Ram temple head priest: “In pursuit of one temple we lost others”

Acharya Satyendra Das, head priest of the makeshift Ram Janmabhoomi temple, Ayodhya spoke with NH after Supreme Court kept option open on examining dropping of conspiracy charge in Babri Masjid case

Photo courtesy: Pawan Pandey
Photo courtesy: Pawan Pandey


After the Supreme Court kept option open on examining dropping of conspiracy charge against accused including LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Uma Bharti in the Babri Masjid demolition case, National Herald’s correspondent Vishwa Deepak spoke with Acharya Satyendra Das, the head priest of the makeshift Ram Janmabhoomi temple in Ayodhya, for his reaction.

Expressing concern over delay in trail against those who were accused in the Babri Masjid demolition matter, the Supreme Court on March 7 indicated that the accused in two separate cases relating to the demolition should be conducted jointly. Big BJP leaders including LK Advani, Uma Bharti and Murli Manohar Joshi figure among the accused. How did you react after hearing this news?

It’s good, but 24 years have passed. Some decision—whatever it is—should be taken by the court. If they are found guilty they should be punished; if not, they should be absolved. The process is very slow. Whenever we have meetings, people raise this issue. Many people from both sides have passed away. The oldest litigant in the Babri demolition case, Hashim Ansari passed away in July 2016.

Babri Masjid Action Committee leader Syed Shahabuddin, who was a Member of Parliament (MP) also has passed away four days ago. Ashok Singhal who was a big leader of the Ram Mandir movement died in November, 2015. Many people from both sides died waiting for the verdict.

In the Uttar Pradesh election, BJP promised a grand Ram Mandir in Ayodhya if voted to power. It was included in the manifesto. Do you believe BJP will deliver?
I want to ask them how they will do it. Court has given a stay order. The temple cannot be built unless court allows. This is the only solution we have. They should speak the truth, instead of telling a lie.

The whole area is under control of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF). I am the chief priest of Ram Janmabhoomi temple but I cannot perform any religious activity other than routine puja. I cannot perform hawan in the temple. It has been conveyed to us very strictly that not a single brick can be assembled in the disputed site. Visitors can only go through a barricaded gallery. If you cannot reach till the temple site—the place where Ram Mandir was proposed—how will you build it?

What should BJP do, according to you?
BJP enjoys majority in Lok Sabha. If the party is so serious about the issue, it should table a bill in the Lok Sabha. We all will get to know who supported, and who opposed it.

Was it necessary to demolish the mosque to build a Ram Temple? After 24 years, what is your opinion of the demolition?

There was not any mosque. It was constructed after a controversy had broken out, long ago. Nobody had come there to offer namaz. The structure neither had a well, nor minar which are essential for any mosque, according to Sharia. No Imam had been appointed there either. There are many weak points in this claim [that Babri Masjid was a functioning mosque] but demolition has done great damage to us [Hindu society].

How did demolition of the Babri Masjid cause damage to Hindus?
After the demolition, many temples were brought down in Bangladesh and Pakistan. In India, many temples were demolished where Muslims were in majority. But the greater damage was done in Ayodhya itself. To avoid any further communal tension the central government had acquired 67-acre of the land in Ayodhya in January 1993. Then to build one temple, eight temples were levelled at the place where Lord Ram was born. Anand Bhawan, Ram Khazana and Seeta Rasoi are among the temples that were levelled. In pursuit of one temple, we lost many other temples.

Kalyan Singh’s government had earlier acquired 2.77-acre land to facilitate the construction of Sheshavtar mandir. For that, a bandstand was built without any controversy. Since it was 500 meters away from the controversial site, no one had any objection to it. But instead of focusing on the construction of Sheshavtar mandir, they [BJP-VHP-RSS] announced for kar sewa.

Had Sheshavtar temple been constructed, we would have one temple at least. The controversy was only limited to the plot where mosque was built. It was under possession of Sunni Central Board of Waqfs.

What were you doing on December, 6, 1992 when the Babri mosque was demolished?
That day, after puja, I had closed the doors of the temple at around 11 am. Some VHP activists came to me asking for coconut and other material used to perform puja. They went after that and it was announced that “time has come…’’

PM Modi was in Varanasi for two days. One of his coalition partners said that it does not behove a PM to do road shows in an assembly election. What are your views about this?
Leaders of the opposition do not understand the PM’s strategy. He is not aiming to win UP assembly election. His aim is to win Lok Sabha 2019. He is doing preparation for that. He knows very well that Mahagathbandhan would be formed to defeat him so he is doing preparations in advance. He wants to be one of the most popular leaders of the country. He started Mann Ki Baat to become popular. He wants to be known and remembered for ever.

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Published: 7 Mar 2017, 6:19 PM