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Bluff, deception or conspiracy?
A critique of prime minister’s statement on Babari Masjid question
By Syed Shahabuddin

"Talks are going on at various levels. I am confident of finding a solution to the Ayodhya dispute before March 2002" - Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Prime Minister of India, Lucknow A prima facie assumption would be that the Prime Minister is indeed confident that he can resolve the Ayodhya tangle by the VHP’s deadline of 12 March, 2002.
But there are only four possible routes: legislation, judicial decision, negotiation and executive fiat.

The Prime Minister knows that even if all his NDA allies are to stand by him, which is a doubtful proposition, he does not command even a simple majority in the Rajya Sabha to put through a piece of legislation as proposed by the Sangh Parivar. Moreover, the Indian Parliament cannot turn a Masjid into a Mandir, just as it was said about the British Parliament, the mother of all Parliaments, that it can do anything but turn a man into a woman! The constitutionality of such a piece of blatantly discriminatory legislation which transfers the Masjid site and Wakf land to the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, will be challenged in the Supreme Court not only by the Muslim community but by all parties, institutions and organizations which value the secular foundations of the Indian Republic. Also because, the legislation will violate the existing Order of the Supreme Court, which has appointed the Union as the Custodian of the Acquired Area and reserved to itself the authority to allocate land for the Mandir and the Masjid in the light of the verdict of the Special Bench of the Allahabad High Court on title to the disputed land, including the Babari Masjid site, which forms part of the acquired area.

As for the judicial route, by promising to meet the VHP’s deadline of 12 March, 2002, the Prime Minister has, in a sense, indicated to the High Court and to the Supreme Court to deliver a ‘favourable’ verdict well before the ‘deadline’. That this amounts to impropriety goes without saying. It may even amount to contempt of court. No Executive can dictate a schedule to the Judiciary for hearing a case, delivering judgement and passing order.

The High Court judgement on the title does not by itself solve the problem; the matter has to go back to the Supreme Court. Moreover, whosoever is the aggrieved party has the right to appeal which cannot be summarily extinguished. Moreover, the Prime Minister cannot give away even one square inch of the Acquired Area to anyone without prior approval of the Supreme Court and any construction anywhere based on the existing site plan, is simply UNLAWFUL. Hence, the judicial route is not available to the Prime Minister for his Ayodhya yatra!

If the Executive were to ignore the judicial status, simply bypass the High Court and the Supreme Court and hand over or even give access to the acquired area or any part thereof to the VHP or the Ram Janambhoomi Nyas floated by it, that would be striking a fatal blow at the Constitution, indeed sound the death-knell of the Republic, which would reduce the Indian State to a lawless state. This will not merely tarnish the image of our country but reduce it to the status of a rogue, not fit for civilized intercourse by the international community. No Prime Minister, in his senses, can afford to feed his ego or fulfill his internal yearnings at such a stupendous cost.

So, finally the Prime Minister had no option but to fall back on the negotiation route. Whether his statement in Lucknow was a spontaneous response to a question which was suddenly thrust upon him in a weak moment, his subsequent confirmation on the floor of the Lok Sabha has given it a formal status. Therefore, the Prime Minister’s statement cannot, and should not be, wished away or trivialized by anyone.

Not only the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, the only Muslim body authorised to negotiate with the Government on the Babari Masjid Question, has disowned the ‘honour’ of the negotiation; both the wings of the Babari Masjid Movement – the Babari Masjid Movement Coordination Committee and the All India Babari Masjid Action Committee, have also denied the ‘honour’! Indeed during the years that Vajpayeeji has been in power, he has avoided the representative Muslim organizations of national stature like a plague – whether the All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat, or the All India Milli Council, or the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, the Jamiat Ulama-e-Hind, or the Jamaat-e-Islami Hind! He is not known to have addressed the problems of the Muslim community in any systematic or cogent manner or invited any of these organizations or Muslim personalities who command national respect and influence for any exchange of ideas on any matter of Muslim concern. He has not responded to overtures like greetings on assumption of office or formal resolution expressing readiness to discuss matters of common interest –even the Babari Masjid Question. Of course, he has a ‘Muslim’ coterie around him. Power always has its hangers-on and the habitual courtiers have a way of sneaking close to successive monarchs. But can Mohammad Mian Mazhari, or Javed Habib, his new party favourite Shahnawaz Husain, (now that Sikander Bakht and Naqvi have been shown the door) or even some ambitious ex-Minister or Imam provide the cover or credibility, if he is indeed planning to flash a ‘negotiated agreement’ before the country, before the D-Day?

Yes, the Prime Minister does not have to spell out the name of his interlocutors at the very outset. Negotiations often begin behind the scene but agreements have to face the light of the day and supported in public by persons who matter. Does the Prime Minister really believe that his Muslim stooges can deliver the Muslim community or that an ‘agreement’ with persons who do not represent anyone but themselves will fool anyone or the Indian people, as a whole, despite all the drum-beating and fanfare and the Goebbelsian skill with which it is projected? Can he impose a ‘solution’ on the Muslims only to placate the VHP? The Prime Minister is totally mistaken if he thinks so. He shall be setting the country on fire, opening the doors of anarchy.

Vajpayee’s ‘solution’ unfortunately must please the Sangh Parivar which is committed to the construction of the proposed Mandir on the Babari Masjid site, or rather, to the inclusion of the Babari Masjid site in the Mandir site plan, as projected by the VHP since 1986. This is the core problem which is impossible of solution in terms of the reconciliation of two irreconcilables: VHP’s insistence on the Masjid site and the Muslim’s refusal to surrender it!

One wishes the Prime Minister, instead of endorsing the VHP’s demand as a Swayamsevak, applied his mind coolly on the possibility of leaving out the Masjid site (less then 10% of the Mandir site-plan) and tried to persuade the Sangh Parivar to redraw the site plan – moving it a little more to the east! He may then be in a position to persuade the Muslims to concede some Wakf land, but not the Masjid site, for the construction of the Mandir. Imagine what moral authority he would command not only in India but all over the world!

A solution in the national interest is not impossible but it cannot be reached by an ‘agreement’ with unknown, rootless persons signing on the dotted line.

Yet, the question remains: why did the Prime Minister have to revive the Ayodhya issue? Obviously he was politically motivated. The ship of his party is sinking in UP; its cadre are listless, even scampering away. He had to sound the bugle to raise their morale, to bring them back into the battle field. And so he has. He may or may not succeed in reviving their spirit but he may think that before 12 March, 2002, the battle would in any case be over.

But he should never forget that the VHP has its own plans and is prepared to destroy him and his government on the alter of religious chauvinism. The VHP has launched its Programme of Mobilization, which includes a congregation of 50,000 or more activists in Ayodhya in mid-February, 2002. The Prime Minister should realise that unlike P.V. Narasimha Rao, he has no alibi for not deploying the Central forces to defend the Acquired Area. No State Government will stand between him and the Karsevaks in February; only his conscience, and his oath of office, will. When the moment of truth comes, will he order them to use force to repeal any violation of the rule of law? Or is he already part of a secret plan to re-enact the drama of 6 December, 1992.

No one wants to believe it. No one desires avoidable bloodshed. If he is not, can’t the Prime Minister prohibit the projected unlawful assembly in Ayodhya before the Karsevaks leave their homes for Ayodhya? Can’t his Government take into pre-emptive custody the carved pillars and the architectural elements, stocked by the VHP, so that they are not available for any unlawful assault on the acquired area? Can’t he atleast stop the Bajrang Dal from raising a Sena of its own?

The Prime Minister is on test before the bar of History.

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