New Delhi: The Supreme Court’s historic Ayodhya verdict has effected a paradigm shift in the Indian politics. And of the many organisations dealing with its fallout, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), which led the Ram Janmabhoomi movement, is grappling with a severe question — of relevance.

In the wake of the top court judgment paving the way for Ram temple, the VHP’s biggest stated aim — of the temple in Ayodhya — now stands achieved.

However, when asked questions about its relevance in the Hindutva politics now, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)-affiliate said its attention will now be focussed on speedy and splendid construction of Ram temple in Ayodhya. It will also focus on other projects like reconstruction of temples demolished in Jammu-Kashmir and protection of cows.

“VHP will now dedicate itself for construction of a grand temple of Lord Sri Ram in Ayodhya. Our wish is that the temple should be a splendid one. This task is not going to be accomplished in a single day and will take some time,” VHP executive president Alok Kumar told ThePrint.

“The Ayodhya Nagari (city) should also be developed in the same manner as it was during Sri Ram’s rajya (rule). All kind of arrangements should be made for accommodating millions of devotees that are likely to visit,” said Kumar.

He added, “VHP wants that several temples in Jammu-Kashmir that are in a dilapidated condition should be reconstructed on a priority basis. Apart from it focusing on cow protection is also on top of VHP’s agenda. The sale of beef needs to be prohibited.”

VHP’s role in Ram temple campaign

Nearly three decades ago, it was the VHP, under its then chief Ashok Singhal, that started the nationwide campaign for the construction of Ram temple in Ayodhya by launching ‘Shilanyas Yatra’ in 1989.

It organised a pan-Indian tour to gather bricks and other contributions for construction of the temple. The campaign saw massive participation.

In 1990, the VHP workers helped BJP leader L.K. Advani carry out his ‘Rath Yatra’ from Somnath in Gujarat to Ayodhya. The march didn’t reach Ayodhya but it proved vital in building public support for the Ram Janmabhoomi movement.

However, on 6 December 1992, the demolition of Babri Masjid formed the hardline Hindutva image of VHP, which was started in 1964 with the stated purpose to protect Hindus all over the globe.

Now, with the Supreme Court’s Ayodhya verdict, the VHP is nearing the end of its decades-old campaign.

Construction of Ram temple

Speaking to ThePrint about the construction of Ram temple, Alok Kumar said, “We will not seek any help from the government for construction of Ram temple in Ayodhya. We will issue an appeal to the whole society to contribute in its grand construction. We are hopeful and confident that there will be no paucity of funds.”

In its judgment announced last week, the Supreme Court directed the central government to form a trust within three months to oversee the construction of the temple.

“The construction work should be undertaken by the Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas. We will assist them. All the pre-fabrication works are being done in accordance with the map approved earlier,” said Kumar.

The Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas is a VHP trust that was leading the design and construction work for the temple informally, prior to the SC judgment. However, the court order doesn’t allow informal entities to take charge of the process. The central government hasn’t yet announced the trust composition for the temple.

“We want the construction process to start as soon as possible. But there are some processes that take time for completion. So it will not be possible to fix a certain date for this,” said Kumar.

VHP campaigns

Since its formation, the religious, pro-Hindu RSS affiliate has established several sub-branches, like Bajrang Dal (youth wing) and Durga Vahini (women’s wing), to propel the Hindutva movement across the country.

Over the years, it has led several campaigns for construction of temples in place of mosques like Gyanvapi in Varanasi and Shahi Idgah in Mathura.

Its support for hardline movements, however, isn’t restricted to temples. VHP has also supported cow protection groups. Over the last few years, such groups have been under intense scrutiny due to a spate of lynching incidents across the country.

This story first appeared in The Print here on November 12, 2019.