Stamp on Mahant, a partisan agenda

"The mahant campaigned for Babri Masjid demolition."

The Modi government’s decision to issue a postal stamp in commemoration of Mahant Avaidyanath, an important leader of the Ramjanmabhoomi agitation who passed away last year, is again proof of its determination to push a partisan agenda in official policy. The mahant was a Hindu Mahasabha leader and BJP MP. The government’ reason for honouring him is that he “commanded immense respect across the country”.  The truth is that he was more reviled than respected, and in any case, respect alone does not entitle one to an honour like this. The government had also said that it planned to bring out stamps in the name of leaders who have contributed to the “making of modern India” and whose work, it claims, were ignored by the previous government. But Avaidynath was a person who wanted to take the country back by many centuries. There can hardly be a more flagrant assault on the idea of a secular India than the conferment of a state honour on him.

The late MP had actively campaigned for the demolition of the Babri Masjid, which was the most divisive act in independent India’s history. The destruction of the masjid was his dream as a Hindu Mahasabha, VHP and BJP leader, and he openly demanded the construction of a Ram mandir at the place where the masjid stood. The Liberhan commission, which probed the demolition, indicted him. He was proud of it, and thought it was a step towards establishing a Hindu Rashtra. To honour such a person is to put the stamp of approval on the demolition of the mosque. Is that the message being conveyed by the government with its decision? It is difficult to find any quality or attribute that makes the mahant eligible for a national honour. He was associated with most retrograde ideas of the Hindu fanatical fringe like the ghar vapasi programme and the ban on cow slaughter. Again, the honour can only be seen as an endorsement of these programmes.  
The government recently discontinued some stamps in the name of former prime ministers Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi, saying that they were reminders of the dominance of family rule in politics. The Avaidyanath stamp is a sign of the domination of another family, the Sangh Parivar, over the present government. He was no maker of modern India, but one who did much to unmake it. It is a shame that he is put on a pedestal with many great and eminent leaders who strengthened and enriched the country. It is in line with the ongoing programme of falsification and rewriting of history and creation of false icons.

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