New Delhi, Feb. 21: A day after Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee announced in Himachal Pradesh that he was confident all historical and other evidence would incontrovertibly establish that a temple existed at the site of the Babri mosque, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) disclosed what the “evidence” was.
In the middle of the VHP’s margdarshak mandal meeting, outfit chief Ashok Singhal said a “deep-penetrating radar system survey” by a Canadian agency, which penetrated the “disputed” land in Ayodhya with a laser beam, discovered the archaeological ruins of a temple beneath the “disputed structure” (Babri mosque).
Singhal said the pillars and broken parts, “dating back 3,000 to 4,000 years”, were found at a depth of 5.5 metres and the “evidence” corroborated the findings of VHP historian B.B. Lal in 1978.
The Centre and the Uttar Pradesh government knew about these findings but had asked him not to speak about them, Singhal said. He, nevertheless, spilled the beans in a widely-televised news conference.
“The report is with us and it is favourable to us. Mandir remains were found. The Centre and the Uttar Pradesh government said the report was embargoed but we decided to go ahead and talk about it,” the VHP leader added.
Earlier in the day, the Supreme Court gave the Centre reason to cheer when it set March 6 for hearing the plea for vacation of stay on the “undisputed land” in Ayodhya. ( )
Although it was clear that at one level the BJP-led government at the Centre and the VHP worked in tandem on Ayodhya, Singhal and the others who addressed the media tried to sound tough on the Vajpayee dispensation.
Former BJP MP of Gorakhpur Mahant Avaidyanath — who heads a sub-committee on temple construction — asserted that the dharma sansad, which begins tomorrow, would unveil an “unprecedented and significant” decision.
Another sadhu, Parmanand Maharaj, described the impending confrontation as an “aar paar ke ladayee” (fight to the finish). The Prime Minister had earlier pulled up VHP general secretary Praveen Togadia for using the same phrase. But an unfazed Parmanand said: “Our sangharsh (agitation) will go on and it will be the final one.”
Avaidyanath spoke of how Congress governments in the past had helped the VHP’s temple agenda, willingly or unwittingly.
“First, Veer Bahadur Singh (former Uttar Pradesh chief minister) had the locks of the disputed structure opened. Then the Congress government allowed us to do shilanyas after first saying the land was disputed. Then the structure was allowed to come down. Narasimha Rao (former Prime Minister) in his wisdom thought the problem should end,” he pointed out.
The former MP said they had hoped the BJP government would “restore the samman (self-respect) of the Hindu samaj which even the Independence movement could not”.
“But today our sadhus and sants categorically stated that this would be the very last dharma sansad. If no construction was allowed after this, the sadhu samaj is ready for any sacrifice, andolan (agitation), dharna, dharma sabhas (religious meetings), yatras, anything,” Avaidyanath added.
Singhal said the VHP was in “confrontation with the government because it is the government that has to give the land”.
“It has to decide which is excess land and which is not, demarcate the areas for building a temple or a mosque, in case the court (the Lucknow bench of Allahabad High Court) rules in favour of either, and restore the rest to its original owner. It’s not the court’s job to do all this,” the VHP leader said, adding that the dharma sansad would focus almost exclusively on Ayodhya.
Government sources said they hoped that Vajpayee’s pro-temple statement and “clarifications” on cow slaughter would help them buy peace with the VHP, for the moment at least.
It was also conveyed to the VHP leaders that since today’s Supreme Court observations were “favourable” to the government, they must not “adversely prejudice” the judiciary by speaking out of turn.