Ram Rath Yatra

1990 political–religious rally in India

The Ram Rath Yatra (rath yatra means a "chariot journey") was a political and religious rally that lasted from September to October 1990. It was organised by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its Hindu nationalist affiliates, and led by the then-president of the BJP, L. K. Advani. The purpose of the yatra was to support the agitation, led by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and its affiliates in the Sangh Parivar, to erect a temple to the Hindu deity Rama on the site of the Babri Masjid.

The planned route of L. K. Advani's Rath Yatra, beginning in Somnath on 25 September 1990 and ending in Ayodhya on 30 October 1990.

Quotes edit

  • ‘Not an iota of communal bigotry in my speeches’ Was my campaign anti-Muslim? Not in the least. However, unnerved by the massive response to the Rath Yatra, our political adversaries intensified this calumny against me. Their propaganda was baseless and motivated. I challenged them to point out a single utterance in my speeches that could be construed as directed against Muslims or Islam. There wasn’t any, throughout the yatra. On the contrary, whenever I heard someone raise an inappropriate slogan in my meetings, I promptly expressed disapproval.
  • Another lie in the propaganda by our adversaries was that the Ram Rath Yatra left a bloody trail of communal clashes. As records show, there was not a single instance of communal violence along the route of my yatra. There were indeed riots in several parts of the country, but none at all along the Rath Yatra trail. I was, therefore, pained to see a section of the media carry reports that had sensational titles like ‘Advani’s blood yatra’.
  • Dr Koenraad Elst, in his two-volume book titled The Saffron Swastika, marshals an incontrovertible array of facts to debunk slanderous attacks on the BJP by a section of the media. About the Rath Yatra, he writes:
    ‘But what about Advani’s bloody Rath Yatra (car procession) from Somnath to Ayodhya in October 1990? Very simple: it is not at all that the Rath Yatra was a bloody affair. While in the same period, there was a lot of rioting in several parts of the country (particularly Hyderabad, Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh), killing about 600 people in total, there were no riots at all along the Rath Yatra trail. Well, there was one: upper-caste students pelted stones at Advani because he had disappointed them by not supporting their agitation against the caste-based reservations which V.P. Singh was promoting. Even then, no one was killed or seriously wounded.
    It is a measure of the quality of the Indian English-language media that they have managed to turn an entirely peaceful procession, an island of orderliness in a riot-torn country, into a proverbial bloody event (“Advani’s blood yatra”). And it was quite a sight how the pressmen in their editorials blamed Advani for communal riots of which the actual, non-Advanirelated causes were given on a different page of the same paper. Whether Advani with his Rath Yatra was at 500 miles distance from a riot (as with the riot in Gonda in UP), or under arrest, or back home after the high tide of the Ayodhya agitation, every riot in India in the second half of 1990 was blamed on him’.
  • My yatra was scheduled to enter Deoria in Uttar Pradesh on 24 October. However, as I had anticipated, it was stopped at Samastipur in Bihar on 23 October and I was arrested by the Janata Dal government in the state then headed by Laloo Prasad Yadav. I was taken to an inspection bungalow of the irrigation department at a place called Massanjore near Dumka on the Bihar-Bengal border. This action invited angry and spontaneous protests all over the country. I spent fi ve weeks in detention in Massanjore before being released. Thus ended my Rath Yatra, which was indeed an exhilarating episode in my political life.
  • The support base for the Mandir is larger than the BJP electorate. It is a fact that Advani's Rathyatra brought out far more people than Mulayam's rallies for secularism, even when all the communist and Muslim fundamentalist organizations systematically attended the latter, and even while the state machinery had been used to mobilize for them. There is simply no honest doubt that the Ram Janmabhoomi movement had become a genuine mass movement, the biggest in Indian history, and not just an artificial creation for the BJP's political gain. The reason why most of the common Hindus could be mobilized for the Ram Janmabhoomi cause, is not that the Hindus have become so fanatical. On the contrary, it is because they perceive that the building of the Mandir and the relocating of the existing structure is a very reasonable and justifiable project. They all know that Muslim rulers have brought immense suffering over the Hindu population,... no fanatic needs to tell them that. And they have heard that the disputed place is in use as a temple since 1949, that it is functionally not a mosque at all, so the rule that any other community's place of worship should be respected just doesn't apply. They do not see why anyone should object to their replacing the existing structure with proper Hindu temple architecture. They consider it an entirely internal affair of the Hindu community, and they perceive the attempts to stop them as yet another aggression against Hinduism by its enemies.
    • Koenraad Elst, Ayodhya and After: Issues Before Hindu Society (1991), ch. 6.
  • At any rate, this is the story of one of the most impressive episodes in the Ram Janmabhoomi movement. BJP president L.K. Advani set out on a Rathyatra from Somnath to Ayodhya... Everywhere the popular response was massive and enthusiastic. No riots took place. In some places, caste riots that had been triggered by the Mandal plan, subsided. It seems that when Hindus utter the name Rama, they forget their differences... Even in the sensitive tribal belt, the response was enthusiastic and not tainted by riots. But as Advani came nearer to the Uttar Pradesh border, the political fever was rising. Mulayam Singh Yadav, chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, had announced he would arrest Mr. Advani as soon as he would enter the state.... In the early morning of October 22, i.e. after the Ordinance plan had fallen through, L.K. Advani was arrested.
    • Quoted from Elst, Koenraad (1991). Ayodhya and after: Issues before Hindu society.
  • If one would believe the columns in the national English- language press, Mr. Advani's Rathyatra has left a trail of bloodshed... To my mind, it would seem that such an explanation does not spring from the scientific temper which secularism seeks to inculcate, but rather from a political compulsion to blame the Hindu campaign at any cost and/or to shield the real culprit... A far more logical explanation for the non-occurrence of riots in or near the Rathyatra, and the large-scale occurrence of serious riots in Uttar Pradesh, is this. For the common Hindu, the passing of the Ram Rath was a joyous religious event... That his speeches were not inflammatory, I know for certain even though I heard not one of them : Mr. Advani has many enemies who watch him for discrediting mistakes, and if he had made any objectionable statement, it would have been splashed across the front pages.
    • Quoted from Elst, Koenraad (1991). Ayodhya and after: Issues before Hindu society.
  • When today Muslim goondas create a riot in Bhagalpur or in Gonda, the secularist press will obscure this beginning (in both cases bombs thrown from Muslim establishments at Hindu processions) and highlight the ensuing Hindu part of the violence. Some M.J. Akbar will poignantly describe the suffering of some Muslim villagers, and then blame the atmosphere created by the Rathyatra in some distant town, without even mentioning that the riot started with a pre-planned armed attack on a Hindu procession. (...) Not only do you gain on the propaganda front, the press may even come out in support of your demands. For some time, Muslim communalists have demanded a ban on processions. More than 95% of religious processions are Hindu processions anyway, for processions are a thoroughly Pagan practice which in Islam can only be a heterodox oddity. (...) A very good illustration is the next and very important demand of the Muslim communalists : a larger than proportionate reservation for Muslims in the army and the police...
    • Koenraad Elst, Ayodhya and After: Issues Before Hindu Society (1991)
  • BJP leader V.K. Malhotra has aptly ridiculed this facile allegation in a speech in the Lok Sabha: "The country has witnessed 2500 riots between 1950 and 1990. Godhra city had communal riots in 1947, 52, 59, 61, 65, 67, 72, 74, 80, 83, 89 and 90. Were all of these caused by the Rathyatra ?" He pointed out that those who were painting a grim picture of the minorities being massacred, were doing a great disservice to the country and giving it a bad name. The fact was that 90% of the people killed in Hyderabad were Hindus. The riots in Delhi (Sadar Bazaar, on November 14) had been engineered by Muslims, as even the Shahi Imam had admitted... In Sambhal (Moradabad, U.P.) all those killed were Hindus, and yet the BJP was being blamed.
    • V.K. Malhotra , Reported in Times of India,17/12/1990. Quoted from Elst, Koenraad (1991). Ayodhya and after: Issues before Hindu society.
  • "Secularists" are unnerved by the reaction Advani's rath has evoked among Hindus. But it is not the rath which evoked it. The "victories" in having Shah Bano reversed, in having Rushdie banned - "victories" which were loudly applauded by the "secularists"; the success in convincing political parties - which maps and lists - that Muslims would decide their fate in hundreds of constituencies; to say nothing of the "victories" of the violence in Punjab and Kashmir - the reaction is the cumulative result of these distortions in our polity.
    • Fomenting Reaction by Arun Shourie, also in Goel, S.R. (ed.) : Freedom of Expression - Secular Theocracy Versus Liberal Democracy [1]
  • First hand reporting shows that while major riots took place in UP and Hyderabad, Advani's rathyatra itself was practically riot-free. One riot (death toll zero) did take place when students protested against Advani's refusal to join them in condemning Prime Minister V.P. Singh's policy of alloting reservations to the Other Backward Castes. As this stand of Advani's contradicted the usual story of the BJP being "upper-caste chauvinist", it went unreported in the world media.
    • Elst, K. (2010). The saffron swastika: The notion of "Hindu fascism". p 713

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