Innovative Ideas in
Education, 6(2), 1181-1187.
[6] Bharatiya Janata Party. En.wikipedia.org. (2020).
Retrieved 20 March 2020, from https://en.
wikipedia.org/wiki/Bharatiya_Janata_Party.
Fig.5. An image of the ‘Flex Campaign’ in Kolkata October 2019. The message here is, “Saying Parota, is
better than saying Paratha!” [13]
8. Conclusion
It is quite difficult to conclude the most recent character of
Hindutva politics. Earlier, Hindu nationalist politics had a
definite shape and purpose. But in recent times it has
changed a lot. At present, Hindutva politics has become more
aggressive and versatile than ever. New ways of propagating
certain ideas into a larger section of the people have
emerged. Jai Shri Ram’s significance as a political slogan and
Rama Navami centric ‘Festival Politics’ were some of the
shining examples in this regard. The new kind of communal
violence that has recently emerged in the wake of the Jai Shri
Ram slogan is terrific. These events may seem trivial to
some, but it is not true at all. In the 21st century, Indian
society has undergone many changes. Globalization is
happening all over the world. Inevitably, the Internet-Era has
emerged. In addition to the print and broadcast media, news
of such violent activities spread quickly on social media
(Bepari, 2020). A large part of the young generation uses
social media, so these violent incidents have a profound
impact on the youth’s mindset. As a result, religious divisions
are occurring very easily. Even many highly educated youths
are straying. Thus, if the youth society is to be divided under
the intoxication of communalism, it will bring the
destruction of the whole country. Also, Jai Shri Ram, as a
newly discovered political slogan, has started a new political
struggle, which is not desirable at all. Therefore, appropriate
measures are required to be taken to prevent such issues. On
the other hand, politicizing a religious festival like Rama
Navami can be a strategy of a particular political party. But if
it causes communal tension, then it will become a matter of
great concern. So overall, it can be said that the changing
character of Hindutva politics needs to be understood more
carefully.
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