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Stop them right there

16 Feb 2002


The VHPs latest move calls for preemptive action

The VHP has never made any secret of its abundant disrespect for the law of the land and democratic norms, it has made no promises it doesnt intend to keep. Messrs Singhal, Giriraj Kishore et al, have never pretended that in the matter of the construction of a Ram Mandir at Ayodhya their brigade of sants, mahants and the rest would defer to either a court settlement or a negotiated resolution. The VHP has been clear from the very beginning. But the BJP has not had the luxury of the same clarity, which, it must be pointed out, has not always been a bad thing for the party. The fine balance it has been forced to strike between the tug of power and the pull of the core agenda it shares with its sister organisations, has had its advantages. Every now and then, the embers could be stoked and politically encashed, without allowing them to flare into a conflagration that could consume its government. Sundays announcement by the VHP of its programme, date and all, to transport carved pillars etc. for temple construction at Ayodhya, however, alters this tableau. Now that the VHP has moved from open-ended threats to a programme of action, the BJPs room for equivocation has shrunk. After Sunday, the nation waits for the BJP-led government at the Centre to clearly spell out what it will do — not after another terrible deed is done at Ayodhya, but before that, to prevent it from taking place.

It may even be, as some have been quick to point out, that were taking the VHP more seriously than it deserves. That Sundays setting of dates is only more of the same posturing it has offered as a sop to its restive constituency so far. It could be, as is also being argued, that the entire clamour is synchronised to perfection with the Uttar Pradesh polls. That the VHP is only doing this to line up the Hindu voter, of whichever caste, behind the BJP in that crucial state. That after polling day, the noise will die down. After all, despite its brash rhetoric of risking bullets and the demise of the BJP-led government, isnt it true that even the VHP cannot be mad enough to court that latter danger? But the question here is, why must the nation have to count on the VHPs sanity, or the remnants thereof, to avert another catastrophe at Ayodhya? The question also is, can we afford the build up, even to a non-event? It is not just what the VHP may or may not finally do at Ayodhya. What is also a cause for concern is the toll its dangerous brinkmanship on this crucial issue can take on the often fragile peace between communities.

No, the BJP cannot afford to sit back and wait for the VHPs plan of action to unfold. It cannot afford to merely point to the political, or logistical, untenability of it all. There is no room for complacence here, and the time to act is now. Almost a decade ago, one government at the Centre was caught napping, quite literally so, even as the Babri mosque was being brought down at Ayodhya. The nation will not condone a repeat performance. More, it expects some lessons to have been learnt from history. The time to act is not after the pillars, etc, have reached their destination. They must be intercepted on the road to Ayodhya.

The Alliance for a Secular and Democratic South Asia was formed in 1993 to combat rising religious intolerance in South Asia and to campaign for peace and justice in the region. We are committed to working towards a just, non-violent resolution of the crisis we are currently living through. If you are interested in joining us in this work, please call 617-983-3934 or e-mail

28 Jul 2007

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