Interview with Acharya Giriraj Kishore and Pravin Togadia.
IN the light of the verdict of the Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court in the Ayodhya title suit, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) has demanded that the Central government hand over to it the entire 67 acres of acquired area so that a Ram temple can be built. Acharya Giriraj Kishore and Pravin Togadia, senior international vice-president and international general secretary respectively of the organisation, spoke to Frontline on the verdict. Excerpts from the interview:
Now that the High Court has ruled that the place where the Ram Lalla idol is kept is the birthplace of Ram, do you feel vindicated?
Togadia: The Allahabad High Court verdict is an affirmation of the faith of crores of Hindus the world over. The fact that all three judges unanimously decided on the issue of the birthplace of Lord Ram being at the spot where the idol is being worshipped by Hindus for years is an acknowledgement of the belief of Hindus and we welcome it and accept the verdict. Our stand has been vindicated that this is the birthplace of Lord Ram. This is further corroborated by the fact that the Sunni Central Waqf Board's claim over the title deed has been dismissed unanimously by the court.
But the court has also ordered that one-third of the disputed land be handed over to the waqf board.
Togadia: The Sunni Central Waqf Board's title claim has been rejected by the court, and since the court has ruled that the place where the idol is kept at present is the birthplace of Lord Ram, what meaning does the waqf board claims have? We want to build a grand Ram temple at the spot and demand that the Central government hand over the entire 67 acres of land to us for this purpose. We appeal to all, including the Muslim community, to come forward and help in building a grand Ram temple at the spot, in keeping with the spirit of the court ruling. Besides, the waqf board has also claimed that if it is proved this is the birthplace of Lord Ram it will give up its claim over the land. It should follow what it has said all along.
Acharya Giriraj Kishore: I appeal to the Muslim community to forget the past and work for the construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya. This is a rare opportunity for them to pave the way for everlasting peace and amity between the two communities and they should avail themselves of this opportunity. Once they do this and give up their claim over the Kashi and Mathura temples, there would be everlasting peace and communal harmony.
But the court has found their claim valid for one-third part of the land.
Togadia: See, their title suit claim has been dismissed by the court, so they should be magnanimous enough to give up their claim over this land now and join hands with us in building a temple. This will be in the larger interest of all. We have made it clear in our resolutions before that we will not allow any mosque in or around the disputed area. We can offer Muslims land anywhere else but Ayodhya, and if they agree to our proposal we will help in making a grand mosque for them. Ayodhya is one of the most sacred places for millions of Hindus and they should respect this.
What if the Supreme Court upholds the High Court decision?
Togadia: We will see then. As of today, our position is clear. Besides, Muslims should understand that they have lost the title case on the issue of law; their claim has been rejected as it was found to be time barred. We are confident the Supreme Court will see the merit in this.
It took the court 60 years to come to this conclusion. A lot of violence and bloodshed could have been avoided had the case been decided earlier.
Acharya Giriraj Kishore: This was a very sensitive case and the court had to take cognisance of many aspects thousands of witnesses to be heard, thousands of pieces of evidence to be examined. We are satisfied that finally justice has prevailed. It is a historic event that has the potential to change forever the political landscape of India. Once Muslims understand and accept the spirit of this verdict, Hindu-Muslim relations will change forever. Let bygones be bygones, let there be no acrimony and let there be peace for all time to come.
How do you intend to take your temple construction plan forward?
Togadia: That is for the sadhus and the sants to decide. This time they will lead the temple construction programme. We have no plans for the immediate future.