THE DOGRA REGIMENTAL CENTRE in Faizabad Cantonment—now renamed Ayodhya Cantonment—is a few kilometres from where the Babri Masjid stood until a Hindu mob demolished it, in December 1992. In 2022, the Dogra Regiment, an infantry regiment of the Indian Army, completed a century of its existence, and General MM Naravane, the army chief at the time, was present to inspect the ceremonial parade and participate in other programmes to mark the occasion. This year, Naravane was back at the officers’ mess, as part of a squad of 11 former service chiefs who were in town to attend the consecration of the Ram temple by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The temple, still under construction, has been raised atop the ruins of the sixteenth-century mosque.
Among the former chiefs—constituting about a third of the 35 men who have headed either the army, the air force or the navy and are still alive—were VK Singh, who has been a junior minister throughout the tenure of the Modi government, and Deepak Kapoor, who was seen walking in Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra last year. The only non-Hindu among them was JJ Singh, who had joined the Bharatiya Janata Party in 2022, after being a member of two Akali Dal factions. Almost all of them were north Indian upper-caste Hindus, a constituency that forms a major support base of Modi’s ideological regime.
The temple consecration is seen as the symbolic culmination of a long journey by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh—the BJP’s ideological parent—to establish a Hindu Rashtra, and Modi, fighting for a third term as prime minister, has put his mark on it. Over the past ten years, a number of institutions have aided this Hindutva project, including an unquestioning lapdog media, a hollowed-out parliament and a supine judiciary.