12 Mar 2002
By Javed M. Ansari
NEW DELHI, MARCH 11. The Vajpayee Government assured Parliament today that no ``puja'' would be allowed in Ayodhya without the permission of the Supreme Court. While the Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, gave the assurance in the Lok Sabha, the External Affairs Minister, Jaswant Singh, made a similar commitment in the Rajya Sabha, even as the Vishwa Hindu Parishad continued to insist on performing the ``puja,'' irrespective of whatever view the apex court takes on March 13.
Mr. Vajpayee's assurance came after a 40-minute exchange between the members of the Opposition and the ruling NDA. The issue came up for discussion when an adjournment motion was moved by the former Prime Minister, H. D. Deve Gowda, and the Samajwadi Party leader, Mulayam Singh Yadav, who voiced ``serious concern'' over the situation in Ayodhya. Mr. Vajpayee said his Government was determined to maintain peace and law and order in Ayodhya. He was committed to the NDA agenda which clearly stated that the issue would be resolved either through negotiations or a court verdict, he said.
Ayodhya was a ``complex and serious issue'' which had eluded solution, but a window of opportunity had opened following a change in the attitude of the VHP which had committed itself to accepting the verdict of the court even if it went against it. Mr. Vajpayee said his Government was also exploring the possibility of finding a negotiated settlement to the vexed problem and appealed to all sides to help in the endeavour.
Lauding the efforts of the Kanchi Sankaracharya, Mr. Vajpayee said he had achieved a ``great deal'' by initiating negotiations with both the parties to the dispute. ``His intervention has certainly improved the overall atmosphere, we should take advantage of this and try and help resolve the issue.''
The Prime Minister also clarified that as far as his Government was concerned, the issue of the proposed ``puja'' in Ayodhya would be decided by the courts on March 13. Steps had been taken to expedite the hearing of the title suit pending before the Allahabad High Court. The Centre had also taken all precautionary measures possible and had put in place adequate security personnel in the temple town to take care of any contingency.
Giving details of the security arrangements, Mr. Vajpayee said over 3200 personnel of para-military forces, 1800 from the Provincial Armed Constabulary and 400 policemen had been deployed.
The issue was raised by Mr. Gowda and Mr. Yadav as soon as the House assembled in the morning. Voicing serious concern, both leaders demanded that the Government take Parliament into confidence on the measures it proposed to take to prevent a repetition of the events of December 6, 1992 (when the Babri Masjid was demolished).
Mr. Gowda referred to the surcharged communal atmosphere in the country and urged the Government to prevent kar sevaks from assembling in Ayodhya. Mr. Yadav said Ayodhya was boiling and demanded that the city be handed over to the Army. He also accused the Government of being ``hand-in-glove'' with the VHP.
Mr. Singh told the Rajya Sabha that the Government was committed to maintaining the status quo - ``it will not allow any activity there till the Supreme Court decides on the matter.''
PTI reports: The SP members trooped into the well of the Lok Sabha twice demanding that their leader, Mulayam Singh Yadav, who had given a notice for adjournment motion, be allowed to speak on the issue.
Mr. Yadav, who was pulled up by the Deputy Speaker, P. M. Sayeed, twice for taking affront to the Chair, demanded that the `karsevaks' be arrested and those issuing inflammatory statements also be put behind bars. He was supported by the CPI(M) leader, Somnath Chatterjee, and some Left party members.
Mr. Yadav and his party colleagues repeatedly clashed with the members of the Shiv Sena, the BJP and other NDA constituents. Mr. Sayeed disallowed the adjournment notices given by Mr. Yadav and the RJD leader, Raghuvansh Prasad Singh.