New Delhi, Feb 6 (IANS) – A day after the government moved the Supreme Court against last year’s ban in an attempt to settle the lingering dispute, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and prominent Muslim groups voiced strong objections.
“The government approaching the court so late in the day raises doubts on its intention,” VHP leader Giriraj Kishore told reporters here.
“We don’t think it would be possible to get the ban removed and turn over the land for temple construction before February 22.”
The central government’s application to the Supreme Court seeks removal of the court’s ban imposed in March 2002 on the eve of the VHP’s controversial consecration of the site for temple building in the undisputed land acquired by New Delhi in the small Hindu temple town of Ayodhya, about 700 km from here in Uttar Pradesh.
The VHP has said it wants the undisputed land — adjoining the site where Hindu zealots demolished the Babri mosque in 1992 – by February 22, when it begins a congress of some 10,000 religious leaders, revolving mainly around the Ayodhya tangle. It has threatened a “people’s movement” if it is not given the land.
Kishore warned: “This time it would be a do or die battle (to build the temple). We will not go for lollypops.”
The VHP spearheads the temple campaign that is based on the theory that the Babri mosque was constructed in the 16th century on the birthplace of Hindu warrior-king Ram.
The Supreme Court had last year banned any religious activity in the temple-mosque site on a plea by Mohammad Aslam who alleged that the VHP’s consecration ritual was an attempt to disrupt peace.
The government moved the court against the ban immediately after Hindu pontiff Shankaracharya Jayendra Saraswati of Kancheepuram in Tamil Nadu met Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Law Minister Arun Jaitley Tuesday.
Muslim leaders said the government’s move sent a wrong signal and would spark communal tensions across the country.
“The court has categorically said the undisputed land will remain in the central government’s custody till the dispute is settled – so why move court?” asked S.Q.R. Ilyas, spokesman of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB).
Ilyas accused the government of acting under the pressure of the VHP and with an eye on coming elections.
Former diplomat and president of All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawwarat Syed Shahabuddin termed it a misuse of the judicial process. “The mask of constitutional neutrality has dropped and the real face of the government has been exposed. They are working in panic.”
The All India Organisation of Imams of Mosques has urged Prime Minister Vajpayee’s allies to break their silence.
Vajpayee’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has also come under attack from allies and the opposition on charges of trying to whip up religious passions ahead of state elections this year and the Lok Sabha poll due next year.
BJP allies such as Defence Minister George Fernandes’ Samata Party held out the fear that facilitating the VHP’s plans would open a Pandora’s box of communal tensions in the country.
This, they said, was more so after the sectarian violence in Gujarat that claimed some 1,000 lives last year following the killing of Hindus in the town of Godhra.
“If the undisputed land is handed over, the VHP will start building its temple and ultimately approach the disputed site that has the sanctum sanctorum of the temple according to their plan,” said Samata spokesperson Shambhu Srivastava.
Finally, there would be no option but to hand over the razed mosque site. Srivastava said it would be a fait accompli for the nation.
Fernandes has been asked to tackle discontent within the coalition, including southern allies such as the Telugu Desam Party and the DMK, which have voiced similar fears against any “anti-Muslim” step by the centre.
© Copyright 2003 IANS India Private Limited, New Delhi. Posted on Religioscope with permission.