New Delhi: The Ram Mandir (temple) issue in any form continues to draw a sharp reaction and makes headlines even more than two decades after the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992. And the seminar on Ram Janmabhoomi and Ram Mandir was testament to that fact, as the Delhi University campus — the seminar’s venue virtually turned into a battleground on Saturday morning.
Amid high-decibel sloganeering slamming the BJP, Vishwa Hindu Parishad and right-wing forces, a large gathering of students under the banner of National Students’ Union of India (NSUI) backed by the CPI (M-L) students’ union All India Students Association (AISA) and Delhi University’s union KYS staged a fierce protest near the auditorium, where the BJP MP Subramanian Swamy was delivering a lecture on the proposed Ram Mandir.
On one side were students of the respective students’ unions — NSUI, AISA and KYS — holding flags and placards bearing slogans, and on the other was a large police force along with two companies of the Central Para-Military Force guarding the venue. With armed security personnel in uniform in every nook and corner, the venue was turned into a virtual fortress.
The situation became tense as a group of students while raising slogans demanding an immediate ban of the seminar forcibly tried to enter the auditorium. In response, a cadre of the Right Wing Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) resisted the NSUI cadre, which resulted into a momentary scuffle. However, the men in uniform ensured peaceful demonstration, rather than making it a ‘war zone.’
Roji M John, NSUI president told Firstpost, “We can’t let educational institutions in this country get divided on communal lines. Similar to the FTII issue, the Narendra Modi government has been using universities for its own political agenda. DU is a world-class university and it (BJP) cannot wash its hands off not being a part of this RSS agenda. We won’t allow it to happen in DU and will protect it with all our force. We’ll mobilise students across the country to unmask the real face of the BJP.”
The seminar on Ram Mandir was organised by the Arundhati Vashishtha Anusandhan Peeth — a research organisation founded by the late VHP leader Ashok Singhal. Swamy being the president of the body, is the chief organiser of the seminar. The seminar — academic in nature — saw the participation of academicians, historians, archaeologists, experts etc from various universities and nearly 50 research papers were presented.
“It’s meant to discuss various aspects related to Ram Mandir and it’s purely academic in nature. The university has nothing to do with it. We’ve chosen this venue for our seminar as we have more guests than the capacity of the auditorium,” one of the organisers of the seminar said.
The students opposing the seminar have dubbed it as an “attempt to polarise youth on communal lines”.
“There are several issue like opening of new colleges, increasing the seat capacity, development, etc, but the government chose to have a seminar on the Ram Mandir. It’s an attempt to rake up the communal issue. We won’t let saffronisation happen in the campus,” Ranjit, an AISA member remarked.
Both the NSUI and ABVP claimed that either party didn’t resort to any violence.
“ABVP was in no way associated with any kind of ruckus in the campus. It was a bunch of students from the NSUI and the Left students’ union who protested. DU hosts several types of seminars and Ram Mandir is a national issue. So, what’s the harm in having a seminar on this issue? No one is constructing Ram Mandir in the DU campus and universities are meant for debates and discussions. It’s the first-of-its-kind academic seminar on the Ram Mandir issue,” Delhi state secretary of ABVP, Saket Bahuguna told Firstpost.
The DU management has distanced itself from the controversy by saying that they don’t have anything to do with the seminar. “The organisers hired the auditorium for the seminar and we’re not aware of the nature or topic of seminar,” a DU official remarked.
In response to the protest, Swamy said, “Once we get final order from the Supreme Court, the work for the construction of Ram Mandir will begin un the next three to four months. The construction of the temple is must for the revival of India’s culture. This was also the last wish of the late Ashok Singhal, and even former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi told me that the temple should be constructed.”
Meanwhile, the Opposition parties including the Congress have been considering the seminar on the Ram Mandir as an attempt to 'rekindle Hindu sentiments' ahead of the Uttar Pradesh Assembly election”.
“Despite having so many issues before the government, the BJP has been trying to play the Ram Mandir card keeping the forthcoming election in mind,” remarked Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar.