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Published in the 16-30 Apr 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Hindu fighting for Muslim cause
Ram Shankar UpadhayaRam Shankar Upadhaya, is a staunch Lord Rama devotee and is from the land which progenerates Brahmins. He is a Saryupari Brahmin and a son of a family which has produced many Hindu peers. His father Janki Prasad Uphadaya was a great and learned man of Vedas and had a big following of his own. He carved a special place for himself when he appeared in the Ramjanambhumi/ Babri Masjid case as a witness and a Lord Ram devotee in the title suit being heard by Special Full Bench in Lucknow. Rizvi Syed Haider Abbas talked to him on his visit to Lucknow from Basti, UP — his ancestral land.

What made you come close to the issue?
On Yakum Farwary 1986 (in perfect Urdu) we were running a training camp of our Janwadi Party under Ex. Minister of Steel Shri Charanjit Yadav. The camp was a three-day exercise (Jan 31-Feb 2) and on Feb 1 the locks of Babri Masjid were opened. A stir was too natural a thing to be created in the nation. I personally went to Ayodhya for darshan and on my return I could find myself getting deep into specific studies to unravel the truth whether Ramchandra ji was born on the Babri Masjid site or not.

What did you find?
During my scanning of ancient literature and books on the subject I came across a book approved by Dharam Sabha of Ayodhya. The book had map of Ayodhya. I found it was in the map that just to north of the Babri Masjid was a temple, near Anand Bhawan called Ramjanamsthan mandir. This made me conclude that no one can be born on two places. The book has now been withdrawn.

What was your next step?
I challenged Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Rashriya Swamsewak Sangh (RSS) through newspapers, that if they could prove to me that mandir (temple) was broken to build Babri Masjid I would do my best to persuade Muslims to give the mosque to Hindus, and if not, then I would go to the Muslim side and fight for the Muslim cause.

What made you fight on behalf of the Muslims?
Look, after I was satisfied after browsing through contemporary and near-contemporary sources I found that Babri Masjid was built in 1528 and the great Hindu scholar Tuslidas wrote his magnum opus Ramcharitramanas in 1631 Samvat. By this account Babri Masjid is 476 years old while Ramcharitramanas was written 429 years back. Had there been any demolition or even an attempt at demolition then Tulsidas would certainly not have forgotten to elaborate, on a matter, which is of extreme importance in relation to lord Rama.

What did you find in Babri Masjid?
When I went for darshan I scrutinised the construction pattern of Babri Masjid. I examined other mosque’s esplanade and found that Babri Masjid had no constructional different from any other mosque as it too had a esplanade in the East while worshippers stand facing West. Whereas in a temple the construction pattern is always in a way that worship is done facing East.

What happened during your cross-examination?
I am sorry I cannot describe what all took place during my two-months of cross-examination because High Court has prohibited it being made public. But, I was grilled thoroughly on a questionnaire on Hindu mythology. I was even asked whether I don the Janau (sacred thread). I answered that I always wear it and that too a yellow (coloured in turmeric) Janau. I did advise VHP counsels to follow the same (satire).

Ok, tell us about the situation outside the court?
I was branded as Brahmin Virodhi and Hindu Virodhi (anti-Hindu) by VHP and RSS. RSS Sarkaryawahak (chief) of UP made RSS Pracharak ( propagator) of Basti to call on me and wanted to see me at his place. I refused; and I said that if he wanted to meet me then he should come to my house. He ultimately visited my place. RSS offered me perks, offers of tickets from BJP and MLCship in exchange that I withdraw my statements to the court. But I did not budge. Then they threatened me of dire consequences, the result of which was that they started propagating that I was anti-Hindu.

How did you face the new situation?
The odd-wind blowing against my face made me devise a plan and subsequently I formed UP Brahmin Chetna Samiti (UP Brahmin Awakening Committee) and Pandit Shri Sukhpal Pandey was the chief patron and laid the foundation of ‘Swabhiman Sammelan’. There are just seven Brahmin organistions in the country. My organisation draws support because I made demands which were a first and unique in their wording and content. I demanded that a General Caste Commission also be made in the country on the pattern of Scheduled Caste/Tribes and Minority Commissions. The Commission’s work would be to see the problems being faced by the Brahmins and to find solutions for them. I was recently invited to Gujrat in a function which followed our line and demanded reservation in government jobs, in proportion to our Brahmin populations.

Nation is going for polls next month. How do you view BJP’s rule in the last six years?
BJP often sells a notion of having given a riot-free phase. This is fortunately a myth broken to pieces. There has not been a single year since 1999 when communal violence was not witnessed. In 1999 itself 52 riots occurred in which 43 lives were lost. The next two years witnessed around 51 riots in which 147 were killed and Gujrat 2002 riots saw more than 2000 massacred. Next year too India saw 67 riots in which 58 persons died. Where is the rule of law. Where are the law enforcing bodies?

Do you find any respite in BJP India Shining campaign?
Sorry, I am sorry, there can be only darkness at noon when a VHP Swami Chinayanand is a minister in government. When Adityanath is a BJP parliamentarian from Gorakhpur and has charted a reign of terror in the past six years there can be no hope. Vinay Katiyar, the BJP MP from Faizabad is one of the main Babri Masjid demolition accused along with MM Joshi and LK Advani. There is not Shining India but end of India, God forbid.

Mr. LK Advani is again on his rath-yatra and Mr. AB Vajpayee is again the show-man no. 1 of BJP?
LK Advani puts blood of humans in his rath-yatra instead of petrol. I have never seen a more double-speak PM than AB Vajpayee. I believe now public has already had the most brutal raw deal under the duo and the post-election scenario would make BJP a part of history forever.

What is your personal view about RSS?
They tried saam, daam and bhed and left dand, perhaps because of Allah ke karam se (Allah’s blessings) they could not punish me. I am thankful to Brahmins who stood with me. My three daughters, my wife and my two sons. I thank Almighty for having my eldest daughter got married.

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