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Looking at Ram

Looking at Ram

Author: Anuradha Dutt
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: December 1, 2001

Swami Chinmayanand, the BJP Lok Sabha member from Jaunpur, is one of the most outspoken proponents of Hindutva, both in Parliament, and outside it. He is also the convener of the coordination committee of the Ram Janmabhoomi Mandir Nirman Samiti, set up by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad. His association with the VHP dates back to 1981. His induction into electoral politics was in 1991, when he won the Badaun parliamentary seat. His political agenda, he says, focuses on propagating Hindutva and ensuring the construction of the Ram temple at the disputed site in Ayodhya. The VHP proposes to commence building the shrine from March 12, 2002, the day of Shivratri. The Centre has been told by the organisation to clear all hurdles in its plan by this date. As the deadline draws near, Swami Chinmayanand speaks on various aspects of the contentious issue.

Q - The BJP's ride to popularity was on the Ram Mandir issue. Is the demand for the temple being raised again in order to bolster the party's eroding vote bank, on the eve of the UP elections?
A - As far as I know, the BJP on its own never raised the issue after the formation of this Government. The Opposition has raised it.

Q - What is the necessity for the BJP to raise it when the other Sangh Parivar agencies can do so?
A - The BJP has no control over the other agencies, and they have never dissociated themselves from this issue. It is not correct that it has been raised just before the UP elections. The VHP has been consistently stressing the issue, and raising it in its own way. The Government has not referred to it in its common programme. But the President, in his speech, said that they wanted to find a solution through talks or the Supreme Court. After a long gap, the Prime Minister said that the question of building the Ram Janmabhoomi (temple) was an expression of national sentiments, and this was debated in Parliament. What emerged was that all parties were interested that the problem should be resolved. So it is wrong to say that the issue is linked to these elections.

Q - Then, why did some VHP members recently enter the disputed area?
A - First, this is totally wrong. On October 17, no kar sevaks were there. Just four people, that too with the consent of the police, went in. (Reads out from the Allahabad High Court ruling.) Thus, considering the writ petition, "only that the opposite parties are commanded by" merit of mandamus, directing them to allow the petitioners, the Hindus and the devotees of Sree Ramji, to have darshan in a meaningful manner, of Ram Janmabhoomi, Ayodhya, from such a distance, which may not be disproportionate and too far off, with reference to devotees and pilgrims' view and the vision from outside, but taking note of the security of the idol as well as the surrounding circumstances prevailing. This is the court order on the distance from which darshan should be done.

Q - What is the date of the order?
A - January 1, 1993. There are three notable points. One, meaningful darshan. Two, the distance at which the ordinary pilgrim is to stand. And, three, the darshan is to be at the devotee's convenience. The administration decided on a 51-ft distance. Can a man of 80 see a nine- inch image? Formerly, when the structure was there, the darshan was done at a distance of seven feet. In Ayodhya there are many old sadhus who will drink water only after seeing the image. The term "meaningful" needs to be considered. There is no arrangement for keeping shoes. No chabutara has been built for those who wish to lie prostrate and pay obeisance. The sadhus there have already complained about this. The Prime Minister was informed about this on February 25. The court has laid no restriction on darshan. Corrective action is needed. Nothing has been done.

Q - The Government in UP is your party's.
A - That is not the point. The court direction must be implemented. The people who went in on October 17 objected to the failure to implement the order. The Opposition was in haste to make an issue of the matter in Parliament. Because, the last time they were not able to. The issue has been raised by the Opposition to bridge their differences.

Q - Mr LK Advani is reported to have said recently that the BJP's special identity is linked to Hindutva. Is that incorrect?
A - The BJP has always said that its political objective is cultural nationalism. The dominant culture of this country is Hindu. This is Hindutva. Democracy has been erased in our neighbouring countries, but it is safe here. The roots of democracy have been strengthened by Hindutva. The future of the nation lies in Hindutva. That is why Advaniji believes that we cannot forsake Hindutva, whether from the standpoint of politics or nationalism.

Q - Mr VP Singh has told the Liberhan Ayodhya Commission that the BJP raised the Ram Mandir issue to counter his implementation of the Mandal Commission report, when he was prime minister.
A - By saying this, Mr VP Singh is trying to avoid the truth. He should remember that we met him on February 8, 1990, at North Block. Then he had said that he was interested in the issue and it should be resolved. He had also brought in an ordinance to acquire the land, but it was withdrawn under pressure from Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav and Imam Bukhari.

Q - Mr Singh also told the commission that he is not against the Ram Mandir as such.
A - I would say that Mr VP Singh is responsible for the politicisation of the Ayodhya issue. It was during his regime that kar sevaks at Ayodhya were fired upon. Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav was the UP chief minister. Seven days' Emergency was imposed.

Q - The VHP has declared March 12 as the date for commencing work on the temple. Why was this day chosen?
A - The first ultimatum given for unlocking the Ram Janmabhoomi gate was that it should be done by February 8, 1986, Shivratri. And the last phase will also commence on Shivratri, which falls on March 12. We achieved success the first time. And believe that we will again be successful this time.

Q - Are you sure that you will be able to commence construction as scheduled?
A - The Prime Minister has given as assurance in the Lok Sabha that the matter will be resolved...

Q - How is it likely to be resolved?
A - We don't know.

Q - The main thing is for the Muslims to agree. Will they?
A - The Prime Minister has initiated moves. An Ayodhya cell has been set up, and Shatrughan Singh, an IAS officer, has joined it. An office is going to be started at Vigyan Bhavan. The Prime Minister is acting in his own way.

Q - Muslim intellectuals apparently, such as poet Iqbal, admire and respect Lord Ram, and see him as the Imam of Hindustan. Then, what do the differences owe to?
A - I believe that the Congress is to blame from the very start. The Somnath mandir was restored after a mosque used for namaaz was removed. The Ayodhya mosque was not functioning. So, people wanted the Ayodhya temple also to be restored. Pandit Nehru not only rejected the demand but had a lock installed. This was not by a judicial order but was an administrative decision. The Congress's policy has always been one of divide and rule. We believe that Ayodhya could be a great example of communal harmony if the Muslims, in view of their regard for Lord Ram, withdrew their claim. The dispute is now only over a 45 by 90 feet area. The image is installed there.

Q - Won't it be contempt of court to commence construction?
A - The work will be done in three parts: first, Singh dwar; second, Nritya mandap; and, third, Garbha griha. The dispute involves the Garbha griha. We will not begin there. And by the time we reach there, the court matters should be through.
 


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