Jobs @ MG
BJP in two minds on Ayodhya
By P.M. Damodaran
|Lucknow: Despite the candid admission
by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leaders that they had trespassed into
the prohibited area near the makeshift Ram Temple in Ayodhya on October
17, the Uttar Pradesh government is trying to hush up the incident
refusing to take action against them. The Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister,
Mr. Rajnath Singh, has gone to the extent of claiming that the VHP
leaders, who included Mr. Ashok Singhal, had never barged into the
After the incident generated a lot of heat and controversy, first
information reports (FIRS) were filed against the VHP leaders for the
offence. That it was merely an eyewash was known from the fact that they
were filed under Section 186 of the Cr.P.C., which is a non-cognizable
offence. Severe action, like the arrest of the accused, could not be taken
under this section.
The U.P. government then set up a committee under the additional Director
General of Police to probe into the incident. Predictably, the report of
the committee made no charges against the VHP leaders. The report dealt
with only the aspects of security lapse. The government, on the basis of
the report, made two junior level officers in Ayodhya -- sub-divisional
magistrate and the police circle officer -- scapegoats and suspended them
"for dereliction of duty". As a face saving measure, the
government is now claiming that it is tightening the security in and
around the area to avert the recurrence of such incidents.
From the very beginning, the bureaucrats had been trying to project it as
a minor incident apparently to serve the interests of their political
bosses. The senior officials claimed in the evening on October 17 that the
VHP leaders had never entered the prohibited area. They tried to put the
entire blame on the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), which is manning
the prohibited area, for the security lapse. On the part of the officials
in the district administration and police in Faizabad district, under
which Ayodhya falls, they had not dealt the situation with any
seriousness. It was said that when they were informed of the entering of
the VHP leaders into the prohibited area at 9.30 in the morning on that
day, they did not care about it because they were busy in making the
arrangements for the visit of the Chief Minister to the district
headquarters later in the day.
There are also accusing fingers against the district administration in its
role in opening the gate, which always remained locked, near the makeshift
temple on that day. Some one had opened it which helped the VHP leaders
enter the sanctum sanctorum. The VHP leaders are tightlipped about the
identity of the person who opened the gate. In fact the district
administration and the security officials in the area are accused of
allowing the VIPs to enter the sanctum sanctorum regularly. The president
of the Ram Janambhoomi Nyas, Ramachandra Paramhans, had admitted this fact
when he said that there was nothing new in the incident on October 17.
Several BJP and VHP leaders were entering the prohibited area regularly
for darshan. On that day, the VHP leaders passed through the way the
common devotees take and entered the prohibited area apparently to show
that they could do whatever they wished!
Some VHP leaders had, however, later tried to save them from being
chargesheeted for the offence. Initially they had proudly narrated their
adventure in entering the prohibited area and offering puja at the sanctum
sanctorum before the media but later they deviated from their statements
and claimed that they had not done anything illegal. They now aver that
they had never entered the sanctum sanctorum, where generally only the
pujaris are allowed to enter.
The VHP is now justifying the action of their leaders in entering the
prohibited area in Ayodhya by making a new definition on 'safe distance'
from where the devotees could have a darshan. The organisation is
maintaining that it was for the district administration to decide the
'safe distance' considering the security concerns and the visibility of
the idol for the devotees and the court has no say on it.
But this contention will not hold water. It was true that it was the
district administration which had in1993 fixed a distance of approximately
50-ft from the idol of Ram Lalla from where the devotees could have the
darshan. The distance was decided considering both the security and the
visibility aspects. But the distance was fixed on the directives of the
court. The Supreme Court later in 1996 had ruled that this distance should
continue and there should not be any alterations without its consent.
Taking this fact into consideration, the action of the VHP leaders in
barging into the prohibited area amounted to contempt of court. It is
reported that the All India Babri Masjid Action Committee is contemplating
to file a contempt of court case against the VHP leaders for trespassing
into the prohibited area. In that case, it may land the VHP leaders in
Significantly, none of the Bharatiya Janata Party leaders, including the
Prime Minister, Mr. A.B. Vajpayee and the U.P. Chief Minister Mr. Singh,
had condemned the action of the VHP leaders. They described the incident
as "unfortunate" or "security lapse". They obviously
dared not take action against the VHP leaders though they knew it well
that they had violated the law. They also knew that they could ill-afford
to displease the VHP leaders by arresting them!
The Prime Minister, at his press conference in Lucknow last month, had
considered the incident as a setback to his efforts in finding a solution
to the Ayodhya imbroglio through talks though he is still optimistic of
the result before March 12 next year, the deadline set by the VHP to begin
the construction of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya. Mr. Vajpayee vehemently
denied that it was a political gimmick to gain votes for his party in the
Assembly elections in U.P. and other states. On the contrary, he felt that
the incident would result in the loss of votes for his party.
On the other hand, his Home Minister and number two in the government, Mr.
L.K. Advani, thought otherwise if his remarks were any indication. Mr.
Advani admitted that the temple issue had helped the BJP to come to power.
The Home Minister remarked that his Rath Yatra's (from Somnath to Ayodhya)
message of cultural nationalism had paid rich electoral dividends to the
BJP! His apparent reference was that the ruling party might again take up
the issue in the next round of Assembly elections for electoral gains. q
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