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Ram Mandir in Ayodhya: How Rajiv Gandhi obeying Deoraha Baba opened the floodgate of trouble

A day after the controversial foundation-laying of Ram temple at Ayodhya on 10 November 1989, I walked into the official residence of the then director general of police of Uttar Pradesh RP Joshi. Winter had set in and the attendant took me to the lush lawns of the house where chairs and tables were laid out on a bright sunny day.

Former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. AFP

Former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. AFP

“Just want to know if the foundation-laying was done at a disputed site?” I asked without demur. Joshi, a seasoned officer and a man of few words, looked straight at me and replied “yes”. “Did you know it beforehand that the site was disputed?” I persisted. He answered “yes” again and added “We all know it but that was the decision of the government.”

After offering me a cup of tea, Joshi closed the conversation by revealing little except that he had no option but to follow the diktats of his top bosses in Delhi and Lucknow. Rajiv Gandhi was the prime minister of the country then with Buta Singh as his home minister. ND Tiwari was the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh. Subsequently, Rajiv launched his campaign from Ayodhya promising ‘Ram Rajya’ across the country.

For a long time it remained a mystery how the stone-laying at Ayodhya was accomplished. It was in defiance of the court’s order which restrained the VHP and other organisations from doing anything on the disputed site. Was Rajiv personally involved in the matter with ND Tiwari’s concurrence? Many versions of the answer had been doing the rounds and none seemed complete.

But the cookie crumbled in 1995 when Tiwari, in a fit of rebellious rage, recounted his version. At that point, he had raised the banner of revolt against PV Narasimha Rao and was desperately trying to regain his political eminence. In the course of the conversation with me, he recalled the situation that had led to the foundation being laid in 1989 and the subsequent demolition of mosque on 6 December 1992.

The story is worth recounting now as the Congress has once again raked up the Ram Mandir issue and is busy venting righteous indignation over its construction. Buta Singh, the then home minister, was the interface between the Centre and the state government. At Lucknow secretariat, he used to run the administration along with certain bureaucrats with close association with the VHP. The Chief Minister’s Office was practically rendered effete on the Ayodhya issue and worked only as a post office. But what appeared critical was the manner in which Rajiv Gandhi was persuaded to allow the foundation-laying stealthily.

Just a week before the foundation was laid, he was taken to a spiritual saint, Deoraha Baba, near Gorakhpur by Buta Singh. Apparently the prime minister’s rendezvous with Deoraha Baba was arranged by an IPS officer who was a great disciple of the saint. The Baba was a highly revered figure across the Hindi heartland and was known for blessing his devotees by touching their heads with his feet. He was usually perched on a thatched platform from where his antics could easily be performed.

Rajiv Gandhi went to seek the Baba’s blessing and also his guidance on the contentious Ayodhya issue. Deoraha Baba looked at him and commented, “Bachcha ho jane do (child let it happen)”. The saint’s words were taken to mean that let the foundation-laying happen on 9 November 1989. Tiwari, who accompanied Gandhi and Buta Singh to the Baba’s ashram, was instructed facilitate it. “Bachcha ne ho jane diya (the child has allowed it to happen),” he pointed out while narrating the sequence of events. He was trying to absolve himself from being complicit in illegal action.

Apparently, the story of Ayodhya is replete with stealth illegality and abdication of responsibility by successive Congress regimes not only at the Centre but also in the state. India’s first prime minister Jawahar Lal Nehru had gauged its sinister potential and was in favour of removing the idols stealthily placed in the mosque on 22 December 1949. However, the idea was resisted by the then chief minister GB Pant. In sharp contrast to Nehru who steadfastly opposed use of religion in politics, Rajiv unlocked the temple to play the religious card to consolidate his support base following the revolt by VP Singh. Too clever by half, the Congress found itself losing support bases all across the country.

Those who are aware of the developments in Ayodhya would vouch that the carving of stones for the temple has been continuing for the past 25 years. That a huge quantity of marbles has been ferried from Rajasthan and sculpted at a workshop, a stone’s throw away from the disputed site, is hardly a secret.

The indignation shown by the Congress in Parliament over Ayodhya appears to be a smokescreen for its own complicity and criminality in this political enterprise.


Updated Date: Dec 25, 2015 05:21 AM

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