The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Singhal turns temple gun on BJP

Tiruchirappalli, Feb. 9: VHP working president Ashok Singhal today blew the bugle for an “aggressive and militant” Hindutva campaign, pitting “self-respecting Hindus” against their secular brethren and accusing the BJP of pursuing a “wrong agenda” on the Ram temple.

Singhal, here for the VHP’s state youth conference, said “it was not possible for the government to keep the Ramjanmabhoomi issue out of the ambit of the administration”. He defended general secretary Praveen Togadia’s call for an executive decision to facilitate the temple, saying “Parliament can do it” and citing the legislation framed to overrule the Shah Bano verdict.

Referring to the Centre’s move to get the Ayodhya stay order vacated, the VHP working president questioned the validity of a three-judge bench last year overruling the 1994 decision of a larger five-judge bench.

He contended that if there was to be any change in the 1994 decision, the government has to ensure that “it can be done only by a seven-judge bench of the Supreme Court”. Moreover, the apex court had delivered an interim order last year that became infructuous after March 15, 2002, the day shiladaan was planned in Ayodhya, he claimed.

The VHP demanded that 43 undisputed acres of the land taken over by the Centre in Ayodhya be returned as it has not taken any compensation from the government, which is only a “custodian”. The 1994 ruling is clear on this and “we are asking them to only abide by the court orders”. The BJP was aware of these facts, but “they don’t want to do it and have fallen into a wrong agenda”, Singhal said.

He added that his organisation was not happy with the BJP’s handling of several other issues like cross-border terrorism and the “suffering” of Hindus. Nothing has been done to protect the interests of Hindus worldwide, he said reeling off a list of several lakh refugees across the world, including Sri Lankan Tamils.

The Hindus have also not been consulted on major issues, for instance, blocking the waters of the Ganga with the Tehri dam. This “is the legacy of the secularists, who are doing what they are doing for the sake of Christian and Muslim votes”, Singhal said, dropping “pseudo-secularism” — a term floated by the BJP to attack appeasement politics — from the VHP’s lexicon.

“This is a Mahabharat between secularist Hindus and self-respecting Hindus,” he said. The VHP wants to awaken the Hindus that “we are all one race, one people”. People are realising how secularism is responsible for the ills plaguing the country and the recent Gujarat elections have given sufficient hints of this, Singhal added.

Reiterating that the VHP was a “spiritual movement” and not a political one, Singhal did not rule out his followers taking up arms in self-defence and to “preserve dharma”. When it was pointed out that “dying for one’s faith” was a “jihadi credo”, he went on the defensive. “We don’t want to become jihadis, but if we have to fight the jihadis, we will fight and crush them.”

Singhal asserted that the VHP’s proposed agitation linked to Ayodhya is not linked to the round of state polls scheduled for February 26. The dharam sansad was apolitical. The sadhus “do not mingle with politics”, but for the VHP, the sansad’s “decision is final”, Singhal said.

He subtly signalled that it did not see any role this time for Kanchi Sankaracharya Jayendra Saraswati in the temple tangle. “Last year, the Acharya mediated, but the government did not keep any of its assurances given to him. We do not want the Acharya to be humiliated again,” Singhal said.

The VHP chief did not see anything wrong in raking up the temple issue when several states are reeling under a severe drought. “The drought and every other problem is important, but when the government does not tackle the drought, it is the government to blame,” Singhal said. The urge in people to “connect” to Lord Ram’s birthplace was entirely different, he argued.

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