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Published in the 16-29 Feb 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

VHP and BMAC agree!
By Rizvi Syed Haider Abbas

Lucknow: General elections are to be held in April and Prime Minister AB Vajpayee finds himself ‘yet to be certified’ by the Hindu agenda, despite his dyed-in–the-wool role, as a cadre of Rashtriya Swamsevak Sangh [RSS] for more than six decades.

“We are yet to give full marks to PM as his tenure of six year is coming to a close and construction of Ram Temple is still to start,” said Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) general secretary Praveen Togadia, while talking to media in Lucknow. 

Togadia was in no mood to relent despite BJP victory in MP, Rajasthan and Chattisgarh assembly elections and aired his differences with the BJP. He said that politics of development carved by PM should not be pursued in isolation of the Hindu agenda which includes addressing the threat to Hindus in Assam, Bengal and Bihar by Bangladeshi infiltrators, Islamic terrorism, ban on cow slaughter and adverse impact of conversion on tribal tradition and culture and all this is coupled with the intensified campaign for the construction of Ram Temple in Ayodhya. 

“We have been persistently demanding that a law be passed in Parliament to pave the way for the Ram Temple construction on the disputed site at Ayodhya, as has been done in the Shah Bano case. This should be done without further delay and we have dispatched our ‘Hindu Agenda’ to all Members of Parliament including the Muslim MPs because their support is the only way to remove bad blood between Hindus and Muslims,” he said. The agenda also has the demand for the liberation of Kashi and Mathura sites. VHP also announced that a mass campaign for temple construction would be taken to villages and a bill for it would be passed in Parliament which could not in the last 50 years. He reiterated that Ayodhya was the birth place of Lord Ram and a matter of faith for Hindus, and an issue of faith cannot be decided by the court.

“Even if a law is passed in Parliament, the Supreme Court will discard it as illegal because Supreme Court has said [Ismail Farooqui V’s Union of India 1994] that the matter will be decided only by the courts verdict,” said Zafaryab Jilani, the national convenor of Babri Masjid Action Committee (BMAC). 
“Those who rake the Shah Bano case should know that it was not a case between two communities. It was only an interpretation of a particular statute and Parliament had only passed a law for the creation of a separate forum for divorced Muslim women. Moreover, the legislation was passed after the judgment and not before it! VHP has always been trumpeting that court cannot decide the issue which was not said even by the Parliament after the legislation was made. Is the VHP even above the SC or our Parliament?” asked Jilani.
VHP and BMAC are foes who never see eye to eye and at best they agree to disagree. However, a history of sorts was created in Lucknow on Jan 19. The coordination between the two rivals came about when both unanimously gave an application to Chief Justice of Allahabad High Court Tarun Chatterjee for ensuring the continuance of Narendra Prasad as Officer on Special Duty (OSD), deputised to jot down the mammoth record of Babri Masjid/ Ramjanambhumi case.

Narendra Prasad has remained associated with the assignment since 1995 and in this capacity has handled the entire record of the case as per the instructions of the court and as such has become very well conversant with the record which is now so voluminous that any new incumbent will find it difficult even if he handles it for months together. Moreover, on account of daily hearings of the case at present, no spare time may be available to the new incumbent for getting himself acquainted with such a bulky record.

It would be interesting to know that both the parties have sometimes even shown their overall dependence on him because of the constant and prolonged handling of the case. Thus, the help of Narendra Prasad is sought and his assistance becomes extremely handy at these junctures.

The OSD’s position also becomes typically unique, in a sense, because the actual recording of oral evidence started during his tenure in 1996 and out of the statements of 42 witnesses recorded so far, he has remained associated in the actual recording of the statements of about 22 witnesses as a Commissioner appointed by the court and this has made him all the more familiar with a large number of documents which are very often used for reference, during the course of argument and cross-examination of the witnesses. 

The transfer would therefore hamper the progress of the suits as his overall acquaintance with the record has tremendously helped in the expeditious recording of oral evidence and the change in arrangement would certainly de-accelerate the pace of the case.

“The recording of oral evidence may now take six to nine months and another three to four months may be required for arguments and as such the continuation of the present arrangement with Mr. Prasad may not be disturbed in the national interest as the unanimous desire of the nation is the arrival at a decision,” said one paragraph of the application.

“The continuance of Prasad in the present post can be said to have become quite long but the nature of work entrusted to him is such that this may be treated as an exception to the general rule and his further stay on the present post may be ensured till the decision of the suits pending before the Special Full Bench,” pleaded the application.

The application was signed by Puttu Lal Mishra, Madan Mohan Pandey, Ranjana Agnihotri, Vireshwar Diwedi, Ranjit Lal Verma from the Hindu side of the case while Abdul Mannan, Zafrayab Jilani and Mushtaq Siddiqui represented the Muslim side.

“The application has been a blessing in disguise,” says Zafaryab Jilani. “Why? The VHP counsels have always said that it would take another twenty years, to arrive at a decision, but now they have themselves admitted in the joint-application that the case is drawing to a close. It would take around two more years for the decision,” he adds

Justice Tarun Chatterjee has extended the continuation of Narendra Prasad but the best part is that the nation would be getting rid of this vexed problem, expectedly, by 2006, to put a time-frame for the end of the case.
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