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Since 1st March, 1999
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Digvijay seeks PM balm for Bhojshala

Bhopal, June 6: Chief minister Digvijay Singh has approached the Prime Minister over the Bhojshala dispute in an apparent bid to pre-empt legal action by Muslims of Dhar district.

In a two-page letter, Singh complained to Atal Bihari Vajpayee about Union minister of state for tourism and culture Bhavna Chikalia and BJP chief ministerial candidate Uma Bharti declaring Bhojshala a Hindu temple on Tuesday.

Alleging vitiation of communal harmony in poll-bound Madhya Pradesh, Singh said the BJP leaders violated Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) orders by performing aarti, singing bhajan, raising slogans and allowing journalists to enter the disputed site.

“Is this the conduct of a minister'” Singh asked, referring to “several violations” of law by Chikalia in the presence of survey and law enforcement officials.

The chief minister’s letter comes in the wake of a threat by Muslims of Dhar district — where Bhojshala is situated — to launch a stir and move court for alleged violation of the ASI's order. Muslims consider the monument a 13th-century mosque called Kamal Maula.

Singh wants to avoid litigation because any stay on the ASI order permitting darshan to Hindu devotees could snowball into a controversy in the run-up to the November polls.

Objecting to his rivals’ claim of Bhojshala being a Hindu temple, the chief minister said: “I wonder how the minister in charge of ASI (Chikalia) could be so certain when the ASI itself is not sure.”

Singh was referring to the documents submitted by the ASI, which had doubted the veracity of the Hindu Jagran Manch’s claim that Bhojshala was an 11th-century temple-cum-seat of learning.

The manch, a pro-saffron outfit, has been spearheading the Bhojshala agitation.

The monument emerged as a contentious issue after old archaeological survey and Waqf records were discovered referring to the monument as Bhojshala/Kamal Maula mosque.

Things came to a head in February, when three persons died in communal clashes in Dhar.

The manch, however, is in no mood to relent. It has demanded a ban on Muslims’ right to worship at the site on Friday afternoons.

Union law and commerce minister Arun Jaitley, who held a press conference in Bhopal with party colleagues Bharti, Pramod Mahajan and Kailash Joshi, was quiet on the Bhojshala dispute.

Though repeatedly asked about Chikalia’s and Bharti’s temple claim of Tuesday, he refused comment.

Instead, Jaitley focused on development issues and accused Singh of failing on “all fronts”. The Union minister cited several reports and documents in support of his claim that in 10 years of Congress rule, Madhya Pradesh had slipped in almost all social and economic indicators of progress.

Jaitley challenged Singh to a public debate.

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