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

Mulayam running with the hare, hunting with the hound 
By P M Damodaran

Lucknow: The Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister, Mulayam Singh Yadav, has once again defended his government’s affidavit filed before the Supreme Court in the Babri Masjid demolition case. Significantly, the forum at which Mr Yadav reiterated his government’s stand was a seminar on “Babri Masjid problem – the court verdict the only solution” organised by the All India Muslim Personal Law Board in Lucknow on December 7.

The chief minister rebutted the charges that he had become soft towards communalism or hobnobbing with the Bharatiya Janata Party to continue in power in the state. He told the minority leaders not to be misled by the media reports in this connection. 

The chief minister’s explanation for dropping the conspiracy charge against the accused in the case, who included the Deputy Prime Minister, L K Advani and Human Resources Development Minister, Dr Murli Manohar Joshi, in the affidavit was that its inclusion would have left it with gaps. He felt that such charges in the affidavit without documentary evidence faced the threat of rejection of the case in the court. Mr Yadav reiterated that there was no need to rectify the affidavit now and added that there was no place for emotion or sentiment in the governance.

On a writ petition filed in the Supreme Court against the dropping of the conspiracy charges under Section 120-B by the CBI, the apex court had issued notices to the state government asking it to file an affidavit stating its stand on the issue. The Yadav Government while filing its affidavit maintained that it was not in a position to state anything on the issue because the case was being investigated by the CBI. The opposition and some Muslim leaders had been criticising this affidavit. They pointed out that Mr Yadav had changed his stance since while speaking in the Lok Sabha before he became the chief minister, he himself had charged the accused of indulging in conspiracy to demolish the mosque. 

Admitting that his approach was cautious, the chief minister said that it was because he did not want the communal forces to exploit the situation and increase the tension. He was of the opinion that the struggle against communalism should be strategic and often “we may have to take two steps backward to move several steps forward later.” 

The chief minister rebutted the charges that he had become soft towards communalism or hobnobbing with the Bharatiya Janata Party to continue in power in the state. He told the minority leaders not to be misled by the media reports in this connection. Mr Yadav told them that he would never let the community down. Asserting that he was with them, the chief minister asked the community not to doubt his sincerity, integrity and secular credentials.

Some members of the community had earlier in the seminar demanded the issuance of a fresh notification by the Yadav government to remove the technical hurdles that led to the dropping of charges against Mr Advani in the case by the special CBI court in Rae Bareli. They pointed out that the amended affidavit still did not contain the full facts about the case and the conspiracy clause. (The first affidavit by the Yadav government had virtually supported the CBI contention that there was no conspiracy charge against the accused Sangh Parivar leaders in the case). This might make the case weak, they pointed out.

Meanwhile, the AIMPLB has refuted the BJP’s allegation that the chief minister has surrendered before the minority community. The Vice-President of the UP unit of the BJP, H N Dixit had alleged that in the seminar Mr Yadav had surrendered before the community by apologizing for his deeds. The Board ridiculed the BJP leader’s contention that it was wrong for the chief minister to attend the seminar organised by it. Defending Mr Yadav, the legal adviser of the Board, Mr. Zafaryab Jilani, said that if the Prime Minister could go to the RSS office to meet their leaders or the latter could come to his residence, there was nothing wrong for Mr Yadav in attending a seminar organised by it. 

In the meantime, the Board maintained that no organisation or individual had any right to negotiate the Ayodhya case on behalf of the Muslim community. A spokesman of the Board, S Q R Illiyas, asserted that it was the only representative institution of the Muslims in the country. He was apparently referring to the reports that outfits like Jama Masjid Trust and All India Shia Conference were negotiating the Ayodhya issue on the behalf of the community.

The spokesman also pointed out that the Prime Minister had claimed that the talks were on to resolve the matter. But the Board had no information about with whom the Prime Minister or his representatives were holding talks. The Board reiterated that there would not be any compromise on the land where the Babri Masjid stood earlier. The Board had always been maintaining that only through a court verdict, the dispute could be solved.

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