Azam Khan, the Muslim mascot of the Samjawadi Party (SP), slammed his party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav for meeting the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Ashok Singhal. He also took serious exception to Mulayam’s offer to mediate in the resolution of the Ayodhya dispute. The sulking SP leader said, “I am sure that the SP chief will not compromise his image which he and his comrades earned after a long and sustained struggle.”
A VHP delegation led by Ashok Singhal had met Mulayam and Akhilesh Yadav at the latter’s official residence on 17 August seeking the government’s support for the proposed 84 Kosi yatra. The VHP gave the call for the yatra to mobilise public opinion in favour of the construction of the Ram temple at Ayodhya.
Azam Khan, the senior-most minister in the Akhilesh Yadav government, holds the portfolios of minority affairs, parliamentary affairs and urban development. In a written statement, he said, “It’s beyond my comprehension to understand the political meaning of the offer to mediate in the Ayodhya dispute by Mulayam Singh Yadav to VHP after over 20 years of the demolition of the Babri mosque and construction of the Ram temple in its place. The Babri mosque was demolished by Ashok Singhal and anti-social and anarchic elements. It would be naïve to expect decency from the people who are responsible for the demolition of the Babri mosque.”
Questioning the wisdom of the SP chief, he said, “Mulayam Singh Yadav is sending a wrong message to Muslims by joining hands with Ashok Singhal, whom Muslims – not only in India, but around the globe – hold responsible for the demolition of the Babri mosque. It’s most imprudent on the part of Mulayam Singh to give so much importance to a person like Ashok Singhal. The chief minister, for meeting the VHP leader Ashok Singhal on August 17, delayed a conference unveiling the agenda for the development of the state by two hours. The media coverage of the meeting has hurt Muslims and rubbed on their old wounds.”
He further added, “It should be specified as to which part of the land Ashok Singhal will mediate as the Allahabad High Court, in its judgment on 30 September, 2010, had divided the disputed land of Ayodhya in three parts. If the offer to mediate is for the reconstruction of the Babri mosque, then this offer could have been considered, but this is not possible since the matter is sub judice. Until the final settlement of the dispute by the Supreme Court, the reconstruction of the Babri mosque is not possible.”
Azam Khan reminded his party chief that “the demolition of the Babri mosque triggered nation-wide communal riots and the people in the country for the first time heard of things like RDX, AK-47 and human bombs which ultimately led to the riots in Gujarat in 2002.”
The UP Government, however, denied permission to the 84 Kosi yatra. RM Srivastav, UP’s Principal Secretary (Home), listing the reason for the denial said, “It’s not possible for the state government to concede to the demand of the VHP and allow its yatra as it’s being taken out to demand the construction of the Ram temple at the disputed site at Ayodhya. The permission will violate the Supreme Court’s interim order. The apex court, in its interim order on 20 May, 2011, had ordered a status quo, so it’s not possible to allow the yatra.” Moreover, the 84 Kosi Parikrama – termed a yatra by the VHP – as per ancient tradition, is organized every year between the purnima (full moon) of Chaitra month and the purnima of Baisakh month. It was taken out this year between 25 April and 20 May, so there is no justification for organising this yatra in the month of Bhadrpad or August. Organising this parikrama in the month of August is an innovation and laying the foundation of a new tradition in the temple town of Ayodhya can lead to new disputes. This cannot be permitted in view of the sensitive nature of the town and the location of the disputed site of Ram Janmabhoomi/Babri Masjid there. The Union Home Ministry has given no direction to the UP government on this matter.”
The VHP announced that it will defy the ban imposed on the yatra by the state government. “The state government will do its duty and we will do ours. Come what may, the yatra will begin as per schedule,” said Ram Vilas Vedanti, the convener of the yatra. The VHP leader admitted that the yatra has a political purpose. “We have deliberately fixed this date to attract the attention of the parliament as both the houses are in session now. We demand from the Congress-led UPA government to bring a bill in the current session of the parliament to hand over the land in Ayodhya to us for the construction of a grand Ram temple at Ayodhya. If we are prevented from taking out the yatra, the sadhus and other religious leaders leading it will start a dharna and fast at that spot. If the government wants to arrest us, we are ready for that as it will serve our purpose and we stand to lose nothing. We will succeed in our aim of creating awareness for the construction of the Ram temple at Ayodhya.”
Following the meeting of the VHP leaders with the Chief Minister on 17 August, the VHP leaders praised Mulayam for his ‘positive approach’ towards the yatra. “Mulayam Singh is now a changed person. He is no longer the ‘Mullah Mulayam’ of 1990 when he had ordered police firing on the karsewaks of Ayodhya resulting in the death of several people…Mulayam Singh and his son Akhilesh touched our feet and sought our blessings,” said Vedanti.