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VHP taking masses for a ride
By Syed Ubaidur Rahman

If the BJP tries to project the civilized face of the saffron brigade, operating in the political and parliamentary arena, the VHP, on the other hand, is the unsheathed sword of Hindutva. Both the BJP and the VHP play two distinct yet complimentary roles marked out by the parent organization which totally controls them. In keeping with the RSS-style of functioning, the parent body remains in the background and allows its offshoots to carry out all overt and covert activities aimed at the ultimate goal of destroying the secular state and Indian pluralism and establishing its notion of Hindu Rashtra.

In this project, which has gained considerable momentum through the Ramajanamabhoomi movement in the last few years, it is the VHP which has played the most high profile role. While the BJP's LK Advani can be credited with giving a sophisticated edge to Hindutva by his coinage and harping of such terms as 'pseudo-secularism,' it is the VHP and its firebrand leaders who represent the real face of the saffron brigade.

It is the VHP which has been entrusted with the task of creating a synthetic and monolithic Hindu identity which is a crucial prerequisite for the establishment of a hegemonic upper caste dominated Hindu Rashtra. It has sought to do this by getting a range of desperate religious sadhus, sants, acharyas on its platform and running a widespread aggressive campaign revolving around the Ramajanamabhoomi issue. The RSS controls and guides the VHP, though it has its own high profile leaders like Ashok Singhal and Acharya Giri Raj Kishor. It projects an autonomous and separate identity although it remains to be one of the RSS's offshoots. 

No doubt that the RSS and its offshoots have created all the fuss about the Ramjanabhoomi issue. In fact it is the VHP which planned and executed the demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya not to build another temple in a town which boasts thousands of temples but to show Muslims their place in India. They have been railing against the minorities, specially against Muslims and for last few months against the Christians and the Sikhs too. Though the VHP is the most prominent affiliate of the RSS, it has not projected its affiliation with the mother organization at least on papers. VHP literature in fact does not acknowledge its RSS connections at all but makes out as though a whole range of religious personage took it upon themselves to form an organization that would champion Hindu interests. 

These leaders who have been in the forefront of the Ramjanambhoomi issue have made fortunes by playing with the sentiments of the common Hindus. They have exploited the sentiments of the people up to the hilt and amassed large properties for not only their outfits but also for themselves. But the worst part of their game-plan has always been to give new lease of life to the dwindling hopes of the BJP on political arena. Whenever it seems that its life is over it gives it a new lease of life by again projecting the Ramjanambhoomi issue. With some intervals they have been raising this issue to save the saffron brigade from the humiliation arising out of the electoral debacle. 

Like the recent incident when Vajpayee talked of Ram Mandir construction at the Babri site and gave it the name of national sentiment, they have been doing it even in the past. Sometimes one saffron brigade talks in a language and other in different way. They rarely talk in unison. They back track too fast. Even this time round it was an imminent electoral debacle in the forthcoming election in the largest state that forced the saffronites to take up this sentimental issue once again.

But they are certainly not serious for the construction of the temple at the Babri site, as they are dead sure that they will lose the greatest tool from their hands if and when the construction is complete.

For last ten years they are claiming that their Dharmsansad will decide the dates for the construction of the temple, but thus for they have not announced a date. They have yet again deferred the date to construct the temple at the site for another one year. More than ten years ago too the then secretary general and now the Acting President of the VHP Ashok Singhal had announced that the Dharmsansad being run by the VHP had announced to renovate the temple (Babri Masjid) on 30 October 1990. 

The Babri Masjid was demolished on 6 December but there was no talk of constructing the temple at the site for long. They did not utter a word before November when the elections for the UP assembly were held. The BJP for electoral gains gathered VHP sadhus to campaign for it. Even after less than a year the BJP had lost what is said to be Ayodhaya touch. People felt disillusioned with its tactics and refused to endorse its mandir card. It was given a drubbing in the assembly elections held subsequently in Uttar Pradesh.

The issue was raised again before by-elections in six assembly segments in UP in May 1994. Ashok Singhal talked of occupying the Central Government acquired ‘Ramjanambhoomi’ (Babri Masjid) land in Ayodhaya. They are talking of occupying it once again.. He in a press conference in New Delhi on 27 May 1994 told mediapersons that it will be acquired soon as is decided by the Dharmsansad in Haridwar two months ago. He had also said that a meeting of Marg Darshak Mandal will be held here on 14 July to chalk out the plan. The Sangh Parivar chose to bring into focus the temple issue days before elections in UP through the VHP since the BJP did not like to risk falling foul of the code of conduct for elections. Sangh roped in the VHP to save the BJP from the impending humiliation in the by-elections. 

It does not require even a fraction of time for the Sangh to change its tone. A few days later when the elections were over, the then VHP secretary general Ashok Singhal once again changed his tone and said on 3 June that ' next phase of the Ayodhaya campaign would adhere to democratic norms'. It was another plan of the Hindutva brigade to alter its self-image from an aggressive force to an aggrieved party. It was nothing new. They are adept at changing words and remodelling phrases as per their whims. It was a climbing down from their earlier extreme posture of forcibly occupying the Babri site.

Before the last parliamentary elections the issue was again brought into the open from nowhere and made the election issue at the very last time when it saw its image plummeting beyond the imagination. It always refuses to have gained any political benefits over the Babri Masjid Ramjanambhoomi issue, notwithstanding the fact that the whole political success of the saffronites is based on this lone issue.

And all these years the saffronites, particularly the VHP leaders have made fortunes over the rubble of the Babri Masjid. They have amassed large unaccounted money and have never been asked for that. The VHP has been collecting money for the construction of the Ram temple at Ayodhya for long and has never given any account of how and where from it collected this much money. Some daring Income Tax department officials a decade ago tried to investigate into the matter, but they were not allowed by the then government to move further. 

More than a decade ago in 1990 the Income Tax department asked the VHP to furnish details of its accounts. The VHP was asked by the IT department to show all its expenditures and incomes. It was also asked to show whether funds had been transferred to any other account. At the same time the organization was ordered not to collect money till a decision was taken. Earlier the VHP itself had confirmed collecting Rs 82.9 million from devotees during the Ramshila Puja organized in November 1989. And it had said that Rs 16.3 million was spent on the Sant Sammelan organized in January 1990.

But instead of allowing the IT department officials to investigate the matter, the central government bowed to the pressure of saffron organizations and did not allow the investigations. Instead, the deputy commissioner of the IT department Vishwa Bandhu Gupta who was leading the probe was first shifted to Chennai and later suspended. The government later withdrew the notice served to the VHP by the IT department. 

Two years later another probe into the income amassed by the VHP was ordered by the Lucknow bench of Allahabad High Court. On 9 January 1992 a special full bench of the High Court asked for an official report within a fortnight on the alleged collection of funds by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad in the Ram temple premises at Ayodhaya.

It is reported that after the demolition of the Babri Masjid the VHP has received large sums for the construction of the Ram temple at the Babri Masjid site. But it has not given any details of the money collected by it. Now when its own government is at the centre it is not expected that the amount of wealth collected by it will ever be known to the people. The BJP government in UP has also given large tracts of prime lands to its sadhus and sadhvis in the state for as low amounts as Re. one. 

None knows the money collected and money spent by the VHP and its leaders. Whether the hard-earned money of the poor people is going in the personal coffers of the VHP leaders or not is not known. But suspicion is quite natural to arise. Are VHP and its leaders listening? Will they give any answer?

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