Social Scientist. v 21, no. 242-43 (July-Aug 1993) p. 63.


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K. N. PANIKKAR"

Religious Symbols and Political Mobilization:

The Agitation for a Mandir at Ayodhya

The secular polity of India was considerably convulsed by the mobilization of Hindus around the construction of a temple at Ayodhya. Launched and led by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), with the active support and participation of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh

The Ayodhya movement enabled the BJP to expand its electoral base rather suddenly. In the past, the BJP and its predecessors had not found much favour with the electorate, despite their efforts to champion the Hindu interests. In fact, when the BJP had fought the election without allying with other parties, it had managed to win only two seats in the parliament. The Mandir agitation accounted for a rather dramatic change in its fortunes.

The dispute over the Masjid, constructed in 1528 by Mir Baqui, a noble of Babur's court, had simmered for long, at least since 1885 when litigation had begun for the right to property^ in the area.1 What brought about a qualitative change in the dispute was the surreptitious installation of an idol of Ramlalla inside the mosque in 1949 / Ayodhya thus became a potential site of religious confrontation between the Hindus and the Muslims. The BJP effectively exploited this potential in fts quest for political power. A dispute which had

* Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.

Social Scientist, Vol. 21, Nos. 7-8, July-August, 1993



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