खबर लहरिया English Watching Ayodhya from Bundelkhand

Watching Ayodhya from Bundelkhand

On the 26th anniversary of the Babri masjid demolition, Khabar Lahariya’s Digital Head Kavita Devi paints a picture of the Ayodhya view from Banda, in the run-upto and aftermath of the Hindu Mahasabha.

The issue of the Ram Mandir is echoing across the country. Wherever you turn, you hear slogans, Jai Shree Ram! And talk of supporting the building of the temple. I was passing by Babulal Chauraha in Banda on the 23rd of November, it must have been around eight in the evening. I saw buses, swathed in saffron, adorned by flags, and a placard below the windshield saying, ‘Ayodhya Chalo’. I stopped to see bus after bus, with people overflowing out, slogans ringing in the air. I asked someone, ‘Where are you going?’ In response, I got an impassioned, rather rabid, ‘Can’t you see? We’re going to Ayodhya, to support the construction of the Ram Mandir!’

The preparations for the Mahasabha that the RSS and VHP organized in Ayodhya on the 25th of November in support of the Ram Mandir construction has been going on for a month in Bundelkhand and other parts of U.P too. Thousands have been mobilized and encouraged to come from across the region – by train, bus, by foot. Muslims in the Ayodhya area watched, fearful, as these hordes of passionate Hindus descended on their town, shouting slogans.

For the first time in many years of reporting in Faizabad, we saw Muslim women, in burkhas, amongst the crowd, supporting the construction of the temple. It was this fact that somehow I couldn’t stomach. The Muslim community has been wronged and fearful, since 1992, when the Babri Masjid was demolished. It led to riots and the demands for a temple rang across the country, beginning a long legal battle that is about to come to a head. The fact that news reports made such a big deal about the Muslim community also supporting the construction of the temple really bothered me. You can’t tell from someone’s face if they are Hindu or Muslim; you can ask anyone to wear a burkha. I could pretend to be Shabnam in another place too.

But the fact is, the Muslim community of Ayodhya is scared, and why wouldn’t they be, with the hordes, the passion, the slogans?Crowds were poring into the fields and narrow streets like they owned it. It felt like something was definitely going to happen – I don’t want to use the word riot, but the atmosphere was loaded, and people definitely felt it. People were storing food away for days and months to come, in case what they feared came to be.

Why aren’t people talking about this fear, this atmosphere of terror?

When we spoke to experts about whether the temple would be constructed or not, or whether this could take the form of a riot, they said that it wouldn’t. They told us that it was too important an election issue for the BJP to resolve and have done with.

I don’t really think there should be a temple or masjid in this spot. Why can’t there be a university or hospital or bus stop even? Why can’t people see that it would be better if there was something that benefitted all communities? If the Ram Mandir is built, will we have a safer country for women? Will we ensure no one goes hungry? Aren’t these the real questions facing Uttar Pradesh, and our country at the moment?

Forget blaming the government or politics. Maybe we need to look within ourselves for a moment, each of us needs to reflect individually. Not on behalf of our community or our family.

What is the benefit each of us stand to hold if there is a Ram Mandir constructed?

Think about it.

– Kavita Devi, Translated by Disha Mullick

(Postscript: This episode of The Kavita Show wreaked a social media storm across local Facebook pages, and What’s App groups. Kavita was trolled massively, abuses have been hurled at her both on Khabar Lahariya’s official channels and her personal social media pages as well. Her phone has been ringing off the hook, and venomous comments have been haunting her ever since the show was published.)

(Photo-caption: A screenshot of the YouTube comments spewing venom on Kavita and the content of this episode.)

To read the hindi translation click here.