AYODHYA -- The Ram Mandir is back in national politics.
The arrival of stones for the temple construction in Ayodhya in December, the first in more than seven years, has sparked off a fresh round of speculation about the imminent future of this temple town. While local administration is closely monitoring the situation and Muslim groups have protested, Sangh Parivar leaders elsewhere and BJP leader Subramanian Swamy in Delhi have started speaking about reviving the Mandir project, which has been declining in importance in the BJP's election manifesto.
The revival of the project, at the site where Babri Masjid was demolished in 1992, in one of independent India's most contentious episodes, is bound to stir up communal passions. Particularly in Uttar Pradesh, where elections once pivoted around the issue and are scheduled to be held early next year.
Artisans have been chipping away at slabs of stones in the workshop of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad in Ayodhya since 1990, until operations closed in 2008 for four years.
A 2010 Allahabad high court order splitting the disputed site three ways--Hindus, Muslims and the Nirmohi Akhara sect--has been stayed by the Supreme Court. As per the High Court order, Hindus have control over the contentious area where the masjid was pulled down in 1992.
Speaking to HuffPost India, VHP spokesperson Sharad Sharma said saints have predicted that a temple would soon be built on the site where the Babri Masjid once stood.
If the Supreme Court refused to give the disputed site in its entirety for the temple, Sharma said that the parliament should legislate in favour of Lord Ram.
"If law can be made and changed for one Muslim woman, then why not Lord Ram, revered by crores of Hindus?" he said, referring to the 1985 Shah Bano verdict, in which the Supreme Court ruled that her ex-husband had to pay maintenance, every month, under Section 125 of the Criminal Procedure Code.
Sharma said that if the Rajiv Gandhi government could then overturn the Supreme Court decision by enacting the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act to appease orthodox Muslims, why could parliament not consider the feelings of crores of Hindus who revere Lord Ram.
In a conversation with HuffPost India, VHP's Sharma discussed the Ram Mandir movement's plans.
If law can be made and changed for a Muslim woman, then why not for Lord Ram, revered by crores of Hindus?
The Babri Masjid was destroyed in 1992. How can you claim that the Mandir construction work started in 1990?
The workshop was going on from before because in 1989, saints of the Ramjanmabhoomi Trust decided that we would make this kind of temple. They put its model before the public at the Prayag (Allahabad) Kumbh. And so the carving work started. Now almost 65 percent of the work is done in the workshop. The 35 percent work, which is left, will continue.
So why did the arrival of stones cause tension, this time?
The reason for tension is vote bank. People seem to get a stomach ache when you take Ram's name. You are worried that you might lose your Muslim vote. That is why they get a pain and start making noise by not allowing parliament to function, making noise in Rajya Sabha.
There is concern that the VHP is trying to ignite the Ram Mandir issue before the 2017 UP election for political gains of the BJP.
Our objective is not to make noise, but to find a resolution. Since 1949, when Lord Ram appeared there (on site of the Babri Masjid), Hindus have been waiting for justice. It took sixty years for the matter to go from the local court to the High Court and for them to say that this is the seat of Ram. Now, this has been with the Supreme Court for the past four years.
What is your problem in accepting the three way split of the disputed site by the Allahabad High Court?
The problem is that this is the birthplace of Ram. One can never accept that someone's birthplace is divided. If a Muslim is told that give one part to Ram, the other part to the church, and keep the bit in the middle. Would they accept it? The second thing is that it is a matter of 80 x 40 feet, and you are dividing it into three parts. We cannot accept this.
One can never accept that someone's birthplace is divided.
Let me ask this again. How do you respond to the charge that this issue is being drummed up now with the assembly election in view?
There have been a lot of elections. Whenever we talk about Ram, they make noise. Here you have the Samajvadi Party government with BJP and BSP (Bahujan Samaj Party) in opposition. BSP is doing it to get votes, and SP is doing it to retain votes so it doesn't go to Congress or BSP. We have nothing to do with all this. We don't want this to be an election issue.
But there is a history of polarisation before elections and that ends up benefitting the BJP. So the assumption is that Ram Temple could be one such trigger.
When the matter started in 1949, Congress was in power and stayed in power for 60 years. Congress ruled and its people raised the issue. Dau Dayal Khanna, a VHP leader, was a cabinet minister who raised the issue. This matter will continue until a temple isn't built on that spot.
In the context of these elections, to say that we are dividing people isn't true. That is not our objective. Those who are raising the issue of Ram Mandir don't want to make Muslims afraid that they are now invoking Ram, and then they will start killing. Where is any of this happening? We want Hindus and Muslims to live well. But to take someone's birthplace by force, make a structure on it, we won't allow it.
You keep talking about other parties. But after the religious violence in Muzaffarnagar, the balance tilted in favour of the BJP.
Our objective is, in this country, cow is our mother, Hindu culture should be protected, we should talk about Ram. If Ram is taken out of here then we will feel that we are not getting our religious freedom. This is Ram's country so we will talk about Ram, about Gods and Goddesses, we will talk about the cow, and about the Ganga. There is no fear.
Cow is our mother, Hindu culture should be protected, we should talk about Ram.
What if the Supreme Court does not allow a temple to be built in the entirety of the disputed site?
We won't be able to accept that. When it is proved that it is the birthplace of Ram Lalla then why would the court not accept this.
But a law can also be made in parliament. People should attempt to do this. Whether it is the government or opposition, everyone should get together and resolve this issue. Parliament should legislate on this, the saints have demanded it for a long time.
What has the Modi government said about the Ram Temple?
We have made request to previous governments. We have the same request for the present government to respect the feelings of the saints. They should resolve the issue taking into account the struggle which Hindu society has gone through.
Mahant Nritya Gopal Das has told the media that, "We have signals from Modi Government that Mandir construction would be done now."
He never said that. The reports were incorrect and we refuted them. He was asked whether he has got an indication from the top, he didn't mean the government, but from the place where saints get their faith.
But he is quoted as saying "Modi."
They published the wrong thing. There is no indication from Modi. God, sadhu, saints gives signs and then movements are carried out. When Rama Lalla gave a sign then Vishwa Hindu Parishad took the movement in its hands in 1984 and the structure fell in 1992.
Our God is bearing sun, heat and rain, sitting inside a tent.
But should you not wait for the Supreme Court order before constructing the temple?
We are constructing in our house. Our faith is in Lord Rama. Whether it is a court decision or how the matter is resolved comes later. So many stones cannot be carved so quickly. If the court gives its decision to construct the temple then we must have something to build it with. That is why we have made all the preparations.
The Supreme Court should make a special bench and decide this matter at the earliest. Our God is bearing sun, heat and rain, sitting inside a tent. It took 60 years for the matter to reach the High Court--what can be more unfortunate for Hindu society. We sit in rooms but our God is sitting in a tent.
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