"But why do you refer to it as a mosque at all?
Where is the mosque, my friends, when the namaz is not performed?
When for forty years idol worship is going on there, what kind of
a mosque is it? That is just the temple of our dear
That is not L K Advani talking to V P Singh. It is
V P Singh talking to several RSS leaders.
The elections had not yet been announced. V P Singh
had traveled to Bombay to meet the RSS leaders. Persons I know
intimately were present throughout the meeting, which was held at
his request in Mr Ramnath Goenka's penthouse at Express Towers. V P
Singh said then that as the structure was valued by the Muslims and
the site was sacred to the Hindus, he was for Rajmohan Gandhi's
proposal -- i.e., for shifting the mosque bricks to another site and
constructing the temple at the site.
This is in essence what the VHP and the BJP came to
espouse, with the improvement that the Hindus shall raise the funds
to bear the entire cost of shifting the structure.
Later, too, I know from one of the senior most
leaders of the BJP, one who measures every word he says, Kidar Nath
Sahni, V P Singh used the exact expressions of the BJP leaders.
Later still -- and I know this directly from my
friend Jaswant Singh, the BJP MP and today the Chairman of the
Estimates Committee of Parliament - he used the very expressions to
Jaswant Singh. To him V P Singh added that as the structure was a
mandir in any case, why "demolish" it?
"Where is the need for demolition?" V P Singh had
asked, "One shove and it will crumble. If each of you were to carry
just one brick home, there will be nothing left there."
Nor was there any change in the ensuing months. I
know -- again from persons who were directly involved that V P Singh
did not just endorse the three-point formula which was worked out,
he actively participated in devising it.
Under it the entire property -- i.e. the structure
and the land -- was to be acquired by the government. The structure
was termed Part A, and the land around it Parts B and C, for reasons
we shall just see.
As for Part A, the Supreme Court was to be asked to
determine the character of the structure.' Till the determination
was handed down, VHP etc., though continuing their movement, would
not touch the structure. The lands around the structure were divided
into two parts - and only because the method of acquiring them had
to be different. The lands around the structure which were owned
privately had to be acquired under the Land Acquisition Act. In
normal circumstances to acquire these, notices of up to two years
would have to be given. The notices were dispensable in emergencies,
but even then it was necessary to give notices of three weeks or so.
This latter is what was to be done in the case of this land.
The rest of the land was Nazul land. This the
Government could, and therefore would, acquire immediately.
The lands had some structures on them -- a temple,
a dharmashala, an office, etc. It was decided that for the time
being the government would keep these intact.
The lands per se were to be made over to the VHP,
etc., and they were to commence construction from the spot where the
shilanyas had been done last November.
It was then noticed that actually the entire land
could be acquired by Government under a special ordinance. There was
therefore no reason to hand over the Nazul land one day and the
privately owned land three weeks later. It was all to be done in one
All this was worked out between V P Singh and
others between Monday, October 15, and Thursday, October 18.
George Fernandes met Bhaurao Deoras and Atal Behari
Vajpayee on the night of Thursday, October 18, and confirmed the
arrangement. As did P Upendra. V P Singh confirmed it on Friday,
around 11 am.
At 3 pm that day two minister, Madhu Dandavate and
Subodh Kant Sahay, met Moropant Pingle, the RSS strong man
overseeing the VHP, and reconfirmed the arrangement. Pingle
expressed the VHP's reservation: it would accept the formula, but it
would not give up its right to continue its movement for shifting
the mosque, he said; however, he agreed, it would not disturb the
structure for the time being in any way.
Then came a stormy meeting of Muslim leaders with V
P Singh. And so around 5 pm V P Singh let it be known that he had
changed his mind. What was the "disputed structure became the
"disputed land". And all lands, the titles to which were in dispute
before the Allahabad High Court were now to be taken to be covered
by the expression "disputed land".
As nothing was to be done to disturb what was
"disputed", this change meant that nothing could be commenced
anywhere, not even at the spot where the shilanyas had been
"But once Government acquires the land," the law
officer of the Government explained to him, "all disputes about its
titles would end. There is thus no reason for going back on what has
been agreed -- about commencing construction."
"Then I won't acquire the land," said V P
That night however came the Ordinance. It did not
make the distinction which had been agreed to originally between the
structure and the land. Government did not spell out what exactly
was to be referred to the Supreme Court. And there was nothing about
transferring anything to the VHP. Even so, the Ordinance had at
least acquired the land.
The VHP was furious. It felt it had been taken for
a ride, not just by government but the mediators, among whom were
two I know and work with intimately. But the impression was given on
behalf of Government the next morning, on Saturday that is, that the
Ordinance had been just the first step, that the rest would follow
within the next two or three days. Moderate leaders, L K Advani and
Vajpayee, therefore declared that while the Ordinance was a small
step, it was a small step forward.
The initial reactions of the Muslim leaders too
were of cautious relief: they had been in what was being negotiated;
they did not reject what was announce; they said the details would
Even on Saturday therefore, the original
arrangement was alive.
But by Sunday recriminations had started among the
Muslim leaders: you have agreed to a step which will become
precedent for taking over waqf properties anywhere and everywhere,
charged some about the others.
The hard liners prevailed. And so the Muslim
leaders warned V P Singh, if you allow any construction even in the
plot in which the shilanyas had been done, the Muslims will spurn
you the same way they spurned Rajiv last year.
And it became clear too that Mulayam Singh, who had
already outdone V P Singh in chatting up the Muslims, might seize
upon the Ordinance as opportunity. It wasn't just that he could, by
halting the rathyatra, undo on the ground whatever might have been
agreed to in Delhi. It was that a word from him that V P Singh had
caved in to "Hindu fundamentalists" would erase the image which V P
Singh had been so assiduously cultivating all this while.
The CPM stepped in too, in minatory tones.
These things and nothing else were the spur to the
"secularism" which burst upon everyone so suddenly on Monday, and of
which we have heard so much in the last five days.
Secularism has not been upheld. It has been given a
body blow. The one and only inference which will be drawn from the
fact that a Prime Minister of India went back on what he had himself
helped put together, and thereafter even withdrew the Ordinance
which had been issued in the name of the President of India, and
that he did all this because of pressure from secularists like Imam
Bukhari, the only moral that will be drawn from this is that Hindus
too should raise Bukharis among them.
Not just secularism, the authority of the State has
been dealt a body blow. And in the long run no one will be harmed as
much by such weakening of the State as the minorities.
The Tragedy of it
I am not so much on what all this reveals about V P
Singh: no one has to labour much on that these days, he is doing all
the revealing himself day and night. I am on the tragedy of it for
our society, and for the Muslims in particular.
Throughout the last few decades the rational course
for all citizens has been to work together to strengthen the
institutions, in the proper functioning of which alone the security
and prosperity of all lies. But section after section has been led
to believe by the thekedars in it that its security and
prosperity lies in fortifying itself as a group separate from the
others. And at each turn the lay members of it have been led to
believe that this leader or that -- Mrs Gandhi one day, Bahuguna the
next -- was the one and only available guarantor of their security
The real reason behind this has been simply that
that leader has won over the thekedars by the customary
devices, that the interests not of the poor Muslim masses were
secure in the hands of that leader but that the interests of those
thekedars had been taken care of by him.
That has been the real reason. But the poor Muslims
have been made to fall for the contrived superficials: the achkan
with a Lakhnavi or Hyderabadi cut, the cap of this cut rather than
that, the person's demeanour at Iftaar parties, the smattering of
Urdu in the person's speeches. They have been led to fall for
surface promises -- "The Minorities Commission shall be given
Constitutional status," "There shall be special financial
institutions for the minorities."
It is not only that so many of these promises have
been hollow - what is the poor Muslim weaver, his trade being
swamped as that of any other weaver by the rush of technology, or
the poor Muslim boy toiling away over a carpet like any other poor
boy, going to get from the conferment of constitutional status on
the Minorities Commission? It is that many of these sops will worsen
the lot of the Muslims: Just set up separate financial institutions
for them and see the attitudes of managers in ordinary banks towards
But because a leader has held out such baubles, the
Muslim masses have been enticed by their thekedars to
repose faith in him.
Of course, the leaders and the thekedars
are not the only ones who have contributed to this. The
pseudo-secularists have done even more. They have not cared to study
the details of any controversy that has arisen – be it Shah Bano or
Rushdie's book or the affair on hand. The hand slogan and the smear
have been all for them. But these have been let loose ferociously.
Every rational solution has thus been drowned.
And the very thing they said they were out to
prevent -- Hindu reaction -- has been enflamed.
V P Singh taunts the BJP leaders today, asserting
that they embarked on the rathyatra for electoral purposes. Assume
But what is portentous is not the rath they
launched. What is portentous is the tumultuous response it evoked.
Today no one stokes that reaction more the sudden secularists,
V P Singh and Mulayam Singh.
And the poor Muslims are led to believe by the
thekedars among them, by the pseudo-secularists, and of
course by the two of them that these two are their