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

SPECIAL REPORT
Ayodhya still core issue for BJP
By P M Damodaran

Lucknow: Mohammad Hashim Ansari, the lone surviving litigant in the original Ayodhya title suits, has disclosed that no one from the union government or the ruling National Democratic Alliance had ever met him in the recent past seeking a dialogue to resolve the Ayodhya dispute. Mr. Ansari said the claim by the Prime Minister, Mr. A.B. Vajpayee and his deputy, Mr. L.K. Advani that talks were progressing well to resolve the issue was only meant to fool the public. 

His apprehensions proved right, Mr. Ansari pointed out, when the ASI submitted its final report to the High Court saying that there was a temple beneath the Masjid. This is despite the fact that in its preliminary reports earlier, the ASI had been maintaining that there was no proof of a temple there. But he is hopeful of convincing the High Court that the report of the ASI was biased and prejudiced. He pointed out that several prominent archaeologists and historians from both the communities had severely criticised the biased report of the ASI. Now he has a team of prominent advocates led by the former West Bengal Chief Minister, Mr. Sidhartha Shanker Ray to nail the ASI report in the High Court.

Talking to The Milli Gazette in Ayodhya, Mr. Ansari pointed out that the issue could not be resolved through talks unless he was involved in them because he was the main plaintiff in the title suits. A solution, if at all arrived, would not have the legal sanctity if he was not a party to it. 

When pointed out that both Mr. Vajpayee and Mr. Advani had claimed the issue would be resolved through talks soon after the BJP-led NDA government was returned to power at the centre after the Lok Sabha elections, 85-year-old Ansari maintained that their statement was a poll gimmick to win votes from a section of the people. Ridiculing the claim of the BJP leaders that the temple would be built after successful dialogue, Mr. Ansari, who is also convener of the Babri Masjid Re-construction Committee, said that the government and the Sangh Parivar leaders dared not to talk to him on the issue since they knew it well that they were at fault for making Ayodhya a political issue. He also wondered with whom the BJP leaders were talking to, to find a solution to the Ayodhya dispute. 

Mr. Ansari asserted that he was not at all interested in talks to resolve the issue. He is sure that he will win the title suits that are now being heard in the Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court because all the evidences are in his favour. In case he loses the case in the High Court, which he is ruling out, then he will go in appeal against the decision in the Supreme Court. Mr. Ansari pointed out that there was a masjid at the site before Independence. But after Independence, the idol of Lord Rama was fraudulently placed in the masjid and a dispute was created. Since there was a masjid at the site before Independence, there would be a masjid now, he demanded.

The plaintiff squarely blamed the Sangh Parivar for the present state of affairs. In fact, Mr. Ansari felt that the Sangh Parivar leaders were not very much interested in the construction of the temple. They just want to use the issue for political purpose. He alleged that the Vishwa Hindu Parishad leaders had embezzled large amount of money collected for the temple construction. He even named a senior leader for using the material meant for building temple to construct his own house. The leader has now built his own mansion! Mr. Ansari had a dig at the Uttar Pradesh BJP unit President, Mr. Vinay Katiyar. He alleged that the sitting member of Lok Sabha from Faizabad, of which Ayodhya is a part, Mr. Katiyar had become so unpopular in the region that he had to run away from there to contest the elections from Lakhimpur Kheri this time. 

He admitted that he was not in favour of the High Court proposal of conducting an excavation by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to find out whether a temple had ever existed at the site earlier because he felt that it would be a futile exercise. He also felt that the survey would not be impartial since the ASI is under the government led by the BJP. Besides the ASI is under the department headed by Dr. Murli Manohar Joshi who was a senior temple movement leader and an accused in the Babri Masjid demolition case. But he agreed to the proposal after being persuaded by his friends. 

His apprehensions proved right, Mr. Ansari pointed out, when the ASI submitted its final report to the High Court saying that there was a temple beneath the Masjid. This is despite the fact that in its preliminary reports earlier, the ASI had been maintaining that there was no proof of a temple there. But he is hopeful of convincing the High Court that the report of the ASI was biased and prejudiced. He pointed out that several prominent archaeologists and historians from both the communities had severely criticised the biased report of the ASI. Now he has a team of prominent advocates led by the former West Bengal Chief Minister, Mr. Sidhartha Shanker Ray to nail the ASI report in the High Court.

The Babri Masjid Reconstruction Committee leader also alleged that a huge sum of Rs.4 crore was spent on the ASI survey. The money has now virtually gone in drain. Besides, the government is spending Rs. 10 lakh daily for the security of the site. The total amount spent for the security per annum is a huge amount Rs. 35 crore! The money is being spent for nothing.

Mr. Ansari claimed that there was perfect communal harmony in the twin cities of Ayodhya and Faizabad. The people in Ayodhya are celebrating the festivities of both the communities jointly. Citing an example, he pointed out that the Hindu saints, including the Mahant of famous Hanumangarhi, organised Roza parties last time in honour of their Muslim brethren. On the other hand, the Muslims were also enthusiastically participating in the festivities of the Hindus. 
Mr. Ansari blamed VHP leaders from outside for trying to create communal tension in Ayodhya. Though there was apprehension of violence in the minds of Muslims when the VHP organised its programme in Ayodhya in October last year, the Hindu religious leaders in the city assured them of full security. He admitted that some Muslims had left Ayodhya some time back apprehending communal violence, but there is no such fear now. There are about 5,000 Muslims now out of a total population of 50,000 in the city. There are about 30 mosques in the city where prayers are being held regularly. Though over a dozen and a half mosques were demolished during the incident on December 6, 1992, six of them were repaired later.

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