Don’t fore­see any ten­sion or dis­pute, says Adityanath

Hindustan Times (Gurugram) - - Gurugram - Su­nita Aron let­ters@hin­dus­tan­times.com ■

LUC­KNOW: Ut­tar Pradesh chief min­is­ter Yogi Adityanath on Tues­day said a five-cen­tury-long wait is go­ing to end with the con­struc­tion of a Ram temple in Ay­o­d­hya, prais­ing the “per­se­ver­ance and rev­er­ence” of devo­tees.

“This is a be­gin­ning of a new ‘yug’ (epoch) — Ram Ra­jya — in which there will be no caste or com­mu­nity, some­thing which the Prime Min­is­ter has dis­played in his func­tion­ing dur­ing the last six years...I don’t fore­see any ten­sion or dis­tur­bance,” he said.

The CM said the op­po­si­tion has “per­haps wo­ken up to the fact that re­main­ing in con­flict with the cause of a Ram temple in Ay­o­d­hya will fur­ther jeop­ar­dise” their prospects. “Any­way, Ram temple is for all,” he said.

tens of thou­sands of kar se­vaks, or Hindu re­li­gious vol­un­teers, de­scended on the Ut­tar Pradesh town of Ay­o­d­hya in 1990, few car­ried the con­vic­tion that their dream of a Ram temple would ever be­come a re­al­ity.

The Ram Jan­mab­hoomi move­ment was at its zenith and the lanes of Ay­o­d­hya rang with chants of “Mandir yahin ba­nayenge” (the temple will be built here), but the con­tentious is­sue was caught in a le­gal tan­gle and a po­lit­i­cal con­sen­sus looked im­pos­si­ble. At a press con­fer­ence, jour­nal­ists even asked for­mer Vishwa Hindu Par­ishad (VHP) chief Ashok Sing­hal, who was lead­ing the mass move­ment, if the temple would ever be built.

Sit­ting in Karse­wakpu­ram, the nerve cen­tre of the temple move­ment, he told them, “Yes, Ram temple here at the sanctum sanc­to­rum will turn into a re­al­ity --(al­though) it may not hap­pen in our life­time.” Some oth­ers, in­clud­ing for­mer CM Kalyan Singh, Ram­c­hand Paramhans, the chief of the in­flu­en­tial Digam­ber Akhara, and cur­rent UP chief min­is­ter Yogi Adityanath, shared the con­vic­tion.

De­spite the ef­forts of these lead­ers, en­thu­si­asm around the move­ment cooled by the 2000s. The VHP and its ri­val group, the Babri Masjid Ac­tion Com­mit­tee (BMAC), kept the is­sue sim­mer­ing by mark­ing De­cem­ber 6 as‘ “shau­rya di­was” (day of val­our) and day of mourn­ing, re­spec­tively, but public at­ten­dance at these events was thin.

All that changed with the rise of Naren­dra Modi to power at the Cen­tre in 2014 and Yogi Adityanath be­com­ing UP chief min­is­ter in 2017.

SEEDS ARE SOWN

The doc­u­mented his­tory of the dis­pute goes back to 1853, when the first com­mu­nal vi­o­lence was recorded. In 1885, a priest un­suc­cess­fully pe­ti­tioned a lo­cal court to start prayers and in 1949, idols of Ram ap­peared un­der the cen­tral dome of the Babri Masjid, trig­ger­ing one of the long­est le­gal bat­tles over land own­er­ship, which fi­nally con­cluded in Novem­ber 2019 in the Supreme Court. There were three ma­jor turn­ing points– ap­pear­ance of idols of the de­ity in 1949, the or­der of the Faiz­abad ses­sions judge al­low­ing “darshan” of the de­ity by un­lock­ing the gates in Fe­bru­ary 1986, and the de­mo­li­tion of the struc­ture in De­cem­ber 1992.

In 1983, the RSS and the VHP first raised the emo­tive is­sue of Ram temple. At a meet­ing in

Muzaf­far­na­gar town, Dau Dayal Khanna, Dinesh Tyagi, Gulzari Lal Nanda and Ra­jju Bhaiyya spoke about con­struct­ing a temple at the dis­puted site. Khanna, a for­mer state min­is­ter, and Sing­hal later vis­ited Ay­o­d­hya where they met Paramhans.

At a meet­ing of 50 saints later, a de­ci­sion was taken to form the Shri Ram Jan­mab­hoomi Mukti Yo­jana Samiti un­der the chair­man­ship of Ma­hant Avaidyanat­h, the head of the Go­rakhnath mutt and guru of Adityanath.

By Oc­to­ber 1985, the VHP, con­sti­tuted in 1964, launched its first for­mal “Rath Ya­tra” de­mand­ing the un­lock­ing of the dis­puted struc­ture. In Fe­bru­ary 1986, un­lock­ing of gates pushed the dis­pute un­der a spot­light and trig­ger­ing com­mu­nal ten­sion. The BMAC, a key Mus­lim party in the case, was also born that year.

Soon af­ter the un­lock­ing, the VHP and var­i­ous Hindu groups in­ten­si­fied their public mo­bi­liza­tion cam­paigns. The first big event was the “Ram Shila Puja” held in thou­sands of vil­lages across the coun­try. About 250,000 con­se­crated “shi­las” or carved stones reached Ay­o­d­hya in a mat­ter of months. In 1989, a shi­lanyas (foun­da­tion cer­e­mony) was per­formed near the dis­puted struc­ture, the per­mis­sion for which was granted by the Congress gov­elec­tion ern­ment in the state. In a bal­anc­ing act, a con­fused Congress wanted to win over Hin­dus with­out los­ing Mus­lims.

Be­fore the 1989 Lok Sabha elec­tion, then Union home min­is­ter Buta Singh flew to Luc­know in the early hours of the morn­ing and drove straight to the chief min­is­ter’s res­i­dence at Mall Av­enue in Luc­know. Se­nior VHP lead­ers were al­ready present there. Then chief min­is­ter, ND Ti­wari of the Congress, walked out in a huff af­ter sign­ing an agree­ment.

Weeks later, prime min­is­ter Ra­jiv Gandhi launched his elec­tion cam­paign from Faiz­abad, four kilo­me­tres away from the shi­lanayas site. He spoke about Ram Ra­jya and not Ram temple. But while the Congress at­tempted to main­tain am­biva­lence, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) dou­bled down on Hin­dutva. When the re­sults were an­nounced, the Congress’s tally fell from 15 to five seats. The BJP won eight of the 85 seats and its tally in the Lower House soared from two to 85. This mo­men­tous marked the fall of Congress in UP pol­i­tics, the rise of BJP and the dom­i­nance of two re­gional pow­er­houses: Mu­layam Singh Yadav and Mayawati.

SHOCK AND SI­LENCE

As the 90s dawned, the coun­try was ver­ti­cally di­vided on the is­sue po­lit­i­cally. The shi­lanayas ac­ti­vated the op­po­si­tion par­ties, which came to­gether un­der the ban­ner of Janata Dal be­fore the 1989 polls. For­mer Prime Min­is­ter Vish­wanath Pratap Singh along with lead­ers be­long­ing to left par­ties gave a call for “Ay­o­d­hya chalo.” Mem­bers of the Na­tional In­te­gra­tion Coun­cil, a body of politi­cians and in­tel­lec­tu­als set up in 1961, went on an in­spec­tion that left them more con­fused as the dis­puted struc­ture ap­peared like a mosque with an idol of Ram in­side. Some mem­bers paid obei­sance in­side. Per­plexed, some asked, “But where is the Babri mosque?”

In De­cem­ber 1989, Mu­layam Singh be­came the chief min­is­ter of UP for the first time, but he was de­pen­dent on the sup­port of Congress. Mu­layam’s re­la­tions with VP Singh soured af­ter a split in the Janata Dal as both wanted to be the mes­siah of Mus­lims in UP.

In Septem­ber 1990, BJP vet­eran LK Ad­vani em­barked on Som­nath-Ay­o­d­hya ya­tra. In

Oc­to­ber, he was ar­rested in Sa­mas­tipur in Bi­har by then chief min­is­ter Lalu Prasad. But kar se­vaks had reached Ay­o­d­hya in thou­sands by then and started gath­er­ing near the struc­ture. Such was the frenzy that de­spite heavy de­ploy­ment of se­cu­rity forces, the crowds kept mov­ing to­wards the site in great waves, with one group man­ag­ing to reach the dome. The gov­ern­ment or­dered the po­lice to fire at the crowd, and around 20 peo­ple were killed. The gov­ern­ment fell.

Assem­bly elec­tions fol­lowed. The BJP grew from 57 to 221 in 1991. Kalyan Singh be­came chief min­is­ter. When the Lok Sabha elec­tion re­sults were de­clared, no party was close to a ma­jor­ity but the BJP bagged 51 seats.

DE­MO­LI­TION

The BJP gov­ern­ment quickly changed the com­plex­ion of the dis­puted area. The gov­ern­ment ac­quired 2.77 acres of land around the 0.313 acre dis­puted shrine . Next, the gov­ern­ment de­mol­ished var­i­ous tem­ples and build­ings to level the ground.

In early 1992, the gov­ern­ment gave 42 acres of land to the Ram Jan­mab­hoomi Nyas, a key Hindu party in the case, on a 99-year lease on an an­nual rent of Rs 1 per year . The trust also bought some ad­di­tional six acres of land.

It is in this 48 acres of land where kar se­vaks con­gre­gated in De­cem­ber 1992 for roughly a week be­fore march­ing to­wards the dis­puted site.

On De­cem­ber 6, 1992, the dis­puted struc­ture was de­mol­ished. PV Narasimha Rao, the then PM, dis­missed the Kalyan Singh gov­ern­ment. The Cen­tre ac­quired 67 acres of land, in­clud­ing the one be­long­ing to the trust.

Some se­nior BJP lead­ers feared los­ing a po­tent public is­sue in the po­lit­i­cal arena. For the next 25 years, the BJP came close to power but never won a ma­jor­ity in Ut­tar Pradesh. In the 1993 and 1996 state assem­bly elec­tions, it won 177 and 174 seats, re­spec­tively. Its num­bers sharply fell to 88 in 2002, and 51 in 2007. It only re­turned to power in 2017 with a thump­ing ma­jor­ity of 300-plus seats.

From Au­gust 5, a new chap­ter will start in Ay­o­d­hya.

The city is geared up for the ground-break­ing cer­e­mony. Re­li­gious sen­ti­ments are pal­pa­ble but com­mu­nal amity pre­vails with even fire­brand BJP lead­ers talk­ing about Mus­lim par­tic­i­pa­tion in the con­struc­tion of the temple, re­mind­ing many of Kalyan Singh’s words, “Let Mus­lim broth­ers par­tic­i­pate in build­ing the Ram temple, I will lay the first brick of their mosque.”

Devo­tees light lamps on 'Deepot­sav' at Ramghat on the eve of 'Bhoomi Pu­jan' of the Ram temple in Ay­o­d­hya on Tues­day.

Ram Ki Paidi lit up by earthen lamps on the eve of the Ram temple foun­da­tion-lay­ing func­tion in Ay­o­d­hya on Tues­day.

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