For most of its history, and especially after its revival in the mid-1980s, Sri Ram Janmabhoomi Movement was ridiculed by Left-Congress academics and commentators as a move of high politics by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP). For those who find it not worth while to go back to Marxist designs to delegitimize the Ram Mandir movement, can watch Anand Patwardhan’s ‘Ram ke Naam’ (1992), a documentary showcasing Lal Krishna Advani’s Sri Ram Rath Yatra (September- October 1990). In the documentary, the filmmaker blatantly shows his bias and ideological allegiance by asking every karsewak their caste. The implication of this exercise was simple— ‘BJP is a Brahmin-Baniya party’, and the people who support the movement are savarnas. Thereby, the Ram Mandir movement is anti-Dalit, anti-Muslim, anti-Tribal, and whatnot. For the whole life of the movement, the Left-Congress cabal kept arguing that it was a movement of just a few so-called ‘upper castes’ and the larger Hindu society has nothing to do with it.
Nothing can be far from the truth. Sri Ram Janmabhoomi Movement was a people’s movement. The wounded civilisation awoke at a particular juncture of history, and it did its best to reclaim its lost pride and glory.
Here, we document some ‘unsung heroes’ of the movement who by any sense cannot be related and associated to the high politics of the day. They were men of religion, volunteers, dedicated and proud Hindus, cutting across the dividing barriers of caste, creed, and region. And will never be the centre of enquiry in different histories of Sri Ram Janmabhoomi Movement because they contradict all the academic arguments which have been used to ridicule the movement so far.
A graduate from Morris College of Nagpur and a RSS pracharak, Pingle was a key strategist, who played a crucial role in initiating all the major ‘yatras’ and countrywide campaigns, including the ‘Shila Pujan’ programme, under which more than 3 lakh bricks were sent to Ayodhya. He always preferred to work behind the scenes and was a key strategist for building the temple movement in the 1980s.
An ascetic, he was deeply committed to the cause of cow protection. He played a crucial role in bringing various Hindu religious and spiritual leaders together at one platform through an all-India-level meet in Jaipur in 1984. More than 400 Hindu religious leaders brainstormed for 15 days to put together the future roadmap of the movement. Swami Vamdev led the kar sevaks from the front in 1990 in Ayodhya when several of them were killed in police firing ordered by Mulayam Singh Yadav’s government. Despite his old age, he was present in Ayodhya on December 6, 1992 when the Babri Masjid was pulled down.
Coming from a well-known industrialist family, Dalmia was the president of VHP from 1992 to 2005. Known for keeping a low profile, Dalmia was one of the key leaders of the Ramjanmabhoomi movement. When Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas was set up in 1985, he was made its treasurer. He was arrested after the demolition of the disputed structure.
Dikshit was a frontline leader of the Ramjanmabhoomi movement in the 1980s. He was the director general of police in Uttar Pradesh from 1982 to 1984. After his retirement, he joined the Vishva Hindu Parishad as its vice president. He played a crucial role in strategising the movement of kar sevaks in Ayodhya and working out the finer details for various on-ground campaigns run by the VHP. He was arrested in 1990 for participating in Ramjanmabhoomi movement during the kar seva in Ayodhya.
Mahant ji was the first president of the Ramjanmabhoomi Mukti Yagya Samiti set up in the mid-1980s to lead the Sri Ram Mandir movement. He was also the president of Ramjanmabhoomi Nyas Samiti. Born as Kripa Singh Bisht, he became a follower of Mahant Digvijaynath of Gorakshapeeth in Uttar Pradesh and took up the name of Mahant Avaidyanath in 1940 as an ascetic.
As the general secretary of Ramjanmabhoomi Mukti Yagna Samiti, Daudayal Khanna played a key role in preparing the ground for the movement. He was a Congress leader in his early years and was the health minister in the Congress-led government in Uttar Pradesh in the 1960s. He was the one who brought up the issue of reconstructing temples in Ayodhya, Mathura and Kashi (Varanasi) at a public meeting in 1983. His initiative proved to be the key catalyst in restarting the Ramjanmabhoomi movement. In September 1984, he led one of the first ‘yatras’ of this movement from Sitamarhi, Bihar.
Ram Kumar Kothari and Sharad Kumar Kothari were brothers who came to Ayodhya from Kolkata for the kar seva in October 1990. They participated in the kar seva in Ayodhya on October 30, 1990 as the members of the first batch of kar sevaks. Two days later, on November 2, both were shot dead from point-blank range by the police when they were performing the kar seva. Ram was 23 and Sharad was just 20 years old when they were killed.
Scores of others like Setharam Mali (Jodhpur), Ramesh Kumar (Ganganagar), Mahavir Prasad (Faizabad), Ramesh Pandey (Ayodhya), Sanjay Kumar (Muzaffarpur), Professor Mahendranath Arora (Jodhpur) gave up their lives for the movement. Let us not forget them and those countless others who have been forgotten in the last three decades of this movement.
Next time, when someone tries to mention only the high politics of the movement and dismiss it for its limited social base, ask them to visit Shaheed Gali near Hanumangarhi in Ayodhya to witness the fervour of the movement. We hope that as the consecration ceremony of Sri Ram Mandir begins on January 22, we also remember those darmik veers who sacrificed their lives for Ram Lalla. Afterall, ‘Ram Lalla Hum Aayenge, Mandir Wahi Banayenge’ was a passion, and now we will finally see it coming to life in its best form. Jai Sri Ram!