The Supreme Court is expected to give its verdict in the Ayodhya dispute before 17 November. Ahead of the judgment, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP have issued directives to ministers and party leaders, and appealed to the people at large to maintain restraint and preserve communal harmony.
Given the communal history of the case, there is a fear of a repeat of the situation that prevailed at the time of the demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya.
While the government's directive appears well-meaning, it remains to be seen how the BJP ensures that fringe elements associated with its ideology show restraint. In the past, motormouths in the party have rarely exercised restraint on such sensitive issues. They have added fuel to the fire instead of helping to douse it.
Less than a month ago, Gajraj Rana, the BJP’s city president in Deoband, Uttar Pradesh, had advised people to buy iron swords on the festival of Dhanteras “as it will be useful in near future”. He made this statement while making a reference to the upcoming verdict.
Even at other times, some BJP leaders have made immature statements on sensitive issues. For example, the likes of Giriraj Singh, Sakshi Maharaj and Pragya Thakur, to name a few, have made several provocative remarks aimed at fanning communal tensions.
In April, Pragya Thakur, the BJP MP from Bhopal, was reported to have said that she was proud of having taken part in the demolition of the Babri Masjid. Her statement had led the Election Commission to issue a notice to her.
Over the past several years, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has consistently exhorted BJP leaders and workers not to make statements that generate unnecessary controversy. Even when he addressed newly-elected NDA MPs after the 2019 Lok Sabha election results, he had exhorted them to exercise caution in their speeches and actions.
Modi made similar remarks in his most recent 'Mann ki Baat' address on 27 October. He recalled that the government, political parties and civil society groups had prevented attempts to create social fissures ahead of the Allahabad High Court verdict in the Ayodhya dispute. He described this as an example of how a united voice can strengthen the country.
Similarly, Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath on several occasions has said that everyone should honour and accept the Supreme Court's verdict, whatever it might be.
A similar message has been given by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) – the ideological mentor of the BJP. The RSS recently held a co-ordination meet of its top brass in this regard. The meeting was chaired by RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat and was held in the presence of home minister Amit Shah. Its objective was convey a strong message to all the cadres to exercise caution and restraint after the verdict.
The RSS recently tweeted —
— RSS (@RSSorg) October 30, 2019
A senior RSS functionary told Firstpost, “The Sangh’s ideology neither encourages nor permits anyone associated with it to undertake any violent activity or create disturbances in the public domain that could be detrimental to the national interest. Clear directives have been issued to our cadre and affiliates across the country to maintain utmost restraint once the Supreme Court announces its verdict on the Ram Janmabhoomi issue. The objective is to avoid any sort of communal tension between the Hindus and Muslims.”
As a precautionary measure, the Centre has already deployed security forces on a large scale in and around Ayodhya.
It remains to be seen if the advisories by the prime minister and the top brass of the BJP and RSS succeed in reining in fringe right-wing elements. In any case, the upcoming days will constitute a stern test for the Modi-led government.
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Updated Date: Nov 09, 2019 07:54:43 IST