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Published in the 16-31 July 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

AIMPLB to challenge CBI on Babri  
By P.M. Damodaran  

Lucknow: With the change of guard at the Centre, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) has decided to forcefully take up the Ayodhya demolition case with the incumbent United Progressive Alliance government. The Board feels that the biased role of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), during the regime of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government, had led to the exoneration of the former Union Home Minister, Mr. L.K. Advani in the demolition case. The working committee meeting of the Board, held in Kanpur in early July, has decided to send a delegation to Delhi soon to apprise the UPA government of the misdeeds to the central investigation agency in the case. 

The delegation will tell the government that the supplementary chargesheet filed by the CBI in the case was in favour of the accused persons and this led to the exoneration of Mr. Advani. The AIMPLB is in favour of the trial of all accused, including eight prominent Sangh leaders, at one place, instead of at two places, Lucknow and Rae Bareli, as at present. After the Rae Bareli court was revived, the latter exonerated Mr. Advani, then the union home minister. Later, seven other accused persons, including the then Union Human Resources Development Minister, Dr. Murli Manohar Joshi and the present Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister, Ms. Uma Bharti, got a temporary reprieve from the Allahabad High Court against their prosecution. Significantly, the CBI did not go in appeal against the acquittal of Mr. Advani. Public interest petitions were, however, filed against his acquittal and the cases are pending in the court now. The delegation of the Board has decided to appeal to the government to expedite a verdict on these cases filed to challenge the actions of the CBI. 

Simultaneously, the Board will also put pressure on the Mulayam Singh Yadav government in Uttar Pradesh to issue a fresh notification for a single trial in the case. In this context, it will remind the Chief Minister, Mr. Mulayam Singh Yadav that his party, the Samajwadi Party, had criticised the Mayawati government earlier for its failure in not issuing such an order. The Mulayam Singh Yadav government had, however, kept away from issuing such a notification though it is in power in the state for the past over ten months.

The board will also seek the help of the central government in expediting the cases relating to the title suits in the Ayodhya issue. It pointed out that the judges hearing the case are not giving enough time for the hearing in the suits, which is delaying a decision. The Board wanted the judges to give more time every month to decide the title suits quickly. Despite this, the hearing in the suits is in the final stages and a verdict in them is expected next year if all goes well. The Board also reiterated that the community would accept whatever verdict given by the court in the title suits.

On the other hand, a two-day national executive of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, held in Kolkata in late June, set a one-year deadline for beginning the construction of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya. The meeting warned the UPA government that the VHP could not be expected to wait for a court order indefinitely on the issue. The VHP leaders also disclosed that the materials for constructing the temple were ready for use at any time. It is, however, a known fact, the VHP had been giving such deadlines in the past over one decade to pressurise the government to take a decision in favour of the construction of the temple. Meanwhile, there were signs of worsening relations between the VHP and the Bharatiya Janata Party at the Kolkata meeting on the Hindutva ideology and the Ayodhya issue. The VHP leaders used the meeting to unleash a virulent attack on the BJP and its leaders, particularly, the former Prime Minister, Mr. A.B. Vajpayee and Mr. Advani. The VHP leaders alleged that though the BJP had used the Ram Mandir issue successfully in the 1999 Lok Sabha elections, it gave it up after assuming to power. 

In the meantime, in a surprise statement, the Shiv Sena leader, Mr. Bal Thackeray, has suggested the construction of a national memorial dedicated to freedom fighter Mangal Pandey at the disputed site in Ayodhya. In an interview to the BBC Radio, Mr. Thackeray, whose party earlier took pride in the demolition of the mosque on December 6, 1992, proposed the construction of the memorial at the disputed site and a temple in its neighbourhood. He also proposed land somewhere else to construct the masjid. 

The VHP leaders received the statement of the Shiv Sena leader with a pinch of salt. The VHP leaders asserted that they were firm on their stand on the construction of the temple. Those VHP leaders who expressed their resentment against Mr. Thackeray’s statement included its vice-president, Acharya Giriraj Kishore and the Ram Janambhoomi Nyas President, Mahant Nritya Gopal Das. The BJP leaders virtually ignored Mr. Thackeray’s statement but stressed that the construction of the Ram Temple was very much on the agenda of the party. On the other hand, the Muslim leaders did not take the views of the Shiv Sena leader seriously. In fact it was pointed out that Mr. Thackeray was changing his stand on the Ayodhya issue often. First he took pride on the demolition of the Babri masjid and his party asserted that a temple should be constructed there. Later he made a suggestion to construct a hospital at the disputed site. Now he wanted a memorial to honour freedom fighter Mangal Pandey! «

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