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Published in the 1-15 Feb 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Open letter to HH Dalai Lama

Your Holiness, you are regarded as one of the greatest living icons of spirituality, piousness, truthfulness and righteousness. You are darling of all those who believe in the cause of human rights of Buddhists in Tibet. You have always been projected as a great fighter for the cause of repressed people. Indian governments of different shades and people of India, in general, have shown immense respect and hospitality towards you and your people for whom India has become a second homeland.

I regret to write that developments of the last fortnight have cast an ominous shadow on all these images and expectations. People like me are shocked to hear that you have joined hands with the forces that want to undo the democratic secular India.

Let me directly come to the real issue. On January 8, 2004, you declared your intention to be peace-broker on the Ayodhya issue. This desire was made public at a press conference organized by SN Goenka who heads Vipassana which stands for moral and physical regeneration of the world. According to your statement, you appealed to both Hindus and Muslims to adopt “a mature, far-sighted and open-minded approach" for resolving the dispute amicably. You went on to stress in your statement that, "this issue can be resolved through mutual trust, mutual faith and mutual respect. Its politicisation only adds to its complexity and makes it more difficult to find an enduring, amicable and widely acceptable solution." 

On January 9, while speaking to media persons at Warora you admitted that you were in it and explained why only now you chose to be involved in it. You said: "I feel sad about the problem. It has got politicized. As a Government guest, earlier I was hesitant to speak my mind, but some of my Buddhist friends have taken an initiative in this regard. So, I feel the middle approach is the best bet." Your statements were soon touted as coming from a person who would prove to be "new honest broker on Ayodhya." and a "peacebroker acceptable to all sides."

From the way RSS/BJP fraternity whole-heartedly welcomed it, one could smell that some thing was fishy. A prominent RSS leader loaned to the BJP said reacting to your proposal: "The intervention of a neutral religious leader, who belongs to neither the Hindu nor Muslim community, could build up the atmosphere for bringing the disputing parties to the negotiating table."

LK Advani, deputy prime minister and a senior RSS/BJP leader, who is known for his "Ram Mandir Rath Yatra" which caused immense communal violence and communal polarization, openly came out in support of your intervention. That the RSS/BJP government was behind your move was made clear by Advani’s following statement: "On behalf of the government led by AB Vajpayee and on behalf of the BJP, I welcome this suggestion of Dalai Lama. This government would not only encourage but also actively participate in any serious and reasonable effort to settle the issue in an amicable manner. Our government will extend positive support to any effort for a peaceful settlement of the Ayodhya dispute." Ram Madhav, RSS spokesperson, too declared his organization's support to your initiative. Another renowned “saint” of VHP, who led the aggressive anti-Muslim Ram Mandir movement in 1990s and now occupies the post of Minister of State for Home in the Central Government, Swami Chinmayanand too declared: "Dalai Lama's neutrality could play a pivotal role in resolving the dispute."

Before I come to the issue of your being "an honest peace-broker", "acceptable to all" and "above politics", let me place a few facts before you. Firstly, the issue of Babri Masjid demolition is not between two groups, namely Hindus and Muslims. It is an issue between the Hindutva goons and the democratic, secular and constitutional polity of India. These goons helped and abetted by RSS/BJP top brass destroyed a historic mosque despite their assurances to the then Prime Minister, Narsimha Rao, the Parliament of India and the highest court of justice of the country. Thus the issue is not religious but concerns violation of constitutional, criminal and civil laws. Secondly, the Hindutva gang despite its claims of unearthing a temple under the debris of Babri mosque, and that all Hindus support it, has not been able to win judicial or constitutional sanction for its criminal deeds of the past and fascist future designs in Ayodhya. I am afraid that your intervention is only a ploy to help the criminals to cover up their past and help them in their future designs.

I am sorry to say that you are neither an honest peace broker nor a holy soul above dirty communal politics. You are playing the Hindutva game by resorting to tricks and bluffs in which it excels. You are an old pal of the RSS who has come forward to help it when all its tricks have failed. I would like to remind Your Holiness that your claim of neutrality on Babri mosque is the biggest hoax in living memory. You were part of the RSS buildup of early 1990s, which not only saw demolition of the mosque but spilling of blood of minority citizens throughout India. Let me remind you of an incident in 1992 when a street theater group tried to meet you in Kanpur to protest against your participation in the RSS (and its fronts) programmes which were being organized prior to the demolition of the Babri mosque. It was November 9, 1992, a day after you inaugurated the ABVP conference in Kanpur and less than a month before Babri mosque was demolished, that in your presence members of the Delhi-based street theatre group which happened to be performing in the city against communal mobilization was bashed up for daring to protest against your participation in the RSS build-up.

If you cannot recollect this minor incident let me draw your attention to the RSS organ Organiser dated November 22, 1992 which would open the eyes of peace-loving people to what you were doing for the aggressive communal mobilization of the RSS which led to the demolition of Babri mosque within less than a month.

According to the Organiser report, "ABVP gears up to face national challenges," the ABVP, student wing of the RSS, held its 38th all India conference in Kanpur on November 8-9-10, 1992. About ten thousand delegates from all parts of the country attended it making it the second biggest conference in its history. Your Holiness inaugurated it on November 8. According to the report, before Your Holiness spoke giving your blessings to the organization, "Amidst thunderous applause, the president (of the ABVP, Raj Kumar Bhatia) informed the distinguished visitor about the commitments of ABVP, viz., reconstruction of the temple at Ramjanmabhoomi and that ABVP activists’ participation in the December 6 Karseva in large numbers."

Nothing was hidden from you, Your Holiness. It was in your presence that the RSS chalked out its December 6 carnage programme. Isn't it true that Your Holiness blessed this programme by inaugurating the conference? Let me refresh Your Holiness’ memory: this conference of the ABVP held in Kanpur, close to Ayodhya, was not a routine conference of the student wing of the RSS but highly significant for making final preparations for the demolition of the Babri mosque. It is alleged that it was here that a model of the mosque was constructed to acclimatize the cadres with the task of demolishing the Babri mosque on December 6.

It may be argued that Your Holiness was not aware of the RSS connection and inadvertently got involved into it. Unfortunately this too is not true. Your Holiness was there with full clarity of mind and thought. This will be clear from the interview, which you gave to the Organiser during the conference. I quote from the Organiser:

"Question: I believe you are acquainted with the ideology of the Sangh Parivar.

Answer: Yes, indeed, since 30 years. Of course, I have also come across some critical views regarding these organizations. But, at the same time, I find that the Parivar is very much concerned about the preservation of India's national identity and culture. This aspect has impressed me greatly. Frankly, there are in this country people who are infatuated with the western way of life. I have always told my Indian friends that there is no point in neglecting their own rich cultural heritage. As such, any organization working for the preservation of India's traditional values and norms certainly deserves the support of all well-meaning people." [Interview conducted by S. Suresh in the ABVP conference in Kanpur which appeared in Organiser, November 22, 1992.]

So you endorsed the RSS ideology rejecting "some critical views." The relationship and close affinity with the RSS continued beyond Kanpur. Your Holiness has been a fixture of many anti-minority conferences of the RSS. I humbly seek pious, spiritual and truthful response from Your Holiness!

- Shamsul Islam

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