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Thirty-two Years to Rama: As the New Temple Rises in Ayodhya, Remember History Can Be Paved Over But Can Never Be Erased

Thirty-two Years to Rama: As the New Temple Rises in Ayodhya, Remember History Can Be Paved Over But Can Never Be Erased

  • Anand Patwardhan’s 1991 documentary, “In the Name of God,” about the way communal poison was injected into Babri Masjid-Ram Mandir issue is worth revisiting now.

A friend texted me from India, “It’s like Diwali here. People are lighting lamps and setting off fireworks”.

A temple was being inaugurated in a corner of India, and a whole nation was called upon to celebrate. Not just Hindus, but Christians, Muslims, and all minorities were invited to take part in what the prime minister called “a symbol of peace, patience, harmony, and maturity of Indian society”.

Diwali is months away, but a new festival it seemed was being added to the Hindu calendar by the powers that be.

While the temple is still not complete in its construction, January 22 was chosen as a date for its consecration. After all, an election is upon the nation, and what better way for a political party to announce the completion of its most vital popular project, which saw its rise to power and rule with majoritarian might.

An election promise sealed and delivered decades hence, is still a powerful draw, in a nation steadily becoming more and more fundamental in its religious make-up.

There was no expense spared in making this event a spectacle. Not just for the edifice, but for the person who delivered it.

Eight thousand dignitaries were plucked from elite India to be present to show their support and feel like the chosen few.

The rest were asked to show their appreciation from their balconies.

A BJP spokesman on BBC also pointed out that “Katrina Kaif (a Bollywood celebrity) a Muslim” was present, showing how inclusive the event actually was.

Movie stars, industrialists, and politicians, all those who live in the admiration and support of the masses were glad to be seen mingling in the temple complex. All arrived in their private jets and limousines in their colorful shiny devout best, as though it was awards night.

An international airport, wide roads, and an expanded railway station are underway to bring pilgrims from around the world to witness what many are framing, as the resurgence of Hinduism via a temple, in a Hindu-majority nation.

Now Ayodhya, once a sleepy town with deep mythological significance for Hindus, is slated to become a major tourist hub and a pilgrimage destination.

Billions of dollars of government funds have been earmarked to make it a Disneyland of sorts.

An international airport, wide roads, and an expanded railway station are underway to bring pilgrims from around the world to witness what many are framing, as the resurgence of Hinduism via a temple, in a Hindu-majority nation.

At a nearby open ground, a grand modern Mosque with the world’s largest Quran is also supposed to be built at some point in time.

In 1991, I was in college in India, enrolled in a master’s program studying journalism and documentary filmmaking. These were formative years that led me to my current profession which I deeply cherish.

A film that probably had the most impact on me as a student, was a documentary made by the eminent Anand Patwardhan, titled Ram Ke Naam. This film sealed my fate and propelled me on a career path that I am fortunate and proud to say I have managed to hold on to.

Ram Ke Naam lays bare the communal poison that was being injected into the country by right-wing Hindu groups on a mission to demolish the Babri Masjid and build a Ram Mandir in its place.

Via vérité style of filmmaking, Anand Patwardhan takes you into the skin of India, with visceral imagery and candid conversations with the common people who were being affected by the communal unrest and those who were being called upon to accomplish a task sanctioned by their overlords, for political gain.

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A few months after the film was released to national and international acclaim, the deed was done. The Babri Masjid was demolished by a vile raging zealous mob, with saffron and yellow bandanas and pickaxes, as the nation watched in horror.

Thirty-two years later, that mission was complete, with the consecration of the temple.

Along the way, a fringe party called Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power with massive support from the electorate. And one of the architects of the temple project has ruled India for the past ten years with dominance and adulation, like not seen in any democracy.

In 2018, I screened my film Salam — The First Muslim Nobel Laureate at the Mumbai International Film Festival. My film is also about religious intolerance that permeates India’s neighbor Pakistan, and how it slowly eats away at the social fabric and the soul of a nation. Anand Patwardhan was in the audience, and my day was made.

In August 2019, a screening of Ram Ke Naam at the university where I studied filmmaking, was interrupted and the organizers were detained by police. In that same year the screening of my film Salam, was abruptly cancelled as militants had attacked a military convoy and Pulwana, Kashmir. The organizers felt it was too risky to screen a film about a Pakistani scientist in Hyderabad, India.

Ram Ke Naam is now freely available on YouTube, but begins with bold white letters on a black frame warning “The following content may contain violent and graphic imagery. Viewer discretion advised.” The film has a U (Universal) Certificate from the Indian Censor Board.

I highly recommend it.

History can be paved over, but can never be erased.

Anand Kamalakar is a Brooklyn-based documentary filmmaker. His latest film “Colonel Kalsi: Beyond the Call” ( premiered at the 2023 New York Indian Film Festival. His last film “Salam – The First * Nobel Laureate” has screened in over 30 cities around the world and has won several international awards. It was streamed on Netflix.

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  • If your nation requires not all citizens but only some to always be secular while others are allowed to be communal, if your nation only policies ONE religion’s religious institutions (the temple act in Tamil Nadu, the sacred places act), youyou breed communalism.
    Don’t gaslight Hindus. Instead try to understand where this anger comes from. Let’s ask ourselves why Hindus worldwide have a fairly peaceful outlook. Let’s ask what is the theological issue Hindus have with others – they don’t because they believe that ALL roads of worship lead to the same god. Let’s ask ourselves what religions have fled Islamic oppression and found home in Hindu india – the zorostrians of Iran (parsis), the Tibetan Buddhists, srilankan Hindus and Christians, Hindus Sikhs Christians and Jains of Pakistan and bangladesh – then why is it the second largest majority can’t get along with the majority?
    I definitely do NOT support the people who go on violent rampages like what happened in gujrat 2002, it was vile and i think those preparations deserved, without exception, the DEA-th penalty. However, you must hold everyone to account in the same way.
    Growing up i had a ton of Muslim friends who i remember fondly even today. While they were always welcoming and always invited me to eid, they never came for Diwali bc they consisted it sinful. Why is one type of religious intolerance allowed and the order not? I suspect it is bc the one who is intolerant is more powerful and more intolerant so it is much easier to continue to police the one who is more tolerant. Going forward my expectations will be that everyone will be equally tolerant and that no individual group is expected to be more tolerant than the other.
    If as a Hindu i demand that all castes get equal respect, I can sure expect that from all religions.

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