Ram Mandir ceremony: Why a few student groups called it "National Tragedy”, “ahistorical” 

SFI, ASA in HCU, Fraternity Movement, and the student unions at MANUU and North Eastern Hill University have all criticised the consecration ceremony of the Ram Mandir as communal & unconstitutional
Pic Credit: EdexLive
Pic Credit: EdexLive

Over the last few weeks, the consecration ceremony of the controversial Ram Mandir in Ayodhya has been the talk of the nation, occupying both news headlines and conversations everywhere. 

The ceremony was pushed heavily by celebrities and public figures, private businesses, Hindu Nationalist groups, a few state governments and the Central Government itself. The Central and state governments, such as Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Madya Pradesh, Odisha, Haryana and others had even declared a half-day holiday for schools and institutions run by them so that employees and students alike can witness the ceremony. 

While the Pran Prathistha ceremony which took place today, January 22, has taken India by a frenzy, a few student organisations in India’s Higher Educational Institutions criticised the event and its perceived implications on Indian secularism.

These groups not only opposed the half-day holiday, but the ceremony itself – as the temple was built after the demolition of the disputed Babri Masjid by karsevaks of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and the Shiv Sena. 

Here are the groups, and what they say:

  • Ambedkar Students’ Association, Hyderabad Central University

Terming today a “Day of National Tragedy”, the Ambedkar Students’ Association at the Hyderabad Central University (ASA-HCU) took to X to condemn the ceremony as “a sombre moment as the most naked emblem of the Hindu Rashtra will be inaugurated amidst fanfare and media adulation.”

The association also accused the ceremony, and the Ram Janmabhoomi event at large, of having “a clear footprint of the country’s radical Brahminical right in each step” of its way, and claimed that the Ram Mandir “at the site of the Babri Masjid” is a “symbol of the Brahminical violence that Ambedkar saw as the essence of Ram Rajya.”

Earlier, ASA-HCU also condemned the University of Hyderabad’s holiday announcement, as it sees this as a “part of the Hinduisation of Educational institutions.”

  • Students’ Federation of India

In a press release, the Students’ Federation of India (SFI) criticised the holiday announcement by the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances, and Pensions as “revealing the government's direct engagement in a religious celebration, which violates India's secular and democratic norms.”

SFI further says that it “upholds the Constitution's basic structure, its progressive and secular values, and denounces both the university circular and the government memorandum,” Careers360 reports.

Moreover, SFI has also announced that it is organising a screening of Ram ke Naam (In The Name of God), the documentary by filmmaker Anand Patwardhan, which sheds critical light on the Ram Janmabhoomi Movement and its politics.

  • Fraternity Movement (Jamia Millia Islamia and Tata Institute of Social Sciences)

The Fraternity Movement announced a strike and called for the boycott of classes and reading halls at the Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi after 2.30 pm today, marking the demolition of the Babri Masjid, as per a report by Maktoob Media. 

Calling it a strike “against Hindutva appeasement”, the organisation urged students to “not return to any class or library even after 2:30 pm for the full day, in remembrance of Babri Masjid, and resistance to injustice.”

In the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) in Mumbai, the Fraternity Movement also condemned a notice issued by the administration of the institute on January 18, urging students not to participate in demonstrations related to today’s ceremony in Ayodhya, reported EdexLive. 

While clarifying that it did not call for any protests, the organisation said that today’s Pran Prathistha event “serves as a victory event symbolising an Islamophobic and violent anti-Muslim campaign”, and added that the administration “function as mouthpieces for government or Hindu nationalist public relations”, in an official statement it shared on January 19. 

  • Alumni of the Center for History Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University

In a statement decrying the celebration of today’s “ahistorical” Pran Prathistha ceremony by a “few fringe elements in the JNU History Department”, the alumni of the Centre for History Studies (CHS) issued a statement today appealing to the students and staff of JNU to “recognise and resist the attempts to polarise society on religious lines.”

Further, the alumni also condemned the celebration of the inauguration of “the political project” within CHS premises and urged the administration to reconsider this decision. 

“It is a disgrace to our profession & discipline,” the alumni say. 

  • Maulana Azad National Urdu University Student Union

Announcing a “peaceful boycott” of classes due to the decision of Maulana Azad National Urdu University (MANUU) to close offices till 2.30 pm today, the students’ union of the university alleged that the Bharatiya Janata Party was attempting to “saffronise educational institutions.” 

While the union stated that it respected the 2019 Supreme Court verdict of the Ram Janmabhoomi land dispute, it was not right to turn the Pran Prathistha ceremony into a national festival, and doing so would threaten not only the secular credentials of India but also the spirit of our Constitution, says a report by The Hindu.

  • North Eastern Hill University Student Union

The student union of North Eastern Hill University (NEHU) in Shillong, Meghalaya, demanding the withdrawal of the half-day holiday notice issued by the university, reiterated its commitment to resisting the communalisation of the university campus. 

 NEHU Student Union (NEHUSU) General Secretary Banpynbiang Riang says in a statement that the “declaration of holiday for the occasion is nothing but a direct assault on the secular ethos of public educational institutions like NEHU and the Constitution itself”, reports Highland Post.  

In addition, the NEHSU urged the office of the vice-chancellor to stop “acting like a comprador to the communal agendas of the central government.”

  • Ambedkar Periyar Phule Study Circle, Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay

The administration of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay, in the days leading up to the consecration ceremony, announced a series of events, such as a Shri Ram Shobha Yatra and unveiling a gaushala or cow shed on the day of the consecration ceremony. 

Few students in IIT Bombay, as well as the Ambedkar Periyar Phule Study Circle (APPSC), criticised these announcements, as well as the institution’s alleged hypocrisy – as the administration of IIT Bombay recently issued a directive that placed restrictions on “political” events. 

In addition, APPSC pointed to how meat items were missing from the menu today, and mess workers were clad in saffron clothes in the morning, with some of them greeting the students by saying “Jai Shree Ram”. 

“A morning in the common mess of an allegedly scientific premier higher education institution of an allegedly secular country…”, APPSC IIT Bombay wrote on its X account, reacting to these events.

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