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Fortress Ayodhya & the Sangh Parivar

Monday 11 June 2007, by SUBRAHMANIAM*Vidya

The Sangh Parivarhas railed against `excess security’ in Ayodhya but extremist elements within theParivarhave had no problems breaching it.

THERE ARE as many security personnel in Ayodhya as there are holy men. And at the precise spot where the makeshift Ram temple stands, the reigning colour is khaki. Nothing can get past the uniformed men and women, not even a scrap of paper. Those determined to make the journey must endure multiple checkpoints, repeated frisking and an endless walk through a pathway secured by heavy iron barricades.

If last Tuesday’s fidayeen attack on the complex did not lead to bloodbath and mayhem on a terrifying scale, it was thanks largely to this multi-layered security. The Bharatiya Janata Party’s case is that Ayodhya and the temple complex fall in a high security zone that ought to have proved a barrier to the terrorist squad. The irony is too large to miss. The awesome fortification that eventually saved the relocated temple owes not so much to anticipated terrorist strikes as to feared saffron onslaughts of the December 6, 1992, kind. That horrific defilement left nothing of the Babri Masjid. Nonetheless, the law of the land and the courts decreed that what remained must be protected. That is how the remains of December 6 came to be so well guarded. That is how the terror team’s macabre mission was foiled.

In the 13 years since the demolition of the Masjid, "high alerts" and "beefed up" security have become a way of life in Ayodhya. Not by way of precaution against terrorist attacks but to stop Vishwa Hindu Parishad multitudes in their tracks. Today the BJP and its Hindutva affiliates are outraged that terrorists reached within striking distance of the relocated Ram idol; angry hordes have descended on the streets protesting the security lapse. Yet these elements have themselves decried the high security and wilfully and repeatedly breached it — sometimes with official connivance and often in brazen defiance of court and administrative orders. On October 17, 2001, senior VHP leaders Ashok Singhal and Praveen Togadia and a former BJP MP, Baikunth Lal Sharma (who carried a sword), broke the security cordon at the makeshift temple, forced their way into the "isolation zone" and performed puja. Later Mr. Singhal said: "We do not adhere to restrictions imposed upon entry into the complex nor do we accept any such restrictions." Later that day Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee admitted that this was serious breach of security.

`Mandir wahin banayenge’

The VHP and the Bajrang Dal have volunteers well-schooled in the art of entering Ayodhya undetected. One legendary kar sevak who shaved her head and sneaked into the temple town was Uma Bharti. That was before the demolition and since then many in the Parivar have walked that path. The lot would typically dodge security, surface in town, and then head for the temple, threatening to conduct one or another religious rite in its vicinity. Naturally, each such assault would stretch the paramilitary forces, disrupt law and order, and leave gaping holes in the security cover.

There is no second-guessing the terrible consequences had the terrorists chosen a different occasion to strike. Imagine the chaos — and the problems for the security forces — had the attack been timed to coincide with one of the VHP’s `mandir wahin banayenge (we will build the temple on the disputed site)’ campaigns. During one such programme in March 2002, the threat to law and order was felt to be so serious that the Uttar Pradesh administration went on record to warn of a possible terrorist attack on Ayodhya. In February that year, the VHP, in conjunction with the Ramjanmabhoomi Nyas (RJN), announced it intended to take over portions of land adjacent to the disputed site for temple construction. The construction date was set for March 15. Although the agitation eventually fizzled out, the month preceding the scaled down denouement proved a stressful time for Ayodhya and the paramilitary forces guarding the temple complex.

On February 27, 2002, Union Home Minister Lal Krishna Advani issued this public warning: "The VHP has embarked on a course of action in Ayodhya which is fraught with dangerous consequences." On March 1, Uttar Pradesh Home Secretary Naresh Dayal elaborated on the consequences. Announcing measures to evict the "thousands of kar sevaks already assembled" in Ayodhya, he said intelligence reports pointed to a possible Lashkar-e-Taiba attack on the town. "These terrorists might try to reach Ayodhya in the garb of VHP volunteers," he noted grimly.

Hoodwinking security personnel

Undeterred by the possibility of a terrorist attack on the temple they claimed to be a "symbol of Hindu pride," VHP leaders ordered more kar sevaks into Ayodhya. Mahant Ramchandra Paramhans of the RJN announced he would face bullets, even kill himself, if he was barred entry to the temple complex. By March 10, 2002, Ayodhya had turned into a fortress with over 10,000 CRPF jawans manning key entry points. Anti-riots vans equipped with water cannons were posted at critical junctions. Trains and buses carrying kar sevaks were diverted. Yet thousands of kar sevaks sneaked in, dodging the heavy security blanket.

It was the same drill on October 17, 2003. The VHP’s Ram Darshan programme again saw kar sevaks pour into Ayodhya. The Mulayam Singh Government tightened bundobust, sealed all entry points, and made thousands of preventive arrests. As if to mock the arrangement, RJN president Nritya Gopal Das warned: "Ram bhakts would appear from nowhere" on the specified date and offer worship and special pujas. At noon that day, thousands of kar sevaks surfaced as if by magic, emerging from various points in the heavily barricaded town.

All this raises a disturbing point: if unarmed kar sevaks in such large numbers could get past personnel combing the city for their presence, jihadis intent on suicide might find the task not impossible. The CRPF jawans who ambushed and killed the terrorist squad on June 5 were brave men. More so considering how often and how determinedly they had come under pressure. The Sangh Parivar has always railed against security restrictions in Ayodhya, calling them draconian and insensitive to pilgrims. Theoretically, greater vigil might have prevented the major terrorist incident of July 5. But the Parivar would have been the first to protest the inconvenience of such vigilance.

See online : The Hindu

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