Several Congress leaders have welcomed Wednesday's 'Bhumi Pujan' in Ayodhya and termed August 5 as a day of “national unity”. Some are even clamouring to claim a role in sowing the seeds of the Ram temple project. Kerala Governor Arif Mohammad Khan speaks to News18.com on why he is not surprised at the stand taken by leaders of his erstwhile party on the Ram Mandir.
There is a pandemic in India that has led to 18 lakh positive cases with almost 38,000 deaths. In the middle of a global health crisis, we are holding 'Bhumi Pujan' for the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya. Several BJP leaders are quarantined. There is much discussion on the priorities of the Indian government. How do you see this development of the RSS-BJP Ram Mandir project so far in the middle of the pandemic?
The coronavirus pandemic requires us to follow a certain discipline and regulations like maintaining physical distance, wearing masks and avoiding large gatherings. It does not mean that normal life has come to a total halt. Those who are raising this question are people whose vested interest is in keeping society divided from within. They thrive by raising divisive and communal slogans. If it were not Covid-19, they would have raised objections on other grounds. I would like to ignore them as the right to freedom of expression does not exclude the right to say things which are illogical and absurd.
The politicians are putting out statements on social media, removing any doubts about their stand on Ram Mandir, which was once a divisive issue. Priyanka Gandhi issued a statement to make this moment all about national unity while Kamal Nath wants to recite the Hanuman Chalisa. Seeing the reaction from Congress leaders, how much does the party need the Rama Mandir issue now? How is it going to help the party that was voted out of power from the Centre in 2014?
I have repeatedly said that removal of the locks in Ayodhya in 1986 was part of a deal which the then central government had entered into with the Muslim Personal Law Board (MPLB). In the second week of January 1986, the then Prime Minister announced the decision to accept the demand of the MPLB to reverse the judgment of the Supreme Court in the Shah Bano case and the blowback was so severe that the government felt the need to do some balancing act and the unlocking was done on February 1, 1986. I have written in my book 'Text and Context' that on February 6, 1986, when I met the Prime Minister, he told me that before removing the lock, he had informed the MPLB leaders and, therefore, he did not apprehend any protest by them. That is the reason the MPLB as an organisation did not take up this issue till the unfortunate demise of Sri Rajiv Gandhi in 1991.
In fact the then chairman of the MPLB strongly denounced the protest movement launched by some of its own members who had floated the Babri Masjid Action Committee. In his autobiography, Ali Mian says, "The author, like many other people of vision, saw with open eyes that the manner in which Babri Masjid movement was conducted generated tremendous enthusiasm in the minds of the majority for Hindu revivalism that even great Hindu leaders had not been able to arouse. From Islamic viewpoint it is sheer lack of foresight, narrow-mindedness and from the viewpoint of a religious community it was like committing collective suicide."
There are Congress leaders like Kamal Nath who are claiming that "Rajiv Gandhi is the one who opened the locks to the Ram Mandir". There seems to be a movement to not make the victory of the Hindutva project solely about the BJP. Why do you think this is happening, especially when it has always been clearly mentioned in the BJP's manifesto since 1996?
I am glad that Congress leaders have finally admitted what they had been denying all these years.
In a recent book 'The RSS: And the Making of the Deep Nation', the author pointed out that Ram Mandir might have been an RSS project but Indira Gandhi did not miss the political potential of the "holy city". Another Congress leader Karan Singh said, "We cannot even light a holy lamp at Ram's birthplace in Ayodhya." After Indira Gandhi, INC's interest in Ram Mandir changed. How and why?
There is no denying the fact that Sri Ram is the embodiment of all the noble values and ethos of Indian civilisation. Scholars world over acknowledge that among ancient civilisations, the Indian civilisation is the only living and continuous one. It is understandable that Indians who identified Ayodhya with Sri Rama felt heartache in the absence of a temple at his birthplace. It was this sense of deprivation which often created tensions. Now is the time that instead of ruminating on the past, we as Indians join together and celebrate our culture and civilisation which is defined by spirit and spirituality and has tremendous capacity to accommodate all religions and all traditions.
As governor of Kerala holding a constitutional post, what do you think of Asaddudin Owaisi's opposition to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's participation in the 'bhumi pujan' at Ayodhya? He said, "Modi's participation is in violation of his constitutional oath."
On this solemn occasion, I do not wish to talk about spoilsports. The people who because of their divisive and communal politics delayed the liberation of Hyderabad for more than a year feel they can still create obstacles and bad blood. I can only hope and pray that good sense will prevail and they will give up their old antics.