The Vishwa Hindu Parishad`s (VHP) proposed ‘Chaurasai Kosi Parikrama’ has raised political heat in the state of Uttar Pradesh, where a pro-Muslim Samajwadi Party government is in power. With VHP leader Ashok Singhal determined to go ahead with the proposed yatra and the BJP backing it, a bitter showdown is imminent with Akhilesh Yadav-led government going all out to prevent the march.
Politically speaking, the VHP, possibly under the direction of BJP`s parent organisation, the RSS, is trying to reignite the Hindutva card by raking up the Ram temple issue in the communally sensitive state.
The success of the VHP`s yatra will not augur well for the pro-Muslim SP government in the state and that`s why it is hell bent on stopping it at any cost. Fearing that the success of the VHP`s yatra and the government’s failure to prevent it will dent the Samawadi Party`s traditional Muslim vote bank, the state government has turned Ayodhya into a fortress and made elaborate security arrangements in the temple town and the adjoining districts of the state.
The state government has imposed Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code in the six districts – Faizabad, Barabanki, Gonda, Ambedkarnagar, Basti and Bahraich - that fall on the yatra route.
The SP government has placed heavy security to bar people from participating in the march planned by the VHP to press for the resumption of religious activities at the contested Ayodhya site believed to be the birthplace of Lord Ram.
The administration has cracked down on the VHP and issued arrest warrants against 300 members of the outfit. VHP leader Ashok Singhal has also been placed under house arrest in Allahabad as part of the clampdown on the saints` community.
However at this juncture, the moot question is whether the country is going back to the late 1980s era when communal politics was at peak - and if that happens, then it would surely not augur well for the health of the nation, which has several other important issues to deal with like – national security, rising prices, corruption, unemployment and terrorism.
Though the SP government is making all efforts to tackle the VHP, but reports suggest that this is just an eyewash. There may be a secret understanding between the ruling Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) over the VHP yatra as the two parties want to capitalise and consolidate their respective vote banks through their responses to the proposed procession.
What lends credence to this theory is the strong support from BJP and its parent organisation, the RSS, to the VHP`s yatra. Though the two have categorically denied allegations of a `secret deal` it is clear that the BJP wants to revive itself in the politically crucial Hindi heartland of the country, where it was a major force sometimes back.
Similarly, the Samajwadi Party, which takes pride in projecting itself as the chief custodian of the minorities, also wants to re-establish its secular credential and its vote bank.
Another incident which points towards a political connivance between the two sides - the BJP and the SP – is a recent meeting between Mulayam Singh Yadav and VHP president Ashok Singhal. Interestingly, UP Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and other senior leaders of VHP were also present during the meeting.
Shortly after the meeting, a delegation of Hindu saints declared that SP chief Mulayam Singh had agreed to convince the Muslim leaders, clerics and ulemas to pave way for the construction of a grand Ram temple at the disputed site in Ayodhya.
Another fact, which suggests a political motive behind the yatra is that the `Chaurasi Kosi parikrama` by seers and holy men had already been undertaken during March-April this year, so what is the need for taking out a second religious procession in such a short span of time.
Importantly, just a day after denying permission to VHP for its ‘84-kosi parikrama’, the young Chief Minister doled out 20 percent funds of the state`s welfare schemes for minorities.
The timing of the two important steps taken by the state government surely raises eyebrows. If the state government was so concerned about the minorities, then why did it not take the decision earlier while preparing budget for this financial year? In that way, the schemes would have been implemented and benefited a vast chunk of state`s Muslim population.
The Uttar Pradesh government, which has faced huge criticism for suspending the young IAS officer, Durga Shakti Nagpal, has come under scanner for failing to control communal riots since it came to power in March 2012.
Clearly, the SP government is indulging in the divisive politics too.
Also, Uttar Pradesh Public Works Department Minister Azam Khan, who is considered to be the most prominent Muslim face of the ruling party, had openly said that the meeting between Ashok Singhal and SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav would send a wrong message to the minority community.
Azam had said, "Muslims across the world consider Ashok Singhal equally guilty for the demolition of the mosque," adding, "A wrong message was going to the community." This itself shows that even Azam Khan was not consulted before the Mulayam-Singhal meet.
The Ram temple issue has always had a polarising effect in UP politics, and the latest developments are a clear indication that the SP wants to capitalise on the situation by opposing the VHP yatra, and the BJP, which spearheaded the Ram temple movement in the late 1980s era, wants to regain the lost ground in UP as it a Hindu majority state.
The appointment of BJP national general secretary Amit Shah as UP in-charge proves this point. Shah, during his first visit to the state had said, "I have prayed that we together build a grand Ram temple in Ayodhya as soon as possible and restore Lord Ram to his rightful place."
Even Govardhanpeeth Puri Shankaracharya Swami Adhokchajan and Akhil Baharatiya Akhara Parishad chief Shri Mahant Gyandas have raised questions over the proposed yatra and urged for it to be stopped.
While, Swami Adhokchajan described the parikrama as detrimental to communal amity, Gyandas said that organising the ritual during "Chaturmas" is not in line with the Vedic traditions.
The stoic silence maintained by the UPA government at this juncture is also very surprising. The Congress party should remember that then Prime Minister Narasimha Rao had failed to control the 1992 crisis and what transpired was very unfortunate. Let us hope that the grand old party just doesn’t remain a mute spectator this time too.
Not only the ruling party, but the BJP should also act maturely. On one hand, its tallest leader Narendra Modi talks of development and inclusive growth, and on the other, the party lends its support to the VHP yatra, which can disturb the social fabric of the state. Does not this sound strange that Modi takes on VHP in his home state on the issue of razing temples but chooses to keep mum on the 84-kosi yatra.
The onus for maintain the communal harmony also lies on the common man, which should not fall prey to the divide and rule politics. Caste and religion have long dominated politics in India so it’s high time for the people to realise that the political parties have used issues like reservation and sops only to seize power.
If the political class was so concerned about the welfare of the downtrodden, sixty years of independent rule was more than enough to uplift a certain community, but this didn’t happen as it would have led to loss of votes. If we want to live in peace and give the next generation a bright future and a peaceful environment, we need to act now and vote for the right person, irrespective of his political association, caste, creed, sect or religion.