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Ram Lalla guardian faces parivar push

Lucknow, Oct. 1: Before the next legal or out-of-court step in the Ayodhya case, jockeying has begun among various Hindu outfits for control of the land earmarked for Ram Lalla.

From the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Nirmohi Akhara to the Ramjanmabhoomi Nyas and the Niranjani Akhara, they all want a piece of the pie.

Under the high court’s orders, it’s Ram Lalla Virajman, the trust that is the legal guardian or “friend” of the child Ram, which is the sole custodian of this one-third of the disputed land.

However, before it can officially take over the plot and build a temple, the trust needs to register itself under the Indian Societies Act and develop an institutional framework with financial accountability. The Virajman now just has a chief and a group of members and employees.

Triloknath Pandey, who has been running the Virajman since the death of its founder and former high court judge Deoki Nandan Agarwal, today said he was ready to expand the trust by inducting members from other Hindu bodies.

“We have been legally declared custodian of the temple that is to be built. Now we are open to negotiations to give our organisation an institutional framework to become the legal custodian. That, of course can happen only after the Supreme Court confirms the high court order (in case of an appeal),” he said.

Lawyers said it was the Virajman’s prerogative to decide the composition of the new trust and its head. But various Hindu outfits have begun lobbying to control the temple trust when it is formed.

At present, with the Centre having acquired all the disputed land, Faizabad commissioner Rajiv Krishna is the receiver of the makeshift temple and Satyendra Das its chief priest.

“We don’t know what these claims and counterclaims will lead to,” Das said. “A strong contender is Nirmohi Akhara, which has been awarded a part of the disputed area.”

Sources said the Akhara planned to offer part of its land for the “grand” Ram temple — since the plot awarded to the Virajman may not prove enough — and in exchange gain some control over the temple trust.

Ayodhya VHP chief Sharad Sharma said his organisation favoured a broad-based trust with members from many outfits but alleged that the Akhara appeared to want sole control. “We are not sure what plans the Nirmohi Akhara has up its sleeves. Its leaders want to have sole control. But we need to sink our differences; we (the VHP) must have a share in the trust too.”

The Virajman used to have good relations with the VHP in Ayodhya, with Agarwal having once been a vice-president of the Parishad. But those ties appear to have weakened after the former judge’s death in 2002. The Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas too wants its member Ramvilas Vedanti, a former VHP leader, within the trust.

BJP leader Vinay Katiyar acknowledged: “There are differences among the various Hindu groups over the mechanism to be adopted to make the Virajman a broad-based trust. We have to work towards this.”

All the Hindu outfits, however, praised the Virajman founder’s role in the title suit, saying his knowledge of property law provided a huge boost to the Hindu side in the case.The retired Allahabad High Court judge had floated the Virajman when he filed his suit in 1989 on behalf of the child Ram. Agarwal introduced himself as badmitra (friend or trustee) of Ram.

“A badmitra is the custodian of someone who cannot defend himself. Since a god (or deity) cannot come to the court, he is, under law, treated as a minor,” Virajman counsel Ajai Pandey said.

Rakesh Srivastava, another lawyer, explained: “It is like becoming the legal guardian of a minor or a man of unsound mind.”

Agarwal became the sole claimant to the “birthplace” after the death of the Parmahansa Ramchandra Das. The other Hindu petitioners had claimed other spots, such as the Sita Rasoi and Ram Chabutra, or mainly sought dismissal of the Sunni Central Wakf Board’s suit.

Agarwal had furnished some inscriptions before the court in 1993, claiming these belonged to an ancient Ram temple that lay under the Babri Masjid, and that he had found them following the 1992 demolition. The wakf board argued the inscriptions were “fake” but after Agarwal’s death, others continued with the claim.

The Virajman founder, who retired as a judge in 1983, was a resident of Allahabad. He had begun to take an interest in the Ayodhya tangle during his frequent visits to Faizabad in the 1950s when his father was an inspector of schools in that district.

When Agarwal died in 2002, his family members were not too keen to spearhead the title suit. His son, a retired bank official, lives in Delhi. So Triloknath, a close associate of Agarwal, has taken over charge.

“Our only dream is to translate the dream of Deoki Nandan Agarwal into reality,” Triloknath said.

The new trust will decide the design of the Ram temple — and whether there should be temples to Sita, Lakshman or Hanuman at the site too, said Virajman counsel Pandey. The VHP may donate to the trust the temple stupas it is having built at Karsevakpuram, about 1km from the disputed site.

Pitch for Lalla

Hindu scholars say the new temple too should be dedicated to Ram Lalla and not to the bow-wielding, adult warrior prince who figured on the posters of the temple movement.

Suryaprasad Dixit, former head of the department of Hindi and modern Indian languages in Lucknow University, said the Ayodhya cult worshipped Ram Lalla, Lakshman Lal, Laliji (Sita) and Hanuman Lalla — all as children. “Installing any other kind of idol will mean going against tradition,” he said. “But sadly, there is little knowledge of scriptures or awareness of tradition behind political moves.”

Sitanath Goswami, former professor of Sanskrit at Jadavpur University, cited the worship of the child Krishna in his birthplace Mathura to advise against a shift to an idol of the adult Ram in Ayodhya.

Ramanath Tripathi, a leading Ram scholar who used to teach at Delhi University, said that even if a new idol was installed in Ayodhya, “it should still be of Ram Lalla”. Dixit wants the current idol to continue to be worshipped. Vindheshwari Prasad Upadhyay, priest of the Hanuman temple on Justice Chandra Madhab Road in Calcutta’s Bhowanipore, too wants a Ram Lalla idol in Ayodhya.

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