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Leaders for sale?...
By S Ubaidur Rahman

Was there any negotiation taking place before Gujarat started to burn? Had any acharya, however big or small, done anything for the Babri cause when VHP leaders and cadres were making a beeline for Ayodhya? Or was the whole Babri issue raked consciously to divert the attention from Gujarat genocide? 

There was no talks offer either from the Shankaracharya or the VHP and no one, including Prime Minister AB Vajpayee, was trying to meddle in the dirty waters of the Babri issue before 28 February or well after 2 March. It was only the VHP’s chest thumping and the all submissive government whose minister of state for home affairs stated in a true Sangh fashion that all the obstacles on travel to Ayodhya will be lifted before 15 March.

To say the least there was no one on the horizon intending to mediate on the issue. No words were being heard from people who readily tried to show that they are deeply interested in resolving the Babri issue either by negotiations or through court settlement. So how this started all of a sudden. Was it deliberate? 

It looks as if it was a well-planned strategy to divert the attention of national and international media from the Gujarat pogroms. The media revolution in the last few years and all-encompassing reach of the television had created an uproar all over the world on the way Muslims were being burnt alive and butchered by the thugs with open official connivance. Even the prejudiced vernacular media too tried to project this planned massacre this time round. This is obvious from studied silence of the administration and police inaction and their absence from the scenes of unprecedented carnage and arson by mobs who had a free run in Gujarat. Their hobnobbing with the arsonists and killers was relayed to the whole world by the electronic media in a manner never seen before.

It seems the only reason as to why the Prime Minister who earlier claimed holding talks with Muslims and the other party without ever disclosing the identity of this ‘Muslim’ party, went out of his way to invite Muslim leaders to have the honour of his audience at most awkward times like midnight. The Shankaracharya who was nowhere in the scene was brought to New Delhi to claim that the VHP was prepared to accept the Supreme Court verdict. 

The most disturbing part of this affair was Muslim leaders’ eagerness to play in the hands of the government and the VHP and to talk to the murderers who were burning Muslims alive at that very point of time in Gujarat and who had never shown sign of willingness to accept the apex court judgment. 

The way some Muslim leaders threw their lot behind the PM’s game was the culmination of Muslim leadership’s total bankruptcy of ideas or independent thinking. There are some leaders who just wait for an opportunity to be photographed with whoever is in power. These ever-ready-to-surrender elements have always been a source of discomfort to the Muslim community. Most people who rushed to meet the PM are discredited with no standing at all. 

What gave the community some relief is the fact that later the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) came out clean. It refused to talk to the VHP or others on the Babri Masjid issue and reiterated the just Muslim stand that only the court verdict will be acceptable now that the other party has taken the law in its hands by demolishingthe mosque in utter disregard of solemn pledges given even to the Supreme Court. Several top AIMPLB members told this correspondent that those who rushed to the PM meeting were scolded in the board meeting. There are rumours that several people had sold themselves cheap.

The damage had already been done by the time the AIMPLB belatedly made it clear that it is not going to trust the VHP and its lawless leaders. The press statements by nonentities till then had succeeded in diverting the media attention from the Gujarat pogroms whcih were at the peak at the time. The news being splashed was not of the heart-rending scenes of burnt-alive human carcasses littered on Gujarat roads amid scenes of looting and arson all over the saffron lab-state, but of the insignificant press statements by either VHP law-breakers or the semi-literate for-sale Muslim leaders. 

A fact that should have been accepted by now is that the Ayodhya issue does not belong either to Hindus or Muslims. It has become an issue of survival and upholding of democratic norms, civilised behaviour and rule of law in the country. It is now an issue between the State and the marauders in the guise of kar-sevaks, now re-christened as ‘Ram-rsevaks’. In the present circumstances when there is a very thin line differentiating between thugs on the street and the saffron party which heads the coalition government at the centre due to sheer incompetence of the opposition, the issue is best to be left with the courts. The AIMPLB, which rightly claims to be the representative body of the Muslims in the country, has miserably failed in doing anything on the important issue of Babri Masjid since the ball was tossed in its court after the msasjid’s demolition. Despite the fact that all the parties involved in the dispute from the Muslim side find representation in the conglomerate, it has not been able to accelerate the process by bringing all the people concerned on the issue on a single platform. What it does best is to appear on the scene when things hot up and then beat a retreat without doing anything substantial. Its Babri Masjid Committee too has failed to live up to its size. 

This committee has failed to project serious lacunae in the claims of the VHP and its Ram Janamabhoomi Nyas (RJN) over its ownership claims on the acquired land near the Babri Masjid site. The VHP claim that the adjoining 43 acre land belongs to it is nothing but farce. The land is owned by the government and was given on 90-year lease to the Nyas for a 'princely' sum of Re one annually by Kalyan Singh government on 23 March 1992, not for the constructing of a temple. Several senior advocates to whom this correspondent has talked said that legally a temple cannot be constructed on this site as it was given to construct a Park, Ram Katha Kunj , and facilities for tourists and pilgrims. The AIMPLB failed to expose that this land cannot be handed over to the VHP or Nyas. 

Though the AIMPLB eventually took the right decision by rejecting the Shankaracharya offer stating that there was no evidence that the VHP or the Sangh were ready to abide by the Supreme Court order, bleeding Gujarat had already been sidelined during the most freocious period of the on-going pogroms. The only consolation for the beleaguered community is that the people who were masquerading as ‘Muslim’ leaders now stand exposed. They were effectively isolated by an overwhelming majority during the crucial meeting on 10 March whcih came after many days intense focussing on ‘negotiations’ which turned out to be farce. 
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