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Poorn Ahuti : a flop show

The much-publicised Poorna Ahuti Yagna organised by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad in Ayodhya on June 2 evoked a very poor turnout. This had come in the wake of its flop show on March 15 when the VHP had to contend itself with 'Shiladan' at an undisputed site instead of 'Shila pujan' programme at the disputed Babri Masjid-Ram Mandir site in Ayodhya as planned.

The poor show on June 2 had, however, come as a blessing in disguise with the VHP leaders, who now want to go slow on the Ram Temple construction plan due to their political compulsion of avoiding a confrontation with the Bharatiya Janata Party governments both at the centre and in Uttar Pradesh. On the other hand, the two poor shows of its programmes on March 15 and June 2 had eroded the credibility of the organisation in its commitment to construct the Ram Temple. Less than 600 people had participated in the Yagna, which marked the culmination of 100-day-long Ram Jap programme organised with the aim of removing obstacles in the construction of the Ram Temple. Only 200 participated in the ‘shubh yatra’ taken out to immerse the yagna ashes in the Saryu River. The sants were conspicuous by their absence in the shubh yatra. Among those who did not participate in the shubh yatra included the prominent temple movement leaders like Ramchandra Paramhans, Acharya Giriraj Kishore and Nritya Gopal Das.The VHP leaders, however, explained the absence of the sants maintaining that these sants were not invited to the shubh yatra! They pointed out that the sants and mahants had attended the dharam sammelan organised on the occasion of the yagna. The dharam sammelan, however, significantly did not discuss the future programme of the Ram Temple construction. Instead, the speakers, including the international president of the VHP, Mr. Ashok Singhal, utilised the occasion to flay the Prime Minister, Mr. A.B. Vajpayee for his failure to remove the obstacles in the temple construction plans. Mr. Singhal alleged that the Prime Minister had backtracked on his promises. They also utilised the occasion to glorify the post-Godhra violence in Gujarat! The poor show of the VHP at the yagna had come after it claimed that more than 80 lakh Ram devotees had participated in the Ram Jap programme preceding it.

The VHP leaders alleged that the restrictions imposed by the district administration on the movement of their activists in Ayodhya had led to the poor attendance at the yagna. Moreover, they gave the impression that they were not serious in making the yagna a success when there were war clouds on the borders with Pakistan.

The Ram Janambhoomi Nyas (RJN) President, Ramchandra Paramhans, bluntly admitted that the temple movement was passing through a phase of ease. The VHP international general secretary, Mr. Praveenbhai Togadia, also subscribed to this view and added that the situation would improve within the next 18 months.

The 18-month time set by the VHP leader, Mr. Togadia is significant as it coincides with the next Lok Sabha elections, which are scheduled to be held in the first half of 2004. The VHP apparently wants to whip up communal frenzy by raising the Ram Temple issue during the next Lok Sabha elections to help the BJP in the polls. Besides, it will save the Atal Behari Vajpayee government of some embarrassment during the intervening 18 months.
The VHP knows it well that forcefully taking up the temple issue now may result in the breaking up of the ruling National Democratic Alliance of which the BJP is the leading partner. Moreover, the leaders doubt about the success of any of their programme now as the central and state governments are committed to maintain the law. The VHP leaders, however, maintain that they were least concerned about the Lok Sabha elections but are interested only in the construction of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya and the creation of a Hindu Rashtra.

Meanwhile, serious differences have cropped up in the Trust floated by the VHP to conduct the construction work of the temple. In a new twist to the dispute, one of the founder trustees of RJN, Swami Dharamdas, has said that he is planning to seek the cancellation of the registration of the Trust. He has accused the VHP of misusing the Trust fund. He disclosed that he was floating another trust, Vishwa Dharma Raksha Parishad, to take up the work of the Ram Temple construction after taking the Muslims into confidence. The Swami has also offered the Muslims ten acres of land in Ayodhya to build a mosque. But the VHP leaders, while denying any misuse of the trust funds, have accused Swami Dharamdas of playing into the hands of the vested interests.

The VHP, in the meanwhile, is watching the day-to-day hearing of the Ayodhya dispute case in the Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court with some concern. There is a feeling among the VHP leaders that a high court decision on the dispute may come in a year or so if not earlier. If the decision goes in favour of the temple, there is no problem as the Muslims have agreed to abide by any verdict given by the court. On the other hand, if the verdict goes against the Temple, there is trouble not only for the Sangh Parivar but also for its government at the centre.

A leading light in the Ram Temple movement, Acharya Giriraj Kishore had recently made it clear that the VHP was not committed to abide by the court verdict. He maintained that the Hindus believed that Rama was born at that site and the court had no jurisdiction to intervene in the matter. He challengingly asked whether the court could order the demolition of the makeshift temple in Ayodhya to construct a mosque there?

In the meantime, all eyes are on the next meeting of the Marg Darshak Mandal, scheduled to be held in Hardwar on June 22 and June 23. The meeting is likely to discuss the future temple construction programme. There is apprehension among the VHP leaders that a section of the sants and mahants at the Marg Darshak Mandal meeting may seek a firm stand on the temple construction from the VHP and force the meeting to announce a fresh date for this purpose. The VHP, on the other hand, apparently does not want to adopt a collision course with the government by announcing an early date for the beginning of the construction of the temple.

¯ P.M. Damodaran, Lucknow 

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