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‘Temple reclamation’: RSS, BJP seek legal resolution in new stance

Hindustan Times logo Hindustan Times 19-05-2022 Smriti Kak Ramachandran, New Delhi
A view of Sri Krishna Janmabhoomi temple and Shahi Idgah mosque in Mathura. (ANI) © Provided by Hindustan Times A view of Sri Krishna Janmabhoomi temple and Shahi Idgah mosque in Mathura. (ANI)

For years, the top leadership of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its ideological parent, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) sought to separate the Ram Janmabhoomi issue from that of the Kashi Vishwanath-Gyanvapi, and the Krishna Janmabhoomi ones.

Now, top leaders of both say that they want the issue of “temple reclamation” to be resolved legally or legislatively and not through a movement such as the one for the Ram Temple in Ayodhya (where too, in the end, it was the court that paved the path for a temple).

Multiple functionaries in both the organisations said there is a consensus to allow the courts to settle the long- pending issues that are both politically challenging and evocative. “There won’t be another Ram Janmahoomi Andolan. But there is a grievance that needs to be addressed and people in some places have approached the courts…the fight can be fought legally,” said a senior functionary of the RSS who asked not to be named.

The functionary said the Sangh will continue to support the “samaj” (society) as the “aspirations and sentiments of the majority community cannot be subdued”.

“In the past the governments were only interested in appeasement of the minority communities. But other communities have a right to be heard as well. Apart from Hindu, there are Buddhist and Sikh sites of reverence that were destroyed and if those communities seek justice, what is wrong with that?”

The Sangh’s position on the recent clamour for temple reclamation is in contrast to the Ram Janmabhoomi campaign it spearheaded with its frontal organisation, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad.

While it pushed successive governments to settle the Ayodhya dispute in favour of the RamJanambhoomi Nyas, in the months leading up to the long pending judgement on the title suit, the Sangh planned an elaborate outreach among Muslims. This was done to ensure that irrespective of the outcome both communities would accept the Supreme Court’s verdict and there would no bloodshed said the Sangh functionary.

Soon after the verdict was announced in November 2019, the Sangh again relied on its vast network of volunteers to relay the message that celebrations over the outcome should not become a ground for stoking a communal fire.

RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat who met with Jamiat- Ulama-I- Hind president Arshad Madani as part of the outreach, welcomed the verdict but underlined that it should not be viewed from the prism of “victory or defeat.”

In the current context, the Sangh is wary of communal flare-ups that can unsettle the government.

“There is a feeling that the issues cannot be raised all at once…A proper, legal process should be followed,” said a second RSS functionary.

On Wednesday RSS’s publicity incharge, Sunil Ambekar said the truth about the temples has to come out. “ There are some facts which are coming out in the open. I believe we should let the facts come out in the open. In any case, truth always finds a way to come out. How long can you hide it? I believe the time has come to put the historical facts in the right perspective before the society.”

This is was the first official statement from the RSS after a court-appointed committee completed a videographic survey of the mosque complex. After the survey, Hindu petitioners claimed a “Shivling” was found inside the ceremonial ablution tank of the mosque. The mosque’s management committee has disputed the claim.

Following the news about the discovery of the Shivling, the BJP also instructed its leaders and spokespersons to focus on the legal development and refrain from making statements that could be seen as provocative.

“In their individual capacity some of our leaders have supported the move for reclamation of the temples. But the party’s official stand is that the issue will be examined by the courts and we should wait for the outcome,” said a BJP functionary who asked not to be named.

While Union minister Sanjeev Balyan said he became “emotional” on hearing the news about the discovery in the Gyan Vapi mosque, deputy chief Minister of UP, KP Maurya said the “truth will one day come to the fore.”

Over the years there has been a demand from within the party to revisit the law that did not allow people to approach the court for reclamation, the BJP functionary said.

The reference is to the Places of Worship (special provisions) Act of 1991 that prohibits conversion of any place of worship and provides for the maintenance of the religious character of any place of worship as it existed on August 15, 1947. The law made an exception to the legal case around the Ram Janmabhoomi dispute.

In the wake of the growing clamour for construction of temples in Kashi and Mathura, several BJP lawmakers and legislators have pushed for a legislative route to addressing the issue.

Rajya Sabha MP, Harnath Singh Yadav who has in the past raised the demand to amend the act said, “the government should pay heed to the sentiments of the majority community as well.”

“This act is completely unconstitutional. It does not take into account the sentiments of the majority community. How can an act have a provision that it cannot be even challenged in the courts?” he said.

Yadav, accused the Congress government of bringing the act with the “intent to appease the minority community for its vote bank politics” and said with the passage of this act the “Congress party gave its sanction to the atrocities committed by the foreign invaders.”

Challenges to the law from two BJP leaders are pending before the Supreme Court.

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