Parikrama politics: UP goes around in circles

It is 1990s all over again as VHP and Mulayam play dangerous games

ajay

Ajay Singh | August 23, 2013


Chief minister Akhilesh Yadav
Chief minister Akhilesh Yadav

The problem with religious revivalists has always been that they rarely come up with original ideas. That is exactly what has happened in Uttar Pradesh as the Akhilesh Yadav government has decided to ban the parikrama, or circumambulation, around Ayodhya that has been planned by some Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) activists.

Circumambulation around a religious place is an age-old ritual practice of Hinduism. Such circumambulation is regularly performed around Mathura, Kashi and Ayodhya by devotees. The proposed 20-day yatra from August 25, covering 84 kos (or nearly 200-odd kms – and hence the name ‘choryasi kos’) passes through all the districts adjoining Faizabad where Ayodhya is located.

The VHP did not hit upon a novel idea when its leaders and activists decided to take out the 84 kos parikrama. They are merely making a desperate move to revive a local ritual which was gradually fading away. There was nothing original about it. Similarly, the manner in which the Samajwadi Party (SP) regime banned the yatra and cried hoarse about not letting the communal forces have a field day in UP has a ring of familiarity around it.

The decision to ban the parikrama was certainly necessitated more by political considerations than administrative reasons. Just a day before the parikrama was to be launched, the administration was geared to make adequate arrangements. However, at the last minute it was decided to ban the yatra and deny entry into Faizabad to any person having the slightest resemblance to a sadhu. This decision provoked reactions on expected lines as the VHP once again sough to whip up passions by talking of "persecuted Hinduism", a convenient ploy to mobilise Hindus in the state. On the other hand, this gives enough scope for SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav to emerge as the saviour of Muslims against the backdrop of Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi’s projection as the BJP's prime ministerial candidate.

There is little doubt that UP has been passing through a rough patch on account of juvenile administration of the Akhilesh Yadav and increasing criminalisation of the political culture. What appears sinister is the frequency with which conflicts of communal nature have been happening all around the state. The state intelligence headquarters is believed to have collected reports of over 100-odd minor incidents of communal nature across the state that went unreported. But the figure is indicative of the tinderbox situation in which the country's largest state is placed. This becomes rather scary if one takes into account nearly 40-odd riots that took place all over the state ever since Akhilesh Yadav took the reins.

If one recalls the 1990s when the Ram temple issue was at its peak and the state was intensely polarised on communal lines, today's scenario seems to be running on a familiar script. If the state is pushed towards intense polarisation, two key players - the RSS/VHP/BJP and Mulayam Singh Yadav - expect windfall gain at the expense of their rivals. Sadly this cynical calculation has become integral to politics being played out in UP. 

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