Building Temple in the Air
Surendra Mohan., (Editorial) -- The Telegraph
The evidence tendered by sangh parivar leaders before the Liberhan commission might be riddled with inconsistencies, but the opportunity is being exploited to the hilt to revive the Ram janmabhoomi agitation. Despite assurance from the Bharatiya Janata Party that the construction of the Ram temple is not on the agenda of the government, the party has been forced to harp on the rhetoric following successive failures on almost all fronts.
The performance of the BJP and its allies in the recent assembly elections is one major reason for going back to the vote-catching gimmick. The party has also suffered loss of face in the Manipur fiasco. On the other hand, it has had to admit the failure of the Kashmir ceasefire. And in spite of insisting that it would not negotiate with a military ruler, the prime minister has, after all, invited General Pervez Musharraf for talks. The invitation has annoyed the hardcore sangh members. The Ram temple refrain may be an attempt to show that the old agenda has not been put on the backburner.
The BJP’s position has also been compromised by the fact that many of its cadres have joined veteran leader, Dattopant Thengadi, in criticizing the government’s economic policy. Even earlier, the Swadeshi Jagran Manch, the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad have admonished the BJP on its policies.
Against the grain
The areas where the government has been criticized most are corporatization of agriculture, amendment of the Land Acquisition (Amendment) Act, suspension of tribal rights over forests to enable their commercial exploitation, changing the Industrial Relations Act and the Contract Labour Act to ensure availability of a cheap work-force and the decision to build new dams that would unsettle the tribal population. Privatization of public sector units and the removal of quantitative restrictions that would invariably hit agriculture and industry have also been severely criticized. The BJP’s mainstay, the petit bourgeoisie, has been left by it to fend for itself.
The BJP presumably believes that the frustration of these people would make them more amenable to manipulation by it. The political think-tank thus seems be hellbent on reviving the old communal bogey. The response of the sangh leaders to the Liberhan commission queries only attests to this fact.
First, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh boss, K.S. Sudarshan argued that the mosque had been blasted by a bomb, obliquely hinting that Islamic terrorists were at work. Advani asserted that the Ram temple had already been in existence when the Uttar Pradesh government permitted the offering of aarti in 1986. Yet it is commonly known that the idol was surreptitiously installed in 1949.
It is also being contested by the sangh that V.P. Singh as prime minister had offered the disputed site to the Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas to build the temple there.
The trust was indeed offered land, but this was away from the mosque. Thus, Singh had been keen to protect the mosque. Second, an ordinance promulgated by the government had ordained acquisition of the “disputed” building to prevent its demolition by fanatics. The Supreme Court, to which the dispute was to be referred, was requested to convey its findings to the president. The government however had no powers to acquire waqf property, nor did Article 243 give complete decision-making authority to the Supreme Court.
It is possible that all the details were not conveyed to Advani, who was in jail at the time. But, surprisingly, he is said to have “rejoiced” in a Bihar jail on hearing that kar seva had been performed at the dispute site. Yet, Advani could not but have known that two separate injunctions by the high court prohibited performance of any kind of construction activity on the disputed site. Yet, he was happy that his followers had defied the law in August 1990 and again in November the same year.
However, what the BJP now seeks is neither the truth nor respect for the law. It is after power, just as before. According to one hypothesis, if the communal propaganda of the BJP creates a ground swell, it could be seen holding the parliamentary elections simultaneously with the assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh early next year.