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27 September, 2011

Ayodhya: Partisan Historiography

Dalit writer Vidyabhushan Rawat () has produced a documentary titled “Ayodhya or Saket: The Politics of Ram Temple”. Reproduced below is a review of the documentary by Ram Puniyani, an indefatigable campaigner against communalism.

By Ram Puniyani

Ayodhya, Ram temple, dispute has been one of the major turning points in the recent times. It has changed the political dynamics of our country. The claim of Hindutva forces that there was a Ram Temple there, which was demolished by Mughal Emperor Babar to build a mosque has been refuted by many a scholars and film makers. Many a valuable documentaries have also weighed the claims of RSS family about the Ram Temple being there at the Babri mosque and that it was the birthplace of Ram. This film on the topic not only demolishes the claims of Ram Temple and birthplace of Ram but also brings to our attention, in a serious way, the claims of Buddhists that the whole of Ayodhya was the cenre of Buddhists and that many Buddha places were destroyed by king Pushyamitra Sunga and others who undertook to wipe away Buddhism form India.

The claim of Buddhists has not been taken seriously while the whole debate so far has been revolving around the Temple-Mosque alternatives. This film through series of interviews and research in the archeological terrain shows that it was primarily Saket, as mentioned by the travelers like Fa Hian and Huan Tsang. Even now most of the places are presented as Hindu temples, while their Buddhist lineage is clear from their architecture and history.

In addition the film also delves into the whole Ram Temple movement as an attempt by Hindu right to usurp the rights of dalits and enhance the hegemony of upper caste. The relationship between the implementation of Mandal Commission and the consequent Rath Yatra to demolish masjid by Lal Krishna Advani, backed up by different components of Sangh Parivar clearly shows the agenda of RSS, in diverting the national attention from the fall out of Mandal Commission, the empowerment of dalit OBC, by creating the mass hysteria around the issue of faith, around identity based politics of Advani and Company. The plight of dalits, their poverty, deprivation and humiliation is well brought out in this documentary. In a way the film not only brings forth the Saket-Buddhist aspect of Ayodhya but also clearly establishes the communal nature of the campaign around Ram Temple. This campaign on one hand has undermined the Buddhist history of Ayodhya and on the other it undermines the human rights of dalits and OBCs.

In a more profound way the film establishes the symbolism of demolishing Babri Masjid, not just being anti-Muslim, but also anti-Dalit. The viewer cannot miss out on the deeper connection of the superficial symbolism of Babri demolition and the deeper political agenda of abolishing the rights of minorities and dalits. The film maker could have also linked this up with choosing the 6th December, the day of Mahaparinirvan of Ambedkar, as the day for demolition. RSS which calls for Hindu Rashtra will not only be state where religious minorities will have second class status, but it will also subjugate the dalits (and women) to secondary place in the society.

The film is well made and is a must for all those struggling for rights of dalits and minorities.

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