Dhar (Madhya Pradesh), Feb. 6: The Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s Praveen Togadia today presided over a saffron show of strength in the tribal town, threatening the country’s leadership with “Ayodhya-like consequences” if it did not reinstate the right of Hindus over a disputed shrine.
“My message is clear. Hand over Ram Janmabhoomi land in Ayodhya, the Kashi and Mathura temples and Bhojshala at Dhar voluntarily or we will fight to get 30,000 temples across the country which have been converted into masjids,” Togadia said in a hard-hitting speech directed at Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, leader of Opposition Sonia Gandhi and chief minister Digvijay Singh.
Addressing a massive gathering, Togadia said that after Gujarat, the Hindus have awakened. “We have identified three types of jihadis. One is acting openly on behalf of Mian Musharraf, helping the ISI and Simi (Students’ Islamic Movement of India). The other brand is secularists who may have a Hindu body but a jihadi mind, and the third is the political class indulging in Muslim appeasement. None of them will be tolerated. Mend your ways or we, Hindus, will give a befitting reply,” he said.
Dhar remained peaceful, but the gathering of a belligerent crowd running into 30,000 despite the administration’s efforts to thwart the show was a clear signal that the Hindutva wave was gaining on Madhya Pradesh from adjoining Gujarat.
The government had turned Dhar into a virtual fortress and tried to deny transport to the saffron brigade by requisitioning all trucks and buses. The administration organised a Samasya Nivaran Kendra (grievance redress camp) in the district where free meal was served, but could not foil the Hindu Jargan Manch, an umbrella organisation of Hindutva outfits, from mobilising huge crowds, largely from the tribal districts of Dhar, Jhabua and Ratlam.
As agitated youths and frenzied women shouting “Mera mandir, mera mandir” overran the town, the local Muslims sought to strike a rapport by offering free mineral water pouches. Leaders like Mujeeb Qureshi appealed to the community to offer Friday prayers in local mosques tomorrow instead of Bhojshala, the disputed shrine. “It is not that we are foregoing our claim. It is just that we want to avoid any confrontation. It is an election year in the state and not everyone wants peace,” he said.
Bhojshala, a Sanskrit university of the 11th century, was thrown open to Hindus today for Saraswati puja on the Archaeological Survey of India’s directive. Muslims can pray at the shrine every Friday, but Hindus have access to it once a year.
The Muslims claim Bhojshala is the dargah of Sufi Kamal Pasha. Togadia and the Manch contend it was forcibly converted into a mosque when Dhar came under the Muslim rule in 1334. The podium in Bhojshala from where the imam delivers the sermon faces west, the direction in which Muslims have to pray. The Manch claims a Saraswati idol, now in a London museum, was placed on that podium. “We understand that Muslims are not expected to pray where an idol is placed. So please vacate,” Togadia said.
At a press conference later, Togadia asked Sonia to take a lead in the Ram temple construction. If Sonia helps in the movement, he would support her, he said. But for the post of Prime Minister, he would prefer Digvijay to her. “And I will prefer Uma Bharti to Digvijay,” he said.
Togadia said the agitation to “liberate” Bhojshala would continue till Hindus get their rightful claim. Hindus have a right to demand restoration of their places of worship. “We are not asking for a temple in Mecca and Medina or in Arabistan. It is Hindustan, and it belongs to us.”
Sadhvi Rithambara was scheduled to address the Bhojshala pilgrims, but called off her tour as one of her associates died.