Temple Construction


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Source: [THE HINDU] Friday, June 19, 1998 SECTION: Opinion

Ayodhya: stop this madness now

Date: 19-06-1998 :: Pg: 12 :: Col: c

By Rajeev Dhavan

FOR the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), the day of
reckoning is nigh. Preparations for constructing a
temple in Ayodhya are in full swing. A committee of five
MPs drawn from the Left parties affirms that pillars and
artefacts are being manufactured at a furious pace. The
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister, Mr. Kalyan Singh, un-
chastened by his one-day punishment for subverting the
judicial process resulting in the destruction of the
Babri Masjid is unrepentant. The Prime Minister, Mr. A.
B. Vajpayee, normally eloquently articulate, is evasive.
A few days ago, he was contrite and described the
destruction of the mosque as `unfortunate'. Now, he is
silent, basking in the ambiguity that trades for truth
votes. The Prime Minister wears two hats simultaneously:
he is both the Prime Minister and a BJP leader. As a BJP
leader, he is as unreliable as the BJP is hypocritical
about Ayodhya and secularism. But, there is reason for
concern that he is not fulfilling his duties regarding
Ayodhya as Prime Minister and as head of the Union

In the Babri Masjid case (1994), the Supreme Court
virtually made the Centre a kind of trustee of the
disputed site on which the Masjid was situated in the
interregnum during which the civil court will decide the
issue. This was in response to my argument that the Act
enabled a `political auction' - with the Union
Government playing auctioneer. To the Supreme Court:
``The status of the Central Government ... is,
therefore, that of a statutory receiver in relation to
the disputed area, coupled with a duty to manage and
administer the disputed area, maintaining status quo
therein till the final outcome of the long-standing
dispute relating to the disputed structure at Ayodhya''.
Today, the Union - the trustee, the receiver - is
silent, content with watching the deft, but nasty, moves
of the VHP with silent approval.

We can ponder over the Supreme Court's words with
analytical narrowness to argue that the Union was only
concerned with the physical corpus of the site; or
enlarge the interpretation to place it in the
responsible position of being truly and genuinely
responsible for ensuring that the status quo was
preserved with equity and fairness and that any claim to
build on the site is - at this stage - ex-facie bogus,
mischievous and contrary to the clear injunctions
against temple construction. The more expanded
interpretation is consistent with the Centre's general
duties of governance including the upholding secularism
which is part of the basic structure of the

The fact that the construction for the site is taking
place ex- situ is really irrelevant. If an ex-situ
construction is to take place, it can only be of the
mosque. This was promised by all the political parties.
Or, did the unrepentant BJP fail to make the promise? If
the Union is a statutory trustee - in letter, spirit and
secular intent - can the Prime Minister maintain a
communal silence contrary to the duties of the Union
which arise - not just from its statutory status - but
from the Constitution itself? As things stand today, Mr.
Vajpayee is no better than his BJP - or shall we say,
the VHP - colleagues.

As it is, both secularism and the Muslim community have
been cheated, at least twice over. The first disaster
was the destruction of the mosque on December 6, 1992
when any self- respecting nation could not but hang its
head in shame. The second disaster was the erstwhile
Prime Minister, Mr. P. V. Narasimha Rao's deliberate
delay so that a makeshift temple was constructed after
the destruction of the masjid. Instead of removing this
makeshift temple, the Congress(I) allowed it to remain.
On January 7, 1993, the Rao Government passed an
Ordinance preserving the status quo as on January 6,
1993 rather than on December 5, 1992.

The Muslims had not only witnessed the destruction of an
old mosque, but had to be content with an illegally
constructed makeshift temple at the same site protected
by a statutory status quo. That is why the Supreme Court
split (3:2), with the minority rightly taking the view
that the ``Act and the Reference .. favour one community
and disfavour another (which) is, therefore, opposed to
secularism and is unconstitutional''. To add insult to
injury, the Congress(I) Government's White Paper proudly
declared its commitment to secularism and ignored this
subterfuge while pledging to build the mosque. But,
there was worse to come. The BJP published its `White
Paper'. It is a communal document calculated to gather
the so-called Hindu faithfuls and incite hatred against
the Muslims, proposing the case of a historical revenge
against the latter's monuments. Even the judiciary was
not spared the BJP's intemperate style and language. In
1994, the Supreme Court upheld the Ayodhya Act of 1993,
making a plea for preserving the status quo; and in 1995
sent Mr. Kalyan Singh to prison for his violation of
neutrality. The arrogance with which both Mr. Kalyan
Singh and the BJP received his punishment revealed its
game plan to use the issue of building a temple to win
elections. A year later, the BJP called for a banning of
the Sahmat exhibition because it depicted amid many
other artefacts of solidarity, including various
traditions of the Ramayana drawn from Jain and Buddhist

In October 1990, Mr. Advani was arrested while
demonstrating for construction. He continued in this
strain. Today, he - although the Home Minister - faces
criminal proceedings in connection with the destruction
of the mosque. On February 3, 1993, Mr. Vajpayee decried
court intervention because the temple was a matter of
faith. What is the stance of the BJP Government and its
leaders today?

The BJP has never missed the chance to cash in on
Ayodhya. Its modus operandi has been to make the VHP
place its case. The Centre's White Paper (as noticed by
the Supreme Court) records the demand for the temple as
a VHP demand. It was the VHP that held discussions with
the Babri Action Committee between December 1, 1990 to
February 6, 1991 and in October- November 1992. Its
stance during those discussions makes painful reading.
Time and time again, the VHP makes communal demands and
strikes communal postures. This is exactly what the
VHP's ex-situ construction activities constitute. On
these questions, the BJP is no more than the political
arm of the VHP; and, until they speak unequivocally,
this is no less true of the various allies of the BJP
(great secularists that they are) unless they make the
position clear. If secular decency is unlikely to
prevail on the BJP, let us at least return to its legal
obligations. The least the Centre can do is to make the
legal position as clear as its Attorney-General, Mr.
Soli Sorabji's arguments when he opened the Babri Masjid
case in 1994. Legally, (i) The disputed site vests in
the Union Government which is in the position of the
statutory receiver; (ii) There is no question of any
fresh temple construction taking place until the civil
dispute is resolved by courts of law; (iii) As a
statutory receiver, it is arguable that it is the
positive duty of the Union to quell all doubts about
construction on the site; (iv) Both in and ex-situ
construction of the temple are ex-facie illegally,
especially whereby the ex- situ construction is
pointedly and avowedly for a temple at the site of Babri
Masjid; (v) The construction is an illegal conspiracy
imbued with malice to defy court injunctions; (vi)
Insofar as the ex-situ construction activity seeks to
obviate, circumvent and undermine court injunctions, it
constitutes a civil and criminal contempt of court;
(vii) In the light of all the circumstances, the
continuing ex-situ construction (and statements in its
support by the VHP) represents an incitement to
religious strife and a threat to the public order;
(viii) If anything is to be constructed, the Union must
fulfil its promise to start work on the restoration of
the Babri Masjid so that a valuable monument is restored
and the Government redeems itself as being capable of
secular fairness; (ix) The Government must make a
positive statement that it abides by secular principles
and views the ex-situ construction of the temple as a
wrongful act and threat to secular peace. It is under a
duty to do so in the light of its basic structure
obligations to act in aid of secularism as declared in
the Bommai case. Governments which subvert the secular
structure have no right to constitutional existence; (x)
If possible, the Union should mediate a settlement in
favour of secularism.

Today, the VHP is running riot terrorising Christians
and intimidating Muslims. Earlier, I had filed a
contempt petition against Mr. Giriraj Kishore for
scandalising the judiciary in matters connected with
Ayodhya. This is pending. Now, the VHP leaders like Mr.
Ashok Singhal openly declare that the judiciary is to be
taught a lesson - inviting and feeding on the law of
contempt for publicity. He needs to be put in his place.
The BJP's failure to control the VHP is a massive
failure of governance; and, reveals all that people fear
of the BJP's election-based communalism and lack of
secular values. Unfortunately, by saying nothing, the
BJP's allies in this Government (such as the Samta's Mr.
George Fernandes and others) conspire silently.

No court verdict can stop temple construction at Ayodhya: VHP

Indian Express  - Thursday, December 31, 1998


JAIPUR: A defiant Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) today said no decision of any court can stop construction of temple at Ayodhya as a judicial verdit cannot apply to Lord Rama and a construction schedule for the temple would be decided in February next. Under the Indian laws, the deity of a temple is not subject to judicial review and there is no case pending against the deity in any court of law, asserted VHP working president Ashok Singhal at a news conference here, reports PTI.

All the cases pending in courts over the Ayodhya issue were against certain individuals or institutions. Therefore, the courts' decisions cannot be applied to the deity, Singhal said. He challenged jurists and law experts to refute his assertion. New general secretary of VHP Pravin Togadiya said the eighth 'Dharm Sansad' (religious parliament) meeting in Ahmedabad on February five and six next year will decide the schedule for the construction of Ram temple in Ayodhya.The 'Ram Janambhumi Movement' was started by the saints and only they will decide at the 'Dharm Sansad' as to when the temple construction should start, he said.

He said chiselling of stones for the proposed temple was on and it was hoped that within the next two years enough material would be at hand to start the construction work. The meeting of the governing council and the board of trustees of the VHP, currently in session here, was presented with the status report of the stone chiselling work, he added.


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