Some thirty-two years ago, a young me reached Faizabad (a City in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh) to play a football tournament for my school team. We played three matches and lost all, miserably with scores card reading 0-7, 1-8 and 0-15 but believe me it was a dream come true trip for a 16-year-old.
As far as I can remember it was about the same time in October just before the Diwali festival. We (team) stayed in the football camp for three nights and every night we went out to visit the Faizabad ‘Numaish’ (local fair) to watch dances and have fun.
However, the most significant visit that changed my life was to ‘Ayodhya’ the Hindu holy city and the birthplace of Sri Ram, a Hindu god.
Faizabad to Ayodhya is 15 Kilometre run and after losing our final match it took us a good 30 minutes via auto (three-wheeler taxi) to reach that very small town.
With us was Sandeep Saraswat, a pathetic football player but a very intelligent student with deep knowledge and understanding of Hindu culture and its challenges. (Caveat: He is a dear friend, I can take the liberty to call him whatever I like but you guys better behave.)
He gave us all the possible information within the auto ride about ‘Ayodhya’, its significance and the struggles the Hindu community was going through to get access to Sri Ram’s birthplace called Shri Ram Janambhumi.
We took a bath in the holy river Saryu and started our pilgrimage, every person within the local community we talked to told us to first visit the Shri Hanuman Garhi temple and take darshan (blessings) of Ram Lalla.
Following the local belief, as well as the custom, that before worshipping Lord Ram, one must visit Hanuman Garhi temple and venerate Lord Hanuman first because Lord Hanuman is considered an ardent devotee or bhakt of Lord Rama, therefore before worshipping Rama, one must worship his devotees first.
We did prayers and had prasad (food) at Hanuman Garhi Temple and walked towards Shri Ram Janambhumi.
I can’t forget that site with barbed wires and barricades and police persons covering every five meters. Above the little height was a torn tent with a flag which was supposed to be the temple of one of the holiest sites of Hindu religion.
Ignorant, I asked the police person, “Where is Shri Ram temple?”
He without emotions replied by pointing towards the top ‘that is it,” “Go from that gate” he guided us to the police checkpoint for visitors.
We stood there for a few minutes and Sandeep announced I am not going there for prayers. Again dumb me asked him what happened now, it was your idea to come here for prayers. Sandeep said with his trade mark confidence, “I will visit the Shri Ram Janambhumi when Ram Lalla gets his temple built.
All of a sudden people who would never agree to any subject without fights were nodding with a unanimous yes. We didn’t go and pray to Ram Lalla with a promise to each other that we will visit the day the Temple was built.
Eight years after that day life took its turn and I am a journalist with a news organisation in New Delhi.
In one of my assignments, I was again standing in front of the same barbed wires, hundreds of police officers restricting visitors and the torn tent of Ram Lalla. The police officer in charge of the Shri Ram Janambhumi area was a dear friend and offered to take me in and do prayers when no visitor was allowed.
I still remembered the promise made to Sandeep Saraswat and said NO to this unique opportunity to have the closest ‘darshan’ (prayers) of Ram Lalla.
However, Hanuman Garhi Temple was again my refuge. At the langer hall, someone sitting next to me told Shri Ram Janambhumi Temple will be built within two years. The surprised and curious journalist in me asked him how is he so confident.
He gave me the information that became the basis of a news story to bring a storm in the Indian Parliament. Believe me, I never planned it to be that way.
My source from Hanuman Garhi Temple took me to a walled compound that was spread over I think couple of acres. What I saw there were thousands of bricks sent from all over India and a number of artisans busy carving pillars for the Shri Ram Janambhumi Temple.
With my camera person took footage and interviews of the site in charge, artisans and some locals. My news story was simple “Ayodhya believes to get Shri Ram Janambhumi Temple in two years.”
Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee of the Bhartiya Janta Party was the Prime Minister of India and the Indian National Congress was the main opposition party.
Within hours of the broadcast of the news it was the talk of the town, newspapers were writing op-eds that the Vajpai government was secretly preparing to build Shri Ram Janambhumi Temple.
Rajesh Pilot (Ex-State Minister for Home Affairs) was the then Shadow Minister for Home Affairs for the Congress Party in the Indian Parliament. He came to my news office and asked my boss Ms Nalini Singh for the raw footage of the news story. She however denied it and only gave a copy of the broadcast news story.
Rajesh Pilot took a printout of it and raised the issue in the Indian Parliament’s lower house Loksabha.
As a junior reporter, I felt thrilled to be treated as a star but there was someone who called and told me, I had single-handedly made the possibility of the Shri Ram Janambhumi Temple a bit more difficult.
A lot of people mocked my news story and said my boss Nalini Singh got it done in support of the Vajpayee government. That was the first time I heard the slogan “Mandir Vahi Banayenge Par Tareekh Nahi Bataayenge” (We will build the temple there but won’t tell the date).
Today, I can say it was one of the worst abuses as a Hindu journalist I have to bear without the right to reply to colleagues, seniors and sometimes unknowns.
The Supreme Court of India’s landmark judgement in November 2019 paved the way for the construction of the Shri Ram Janambhumi Temple at Ayodhya. This was a watershed moment, not just legally but also politically and socially.
It essentially took the wind out of the sails of the slogan “Mandir Vahi Banayenge Par Tareekh Nahi Bataayenge,” as the date became not just conceivable but legally sanctioned.
The day judgement news came I called Sandeep Saraswat reminding him the promise we made to each other some thirty years back will be realised soon.
However, now with the news that the Shri Ram Janambhumi Temple will be inaugurated on January 22, 2024, it seems like an apt time to examine the slogan and its political, social, and cultural implications in the Indian and global landscape.
The Ayodhya dispute has a long and tumultuous history dating back several hundred years, entangled in religious, historical, and legal controversies.
“Mandir Vahi Banayenge Par Tareekh Nahi Bataayenge” (We will build the temple there but won’t tell the date) has been a go-to taunting slogan for politicians, actors, social workers, academicians and journalists towards people advocating for the construction of the Shri Ram Janambhumi Temple at Ayodhya.
The slogan also encapsulates the volatile mix of religious passion and political calculation that characterized the debate over the temple. It indicated a commitment to building the temple but kept the timeline ambiguous, which many be sometimes interpreted as a political strategy.
For most Hindus, the completion of the Shri Ram Janambhumi Temple is not at all a political achievement but a fulfillment of religious and cultural aspirations as the temple is expected to become a major pilgrimage destination and a symbol of Hindu identity.
While the completion of the temple might appear to make the slogan obsolete, it’s essential to consider its lasting impact on Indian political and social structure. The slogan was an effective political tool, and its realization marks the fulfillment of a significant electoral promise, likely affecting voter behavior and party loyalties.
It’s crucial to acknowledge that the Ayodhya dispute has often been a source of division between Hindus and Muslims in India. Going forward, the challenge will be to ensure that the temple serves as a symbol of unity of India.
Till now I didn’t know how to react to praises to that news story “Ayodhya believes to get Shri Ram Janambhumi Temple in two years,” But today I am really proud of it as a journalist and also as a Hindu.
And yes, I know that no one absolutely no one will be able to taunt Hindus with the slogan “Mandir Vahi Banayenge Par Tareekh Nahi Bataayenge.”
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