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BJP's response to Ram Mandir will decide course of India's history

Last updated on: March 16, 2017 09:38 IST

'It is imperative that all parties make a commitment that they shall abide by the final decision of the Supreme Court.'
'This will be the best way to bring a closure.'
'It is time India moves on to face several other challenges,' says Dr Madhav Godbole, the distinguished civil servant who resigned as Union home secretary after the Babri Masjid demolition.

Sadhus in Ayodhya

Never before had the Bharatiya Janata Party won such a massive mandate in Uttar Pradesh. Its performance in the three other states, and particularly in Uttarakhand, has been impressive.

Nearly two third of India's population now lives in BJP-ruled states. This opens a new chapter not only in the history of the BJP, but also of India. Hereafter, all major national and regional issues will have to be considered with this new perspective.

The foremost among these is the construction of the Ram temple in Ayodhya at the site where the demolished Babri Masjid stood.

Though not even a day had elapsed since the declaration of the results in UP, hot-heads in the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the BJP, and its 'so-called' ally, the Shiv Sena, were already demanding that expeditious steps must now be taken for the construction of the Ram temple at the disputed site.

The BJP's response to this single issue will decide the course of India's history.

Public memory is phenomenally short. It would therefore be pertinent to recall the BJP's stint in power in Uttar Pradesh in 1992 under chief minister Kalyan Singh which actively promoted the demolition of the Babri Masjid by its actions and inactions.

Kalyan Singh had given a commitment to the central government, the National Integration Council and the Supreme Court that all steps would be taken to protect the Babri Masjid.

Shockingly, none of these was fulfilled.

When the central government decided to station 20,000 paramilitary forces at a distance of about 10 kilometres from Ayodhya, Kalyan Singh had furiously objected to it.

Repeated suggestions of the central government to deploy the central paramilitary forces in the first protective ring around the Babri Masjid were turned down by the state government.

Kalyan Singh had also given instructions that under no circumstances should the state police guarding the structure open fire on the kar sevaks.

Kalyan Singh had also warned the central government that if any pre-emptive action was taken by it to impose President's rule or to take over the structure, no guarantee could be given for its protection.

Unfortunately, P V Narasimha Rao, the then prime minister, was reluctant to act on the home ministry's advice to dismiss the Kalyan Singh government and to impose President's rule under Article 356 of the Constitution.

As a result, ultimately, the Babri Masjid was wantonly demolished by the kar sevaks under the watch of the Kalyan Singh government and in full view of the massive strength of the state police and senior BJP leadership.

It was only after the demolition of the masjid was nearly complete that the state government called for the assistance of the central paramilitary forces.

But since magistrates were not made available by the state government for quite some time in spite of repeated requests by the paramilitary forces, they were unable to enter Ayodhya which had lakhs of kar sevaks milling around.

When Kalyan Singh was hauled up for contempt of court for having failed to abide by the commitment given to the court, he got away only with imprisonment till the rising of the court!

After the BJP came to power at the centre in 2014, Kalyan Singh was rewarded with governorship of a major state.

The Liberhan commission of inquiry, even after toiling for 17 years, failed to bring out the enormity of the crime and identify those who should be held responsible.

The criminal cases against the guilty have not made any headway though over twenty years have elapsed.

It is only on March 7, 2017 that the Supreme Court has held that the discharge of senior BJP leaders on a technical ground was inappropriate and has given directions to reopen the cases.

The court has also expressed concern at the delay in conducting the trial.

This is an eloquent commentary on the total failure of governance on this highly emotive and sensitive issue.

I have deliberately invited attention to these shocking developments during the BJP regime in UP in 1992.

It must be underlined that the massive mandate received by the BJP in the elections this year was entirely due to Modi Magic and his slogan 'Sabka saath, Sabka vikas.' This has galvanised people belonging to all religions, castes, creeds and communities.

This new social engineering needs to be strengthened and carried forward consciously in a responsible manner.

Mayawati has pertinently observed that even in Muslim majority areas in UP the BJP has received a clear mandate. This is a very welcome development from a national perspective as it clearly shows that Muslims and scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and other weaker sections have reposed their faith in Modi's appeal for inclusive growth.

Nothing must be done to let down these widely held expectations.

The BJP has been harping on a Congress-mukt Bharat. In their turn, the so-called secular parties are calling for a BJP-mukt Bharat. This has split the Indian polity, like the Republicans and Democrats in the USA.

In spite of the BJP's massive win in the recent elections, it needs to be stated that the BJP is considered an untouchable by most other political parties in the country.

It may be considered a travesty, but it shows that even the BJP needs to be brought into the mainstream of political thinking in the country.

The moves which the BJP makes for construction of the Ram temple at the disputed site will be a litmus test for this purpose.

The construction of the temple in Ayodhya is an emotive issue for large sections of Hindus. All efforts made during the last two decades to arrive at an amicable solution in consultation with Muslim groups have failed. The matter is now before the Supreme Court.

It will be best if all stake-holders, including the state and central governments, and the Hindu and Muslim groups make an appeal to the Supreme Court to take up this case for a very early decision.

Attention needs to be invited in this context to the suggestion made by some BJP activists that if the court decision goes against the Hindus, a law should be passed by the state government to take up the construction of the temple at the disputed site.

These are dangerous portents.

It is imperative that all parties categorically make a commitment that they shall abide by the final decision of the Supreme Court.

This will be the best way to bring a closure to the issue.

It is time India moves on to face several other multifarious challenges before it.

Dr Madhav Godbole is a former home secretary and secretary justice, Government of India. His memoirs, Unfinished Innings -- Recollections and Reflections of a Civil Servant bring out the decision-making process during the time.

IMAGE: Sadhus near the Ram temple in Ayodhya. Photograph published only for representational purposes.
Photograph: Asif Ansari

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