A large number of Ayodhya’s sadhus are enraged with the Bharatiya Janata Party for not expediting construction of the Ram temple, despite making such promises before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. The simmering discontentment came to a head on 23 October when the sadhus, along with supporters of former Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Pravin Togadia, clashed with the police, breaking barricades while trying to enter the disputed Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi site. Against this backdrop, a relatively new outfit floated by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh is quietly spearheading the Sangh Parivar’s attempts to assuage the sadhus’ sentiments.
The outfit, known as the Shri Ram Mandir Nirman Sahayog Manch, or SRMNSM, has planned a major show of strength of sadhus on 31 October, which is expected to bridge the chasm between the Sangh Parivar and local religious leaders. “More than one thousand sadhus will attend sant-sammelan,” Mahiraj Dhwaj, the national convenor of SRMNSM and an RSS pracharak-turned-sadhu, said. “This will end all confusion and clear the way for the construction of a grand Ram temple in Ayodhya.”
The SRMNSM was floated in September last year to whip up support for the temple in Ayodhya, parallel to the hearing of the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi case in the Supreme Court. In the overall structure of the RSS, the SRMNSM has been placed under the supervision of Muslim Rashtriya Manch, or MRM, which seeks to bring Muslims under the Hindutva net. The irony is hard to miss. The MRM is headed by the senior RSS leader Indresh Kumar, who is also the chief patron of the SRMNSM. (The Hindu firebrand Aseemanand has said that Indresh Kumar and the RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat had given their blessings for multiple terror attacks for which he was facing trial at the time.)
According to Dhwaj, who is also the national co-convener of the MRM, the SRMNSM is an “outfit of masses” whose work is supported by “like-minded organisations.” He listed several of them, including the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Muslim Rashtriya Manch, Rashtriya Ekta Mission, Masihi Mitra Manch, Bharat Tibet Sahyog Manch, Himalaya Pariwar, Sanatan Sabha, Shri Jagannath Seva Samiti, Rashtriya Suraksha Jagran Manch and Bhrashtachar Mukti Andolan—all offshoots of the RSS.
The SRMNSM’s initiative is significant because disenchantment among Ayodhya’s sadhus, in the last few months, has clouded the BJP’s strategy in the nerve centre of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement. Moreover, this is happening at a time when the VHP—RSS’s flamboyant offshoot meant to mobilise sadhus—has become a target of criticism in Ayodhya, along with the BJP.