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VHP closes temple court route

New Delhi, Jan. 23: With just a month to go before the dharma sansad (religious parliament) of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad unveils its next move on the Ram temple, the Centre is trying to avert a likely crisis but without tangible results.

According to official sources, the last thing the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government wants is a VHP-sponsored crisis when Parliament will be in session to pass the general budget. The dharma sansad is scheduled for February 21, 22 and 23 in Delhi.

The Supreme Court’s last directive, ordering the Centre to maintain status quo ante not only at the site deemed as “disputed” in Ayodhya’s temple-mosque complex but also in “undisputed” areas, has tied the government’s hands completely.

The order, passed on the eve of the “shiladaan” announced by the VHP in March 2002, conveyed that no activity — including a “symbolic” placing of a brick — would be allowed.

Official sources said the only “viable” way out now is asking the VHP or one of its offshoots to file a revision petition in the apex court, seeking clarification whether its March order is operative even today or if it was valid only till the “shiladaan”.

According to sources, the Centre, depending on what the court says, can explore the possibility of handing over a part of the “undisputed” land to the Ramjanmabhoomi Nyas, a VHP-created trust.

Well placed VHP sources said they have refused to oblige the Centre and told its emissary they would have nothing to do with courts any more.

Shatrughan Singh, the bureaucrat who heads the specially constituted Ayodhya cell — part of the Prime Minister’s Office — recently met three senior VHP functionaries.

According to official sources, he asked VHP joint general-secretaries Onkar Bhave and Champat Rai and vice-president S.C. Dixit whether the VHP would consider filing a revision petition. They refused and reportedly said the Centre was free to knock at the court’s door if it chose to.

“Moving the court will shackle us completely,” a VHP source said. “It will put a halt to our agitation, that gained a lot of momentum last year, because of the Centre’s stand. Besides, our stand has always been that the people’s court is supreme. So where is the question of going to any other court'”

Asked to indicate what announcement could be expected at the dharma sansad and its likely impact on the Centre, VHP sources said: “We will abide by whatever decision our sadhus and mahatmas take, however harsh it may be for the Centre. If it means embarking on temple construction immediately, we will implement the order.”

Asked if the sansad would put off such a decision till the 2004 Lok Sabha polls drew closer, they said: “That is just what the BJP would like us to do because it would suit them in the polls.”

“We will not fall into that trap again because (then) we will be open to the charge of politicising the temple issue.” This is an allegation VHP leader Ashok Singhal recently levelled against deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani.

The RSS has hinted it may not mediate with the VHP before the dharma sansad.

RSS spokesman M.G. Vaidya said: “We will await the decision and the resolutions of the sansad. Whatever proposal comes up will be discussed at our general council meeting.” The RSS meeting is scheduled for March 7, 8, and 9 in Nagpur.

According to the VHP, the March court order “violated” an earlier ruling given by a larger Supreme Court bench.

The larger bench had said the Centre should conduct a proper survey of the 42 acres or so that form the Ayodhya complex and earmark land required for the construction of a temple or a mosque — depending on the final verdict — and an access pathway and hand the rest to the Ramjanmabhoomi Nyas.

VHP sources alleged they were not even “compensated” for the land in the Nyas’ “possession” after the Centre acquired it.

“The ball is the Centre’s court to undo the damage that was done to us,” said VHP sources.

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