At a Delhi auditorium on Thursday, where a book on VHP chief Ashok Singhal was released on his 89th birthday, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh described the Ram Janmabhoomi agitation as among the two major movements of independent India.
“The aura I witnessed during his (Singhal) speeches at the time of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement is visible even today,” said Singh, while putting the agitation led by Jai Prakash Narayan in 1970s as the other one on his list.
The home minister, however, discounted that the temple movement also led to riots in several parts of the country after demolition of the Babri mosque.
At the event, former VHP president Vishnu Hari Dalmia asked the Prime Minister to gift the Ram temple to Singhal. Also, recorded video messages from PM Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah were played inside the auditorium.
Outside, ten big portraits greeted visitors. Besides two former RSS chiefs, there were portraits of Vivekananda and Ramkrishna Paramhansa. The others included Maharana Pratap, Shivaji, Shankaracharya, Mahavir Swami, Gautam Buddha and Guru Gobind Singh.
Amid attempts to portray Hindutva as an all-embracing religion, the home minister said: “Hindutva is beyond caste and religion”.
But the message seemed to be that the dominant way of Hindu life should prevail.
Mahesh Bhagchandaka, who edited the book on Singhal that was released by RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, said: “Cow is our mother. There should be no cow slaughter. If you read history, you will find that all religions have said that there should be no cow slaughter.”
He said that there was no portrait of other religious leaders (Muslims, Christians) in the gallery because they did not follow the Hindu way of life.
The entire event was marked by the regular chants of shlokas, blowing of conch shells and intermittent chants of Bharat Mata Ki Jai.
While couplets of Tulisdas adorned the walls, several men and women clad in saffron robes were given special place at the stage. Among them were Sadhvi Rithambhara and Minister of State Niranjan Jyoti — two leaders known for making inflammatory speeches.
Later speaking to The Indian Express, Bhagchandaka listed the achievements of Singhal. “At a time when people of this country were scared to say that they were Hindu, Ashok Singhal said Garv se kaho hum Hindu hain,” he said.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines