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March 18, 2002
Ayodhya: a symbol of exploitation
On Saturday, members of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Bajrang Dal and Durga Vahini had been allowed to perform a yagna some 200 metres from the Orissa legislative assembly in Bhubaneshwar. In the afternoon, a mob of about 500 left the yagna site and headed towards the assembly to present Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik a memorandum demanding the release of Acharya Giriraj Kishore, the construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya, and the withdrawal of anti-VHP and anti-Bajrang Dal remarks by some legislators. The slogan-shouting horde forced its way into the premises and ransacked the building, damaging property and severely injuring legislators, employees and journalists by attacking them with trishuls and lathis.
There are some discrepancies in the reportage on the incident: Two Asian Age reports, with identical bylines, claim "unarmed constables guarding the main gate," and, "approximately 3,000 armed security personnel deployed in and around the premises." While some say there were 500 activists, others quote 300. While one report states that they overpowered the security personnel at the gate, another says they scaled the walls of the assembly. Some write the activists were performing a yagna, while others say they were on a dharna.
However, what is not disputed is that the Hindus who stormed the assembly were armed with tridents and lathis; entered ministers' chambers and broke window panes and glass doors, damaged computers, telephones and other apparatus; smashed a traffic outpost in front of the assembly; set fire to a scooter; tried to enter the chambers of the women legislators before being thwarted by two Watch & Ward staff, who locked the chamber from inside.
VHP state president B P Rath said to the Age, "The boys and girls had gone to peacefully submit the memorandum to the chief minister. But the police personnel did not allow them to enter and resorted to a lathi charge, which provoked them to forcibly enter the Assembly." To rediff.com, he said, "anti-social elements committed this despicable act taking advantage of a tense atmosphere created by the misbehaviour of policemen towards women Ramsevaks."
Truth, I don't give a damn about the omnipresent "intelligence lapse" and police inaction. I don't care how the mob entered the assembly and what was the provocation for the rampaging. The central point is: the activists went armed to a state legislative assembly, beat up people with little connection to the Ayodhya issue, and caused damage to public property - all for entirely political reasons. They terrorised and, thus, can rightly be called terrorists. At this point of time, there is no difference between these goons and those who attacked the J&K assembly and Parliament. They must be severely curbed, and I, for one, no longer have any objections to the call for a ban on the VHP, Bajrang Dal and Durga Vahini. Not only have they outlived their usefulness to Hindu society, they are now, in fact, harming it.
Yes, I'm suffering from Ayodhya fatigue. The courts are simply sitting on the cases and preventing India from focusing on far more important issues -- like Pakistan. Since the murderous attack on the karsevaks at Godhra, we have forgotten all about the extradition of the terrorists from Pakistan, the plight of Kashmiris, army build up at the frontiers and even the budget. The farce of "symbolic" puja (what the hell is that, anyway?) and symbolic shila daan, disputed and undisputed lands, orders and clarification orders, suicide threats and fast-unto-deaths have taken their toll: I've had enough of this nonsense. When the VHP's counsel complained to the Supreme Court that in the eight years since the suits over ownership of the acquired land were reopened only 23 witnesses had been examined, the bench said it was because of the litigating parties that the hearings had been adjourned: "Somebody wants to keep the pot boiling," said Justice Kirpal.
Which is what Prem Panicker's been saying to me. Here's what he wrote on March 4 -- *eleven* days before the shila daan: "The government will give the assurance, in these terms: 'The government firmly told the RSS and the VHP that no attempt to take the law into their own hands will be condoned... In order to defuse tensions, the government permitted the VHP to carry out a controlled programme -- which, government sources said, would be against the backdrop of heavy security cover -- wherein a few pillars alone would be brought out of karsevakpuram and installed on a small portion of the undisputed site, following which pujas would be offered and the karsevaks would return to their homes. Faced by the tough stance of the Central government, the VHP reluctantly accepted the terms'. If it happens that way, I will prolly fall out of my chair laughing... The four pillars are all that the VHP planned to put up anyways -- but now, it is a 'compromise formula.' And everyone ends up smelling of roses -- the VHP for having actually begun work on construction, Vajpayee for his readiness to sacrifice his government for a principle, the Sangh Parivar for its willingness to compromise rather than precipitate an untenable situation."
In short, nobody really wants a solution to an issue which can be dusted off and put to use for the next election as the next phase of temple construction. As Prem put it, "The VHP will give the government unlimited time to resolve the dispute (nice, that means it can shelve the issue and leave it in mothballs till 2004, when the General Election is due), provided it gets a written assurance that it will be allowed to 'move a few pillars' to the 'undisputed' area and do a few pujas."
Notwithstanding his amazing clairvoyance, Prem still underestimated the Hindu mindset: He lauded the Sangh Parivar for being superb chess players who could whip even Kasparov. But methinks, the BJP and the VHP overplayed their hand: The revival of the Ayodhya issue was a huge mistake and will finish the BJP.
Certain circumstances helped the BJP ride the Ayodhya wave to a measure of power in the 80s. The Shah Bano amendment stirred feelings that politicians pandered to the lowest common denominator in Muslim politics while putting down Hindu aspirations in the name of secularism. The Babri Masjid became a symbol of Hindu humiliation, more so because Muslims wouldn't allow a temple to be built in place of a non-functioning mosque built by invaders who had destroyed a temple (under project 'Archaeology of the Ramayana Sites' headed by Prof B B Lal, excavations conducted at Ayodhya revealed the remains of an 11th century Hindu temple belonging to the Gahadwal king of Kanauj underlying the Babri mosque).
But what happened after the BJP took charge? Forget Ram Janmabhoomi, even a debate on the Uniform Civil Code was shelved, and Haj subsidies, in fact, increased ("Air India has suffered a loss of over Rs 68 crores on operation of Haj chartered flights," Lok Sabha was informed on December 10). Today, Ayodhya has become a symbol of the Sangh Parivar's cynical manipulation of religious sentiments; of the deviousness of a BJP-led government, and of the Parivar's lack of respect for law and order.
How cynically manipulative is the BJP, you ask...? On March 8, P A Sangma resigned from the 10-member Constitution Review Committee over the issue of an amendment for exclusion of persons who are not natural born citizens of India from access to high constitutional position. The committee debated the proposal and when it was put to vote, 5 members -- Subhash Kashyap, C R Irani, Sumitra Kulkarni, Justice K Punnayya and Sangma -- voted in favour of the proposal; those who voted against were Abid Hussain, Justice R S Sarkaria, K Parasaran, Justice B P Jeevan Reddy and, get this, Attorney General Soli Sorabjee -- the BJP-led government's sole representative in the committee.
I fully agree with Sangma's analysis: "Obviously he was representing the government and his decision reflects that the BJP does not want to touch the leader of the Opposition. Mrs Sonia Gandhi seems to be the best bet for the BJP to remain in power."
In one stroke, and with one vote, the BJP -- which had advocated constitutional amendment to debar persons of foreign origin from acquiring high Constitutional position in its manifesto -- scuttled the amendment purely for personal gain, leaving Indian voters to worry about a foreigner-as-PM in the next elections. That's how sick this party is. These are not nationalists by any stretch of imagination! They are just plain old politicians. And this, the Hindu voter will remember, come 2004.
Which is why I'm glad to read in The Telegraph that "Opinion favouring an out-of-court settlement of the Ayodhya tangle is gathering momentum among leaders of the minority community. The community leaders, cutting across political affiliations, are convinced that courts have limitations in implementing verdicts on sensitive issues." If the professional "secularists" and leftists don't sour the deal, it may even fructify. As I've said before, there is NO solution to the Ayodhya issue other than the raising of a Ram temple -- with the voluntary assent of Muslims. But, the pinkos, too, don't want that.
See, it's really not about court cases and victory/defeat anymore. The most important thing is to instill confidence in the people, to calm their suspicions. You can put up a library or school at the disputed site, or, you can build a Ram temple with the sanction of the Supreme Court -- but none of it will help prevent the next communal riot! This is not blackmail -- it's reality! How long are you dweebs going to blame it all on the RSS?? What's the reason for the VHP to have so many "activists" -- can all of them be duplicates of Togadia...? On Sunday, a violent Hindu mob destroyed two mosques and set fire to a number of shops belonging to Muslims -- in Haryana. There is no suggestion in any "secular" paper that the rioters were VHP activists. People who riot -- most of whom aren't members of the Parivar, no matter what the papers say -- need to experience the goodwill extended by Muslims. Why no one gets this simple point, is beyond my ken.
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