But this time the BJP will be shooting from the shoulders of the sants and sadhus of the VHP.in New Delhi
DESPITE claiming that they will abide by the September 30 court verdict in the Ram Janmabhoomi title suit, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) seem in no mood to accede one-third of the disputed land to the Sunni Central Waqf Board as directed by the three-judge Bench.
The stridency of the past may be missing, but the mood remains defiant, perhaps more so since their stand has been ratified by the court, too. They maintain that Muslims have no claim over the place that Hindus believe is the birthplace of Ram and that Muslims should willingly let go of their legal claim and hand over the entire place to Hindus to pave the way for the construction of a grand Ram temple. All this is in the name of national unity, integrity and communal harmony.
If the mood in the Sangh Parivar is any indication, it only seems to have hardened its position.
But this time, perhaps realising that the issue has lost its potential to reap political dividends, it has directed the BJP to remain in the background and let the VHP take the lead. This became evident on the evening of September 30 as details of the verdict started trickling in. The BJP leaders at the party headquarters in the capital were unavailable. It was Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat who first faced the media. In a calibrated statement, and without hinting at the fact that the court had directed Hindus to give one-third of the land to Muslims, he said, The judgment has paved the way for the construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya. The judgment is not a win or loss for anyone. We invite everybody, including Muslims, to help build the temple. He said happiness over the verdict should find expression in a controlled and peaceful manner within the limits of the law and the Constitution. Uncalled for provocation must be avoided, he reiterated, adding that the Ram temple movement was not a reactionary one, nor was it directed against any particular community. Perhaps at the back of his mind was the thought that any wild expression of joy could damage his side's prospects in the Supreme Court, where the parties can appeal in the next three months.
Questioned on the Muslims' claim over the land, he refused to say anything clearly, and instead appealed to Muslims to forget the ill will and bitterness borne out of the conflict and welcome the spirit of the verdict and help build a grand Ram temple.
Mohan Bhagwat's appearance was followed immediately by the VHP's general secretary, Pravin Togadia, accompanied by the ailing VHP patriarch Acharya Giriraj Kishore. They made it known in no uncertain terms that Hindus would not accede any land, either within the disputed area or outside it, to Muslims. We have made it known to the world in our past resolutions that Ayodhya, and the area in question, is the birthplace of Ram Lalla and will not hand it over to anyone, Togadia said. Asked whether they would not give one-third of the land to Muslims as per the court order, he said that since the court had decided unanimously that the place where the temple stood at present was the birthplace of Ram, and the title suit of the Sunni Central Waqf Board had been dismissed, Muslims' claim stood nullified.
Our stand has been vindicated. The 110 feet (33.5 metres)/90 feet (27.4 m) land where Ram Lalla resides has been ruled to be the birthplace of Lord Ram. This has paved the way for a grand Ram temple and for a grand temple we will need the entire 67 acres (26.8 hectares) around the disputed area. Where is the question of giving any portion of this land to anyone else? he said (Interview on page 16).
In fact, a statement issued by the VHP, on behalf of the Sant Uchhadhikar Samiti, the umbrella organisation of sants spearheading the temple movement, has made it absolutely clear that Hindus will not rest with the ownership of only 110\90 feet of land but will want the entire 67 acres to be handed over to them. The statement said a grand Ram temple, as has been decreed by the court, could be built only when the Centre handed over the entire acquired area to Hindus. It is the wish of crores of Hindus that the Central government should take the initiative in this direction, the statement said. The statement, which has been signed by Jagadguru Shankaracharya Swami Vasudevanand Saraswati on behalf of 49 sants, hailed the verdict as one that paved the way for Hindu-Muslim amity and appealed to the religious and social leaderships of Muslims to accept the verdict with grace and come forward to help (in building a grand temple) so that it earns the love and respect of the courts and Hindus.
The BJP leaders, who were the last from the Sangh Parivar to face the media, however, did not spell things out so categorically. Senior BJP leader L.K. Advani issued a carefully worded statement after an hour-and-a-half-long meeting with senior party leaders at his residence. In it he described the verdict as a significant step forward towards the construction of a grand temple at the birthplace of Lord Ram.
He said the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) had conclusively proved that a grand Hindu structure stood beneath the disputed structure and there was no doubt it was a Hindu temple. He also expected Muslims to show magnanimity and give up any claim over the land.
The BJP believes this verdict opens a new chapter for national integration and a new era of inter-community relations. The BJP is gratified that the nation has received the verdict with maturity, he said in the statement, which was issued on behalf of the BJP, with party president Nitin Gadkari sitting by his side.
Former BJP president Rajnath Singh, all set to address the United Nations General Assembly in Hindi a la Atal Bihari Vajpayee, said the fact that the three-judge Bench had ruled unanimously that the place where the temple stood now was the birthplace of Ram should be reason enough for Muslims to give up any claims over the remaining land.
The issue should now be sorted out through negotiations, which should begin before the case reaches the Supreme Court. Once the issue reaches the Supreme Court, it will leave no scope for any reconciliation. Muslims should understand that after the court verdict any Muslim claim over the land would be akin to Hindus staking a claim for a temple at Makkah. Now is the time for both communities to realise that since the title suit has been decided, there should be no further acrimony over the issue. Forget December 6, forget the past acrimony, let the past be a closed chapter and let us resolve the issue through reconciliation, he said.
Asked whether the BJP would agree to hand over one-third of the land to Muslims in case the Supreme Court upholds the High Court verdict, he said this was a hypothetical question which he would not answer. Besides, he said, it was for the sadhus and sants, and not for the BJP, to decide on this.
We never raised the issue with a motive to gain politically. We only articulated our viewpoint and the nation appreciated it. We never intended to create any hatred over the issue and now also we think the only way out is for reconciliation, which the government should initiate, and the BJP will support it, he said.
Another senior BJP leader, who did not want to be named, said that since the Sunni Central Waqf Board's title suit claim had been dismissed by the court, Muslims should voluntarily give up any claim over the land and agree to cooperate in the construction of a temple in Ayodhya to set an example for national unity and integration.
The Sangh strategy this time is not to let the BJP get involved directly in the issue since it has realised it does not go down well with the more urbane and aware voters of the new India. Said the BJP leader: A political party should not get involved in the construction of a mandir or a masjid. We lent our support to the cause as it was an issue of our national identity for crores of Hindus, not to gain political mileage. If there was any such mileage, it was by default. This time we will keep away. The sadhus and sants will decide. You will not see the BJP taking off on rath yatras or kar sevas this time.
The message is clear, though the method may be different this time.