October 22, 2001


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The Rediff Interview/VHP Vice-President Giriraj Kishore

Once again, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad has hit the headlines after its forced entry into the disputed Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi site in Ayodhya. Defying security orders, VHP leaders stormed the makeshift Ram temple at the site to perform a puja. Though Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was embarrassed enough to say that a security lapse had led to the situation, the VHP has said numerous times that its agenda need not necessarily fit in with the BJP's.

Talking to Ramesh Menon in New Delhi, the VHP's international vice-president, Acharya Giriraj Kishore, said the deadline for construction of the Ram temple remains March 12, 2002, and the VHP has not broken any law by storming the makeshift temple. Excerpts:

Why did VHP leaders defy security and storm the makeshift Ram temple?

The top brass of the VHP leadership did go to the Ram Lalla makeshift temple to offer prayers. One cannot have a proper view, as the distance is more than 50 feet. One of our leaders, Shirish Chandra Dixit, requested the police to search him, as he wanted to go close to the deity. Or he wanted to see the orders of the court saying he should be at least 50 feet away while praying. Or that he should be arrested. The cop asked him to wait as he contacted his senior officers. Dixitji waited for 30 minutes, but no decision was taken.

How many VHP activists were there?

Only five at that time. After 45 minutes or so, Dixitji went inside the sanctum sanctorum. Meanwhile, other leaders like [VHP president] Ashok Singhal and [general secretary] Pravin Togadia went inside. They were arrested. As news broke out that Ashok Singhalji had been arrested, our workers rushed to the spot. I also went there but did not cross the limit and stood where visitors stand for a darshan.

What did the VHP want?

Our plea is that in December 1992, an application was moved in the court for doing puja and aarti of Sri Ram Lalla. The Allahabad high court gave a judgment, which clearly says that the devotees of Ram Lalla can have darshan in a meaningful manner from a distance that would not be too far off, keeping in view the security of the idol. Nowhere was 50 feet mentioned by the court. This judgment was stayed by the Supreme Court and therefore was just an administrative order. So it is a wrong allegation that we violated court orders. There was no such court order. The hue and cry is politically motivated.

By whom?

By opposition parties, by [Samajwadi Party president] Mulayam Singh Yadav and the Congress. So the government has to yield...

What did the VHP gain by this sudden action?

That is not the question. Did we violate the law should be your question. We did not. If anyone goes for darshan, there should be a good view of the deity. There was no proper view. It was the first day of Durga Puja, which is very auspicious among Hindus. Devotees wanted to have darshan of the most significant deity of Ayodhya -- Ram Lalla.

Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee has come out very strongly against the VHP action...

We have done it and will face the consequences.

Will not such actions by the VHP increase tension between Hindus and Muslims?

We went there to pray. It is like saying you are sitting here and by your presence the Muslims will be agitated.

Is the VHP doing this to help the BJP in the coming Uttar Pradesh assembly election? Are you whipping up the Hindu card again?

There was no pre-planned effort in this. It was a spontaneous action.

Muslim leaders like [Babri Masjid Coordination Committee convener] Syed Shahabuddin say they will respect the verdict of the court on the Ram Janmabhoomi issue. What is the VHP's stand? Will you obey the court verdict?

We have enough material to prove our viewpoint. We hope and we are sure the court will deliver a judgment justifiably. We expect justice and we will get it.

Suppose the court verdict goes against what you want?

There should be no hypothetical questions.

What is the latest deadline for building the Ram temple in Ayodhya?

The dharmacharyas had fixed March 12. That is going to be Shivratri.

Why March 12? What is so special about this date?

Shivratri. Shiv is the deity of Ram. Sri Ram worships Shiv. That is the biggest reason for March 12.

The prime minister had said a few weeks ago that he was talking to certain people and working out a solution to the Babri Masjid issue.

There is no Babri Masjid. You can call it a disputed structure.

Okay, whatever you want to call it.

No, no, not whatever. We call it a disputed structure.

Whom is the prime minister talking to?

You should ask him. We are not officially aware of any deal being worked out.

How do you think your government has fared?

On foreign matters, they have succeeded. This time after Kargil, India did not lose anything. At the time of Lal Bahadur Shastri, we lost Haji Pir. At the time of the Simla talks, we gave away 92,000 prisoners of war and the territory we had won.

What about other areas like liberalisation and the economy?

I am not an economist.

What about other areas?

The government performed a nuclear test. Even at this juncture, they are succeeding in their diplomacy.

You have been very critical about the way the BJP-led government has handled various issues, including terrorism and its relationship with Pakistan.

We were critical as terrorism was not controlled and we offered a truce. My contention was that there could be no truce between terrorists and a government.

And on the relationship with Pakistan?

The government has taken the right steps. Pakistan has now been cornered by circumstances and India has a role in it.

What is the solution to the Ayodhya problem?

Firstly, there should be easier ways for darshan. An old man like me cannot go there as one has to walk for nearly 5km. There must be searchlights put up. We at least need to be close enough to see the deity.

The court must hear the proceedings, everyday, and speed up the process. For harmony and peace, we accepted the partition of the country. Cannot they [the Muslims] forgo the temples in Kashi Vishwanath, Ram Janmabhoomi and Mathura?

If the temple is the solution, how close are you to it?

If temple is there, there is no problem. Hindus are tolerant. It is the Muslims who are being intolerant as they cannot tolerate non-believers. They want a global Islamic state.

Cannot we think of a solution that will hurt no one?

That can never happen. I know the Muslim psyche. Initially, we gave them an offer that if they give us the three temples, we will offer them any mosque that we have with us. They declined the offer.

'Vajpayee is playing with fire'

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