State of Southasia #01: Anand Patwardhan on the Ram Mandir and the long life of ‘Ram ke naam’
On 22 January 2024, as India’s prime minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the new Ram temple in Ayodhya, a 32-year old film was recirculated across India on social media platforms. Many Indians felt the need to watch and share the documentary Ram ke naam made by Anand Parwardhan in 1990. The film captured the mobilisation of hundreds of Hindu activists who were made to believe that Ram was born at the exact spot where the 16th century Babri Masjid stood and, as a result, wanted a temple built there instead of the mosque. The film was released in September 1992 just months before a group of militant Hindu activists illegally tore down the Babri Masjid.
The demolition of the mosque was a direct consequence of BJP leader LK Advani’s Rath Yatra – a roadshow that he undertook to campaign for the temple. Ram ke naam captured the frenzy whipped up by Advani’s roadshow, the motivations that led people to become kar sevaks or volunteers to the cause of the Ram temple and the despair of ordinary people in Ayodhya who wanted nothing to do with the dispute. The BJP gained politically and electorally from the Ram temple campaign. Modi had been the leader of the party and prime minister for almost ten years when he consecrated the Ram temple in January, and is getting ready to contest yet another general election from a position of popular support and electoral strength later in this year.
In this episode of State of Southasia, our assistant editor Nayantara Narayanan speaks to Patwardhan about the making of Ram ke naam, why India ignored its warnings about religious fundamentalism and what lessons it still holds three decades later.
State of Southasia releases with a new interview every four weeks.
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