Ayodhya: City of Faith, City of Discord
Author: Valay Singh
Reviewed by: Valay Singh
Available at: Aleph, Rs 499.
How a mosque became a temple and besieged a nation (May 5, 2019, Asian Age)
…When India became independent on 15 August 1947, Ayodhya witnessed nothing out of the ordinary. In Faizabad, Congress leaders made perfunctory speeches… Later in 1947, some Bairagis and members of the Hindu Mahasabha… gathered in Ayodhya and vowed to capture the Babri Masjid by force. The mahant of Hanumangarhi, Sitaram Das, and others also tried to impose restrictions on Muslims offering namaz in the mosque.
Amidst this communalised atmosphere, the chief minister of the United Provinces, Congress’ Govind Ballabh Pant, a known sympathiser of the communal Hindu Mahasabha, changed the official Congress candidate at the last minute in the June 1948 by-election for the Faizabad seat. This had become necessary to defeat the socialist leader Acharya Narendra Dev, Pant’s rival and someone who enjoyed Nehru’s confidence more than Pant. Narendra Dev was the leader of the Congress Socialist Party, which had remained in the Congress as a separate faction since its formation in 1934.
In 1948… The candidate that Pant nominated for the Faizabad seat was Baba Raghav Das, a Gandhian sadhu from Deoria. Das led a communally vitriolic campaign against Narendra Dev, who was a local as well as a socialist leader of national stature… Baba Raghav Das and his backer, Pant, campaigned extensively in Ayodhya and Faizabad. Pant made full use of the religious zeal of the people of Ayodhya and the lack of it in Narendra Dev… Acharya Narendra Dev lost by 1,000 or so votes to Baba Raghav Das. This was the first time that Ayodhya’s religiosity was harnessed in a democratic election.…