The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Togadia holds temple thunder
- Protest only if legal option fails: VHP

Ayodhya, April 29: The Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s usual fire and brimstone were missing as the two-day conclave of its high-power Ram temple committee got underway here today.

Caught between hardliners and the establishment and the coming polls, VHP leader Praveen Togadia said the outfit would prefer to find a way to build the temple “within the framework of law” before resorting to agitation. He was speaking after the morning session.

The VHP’s first task, Togadia said, was to lobby for handing over of the “undisputed land” to the Ramjanmabhoomi Nyas. “We will go to each and every member of Parliament, including Muslim MPs, and persuade them to support a legislation in this regard,” Togadia said. “If this fails, we may resort to agitation, but not before the monsoons are over.”

The outfit’s Ram Janmabhoomi Mandir Nirman Ucchadhikar Samiti is expected to announce its future action tomorrow.

The dharma sansad of February 27 had authorised the Samiti to chalk out the next phase of agitation.

The Samiti’s only resolution passed today condemned Togadia’s arrest in Rajasthan over the trishul ban. “We will let you know our conclusions tomorrow,” VHP chief Ashok Singhal said after the meeting.

Sources said the VHP’s pragmatic politicians had a tough time soothing the hardliners itching for a showdown with the BJP-led Centre. Mahant Avaidyanath of Gorakshapeetha, who is the Samiti chairman, led the hardliners in saying that waiting for a Supreme Court verdict was pointless.

“We have waited enough for seeking a legal recourse and some solution from the Parliament. It’s time to go ahead with our construction-related programme,” Avaidyanath said.

Though VHP leaders Onkar Bhave and Giriraj Kishore supported him, the pragmatists pointed out the apex court’s refusal to vacate its stay on the Ayodhya land.

Some Samiti members then suggested the VHP should exploit the likely outcome of the ongoing Ayodhya excavation. “Instead of going for a confrontation with the government, we must build up pressure on the lawmakers for a legislation, now that the excavations have vindicated our stand. We should also appeal to the Muslim leaders to withdraw their claim in the light of the recent excavations,” they said.

The Sangh has zeroed in on lotus imprints and figurines of Hindu symbols and deities thrown up by the excavation to buttress their claim of a temple existing at the site where the Babri Masjid once stood.

Today’s discussions indicated that the Samiti was unlikely to announce a definite date for beginning temple construction. Amid the mounting frustration of sadhus and mahants, it may announce only a token programme on the lines of last year’s shiladaan, observers said.

“The Sangh parivar would like to slow down the agitation so that it does not burn itself out before the next Lok Sabha polls,” a VHP leader emphasised.

“We find ourselves in a catch 22 situation. If we announce temple construction, we would be taking on the Supreme Court and the NDA government. And if we do nothing, we might start losing the support we have been able to build up in favour of the Ram temple,” he said.

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