New Delhi: Senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh defended his party’s stance on the construction of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya, and said the Congress did not want the “Ram Temple to be a matter of contention between two groups”.
In an exclusive interview to ThePrint, the former chief minister of Madhya Pradesh said the Congress has always been clear in its support for the temple’s construction.
“Religion is a very personal thing. Why do you want to bring politics into it? It’s about personal faith, I am a practising Hindu who believes in Sanatan Dharma,” Singh said.
“We would not like Lord Ram to be involved in any controversy,” he added.
Recently, the Congress had been accused of mimicking the BJP by promoting itself as a proponent of the Ram mandir. This happened especially after party general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra endorsed the bhoomi pujan, saying she hoped the ceremony became “a marker of national unity”.
Several people on social media, including AIMIM president Asaduddin Owaisi called out the Congress for “embracing the extremist ideology of Hindutva”.
Glad that they are not pretending anymore. It's okay if they want to embrace this extremist ideology of Hindutva but why all this hollow talk about brotherhood?
Don't be shy, please be proud of your party's contributions to the movement that demolished our Babri Masjid https://t.co/wT2H9GJ7MD
— Asaduddin Owaisi (@asadowaisi) August 4, 2020
However, Singh dismissed all of these allegations and said everyone had accepted the Supreme Court’s judgment on the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title suit. In the judgment on 9 November 2019, the top court paved the way for the temple’s construction and held that the disputed site belonged to Hindus.
“Once the Supreme Court held that a Ram Mandir should be constructed, we all accepted it, even the Muslims accepted it,” he said.
“This is a country run by the Indian Constitution, and it gives every Indian citizen the right to follow the religion of their belief,” Singh added.
‘Whoever has committed crime should be punished’
While he defended the party against allegations of indulging in “Hindutva politics”, Singh also clarified that the Congress did not support the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992.
“If you study the SC order, it held that the Babri Masjid demolition was a criminal act. They have also recommended a speedy trial to persecute those involved in the demolition,” Singh said.
He added that the Congress, in its support for the Ram Temple, has “certainly not” failed in its fight for secularism.
The Rajya Sabha MP also condemned the violence that took place in the aftermath of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement in the 1990s.
In the week succeeding the demolition of the Babri Masjid on 6 December, the 1992-93 riots in Mumbai broke out. The riots reportedly left almost 900 people dead and over 2,000 people injured.
“It was ugly, the way it was handled. But after the SC order, everyone has accepted it. So we would not like our Lord Ram to be involved in any controversy,” Singh said.
Referring to the demolition, Singh also said “whoever has committed any criminal act has to be punished”.
A 28-year-old criminal trial against BJP leaders L.K. Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Uma Bharti in connection to the demolition of the mosque is still going on in a special court in Lucknow.
‘Timing of bhoomi pujan inauspicious’
Despite his outright support to the Ram Temple, Singh has spent the past week opposing the bhoomi poojan ceremony. His objection stems from the fact that the timing of the ceremony is “inauspicious”.
“Senior-most shankaracharyas, including Swami Swaroopananda ji who is my guru, had raised a fundamental question about the timing of this event. No activity related to construction of temple or any religious activity can take place during the four months called chatur maas. Senior religious leaders are not supposed to leave their place during this period,” Singh said.
He had also hit out at the BJP for “violating Sanatan Dharma” in a series of tweets Monday, even hinting at the fact that BJP leaders were contracting the coronavirus as a consequence of this violence. Home Minister Amit Shah tested positive for Covid-19 Monday.
सनातन हिंदू धर्म की मान्यताओं को नज़र अंदाज करने का नतीजा।
१- राम मंदिर के समस्त पुजारी कोरोना पोजिटिव
२- उत्तर प्रदेश की मंत्री कमला रानी वरुण का कोरोना से स्वर्गवास
३- उत्तर प्रदेश के भाजपा अध्यक्ष कोरोना पोजिटिव अस्पताल में।
— digvijaya singh (@digvijaya_28) August 3, 2020
“This could have been done at an appropriate time after discussion with pandits, even with those in Varanasi, which is the home constituency of PM Modi, what was the hurry?” Singh asked.
However, he reiterated that he had no objection to the construction of the Ram Temple, adding he was, in fact, a supporter of the cause.
“I challenge my detractors to show me one statement of mine where I have said anything against the construction of the Ram Mandir. In fact, I have been a supporter of this construction,” he added.
Singh did raise objections over the invitee list of the bhoomi pujan ceremony. Several other senior Congress leaders had also criticised the BJP for not inviting the party leadership for the ceremony, making it primarily a BJP-RSS event.
“What is (RSS chief) Mohan Bhagwat doing on that dais? He has done nothing to be there,” Singh said.
Rajiv Gandhi’s legacy
Singh also talked about former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi’s legacy after he was accused of paving the way for the destruction of the Babri Masjid by opening the mosque gates in 1986 to allow Hindus to offer prayers.
Singh had earlier said Gandhi also wanted the temple to come up.
“Rajiv Gandhi tried his best to bring about a compromise outside the court. And he was successful to a great extent. Even Narasimha Rao tried his best to bring all shankaracharya jis, all senior religious leaders together,” Singh said.
“He (Rao) wanted the construction of the mandir to be taken up by religious leaders and not political leaders,” Singh added.
The demolition of the Babri Masjid took place when Rao was the prime minister. The Congress lost the following Lok Sabha elections in 1996 and the loss is partly credited to Rao’s inability to stop the demolition.
Many have thus questioned if the Congress support to the Ram Temple will help the party electorally.
But Singh said this isn’t about politics for him.
“I don’t mix religion and politics. Even as CM when I saw someone doing religious fundamentalism…I have taken action against them, irrespective of which religion they belong to,” Singh said.
Loyalty to Gandhi-Nehru family ‘non-negotiable’
Amid the spate of troubles the Congress is plagued with, a new tussle between the young leaders and the old guard emerged last week. Congress MP Rajeev Satav, who is known to be close to Rahul Gandhi, blamed the two successive United Progressive Alliance governments for the election defeats in 2014 and 2019.
However, Singh denied that any such quarrel existed within the party.
“No Congressman would ever go against the Nehru-Gandhi family. This family has done immense service to the country starting from Nehru till UPA I and II,” Singh said.
“Loyalty to the Nehru-Gandhi family is non-negotiable for every Congressperson,” Singh added.
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