Anand Patwardhan's 'Ram Ke Naam' will make VHP, BJP very uncomfortable: Here's why

After ILS Law College in Pune cancelled the screening of Anand Patwardhan's 1991 documentary Ram ke Naam (In the Name of God), the filmmaker has put the film on YouTube.

Deepanjana Pal January 07, 2015 08:47:19 IST
Anand Patwardhan's 'Ram Ke Naam' will make VHP, BJP very uncomfortable: Here's why

Three cheers for the internet! After ILS Law College in Pune cancelled the screening of Anand Patwardhan's 1991 documentary Ram ke Naam (In the Name of God), the filmmaker has put the film on YouTube.

Although the Pune college has denied that it backed out of showing Patwardhan's film because of threats from right-wing Hindu groups, the institution hasn't explained its change of heart. Patwardhan claims the organisers were threatened.

It isn't difficult to imagine political groups like Vishwa Hindu Parishad would take issue with Ram ke Naam. The VHP has a long tradition of restricting freedom of speech and causing disruptions and the organisation's hate politics are laid bare by Patwardhan in this documentary. Ram ke Naam was mostly shot in 1990, before the demolition of Babri Masjid, and as a result, Patwardhan's interviewees speak candidly.

VHP and Bajrang Dal members brazenly speak of inflicting violence upon those who stand in their way. Common people explain how political groups have vitiated the atmosphere in their neighbourhoods. Some expose their ignorance of Indian history and Hinduism; other offer hope by not falling for toxic political rhetoric.

Patwardhan shows that the entire debate about Babri Masjid being built on the birthplace of the Hindu god Ram is fuelled by nothing but politics. That the mosque was built upon a razed temple was something the British circulated in order to divide Hindus and Muslims during colonial rule. It didn't work too well -- Hindus and Muslims both worshipped their respective gods in the same complex for decades. The first disruption to this peaceful status quo happened in 1949, when Hindu idols were found in the mosque. Subsequently, it became a disputed site, the mosque was shut down and since there were Hindu idols in the structure, the court appointed a priest to officiate over this makeshift temple.

Anand Patwardhans Ram Ke Naam will make VHP BJP very uncomfortable Heres why

A screengrab from Ram Ke Naam. YouTube.

Among the people that Patwardhan interviews in Ram ke Naam is a mahant who freely admits that he, with help from the district magistrate, put the idols in the mosque in 1949. Patwardhan also spoke to the court-appointed priest, who is forcefully critical of the VHP and the campaign to demolish the mosque.

"This is a political game," says the priest, who later says that no one from the VHP has ever come to offer prayers at the temple, but VHP workers have disrupted prayer schedules with their threats of violence. "Why demolish a building where god [the Hindu idols] already exists?" asks the priest, pointing out that to raze the mosque now would effectively be destroying a temple because according to Hinduism, any building that houses an idol becomes a temple.

If it is indeed true that those who consider themselves custodians of Hinduism are the ones standing against Ram ke Naam, then we need to dig a double grave because irony just died along with common sense. Anyone who is a devout Hindu should work actively to make sure this film is seen because it distinguishes those who believe in Hinduism from those who swear by Hindutva.

It's a distinction that bears repeating as Patwardhan shows how callously political parties either turn a blind eye to riots and other acts perverting our fundamental rights or actively encourage them.

The ones who will find Ram ke Naam thoroughly uncomfortable viewing are political parties like VHP and BJP, along with their supporters. The fact that LK Advani went on record to say his 1990 rath yatra would not be cause communal riots is placed alongside the numbers of people killed in violent incidents that followed Advani's trail. VHP would probably be embarrassed by Patwardhan revealing its old financial scandals. Patwardhan doesn't pull his punches and armed with research and testimonies, the filmmaker points fingers at godmen and politicians who have exploited religion for power and personal gain.

From footage of riot victims to political rallies to the voices of the common people who bear the brunt of these vicious strategies, it's all in Ram ke Naam. To see the way politicians have used the Ram Janmabhoomi issue to incite people to violence and stoke flames of communalism is a bitter pill to swallow if you're politically-inclined towards the right-wing. For everyone else, there is hope held out by those from villages surrounding Ayodhya, who talk about how Hindus and Muslims have lived together in harmony for as long as they can remember even as tensions escalate and kar sevaks arrive in thousands.

As the priest at the Ram Janmabhoomi tells Patwardhan, "There is a storm, but we mustn't lose our bearings. Like the tidal wave, it will recede." We live in hope that his words will come true.

Watch the video here:

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