Hindu Vivek Kendra

Sri Rama is the unique symbol, the unequalled symbol of our oneness, of our integration, as well as of our aspiration to live the higher values. As Maryada Purushottam Sri Rama has represented for thousands of years the ideal of conduct, just as Rama Rajya has always represented the ideal of governance. There is scarcely a language in our country into which the Ramayana has not been translated. There is scarcely a folk tradition, which does not celebrate the life and legend of Sri Rama. And one saint of our land after another, one saintly tradition after another has immersed itself in devotion to Him: the sacred Sri Guru Granth Sahib celebrates and invokes Sri Rama about two thousand four hundred times, Gandhiji died with His name on his lips.

It is natural therefore that the place of His birth has been an object of the deepest devotion for Hindus through the millennia - the inscription which has been found at the site and which speaks of a magnificent temple with a pinnacle of gold, dedicated to Lord Vishnu Hari who had humbled King Bali and defeated the wicked Dashanana, that is, Ravana; the record of the unremitting struggle of the Hindus to regain the site; the pathetic history of their worshipping the spot from a distance when they were denied access to it, of their circumambulating it - all these bear testimony to their deep and abiding, and indeed stirring, devotion to Sri Rama.

On the other hand, the structure which Mir Baqi put up on the orders of Babur never had any special significance from a religious point of view. It was purely and simply a symbol not of devotion and of religion but of conquest. Correspondingly, quite apart from its being an obstacle, preventing Hindus from worshipping the birthplace of their idol, Sri Rama, it was for the country the symbol of its subjugation.

As I mentioned, the Hindus had been trying for centuries to reacquire access to the spot and to reconstruct the magnificent temple. That was one stream of the Ayodhya movement - a stream that has been unbroken through centuries, one that predates by centuries all the persons and organisations which are today associated with the Ramajanmabhoomi movement. The Sadhus and Sants who set up the Ramajanmabhoomi Nyas in 1986 - when no political party or organisation was seized of the matter - represent that continuous stream in our times.

But another powerful current arose among the people, and the confluence of the two has given the power to the Sri Ramjanmabhoomi movement which we see today. The manner in which the State bent to fundamentalists and terrorists, the manner in which self-styled leaders of minorities sought to revive the politics of separatism which had led to the Partition of the country, and even more so the manner in which Prime Ministers and others genuflected to them; and the double standards which came more and more to mar public discourse in India to the point that the word "Hindu" became something to be ashamed about, to the point that nationalism became a dirty word - these ignited a great revulsion among the people. As all this was being done in the name of "Secularism", it led people to feel that what was being practised was not Secularism but a perversion. The people began to search for what true Secularism meant, they began to wonder how our country could at all survive if Nationalism was to be anathema.

Reconstructing the temple for Sri Rama became the symbol of this rising consciousness ridding the country of the perversities to which it was being subjected in the name of Secularism, forging a strong and united country. The object of the movement thus became not just to construct yet another temple, the object became to put our country back on its feet, to purify our public life, our public discourse.

This is how in 1989 the Bharatiya Janata Party formally decided to lend its shoulder to the cause - the Party was responding to the deepest urges of our people.

But even though this tug of the people was what had led the Party to take up the cause, even though I had myself spelt out this perspective as I commenced the Rathyatra, my colleagues and I were surprised at the way our people responded. We were overwhelmed. It is only then that we saw how deep was their devotion to Sri Rama, how deeply they felt that they were not being listened to in their own country, how outraged they were at the politics of vote-banks and double-talk, and the talking down to them, of the preceding fifteen years.

The rest is history. Our governments refused to pay heed to the intense longing of the people with regard to Ramjanmabhoomi. And I regret to say that the Courts heeded our people no more. The governments remained lost in calculations; our leaders continued to be obstructive, and to put their trust in being clever; our courts allowed themselves to remain entangled in legalisms. The anger which had been welling up across the country, and which would have found a smooth and peaceful outlet if Kar Seva had been allowed on 2.77 acres of land adjoining the disputed structure, exploded on December 6. Disregarding the exhortations of the movement leaders, who had planned to shift the structure only after appropriate legislation, the Karsevaks pulled down the structure. For millions in the country, the construction of the temple had begun.

But the Karsevaks did more. They did not just erase a symbol of our subjugation. They did not just begin building a symbol of resurgence. They showed us as if in a flash how far we have to travel. For the country reacted in two diametrically opposite ways, as virtually two different peoples. For a handful - those in government, in political parties, and in large sections of the English Press, for instance, what had happened was "a national shame", it was "madness", it was "barbaric". For the rest of the country it was a liberation - a sweeping away of cobwebs. The depth of devotion to Sri Rama, the depth of anger at the recent politics, had surprised me, as I said; the depth of the chasm between these two nations the microscopic minority at the top and the people - did not.

But as the organs of communication - Parliament, the English Press, Doordarshan were in the hands of the very persons whose politics and double-talk the Karsevaks were tearing down, calumny was rained down upon the Karsevaks, on the Ramjanmabhoomi movement, on the BJP in particular.

The Government's White Paper Is part of this campaign of calumny. It is full of evasions and half-truths. Even within Government, voices were raised to protest at its concealments - it was pointed out, for instance, that the White Paper did not contain a word about the negotiations which the Prime Minister had conducted with the Sadhus and Sants, and with several of us.

The calumny called for the antidote of truth: it was necessary to save the great and mighty movement so that it would continue, to be the vehicle of national resurgence, it was necessary to set the record straight. The BJP thus decided to prepare a true White Paper on the Ayodhya movement. A group of scholars was put together to study the documents, to obtain records - from within Government too - and to obtain the direct testimony of those with whom the Prime Ministers and their representatives had negotiated.

The result is in your hands. This is a unique narrative on at least two counts:

* It contains many hitherto unpublished, confidential documents - for instance, on pages 81-89, readers will find the internal confidential summary which the Prime Minister's own Special Cell had made of the case of the VHP and the AIBMAC, and they would be led to ask why the fact that the Special Cell had reached such conclusions was kept hidden from the country;

* It contains the first person testimony of the most eminent and pious Sadhus and Sants, as well as of others as to what transpired in the discussions the Prime Minister and his emissaries had with them.

Based as it is on such a wealth of primary evidence and given the meticulous care with which the Paper has been prepared, this document brings to light many facts which most of us would not have known. Few of us for instance would remember that while Shri Narasimha Rao sought time now to study the problem, he had himself been the head of the Committee of Ministers which Shri Rajiv Gandhi had set up to examine the Ayodhya issue in 1987, a little nugget which the Government's White Paper does not mention at all. Few of us would remember that as long ago as 1955 the courts had bewailed the fact that the issue was being entangled in litigation and had directed the concerned court to conclude the matter expeditiously. Few of us would remember that the High Court had itself said that many of the issues cannot be settled by the judiciary. Few of us would know the contrast that marked the handling of the issue by three Prime Ministers. Few of us would know how every time a solution was at hand - from the Ordinance of Shri V.P. Singh to the formula which a Minister of Rao's Government canvassed with my colleagues and me - the step was reversed and disowned. Few will remember the devices by which the courts have been, and have allowed themselves to be, enmeshed. All this and much more is documented to the dot here.

This White Paper thus is a document of record. It puts together primary evidence to garner which even historians will be turning to it years hence.

The Ayodhya movement, in particular the erasure of Mir Baqi's insignia of conquest and the commencement of the Temple of Sri Rama, has already occasioned deep reflection and rethinking in our country - on what a truly secular polity should be, on how a country can even survive if the deepest sentiments of 85 per cent of its people are spurned, on how we should find better ways to attend to such issues so that the people are not driven to force solutions on all. In no section is this rethinking deeper and more evident than the Muslims.

I am certain that this White Paper will further this process of national reflection. It is thus more than a document of record. It is the interim report of a movement for national resurgence.

I therefore commend it to all our countrymen wholeheartedly.