March 18, 2002


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The Rediff Interview/Balraj Madhok

'The temple must be completed'
Professor Balraj Madhok, former president and co-founder of the Bharatiya Jan Sangh, has not lost his ability to brutally dissect political adversaries. The Jan Sangh -- precursor of the Bharatiya Janata Party -- had its high-water mark under Madhok's stewardship when, along with its allies, the party won 100 seats in the 1967 general election.

Madhok says he first raised the issue of restoration of the Ram temple in Ayodhya in the Lok Sabha in 1968. The issue was later picked up by the BJP in the 1980s and resulted in handsome rewards for the party in the general elections of 1989 and after. The former MP blames the recent decline in the BJP's appeal on the party distancing itself from the ideology of the Jan Sangh to please its political allies.

In conversation with Tara Shankar Sahay, Madhok discusses the Ayodhya dispute and other issues. Excerpts:

As somebody who has closely monitored developments in the BJP since its inception in 1980, what do you think of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's handling of the Ayodhya dispute?

There is no dispute. Here is a temple in question which existed long before [Mughal emperor] Babar came to this country. There are maps of the temple. Babar was a Turkish invader. He came from Ferghana and invaded Afghanistan. After that, he entered India, passed through Delhi and attacked Ayodhya in 1528. He ordered the destruction of the Ram temple to his general Mir Baqi and built an intended mosque in its place. It is not a mosque in the conventional sense; there is no place to read the khutba (sermon), no place for wazu (ablution), it is just a dhancha (structure). Since there was no Muslim population in those days nearby, namaaz was never read there.

After Babar destroyed the temple, the Hindus preserved the idols on a chabootra (platform) and continued to worship there. After India became independent, the idols were taken inside the structure. From 1949 onwards, the structure was being used as a temple. But the people wanted the dhancha to go and a temple built.

I want you to outline Vajpayee's handling of the Ayodhya dispute, not its history.

You must understand the background. I suggested in the Lok Sabha...

When was that?

In 1968. I was a Jan Sangh MP from the South Delhi parliamentary constituency. I emphasised that three temples -- the temple of nativity of Ram at Ayodhya, the temple of nativity of Krishna at Mathura and the Kashi Vishwanath temple at Varanasi -- are as holy and as important to Hindus as the Ka'aba (in Mecca) is to Muslims and Bethlehem is to Christians. Can anyone deny that Muslims have destroyed thousands of temples and churches? We Hindus only want these three temples returned to us. In return, we will give land for building the concerned mosques.

So what happened?

The minister who was handling such affairs was Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed, who later became President of India. I told him that if he was a nationalist and a patriot, he should have no objection to my proposal.

What was the response?

My proposal was widely welcomed in the House and even applauded by members belonging to the Congress party. But Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed kept quiet. He did not reply. I told him 'you are not a nationalist, not secular, but a damned communalist.' I told him so in the House and it is on record.

Did the 1992 demolition of the mosque not bother you?

According to me, the mosque was a symbol of national shame, a symbol of foreign invasion. A temple was destroyed to build it. So it is no issue at all.

Now about Vajpayee's handling of the issue, I have got to hand it to him that he is honest. He says he is a Nehru-ite and there is no reason to disbelieve him. But the party that he leads has some elements of Hinduism in it. This dichotomy between the image of the leader and the image of the party is costing the party dear. The prime minister cannot ride two stools at the same time. He can't be a Nehru-ite and a [Sardar Vallabhbhai] Patelite at the same time.

Despite your claims about the temple in Ayodhya, the court has said there is no documentary evidence of its existence.

The court has said nothing. The existence of the temple's historical and archaeological evidence is absolutely irrefutable.

Do you think the Vishwa Hindu Parishad will engineer the ouster of the Vajpayee government if it does not facilitate the construction of the temple in Ayodhya?

I doubt it. Vajpayee is thinking of resigning because of his age and other factors; nobody can stop it.

The Vajpayee government's allies -- the Telugu Desam Party and the Trinamul Congress, for instance -- could leave the ruling alliance if the prime minister concedes to the VHP on Ayodhya.

Can the TDP afford to do it? Can Chandrababu Naidu afford to oppose the Ram temple in Ayodhya? He will be nowhere. Let me write it down on stamp paper, Chandrababu Naidu cannot dare to oppose the Ram temple.

But his state -- Andhra Pradesh, of which he is chief minister -- has a substantial Muslim electorate.

It has only 10 per cent Muslim voters, what does it amount to? You know this time during the parliamentary election, Naidu formed an alliance with the BJP in the state and the Muslims turned against him. When the results came, 27 out of the 29 candidates that the TDP had put up won and seven out of the BJP's eight candidates won. Barring a few constituencies in the state, Muslims do not count.

Is there a precedent like the Babri Masjid?

There was a similar case in Lahore pertaining to a gurdwara. It was converted into a mosque some 200 years ago by Muslim rulers. The Sikhs (before Partition) demanded that the gurdwara be returned to them. The dispute continued. Ultimately, the government referred the matter to the court, which ultimately ruled that there was a gurdwara on which the mosque was constructed. They returned the gurdwara to the Sikhs and the remnants of the mosque were removed. So you see, it is a question of fact, not of opinion. It is not a legal issue.

For the last 10 years, a case regarding Ayodhya is being heard in the courts.

The Muslims have no locus standi on the Ayodhya issue.

There is an opinion among intellectuals that the status quo should prevail in Ayodhya.

What intellectuals? The Leftists? These opinions carry no weight whatsoever.

What will happen now?

The court has to come out with a judgment.

What if the undisputed site in Ayodhya is not given to the VHP?

I am not bothered. What matters is that the temple must be completed. There is no disputed or undisputed site. There is only the temple site in Ayodhya whose foundation was laid in 1989.

The All-India Muslim Personal Law Board ...

I don't care a damn for them. They, or any other Muslim organisation, have no locus standi.

Why is the government dealing with them?

It is Muslim appeasement. It will leave our leaders nowhere.

Why did you distance yourself from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh?

I am not a RSS leader. I left it in 1938. I believe in the ideology of Hindu rashtra (nation). I was in the Jan Sangh, but I have not been in any party in the last three decades.

The Jan Sangh is said to have spawned the BJP in 1980. Why did you not join the BJP?

There was no need for the BJP. The Jan Sangh was a growing party and today it has a large following in the country although the organisation is no more there. The BJP was formed because Vajpayee declared it had nothing to do with the Jan Sangh. It will be wrong to call the BJP a successor of the Jan Sangh.

Were you the only leader opposing the creation of the BJP?

Rajmata Vijayaraje Scindia was another, but she is dead now.

You haven't been in any party for the last 30 years; what role have you been playing?

That of elder statesman. I hope to contest the election of President of India and hope to win. My followers have told me I am a formidable opponent.

What are your views on secularism?

Secularism as accepted and practised all over the world has three basic postulates:

  1. The State shall not distinguish between citizens on the basis of religion or the way of worship;
  2. All citizens will be governed by the same laws;
  3. All citizens will be equal before law.
India is not a secular State today because we do not fulfil any of these three postulates.

The Ayodhya Dispute: The complete coverage

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