10 people who drove the Ram Janmabhoomi movement
Decades after the Ram Janmabhoomi movement gave a new face to Hindu sentiments in India, the groundbreaking ceremony in Ayodhya happened today, putting an end to bloodshed and a long-drawn legal battle. As "Ram Lalla" took steps towards a new home, here's looking back at 10 faces who drove the Ram Janmabhoomi movement in the 1980s, ushering a new political era in the country.
LK Advani: The man whose Rath Yatra sparked tensions, emotions
Veteran LK Advani is credited for BJP's rise to prominence in national politics and, interestingly, it was his 1990 Rath Yatra from Somnath to Ayodhya that helped his cause. Atop a Toyota bus, transformed into a chariot, Advani covered thousands of kilometers. The states he visited witnessed riots but he remained undeterred. Before the yatra's culmination, he was arrested in Bihar.
Notably, the Rath Yatra was followed by Babri Masjid demolition
Two years after his Rath Yatra, Advani was a part of another campaign that ended with the demolition of Babri Masjid. On VHP's call, thousands of right-wing activists arrived at the site, to break the medieval-era monument. Advani is still being probed for fanning tensions.
MM Joshi, BJP's "professor," played a huge role as well
Like Advani, another BJP veteran — Murli Manohar Joshi — was also part of the movement. Regarded as "professor" in BJP, Joshi was with Advani when the mosque was razed. He also faces criminal charges, just like his colleague. Notably, both these leaders were missing from the groundbreaking ceremony today. They were invited but skipped the event, considering coronavirus-necessitated precautions.
Uma Bharti and Sadhvi Ritambhara: The women of the movement
Besides Joshi and Advani, another face with whom the movement was linked is Uma Bharti. The national vice-president of BJP, Bharti was the most influential woman involved with it. Another woman who played a pivotal role was Sadhvi Ritambhara. Before the mosque's demolition, audio cassettes of the firebrand leader where she purportedly explained how Lord Rama was stripped of justice became hugely popular.
Meanwhile, Pramod Mahajan, BJP's quiet face, worked behind the stage
Pramod Mahajan, who was close to late Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, is regarded as the brains behind Advani's Rath Yatra. Advani wanted to walk from Gujarat to Uttar Pradesh but Mahajan, who died in 2006, suggested otherwise. For the yatra's beginning, Mahajan recommended two dates — September 25 (Deen Dayal Upadhyay's anniversary) and October 2 (Gandhi Jayanti). Eventually, the former date was selected.
Ashok Singhal, the VHP chief who steered the movement
Ashok Singhal, the chief of Vishwa Hindu Parishad for 20 years, dedicated all his resources for the Ram Janmabhoomi movement. In 1984, he organized the VHP Dharma Sansad, which attracted seers and saints from across the nation and gave birth to the movement. It was Singhal who got the model for Ram Temple made by noted temple architect Chandrakant Sompura.
Praveen Togadia and Vinay Katiyar also fanned sentiments
Praveen Togadia, who took the reins of VHP after Singhal retired, kept the movement alive through his fiery speeches. However, he has been sidelined in recent years due to his poor relationship with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Another noted face, Bajrang Dal's Vinay Katiyar spoke extensively about why the Ram Temple should be built. His speeches helped in galvanizing support.
As CM, Kalyan Singh aided Babri Masjid demolition
BJP's Kalyan Singh worked as the local force driving the movement. As UP's CM, he gave a free hand to activists who destroyed the mosque. However, after the demolition, Singh resigned paving the path for President's rule. The tenth person who helped the movement was industrialist Vishnu Hari Dalmiya. His keen interest in Hindutva politics prompted him to drum up support for the temple.