#Ram Mandir


As you read this in your flagged shelters, a heart in Ayodhya prays for a land they lost in ‘Ram ke Naam.’

In November 2022, TV screens flood with thankful statements for the residents of Ayodhya’s cooperation with the city’s ‘vikaas’. The eight-lane development is now being launched. But it came with a sacrifice, a sacrifice of their own ‘bhoomi’ to welcome ‘Ram’ in the ‘Janmabhoomi’. This piece highlights how the reconstructed Ram Mandir affected hundreds of homes and employment while shedding light on the government’s commitment and action towards the displaced. 

The establishment of the Ram Mandir on the historically disputed site brought in a significant surge in investments from both the central and state governments. The proposed redevelopment towards Janmabhoomi is reportedly said to be completed over ten years with an estimated budget of almost 85,000 crores. As per the Economic Times report, the tourist footfall in the district had already increased from 0.6 crore (2021–22) to 2.3 crore (2022–2023), generating revenue for local businesses and ‘creating’ employment opportunities.

While the city shines with its claims of employment, the roads have a completely different story to tell. According to BBC reports, the expansion of three key roads—Rampath (spanning thirteen kilometres), Bhaktipath (eight hundred metres), and Janmabhoomi Path (eight hundred metres)—resulted in the demolition of numerous homes and shops, impacting nearly 1,400 families. In November 2022, TV screens were flooded, acknowledging the demolition but also the promises of rehabilitation and compensation—koi unka shoshan nahi kar paayega (nobody would be able to exploit the displaced).  While the government commits to shielding over the exploitation, the streets of Ayodhya cry for help, almost losing the hopes they were once given. Some claim that the demolitions were undertaken without a clear compensation policy, while others claim not even receiving one. 

The Wire mentions Neelam Maurya, a resident of Ayodhya, as she reflects on her partially demolished home.

“In January of this year, the partial demolition of my house meant that I lost my beauty parlour, and my husband lost the general store he used to run. My husband is now operating the store in a small space in front of the house. I received Rs 1,60,000 as compensation for the building, but it would cost me around Rs 10 lakh to make it liveable after the demolition.” Her beauty parlour is now closed. 

The BBC reports Kamala Devi, who runs her small business in a rented shop on Rampath, as she says, “Hum kahaan ko jaaye? Ek laakh rupaye mei kya hota hai? Humein paisa nahi, dukaan chahiye”. Where shall we go? What happens with a compensation of Rs. 1 lakh? We want a shop, not money.) expressing her anguish over the compensation received by the government. Bhagvat Prasad Pahadi, another shop owner at Rampath, mentions receiving a compensation of three lakhs for his three shops, estimated to be thirty-five lakhs. 

A report released by the Hindustan Times in 2022 also mentioned how the shop owners are in favour of the demolition drive while tenants are opposing it. Nand Lal Gupta, the trader leader, claimed that shop owners are not permitting their tenants to reconstruct demolished shops. Gupta also accused the local administration of being almost ignorant about this. The Ayodhya District Magistrate (ADM) highlighted the complexity of establishing settlements for shopkeepers, citing ongoing disputes with some of the shop owners. Nevertheless, the government claims its commitment to assisting the affected shopkeepers through its various schemes, as well as providing help through loans. Harilal Gupta,a shopkeeper working in a rented shop, mentions (BBC) that the agreement letter was signed by him and now stands on who would actually get the compensation of one lakh. The ADM then said that some shopkeepers, including Harilal, had the shops on government-owned land and had therefore been demolished. It claims that almost 212 shopkeepers have been relocated to new shops and that they have been given compensation based on the base price and not on the market value. In a statement to the BBC, Nitish Kumar, District Magistrate at Ayodhya, highlights how the government is providing the necessary documents and fair compensation for the demolition of shops. Contrary to this, Ramji, another shop owner, alleges that he never received an agreement letter, and his shop was demolished without his consent. In contrast, Misri Lal asserts that he personally dismantled his shop as soon as he received compensation from the government.

Street expansion not only demolished shops but also fueled land displacement through Ayodhya’s various projects. As reported by The Quint, 41-year-old Maniram Yadav’s house in Ayodhya’s Ramkot was demolished in 2021 by the authorities to construct a police station. Yadav, like many others, approached the authorities and was informed about living on encroached land. Residents question the payment of house tax and electricity bills if they’ve been living on an encroachment. They argue that much of the Ayodhya city is built on government land (nazul land or patta), also claiming that the authorities took away the land they had actually bought from the government. It’s been 1.5 years since the demolition, and Yadav and many others still knock on the doors of authorities, hoping for that one ray of light and a fulfilled promise. 

Ayodhya still undergoes a series of demolitions for its widening and developmental projects, but some chose to surrender in the name of their faith, while others lost hope in the government’s assistance.

Read Also: The Green Curtains of G20: Solution to All of Bharat’s Woes

Featured Image Source- BBC

Dhairya Chhabra

[email protected]

The recent inauguration, ‘Pran Pratishtha’ ceremony of Ayodhya’s Ram Mandir on January 22, 2024, saw ‘tradition’ integrate with ‘technology’ as the latest advancements shielded security in the temple.

13,000 forces deployed, anti-terrorism squads, dog squads, and bulletproof vehicles; add to that the integration of artificial intelligence and machine learning. It sounds straight out of a science fiction novel, right? But this is the dystopian reality we’re living in.

The grand inauguration of Ram Mandir saw Ayodhya buzz with religious fervour and anticipation, but the inauguration also shone a spotlight on the ‘modern security measures’ implemented in the process, notably the use of biometric surveillance technology.

Such an integrated, cutting-edge technology was utilised to monitor and track individuals in real-time to bolster security efforts that aided the security operations and guarded the temple.

This surveillance technology enables easy identification of individuals through advanced algorithms that analyse unique physical characteristics such as facial features, fingerprints, or iris patterns, offering authorities an additional layer of security against potential threats.

While many may argue that such measures are necessary to ensure public safety, one can’t help but ponder the potential for abuse and the erosion of individual privacy rights here. Staqu Technologies and their JARVIS platform may claim to offer cutting-edge security solutions, but does it come at a cost to our civil liberties?

What begins as a purported safeguard against terrorism could quickly devolve into a tool of control and consequent oppression. The all-seeing eye of AI knows no bounds, and its unchecked power poses a grave threat to our individual freedom.

The Modi regime has overseen significant advancements, positioning India as a global leader in the digital sphere. However, this is not the first time that the government has taken initiatives in digital governance and technological innovation. While ‘Aapka Aadhar’ has been the front-man of the ruling party’s ‘list of achievements’, reports of Aadhaar data being leaked or misused have raised alarm bells among privacy advocates in the past too, highlighting the need for robust safeguards to protect citizens’ sensitive information.

Very similar to this, the National Digital Health Mission also raised serious concerns about privacy and data security.

Moreover, the approach to data protection has also come under scrutiny for its perceived lack of transparency and accountability. The way data is captured and stored raises serious questions about the government’s commitment to upholding privacy rights.

Against this backdrop, the deployment of biometric surveillance at the Ram Mandir inauguration takes on added significance.

Influential figures ranging from the Ambani family to Alia Bhatt had come to witness history unfold, but a web of surveillance technologies, apparently labelled as necessary measures to ensure safety and security, surrounded the star-studded affair.

In an era marked by evolving security threats, the adoption of such efficient and advanced surveillance tools helped monitor the movements of attendees, identify suspicious individuals, and coordinate response efforts effectively. The ever vigilant and tireless ‘unseen eyes’ of AI scanning the crowd pose inherent risks to individual privacy rights, which can potentially escalate and lead to mass surveillance.

While the government may justify these measures as a necessary evil in the face of modern security challenges, this “slippery slope of mass surveillance” is imperative to be discussed thoughtfully since the measures to ‘ensuring safety’ themselves can also gradually turn into a ‘threat to safety’ because abuse of unlimited power is indeed very likely in the absence of some necessary checks.

Ram Mandir’s majestic inauguration highlights two major observations about “New India”: while on the one hand, it shows an intersection of religion, politics, and governance, on the other hand, it also underscores the complex interplay between security, privacy, and technological innovation in contemporary India.

While it may also symbolise a new dawn for a certain segment of the population in India, it also serves as a stark reminder of the delicate balance between security and privacy. As we march forward into an uncertain future, let us not sacrifice our freedoms at the altar of technological progress. Our rights are not negotiable, and our voices must be heard.

In the absence of clear guidelines and oversight mechanisms, there is a real risk that biometric data collected for security purposes could be misused, whether by government agencies or private entities. For instance, the controversial Personal Data Protection Bill, which falls short of international privacy standards, can be exploited for other purposes. The lack of transparency surrounding data storage and access only serves to exacerbate these concerns, leaving citizens vulnerable to potential misuse of power over personal information.

As we grapple with the implications of biometric surveillance in the context of the Ram Mandir inauguration, it is imperative that we demand greater transparency, accountability, and safeguards to protect our privacy rights. The government must demonstrate a genuine commitment to upholding the principles of privacy and data protection, lest we sacrifice our fundamental rights on the altar of security.

Read Also: When Saffron Sparks Debates: Exploring the Aftermath of Ram Mandir Inauguration in Educational Spaces 

Featured Image Credits: securityworldmarket.com 

Kavya Vashisht 

[email protected]

Despite the Prime Minister’s assurance of unity through Ram, violence plagues several corners of the country while citizens remain delusioned by visuals of the Ayodhya temple and hopes and dreams of a Hindu Rashtra.

While diyas lit every corner of Bharat and saffron flags adorned its streets, flares of violence also followed suit to the Ram Mandir inauguration on January 22, 2024. While the mainstream media and internet algorithms keep you blinded by the glitter within the Ayodhya temple, communal sentiments have been on the rise in ‘Viksit Bharat’.

Gujarat, the Home-Ground of Saffron:

16 people were charged with “attempt to murder” in Bhoj village in Vadodara on the day of the inauguration. Allegedly, these persons were involved in pelting stones at the Shobha Yatra procession when it was passing by a masjid. According to the police, as the procession was going through the masjid lane, there was a heated encounter between the Hindu and Muslim communities, leading to the stone-pelting. The FIR lodged states that eight people in the procession were injured, including five women. 10 more people who were allegedly involved are yet to be identified.

This comes a day after a similar incident in Belim Vas in the Mehsana district. A procession was held on the eve of the consecration ceremony. According to the locals, it deviated from its planned route and reached a mosque. Videos have surfaced online showing how the group paraded, playing loud music and flashing swords and orange flags in the sensitive area. Fights broke out when the procession aggravated the Muslims, who were pleading with them to be quieter around the mosque. Stones were pelted, and the situation escalated fast, calling for police intervention. The Mehsana Police used teargas to bring back order and arrested 13 men, all Muslims. According to locals, it was a planned, provocative procession.

‘Ek hi Rashtra, Ek Hi Ram’ in Madhya Pradesh:

In Madhya Pradesh, the bhakts were celebrating the “victory” of their religion more than the inauguration of Ram Mandir. With passions high, young men were seen climbing small churches and planting saffron flags on the roofs, chanting “Jai Siya Ram ” with the utmost energy as bystanders cheered them on. This happened in four villages: Dabtalai, Matasula, Uberao, and Dhamaninathu in the Jhabua District. A pastor from the Matasula village told The Wire that at around 4 p.m. on Sunday (January 21), around 80 to 90 right-wing activists gathered near his house and started shouting provocative slogans.

“They were raising slogans, such as ‘Ek hi Rashtra, ek hi Ram,” he said.

The Christian community felt threatened by such an imposition of Hindu beliefs and didn’t even lodge an FIR out of fear, according to The Quint.

Mira Road and FTII Remind of Babri Masjid Scars in Maharashtra:

The scars of the Bombay riots in 1992 after the demolition of the Babri masjid were agitated on the 21st of January. 32 years after the horrific communal riots, the harmony that was so difficult to form was disturbed once again. Naya Nagar, an area in Mira Road, Mumbai, is primarily inhabited by Muslims who migrated from the main city after the bloody riots three decades ago. On the eve of the Pran Pratishtha, a series of Hindu processions celebrated their way through the streets of this area. It continued till late in the night, rousing tensions and consequently leading to violent exchanges.

At around 10:30 pm, a rally of bikes and cars passed through the area, shouting chants like “Jai Shree Ram” all the way. According to witnesses, the rally continued until a dead end, where a junior college stood. There was also a mosque nearby.

“Local residents thought the crowd was intentionally shouting slogans outside the mosque,” Sayed said to Scroll. Provoked, the residents expressed their anger, and fights soon followed. Stones were hurled, and the cars in the procession were attacked. A car carrying five people, including two women and a minor, was attacked as well, leaving them injured. While the victims deny any kind of provocation, a Hindu resident told Scroll, “They were loudly chanting slogans of ‘Jai Shri Ram’ late at night provocatively.”

A video of a Muslim man condemning the rallies and asking the Hindu groups to leave their community at peace angered netizens and even led to the arrest of the man for inciting violence. Ironically, when BJP leader Nitesh Rane posted a much more threatening post, warning the Naya Nagar residents that they would be beaten, no FIR was registered and no action was taken.

On the 23rd, in retaliation to the attacks on the rallies two days earlier, a radical decision was taken to demolish illegally established shops and properties owned by Muslims in that area. Municipal officials turned up with bulldozers and, without giving time to vacate belongings from the stores, destroyed entire establishments. Structures that had stood for years were selectively chosen based on whether the owners were Muslim or not and ruined in moments. While the municipality acted on instructions, Hindu mobs, blinded by rage, vandalised the stores of Muslims who had nothing to do with the violence that had ensued two days prior.

A video by the news outlet Maktoob Media has emerged on the internet that shows the mobs destroying the shop, not heeding the pleas of the old owner.   

Communal conflicts weren’t limited to localities but extended to educational institutes as well. At the Film and Television Institute of India, Pune, a Hindu mob stormed the gates to burn a banner put up by the institute’s student association. The banner read, “Remember Babri, death to constitution, FTII student’s association.” The mob was involved in thrashing a few students as well, including the association’s president, Mankap Nokwoham. According to a press release by the association, their president was “violently attacked and brutally beaten.” An FIR was lodged against the 12–15 people who had broken into the campus, while six FTII students who were detained for displaying the banner were released on bail of Rs 30,00 each a few days ago.

Muslim Graveyard set afire in Bihar:

Reports arrive from Khirma village in the Darbhanga district of Bihar allegedly claiming that a procession celebrating the Ram Mandir ‘Pran Pratistha’ Ceremony threw a cracker inside a Muslim graveyard, causing it to go up in flames.

The Station House Officer at Keoti Police Station, Rani Kumari, reported to The Quint that:

“A Shobha Yatra was passing by a graveyard. Someone who was part of the Shobha Yatra lit a firecracker and threw it inside the graveyard, causing fire inside. The fire was subsequently contained, and an FIR has been registered. 12 people have been named in the FIR, and 50–100 are unknown individuals. No arrests have been made so far.”

Several videos have surfaced on X pertaining to the burning graveyard, and it is being claimed by the villagers that their collective efforts along with the fire brigade helped subside the fire. A video posted by Fatima Khan, a journalist at The Quint, shows citizens reporting to the police of the Shobha Yatra threatening to alight the district Masjid on fire as well. The video of the same can be found at this link.

14 Injured as Communal Clash Erupts in Bengal:

On January 24, merely two days after the Ram Temple Inauguration Ceremony, a gathering of two communities—Muslims and Hindus—clashes against each other in Howrah district of West Bengal as a religious procession turns violent.

The Quint reports that such violence erupted when Muslims took out an Urs procession on Wednesday night on the occasion of the birth anniversary of Hazrat Ali, the son-in-law of Prophet Mohammad, at Belilious road in Central Howrah. Muslims claim that provocative actions were taken up by the Hindus, who started the violence by chanting ‘Jai Shree Ram’, while Hindus blame the Muslims for stone-pelting and tearing their religious posters associated with Ram Mandir celebrations.

Vikram Singh, one of the victims of injuries during the clash, reported to The Quint that:

“We were inside our homes as it was chilly due to rains in the evening, but suddenly we were jolted by the noise of an unruly mob who began chanting slogans and tearing our religious posters and banners. We rushed outside and warned them against it. They went back after facing strong opposition from us, but soon returned within minutes and began to pelt stones on us. It was a sudden attack that left scores of us injured.”

Following such an incident on the 24th of January, the police have clamped Section 144 of the CrPC around the area, prohibiting a gathering of more than 4-5 persons. The Belilious road area in Howrah where the incident occurred has a population of around 3 lakhs, with both communities having almost equal numbers.

However, the Muslim community blames the Hindus for the assault. Zafar Ali, who claimed to be an eyewitness, told The Quint that a mob of around 1000–1500 people were participating in the religious procession, which started from a local market around 8.30 PM and was supposed to cover a distance of 800 metres before returning. He reports to The Quint that:

“The police had barricaded our destination from where we were supposed to return. The procession was peaceful till we reached the end point, but we heard slogans of Jai Shri Ram from the other side that were raised to provoke us. Some of our youths jumped the barricade and went to the other side, but they were attacked with swords and other sharp weapons. Soon, stone-pelting also began from the other side, and we were forced to run for our lives.”

It is being alleged that around 14 people were injured in this incident, including Sandip Pakhira, Officer-in-Charge of the Howrah Police Station, under whose jurisdiction the incident occurred. However, no arrests have been made so far. Howrah Commissioner of Police Praveen Kumar Tripathi said that steps have been taken to ensure peace, and the perpetrators are being located using CCTV footage.

Union Minister Smriti Irani, who was on a visit to Kolkata on January 25, 2024, grabbed this opportunity to claim that:

“The police were nowhere to be seen when the Ram devotees were pelted with stones, but they were out in big numbers to stop the live screening of PM Modi’s interaction with young voters in Kolkata. This shows that they have no respect for Ram devotees.”

Ironically, while Lord Ram is portrayed as a symbol of unification within Bharat, communal clashes make Ram devotees only localised to Hindus, linking citizenship within Bharat to faith!

History Repeats Itself in Karnataka:

Karnataka was the worst-affected south-Indian state after L.K. Advani’s Rath Yatra back in the 1990s. According to The News Minute, a South Indian news outlet, Karnataka was the third state after Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat to have suffered the brunt of blood and violence post-Rath Yatra. There was major rioting in four cities—Kolar, Davanagere, Ramanagara, and Channapatna—and the police responded with a shoot-to-kill spree. The sectarian clashes and police firings left 88 people dead by the time the Yatra exited the state. Since then, the communal situation in Karnataka has been fragile.

The flames of the 1990 Rath Yatra had only subsided when news of the Babri Masjid demolition reached every corner of the country on December 6, 1992. Karnataka again fell prey to prejudice and death. Bengaluru, Mysuru, and Gulbarga—cities that erupted in violence again; the air was thick with smoke, teargas, and fear. The post-demolition riots claimed 78 lives; 33 of them were due to police shootings.

Whooshing past to 2024, Section 144 has been imposed in several parts of Karnataka following skirmishes involving several stone-pelting incidents post-the Ram Mandir celebrations on January 22.

At Kalaburgi district, a procession of Lord Ram hosted by the Ram Utsav Samiti on account of the ‘Pran Pratistha’ Ceremony witnessed certain youths entering a restaurant owned by Zahoor Khan, chanting ‘Jai Shree Ram’ and threatening to close down the shop, according to the Hindustan Times. Consequently, several Muslim youths arrived at the scene, and turmoil erupted before the police arrived and took the situation under control by enforcing Section 144 across the area.

In Belagavi, three areas, deemed communally hypersensitive, experienced incidents of stone-pelting and police intervention. The Hindustan Times reports that unsettling events unfolded around 10.30 PM on Monday on Fort Road, Darbar Galli, and near the Head Post Office Circle in the Market Police sub-division. Police officials report that stone-pelting occurred from both Hindu and Muslim sides, and reserve forces were deployed to bring the situation under control, with the public being told to disperse. The areas concerned were densely populated by Muslims, and anonymous sources reported to the Hindustan Times that youths ‘celebrating forcibly’ flouted police barricades, chanted ‘Jai Shree Ram’ and burst firecrackers. Police officials mention that such provocations led to stone-pelting from both sides, and a lathi charge was used to disperse the groups.

On the same night, an Ambedkar statue was defaced with a garland of footwear at Kotnoor village, according to The Quint. This incident led to several protests from Dalit organisations, and the police tried to pacify the situation by offering a garland of flowers to the statue.

Nevertheless, Section 144 was hailed to the rescue across Karnataka!

Telangana Shocks the Nation!

Not just Karnataka, Telangana has also entered the list of states in South India that have fallen prey to the communal plague.

On the day of Ram-Mandir consecration, a fruit shop owned by a Muslim man was set ablaze against allegations of a shoe being thrown into the Ram-Mandir procession in the Sangareddy district of Telangana. The News Minute reports that ‘provocative slogans’ were raised while the shop was set on fire. According to the shop owner, all the produce within the shop has been damaged, and the loss amounts to nearly twenty thousand. Police officials report that, upon investigation, it was found that the shoe-throwing incident was not linked to the Muslim whose shop was burned down. An FIR was previously registered, and a police case has been registered against the violence-perpetrating mob under Sections 147 (punishment for rioting), 148 (rioting armed with a deadly weapon), and 435 (using fire or explosives with intent to cause damage), read with Section 149 (every member of an unlawful assembly guilty of an offence committed in prosecution of a common object) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

In an unrelated incident reported by Maktoob Media, a Muslim teenager was paraded naked by a Hindutva group at Morgi village in the same district. The 19-year-old Muslim boy was assaulted, paraded naked, and sent to jail by the Hindu mob along with four other Muslim men against allegations of insulting the saffron Hindu religious flag in an online video.

The teenager was accused by the Hindutva mob of disrespecting the saffron flag and posting it on social media, and he was arrested along with four other men who helped him make that video.

“Tumhari aukaat humare pairon ki dhool (your status is the dust on our feet). We are Muslim; don’t forget it,” a voice in the background can be heard saying in the video, which the teenager allegedly posted on social media. The police had booked five men, including Abbas, under IPC Sections 153A (promoting enmity between groups), 253A (offending religious beliefs), and 505 (2) (promoting hatred or ill-will).

Villagers of Morgi and adjacent villages reached Morgi in large numbers, caught the 19-year-old boy, thrashed him, and attacked him by pushing him to the ground in full public view. The teenager was also stripped and paraded naked. The Hindutva mob also threw fire on his private part, but he managed to douse it before it hurt him. The brutal attack was also shot by one of the Hindu men and shared on social media.

A case has been registered against the Hindutva mob, but no arrests have been made yet. The case was registered under IPC Sections 341 (wrongful restraint), 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 505 (2) (statements conducing to public mischief), and 506 (criminal intimidation).

Uttar Pradesh: The Heart of Ram Rajya

Uttar Pradesh housing the Ram Temple in Ayodhya is the growing ground of Hindutva post-Gujarat, with growing chants across the nation of ‘Kaashi Mathura Abhi Baaki Hai’.

Incidents have been reported from Lucknow where ‘hateful communal songs’ were played by a procession celebrating the Ram Mandir ceremony near Narhi, Hazratganj. An FIR has been registered against the organiser of a ‘bhandara’ (public feast) who was playing such songs in the area. Two people have been arrested in connection with the song. The FIR has been registered under IPC 294 (singing, reciting, or uttering any obscene song in public).

“Ambedkar Nagar, Akbarpur of Uttar Pradesh, is a Muslim-majority area located on the border of Ayodhya, and police officials have reported several FIRs against hateful speeches and songs perpetrated by both Hindu and Muslim communities on social media. Besides, regular meetings with religious and administrative heads have been organised since the Ram Temple consecration to maintain peace and security in the  area, an anonymous official residing within Akbarpur, Uttar Pradesh, said.

Communal tensions have been on the rise and are reaching the edge with the increase in the number of communal media elements around the nation. While hate speeches and prejudices continue in the name of religion, peace in the long term is no less than a delusion.

As Lord Ram slowly becomes the face of ‘Viksit Bharat’, a question remains unanswered: Are hate songs, unruly mobs, and Shut-it-Down with Section 144 the new way of Naya Bharat? The upcoming Lok Sabha elections will determine the degree and intensity of the same.

Read Also: When Saffron Sparks Debates: Exploring the Aftermath of Ram Mandir Inauguration
In Educational Spaces

Featured Image Credits: The Quint

DU Beat

The ‘Prana Pratishtha’ celebration of Lord Ram in Ayodhya on January 22 has evoked varied responses across India. Its impact is particularly noticeable in educational institutions, where some colleges experienced joyous events while others faced instances of violence and police intervention. Amidst resistance and celebration, the article aims to explore the question of religion within educational spaces by examining diverse perspectives.

On January 22, Ayodhya celebrated the grand opening of the Ram Mandir, which was celebrated like a national festival. A celebratory vibe permeated both outdoor and digital areas as the streets were decked out in saffron and echoed with “Jai Shri Ram” chants. Temples and streets flourished in the festive mood, signifying a unique happy occasion for believers. To underscore the importance of the occasion, several state governments went a step further and declared holidays for businesses and educational institutions.

As New Delhi was rife with saffron flags and bhakti music on January 22nd, the merriment was shared by educational institutions alike in the centre. The grandeur of the ‘Prana Pratishtha’ festival was evident by the active participation of educational institutions, with some expressing support and others voicing opposition. This dual participation highlighted the complexities of sentiments that many, particularly younger generations, had about the occasion.

The celebrations demonstrated a dichotomy in how individuals perceived the event—whether it was seen as solely religious and legitimate or as part of a greater political agenda. This interplay of ideologies was displayed with enthusiasm by diverse student groups across various universities.

Prestigious colleges like IITs and IISC, Bengaluru were out in force for celebrations. A student group at IIT Kharagpur took out a procession in support of the inauguration of the temple, while IIT Delhi organised the Akhand Ramayana path, followed by a bhandara and deepotsava

We’d been given a half-day, but then eventually the holiday extended up to being a full day. There were rallies from the main gate to another end of the campus, with many saffron flags.

-A Student from IIT-Delhi

In Ashoka University too, celebrations were observed through bhajan sandhya and pooja organised by students.

On Delhi University’s North Campus, festivities were observed at the Arts Faculty while candles were lit near the streets of Hanuman Mandir. The University of Delhi itself was shut for half a day until 2 p.m., according to the notification released by the authorities. Many such campuses across the country organised hawans, rallies, and even allowed the live telecast of ceremonies being held at Ayodhya.

In Shivaji College, University of Delhi, a student who was visiting the campus during the weekend for a debate tournament said,

Shivaji College had conducted an event with the campus being decorated with rangolis and diyas, as it set up a stage for live music performances and had visitors showing up.

This, however, is only one side of the story; many students expressed their disapproval and criticism, and not all student factions were in agreement with this kind of festive mood.

For instance, Fraternity Movement Jamia Millia Islamia organised a university-wide strike in remembrance of the Babri Masjid. “Boycott for Babri, Resistance is Remembrance,” said a post on X (previously Twitter)  by the Fraternity Movement, along with a video of students protesting with posters of the Babri masjid. As the videos of the protest went viral, police forces were deployed outside the premises as precautionary measures.

NIT Calicut’s students were forced to witness the cancellation of Thathva, their techno-management festival, which led to a stream of angry comments online. The festival was first postponed and then cancelled due to Central Security Agencies ordering the college after a student protested the Ram Mandir inaugural celebrations and was beaten up by the police, leaving no entity from the college with the power to intervene. Indignant NIT Calicut’s students’ comments read online, “Imagine all the work done by students to hear its cancellation due to a communal riot in the north.”

Tensions were also observed in Pune’s FTII (Film and Television Institute of India), where banners condemning the demolition of Babri masjid in 1992 were displayed with the statement ‘Remember Babri, Death of Constitution’. They took it a step further with the screening of the 1992 Anand Patwardhan documentary, “Ram Ke Naam.” The documentary delves into the communal violence that ensued after the Vishva Hindu Parishad campaigned to build a temple at the Babri Masjid site in Ayodhya. Additionally, they even invited Patwardhan on January 22nd for it.

However, according to a press statement released by the Students’ Association of the institute, chanting of the “Jai Shree Ram” slogan took place loudly outside the main gates, which the security was initially unresponsive to. Then, an agitated mob of 20–25 people entered the campus, and security was unable to contain them. Many students of FTII were brutally beaten up, and the banners were also damaged. 

While the side of Samast Hindu Bandhav Samajik Sanstha, who was involved in the clash, claims that the move of FTII students was offensive to the sentiments of Hindus, provocative statements against Lord Ram merely created more rift amongst two religious groups. However, the students at FTII clearly see this violence as an attack on their democratic rights. They also claim that no action was taken towards the offenders, and they were allowed to roam free.

A post on Instagram describes the events that led to the violence at the FTII Campus, which involved the vandalism of college property and harm to students. The press release statement reads,

We appeal to the police and all relevant authorities to take prompt action against those who perpetrated violence against the students and who entered with the intent to vandalise property on the campus of FTII, Pune.

The student fraternity of ILS stands in solidarity with the Students’ Association of FTII and has even released a joint statement with signed signatures. Additionally, multiple students of FTII have released their own statement with signatures, demanding a response from Bollywood actor and Chairman of the Institute, R. Madhavan.

Similarly, in another college, the Indian Institution of Science and Research (ISSER), Pune, witnessed a distinctive response from certain students. Allegedly, on January 22nd, some students celebrated the temple’s inauguration in the campus common room. The movie club coordinator then planned the screening of Ram Ke Naam, sending details to students with a description of the movie copied from its IMDB review page. Unfortunately, this led to an unexpected turn of events, with policemen arriving at the campus. They questioned the movie club coordinator and, without clear justification, took them into custody. The move has left students at ISSER feeling intimidated by law enforcement, especially since they perceive a lack of support from the college administration.

Similar cases of violence and protest were observed in places like Jadavpur University and Hyderabad University.

In Hyderabad University, NSUI, which is the student wing of the Indian National Congress, organised a protest against the inauguration by intending to screen Anand Patwardhan’s documentary ‘Ram ke Naam’. The screening was disrupted by ABVP students, leading to its cancellation. The screening was later conducted peacefully at the North Ladies Hostel in the evening. Students in opposition state that campus spaces belong to everyone; hence, it’s their democratic right to express their concerns, and the screening of ‘Ram ke naam’ was a symbol of their resistance and not a step to offend people.

We ensured that organisations conducting their events went peacefully despite threats and attempts to disrupt by ABVP. Campus spaces belong to everyone; all ideas exist here. However, the administration and ABVP don’t want dissenting voices to be heard. The student community strongly opposed the saffronization of campus spaces; they attended in large numbers for SFI’s ‘Ram Ke Naam’,

-Md. Atheeq Ahmed, HCU Union President (source: Maktoob Media).

The unfolding of two contrasting scenarios in various universities prompts reflection on the democratic principles by which the country aspires to abide. The celebration of religious victories and moments in educational institutions raises a fundamental question about the integration of religion within these spaces.

We observed different celebrations, including bhandaras and rallies, where students enthusiastically chanted ‘Jai Shree Ram’ and danced.

Since religion is a very personal subject for me, I  personally decided not to take part because I feel it is improper to hold large-scale religious festivities in colleges where you have such a diverse population. Students from minority groups experienced exclusion as well, and those who chose not to participate in the festivities were called anti-Hindus.

-A mass communication student from Madhya Pradesh described the events at her college. 

She went on to say, “The decision to celebrate such moments should be left to individuals, and nobody should be placed in situations where they feel alienated in their own colleges.”

If institutions are justified in endorsing such events, does it imply that religion is an inherent part of educational institutions? If so, the ramifications in multi-religious countries like India are complex, as institutions should then consider accommodating the religious sentiments of each community rather than catering to the majority alone.

Would this extend to allow students from diverse communities to practice their religion within educational institutions through their own expressions of uniform, festivities, and prayers? If such practices become widespread, it raises concerns about their impact on student identity. Will the subject of religion either further divide them in spaces where they seek empowerment and education or provide them with greater freedom to embrace their individual selves?

Students are free to choose sides and voice their emotions, whether it be joy or dissent. However, carrying out religious activities in an educational setting is inappropriate and goes against the goal of the organisation, which is to safeguard students’ rights, interests, safety, and development. In these situations, political factions’ fuel for violence and conflict goes against both religious and constitutional norms.

-A second-year Delhi University history honours student

Through this, one can note that if educational institutions strive to maintain a secular nature, any form of religious exhibition contradicts their fundamental goal of providing education free from religious influences. At the same time, they must safeguard students from feelings of alienation or offence.

Can dissent coexist alongside the celebration of the auspicious arrival of Lord Ram? If one student group is allowed to express their joy, should others be hindered when they protest against it?

Lastly, considering religion is a personal matter for individuals, how appropriate is it to introduce it into educational institutions? Can our colleges and universities become safe spaces for discussions, education, and growth, free from the spectre of violence over religious differences? Can the youth liberate themselves from the constraints of rigid political and religious ideologies?

As we grapple with these questions amid both joy and turmoil, the answers lack uncertainty. The quest for meaningful resolution necessitates a delicate balance between respecting individual beliefs and nurturing an inclusive educational environment that promotes intellectual growth for all.

Read Also – Saffronisation of Cultural Expression

Image Credits – Bloomberg.com 

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