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Stop this madness in Gujarat
By John Dayal, New Delhi

Continued from

The Prime Minister has nonetheless chosen to take a passive position on the Ayodhya issue, instead of making it clear right from the beginning that he and his government would brook no nonsense and would crack down heavily on any attempt to change the status quo in that sensitive spot. For the last three years, the VHP has merrily gone about its business of carving out temple stones. And for the last one year, they have systematically articulated their decision that they would begin construction as soon as the UP Assembly elections were over.

Indian democratic traditions and Constitutional equity suffered a major blow when he invited the VHP leadership to his residence for negotiations, and they merrily used that official forum to repeat their threat without counter challenge from the prime minister.

Even as Gujarat burned, the VHP did not resile from its position. All that its leaders would say was they would postpone their deadline of March if the central government gave them an assurance it would transfer to them all land barring the spot of the actual mosque so they could begin construction of the temple at a later date.

This would of course violate the Supreme Court order of maintaining status quo in Ayodhya and everyone knows it.

Vajpayee’s opponents in the party, and top opposition leaders in private conversation, say that the Prime Minister sought just a couple of month’s time to carry out the VHP request of transferring the land to them.

What major event would take place in two months or three, which would enable the prime minister to perform this magic feat?

The Central Government is obviously waiting for Supreme Court Chief Justice Barucha to retire, which he does in May this year, before it makes its move in favour of the VHP. Barucha, a man of legendary integrity and secular values, had in the past written dissenting judgments upholding the supremacy of the secular tenets of the Indian Constitution and the plural nature of its polity and civilization. He is not the man to be convinced to short circuit justice just to please the government or to facilitate a convenient one-sided governmental action that would favour only one community, or worse, only one political grouping. Once he is out, the government has convinced itself, it will have no difficulty getting the Supreme Court to see its way. It is of course not the first time that the Supreme Court is sought to be manipulated to bend to political expediency of the ruling group, but this would be the most blatant yet.

The VHP and the BJP have utter contempt for the Supreme Court anyway. It needs to be recalled once again that the BJP government back in 1992 had given a solemn promise in the Supreme court it would preserve status quo in Ayodhya, but within days, the state government looked on and gave ample time to the kar sevaks to demolish the masjid.

The VHP has now made it clear it will obey the Supreme Court decision only if it goes in its favour of building a Ram temple. If the Supreme Court rules otherwise, they would defy its order and go ahead anyway.

Vajpayee may plead helplessness, but there is a greater tragedy in the manner in which his allies, and a few others, have gone along with this chicanery. Even Telugu Desam’s Chandrababu Naidu and Orissa’s Biju Patnaik have, despite their secular credentials, chosen not to tell the prime minister they will withdraw support to the NDA if so much as a stone or a karsevak moves into the Babri masjid area. In Tamil Nadu, there is the greater tragedy of both the DMK, the official partner of the BJP, and its bete noir the ruling ADMK, supporting the Prime Minister a bit too whole-heartedly. Jayalalitha’s support must have come as a boon to Vajpayee as it makes his position seemingly unassailable even if some group were to take a stance on its conscience. So indeed is the tacit support, so far, of Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati. Looking forward to Chief Ministership in Uttar Pradesh in partnership with the BJP, Mayawati has ignored the fact that the Muslims voted for her to a great extent going by her secular election rhetoric.

A few steps need to be taken urgently to end this madness in Gujarat.

The first is to sack the government of Narendra Modi. It has not only failed miserably to protect life and limb, and the rule of law, it has allowed its political and official machinery to become an accomplice in the violence.

The top brass of the police, both in Ahmedabad and the rest of the state, must also be changed without any delay. The police cadres who stood by and watched entire Muslim localities put to the torch by VHP and Bajrang Dal activists, must understand that they are not members of the RSS and Sangh Parivar but civil servants who are paid to enforce the law without consideration of religion. They must punish the perpetrators of the Sabarmati Express in which kar sevaks were burnt alive with the same severity as they do all those, whose faces are often enough on television, who burnt alive hundreds of Muslim men, women and children, and continue to torch any Muslim property, business and mosque they can find in their way.

And in Delhi, the Prime Minister must stop negotiating with the VHP and the RSS. It is time he acted, and banned these contemporary terrorist organisations. He must not allow them to dictate policy to the government of India, which is sworn to protect the Constitution and the rule of law.

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