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Behind the VHP double-speak
By Syed Ubaidur Rahman

Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) has called off its Ram Temple model yatra. It is for the second time that this offshoot of the Sangh Parivar has done so. The VHP had planned an extensive tour of the model from Jaipur to Karsevakpuram in Ayodhya at the end of October. This yatra was being projected as an atmosphere-building exercise before the construction of Ram temple at Ayodhya-a cause for which this outfit was created with a view to unite Hindus in the face of the forces of Mandalization then active in reorganizing the Indian society. The idea was to create the 'other' to unite the disunited Hindu household. What better 'other' can there be than Muslims.

The VHP has been crying hoarse demanding the construction of the Ram temple at the site where the Babri Masjid stood before 6 December 1992 when its was razed to the ground by Karsevaks. 

With its plethora of sects and denominations, regional groupism and manifold philosophical traditions, historically Hinduism has never had a single apex body of religious heads authorized to speak for the religion as a whole. With the growth of Hindutva as a movement with a political agenda, the absence of a Hindu high-command was sorely felt by the Sangh Parivar. It felt it necessary to create a body of sympathetic clergy who could sanction the political agenda of the parivar. The issue became more important when the Babri Masjid-Ram Janambhoomi issue became the centerpiece of all its efforts. It was in this background that the Vishwa Hindu Parishad came into existence. Later when the VHP was banned in the aftermath of the Babri Masjid demolition, another group, Dharma Sansad [religious parliament], for the same purpose was launched. 

The VHP has been very successful in dividing the country on communal lines. It not only has openly threatened to construct the Ram temple even if the court gives its verdict against the temple construction, the VHP also went on to terrorize the minority communities all over the country. It has been instrumental in inciting the majority community against minority communities in the country and has been implicated by several independent organizations to be behind riots in several places. 

Backed by the RSS, the VHP has extended its area of functioning beyond India. This Sangh Parivar outfit now wields considerable influence over home-sick, guilt-ridden NRI Hindus settled abroad and has built a fortune over the issue of the construction of Ram Temple at Ayodhya. 

But the VHP over the years has become more and more involved in inter-religious squabbling. Even in Ayodhya where it wants to construct the Ram temple, mahants (priests) of a number of temples are against this organization. They have not extended any help to the efforts of VHP to construct the Ram temple. In fact, many preside over temples they claim are the real Ram Temples. They believe that the VHP wants to construct the Ram temple for devouring the income and the big estates attached to different temples in the town.

The offshoot of Sangh Parivar has been embroiled in several such cases and in recent times several Hindu religious leaders (acharyas) have denounced the efforts of the Parishad and have refused to work for the construction of Ram temple.

When the four Shankaracharyas of Sringeri, Dwarka and Badri, Kanchi and Govardhan Peeth, Puri met in April 1994 to establish a trust to oversee the construction of Ram temple at Ayodhya, the VHP went all out to get its own shankaracharya, who was not recognized by the four, into the proposed trust. The idea of such a trust had set alarm bells in the VHP which had repeatedly claimed that the right to construct the temple lay only with Nyas, a trust formed by the VHP. This trust has collected unaccounted money from within and without the country for the construction of the Ram temple. 

The VHP and a number of 'sants' attached to it have allegedly grabbed hundreds of acres of land in the guise of religious places mainly in Ayodhya, Haridwar and Varanasi. The UP government apparently revoked a few months back the Hindu Religious Places Bill under pressure from these sadhus and mahants. 

The UP government in a bid to impress these priests has been handing over prized lands to VHP sadhus. The latest has been a 45-acre land to Sadhvi Rithambra’s Param Shakti Peth on Mathura-Vrindavan Highway for a token amount of rupee 1! The UP chief minister has done this to extend his survival for some more time. This has made the VHP and sadhus attached to it rich beyond anybody’s imagination.

Common Hindus were surprised to know in 1990 that the VHP is involved in tax evasion. In March 1990 the income tax department issued two notices to the office bearers of this outfit asking them to furnish details of the VHP’s financial affairs for the years 1988-89 and 1989-90. The income tax department had suspected that the VHP was not disclosing its real earnings and could be guilty of tax evasion. But instead of furnishing any details the VHP brought thousands of its supporters to demonstrate outside prime minister VP Singh’s house. Later the tax department under political pressure had to withdraw the case. The officers responsible for issuing the notices were transferred out of Delhi. This high handedness of the outfit has saved it time and again from the clutches of the law. No tax official will now dare to ask the VHP to furnish the details of its income though several people have accused the outfit for amassing unaccounted money.

The VHP now is not interested in the construction of Ram temple. It is more interested in maintaining the status quo - a position wherefrom it can reap the fruit of what it has done in the past. The recent step of the outfit to seek recognition of the UN as an international NGO is a step in this direction. The issue of Ram Janam Bhoomi is raised whenever it feels that the stakes of Sangh Parivar are falling or the BJP needs a prop, especially before elections. This time round, the issue of the Ram temple was probably raised to rejuvenate the BJP in the state where the common man is increasingly getting disillusioned by the party. Again the issue will be forgotten and will be brought back to the streets when the BJP's support seems falling.
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