"Extremely satisfying verdict, time to remember sacrifices of many for Ram Janmabhoomi”

Veteran leader and vice president of Vishwa Hindu Parishad Shri Champat Rai is the man who has been associated with Shri Ram Janmabhoomi movement since 1984. He has been one of the main strategists in VHP who planned and executed various activities for the liberation of Shri Ram Janmabhoomi including monitoring the legal battle. Organiser Chief News Coordinator Dr Pramod Kumar spoke to him in New Delhi to know how he joined the movement and how he executed various plans. Excerpts:

How do you look at the Supreme Court decision on Shri Ram Janmabhoomi?

It was extremely satisfying for me when the Supreme Court (SC) bench declared that the hearing, in this case, will be held every day from Monday to Friday, from morning to evening and even on the Saturdays if need arises. And, the court, for initial eleven days, heard the arguments of advocates an hour extra every day i.e. hearing was held for 5.15 hours daily. This response of the bench, including the Chief Justice of India (CJI), was unprecedented in the history of SC. Normally, the hearing in pending cases is held for three days of the week, and Monday and Friday are used for hearing the new petitions. But in this case, five senior judges heard both the parties for 40 days for over five hours daily from Monday to Friday. This shows seriousness of the matter. Since beginning, I thought that justice should be complete, and not as was done by Allahabad High Court, which unnecessarily divided the land further complicating the matter. I constantly thought that such complication should not happen in the SC also. I am internally satisfied that the honourable judges have granted complete justice. I feel majority of the population in the country feels satisfied with this verdict.

Whom would you like to remember today, particularly among those who were associated with the matter at different stages?

The fight for the liberation of Shri Ram Janmabhoomi has been going on since the year 1528. The struggle continued through the local Rambhaktas of Ayodhya, neighbouring kings and saints. Whom to remember at this moment is very difficult, as I do not know many of them. I have only heard their names. I can only name a few whom I saw after 1984. Even in this period, there are many whose sacrifices are unforgettable, but I did not see them. I pay my gratitude to all those unknown fighters. Among the saints, I would surely remember Mahant of Digambar Akhara Pujya Paramhans Ramchandra Das Maharaj, Goraksh Peeth Mahant Pujya Shri Avaidyanath Maharaj, Veetrag Sant Pujya Vamdev Maharaj, Jagatguru Ramanandacharya Pujya Shivramacharya Maharaj and Jyoteesh Peeth Shankaracharya Pujya Swami Shantanand Maharaj. I also remember senior Congress leader Shri Dau Dayal Khanna, who was Health Minister in the Congress government and belonged to Moradabad. He was the man who left Congress and desired in 1983 that the RSS swayamsevaks should start the campaign to reclaim the religious places of Ayodhya, Mathura and Kashi. When he floated this idea, Shri Gulzarilal Nanda and senior RSS leader Shri Rajju Bhaiya were also present. When we think about RSS, we have to count every swayamsevak and the Sangh leaders. Particularly, I remember third RSS Sarsanghachalak Shri Balasaheb Deoras and VHP Margdarshak Shri Morapant Pingle. In 1984, Shri Ashok Singhal was the joint general secretary of VHP. He understood this matter and planned the movement to resolve it permanently. He is not alive today. During these 35 years, there have been many such karyakartas whom I never met. I express my apology to all of them with respect.

Among the advocates who would you remember?

I would like to go slightly deeper into the legal process. I feel our workers did not think about the legal complications involved in this matter while starting the agitation for liberation of Shri Ram Janmabhoomi in the 1980s. The legal battle in the matter began in 1950 when a devotee of Shri Ramlala filed a suit. The second suit was filed in 1959 by Nirmohi Akhara. The third case was filed by Uttar Pradesh Sunni Waqf Board in 1961. We did not know anything about all these cases in 1984. When the locks of the Temple were opened, then we noticed these cases. Justice Devakinandan Agrawal, who retired from Allahabad High Court, and lived in Allahabad and the senior Sangh karyakarta of Allahabad Chaudhary Virendra Kumar Singh (who both had good knowledge of civil matters) found that the cases filed by Hindus in 1950 and 1959 were very weak. Today, I remember the then Home Minister in Congress government Shri Buta Singh, the then Prime Minister Shri Rajiv Gandhi, senior Congress leaders Smt Sheila Dikshit and Shri Arun Nehru. I don’t know who inspired whom. Shri Buta Singh told Shri Ashok Singhal that the cases of Hindus do not have solid ground and he should consult an advocate whom he suggest. He then suggested the name of Shri Lal Narayan Sinha of Patna, who once happened to be constitutional advisor of Smt Indira Gandhi. Hence, the retired judges and advocates of Allahabad went to Patna and had many rounds of meetings with Shri Sinha for several days. All details of the cases were minutely studied. Finally, a new case was filed on behalf of Shri Ramlala. That same case was decided in favour of Shri Ramlala both in Allahabad High Court in 2010 and in the SC now.
There is a long list of the advocates who contributed in the legal battle. Shri KN Bhatt tirelessly argued in Allahabad High Court. Shri Ravi Shankar Prasad, who is now Law Minister of India, also did hard work before 2010. Senior BJP leader Shri Bhupendra Yadav, who is now MP, Shri Vikramjeet Bannerjee, who is now additional Solicitor General of India, Saurab Shamsheri, who is a judge in Allahabad High Court now, Shri Bhaktivardhan Singh of Lucknow and the late Shrikrishna Mani also contributed a lot. The arguments of Shri Mani played a key role in making the excavation findings part of High Court proceedings. The efforts of Shri K. Parasaran who argued the case in SC even at the age of 92, cannot be explained in words. Shri CS Vaidyanathan, Shri Ranjit Kumar and Shri Narasimha also argued in SC. A total of 65 advocates contributed in SC itself. The coordination among them was done by D. Bharatkumar. I express my gratitude to all of them. I would also like to remember Shri Madan Mohan Pandey who practised civil matters in Faizabad District Court. He was told by Shri Ashok Singhal to look after the case and he did it perfectly. His efforts paid huge dividends in the High Court in our favour. He also helped the senior advocates in SC. Shri Vireshwar Dvivedi and Shri Puttulal Mishra are not alive today but did lot of hard work. I apologise to them whose name I could not take now.

Many people sacrificed their lives during the long struggle of 500 years. Would you remember some of them?

Here too, I cannot name all. Many karsevaks martyred in 1992 due to accidents. Many were martyred in 1990 due to firing. Sharad Kothari and Ram Kothari of Calcutta martyred then only. Prof. Arora of Jodhpur and a youth Shrimali are unsung martyrs. A youth of Ayodhya was killed on October 30, 1990. Rajendra Pandey and Vasudev Gupta were also from Ayodhya. There is an endless list of the martyrs.

The SC has directed the constitution of a trust within three months for building the temple. Since Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Trust is already there, what would be its role now?

Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Trust was constituted in 1985. I don’t know what was the original idea in the minds of those who constituted it then. In 1994, a decision was taken by the SC about Shri Ram Janmabhoomi. The Government of India then acquired a big piece of land in Ayodhya by enacting a law. It is because of that law now the matter of constituting a trust has come up. I had apprehensions of it since 1994. When the appeals were filed in SC, Shri Parasaran had started telling us to think about a new scheme of management. Hence, there is nothing unexpected in it. We have no clash with government trust. We only say that Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Trust collected funds from the countrymen. We have prepared a model of the proposed temple and started stone carving. We hope those stones would be used in the new temple.

How did you join Shri Ram Janmabhoomi movement in 1986?

In order to fight against the conspiracies hatched against Hindus and to awaken the Hindu society, the Hindu Jagran Manch was formed. A Sangh worker, Shri Dinesh Tyagi, was made convenor of it. He now lives in Moradabad. He is a scholar. He had organised a district level Hindu Sammelan in Muzaffarnagar in March 1983 under the banner of Hindu Jagran Manch. Shri Dau Dayal Khanna, Shri Gulzarilal Nanda and Shri Rajju Bhaiya had also joined that Hindu Sammelan. I was then Zila Pracharak of RSS in Dehradun. Since the Sammelan was not held in my jurisdiction, I did not join that. But I had persuaded some saints of Haridwar to join the Sammelan. Sant Jagdishmuni ji Maharaj had joined that Sammelan. He had, perhaps, presided over that Sammelan. In that Sammelan, Dau Dayal Khanna called for the liberation of Ayodhya, Mathura and Kashi. It was quite new matter for all. Some people picked up the idea. Shri Rajju Bhaiya and Shri Ashok Singhal deeply understood it. They also met Shri Dau Dayal Khanna to know details about it. Then the VHP organised a two-day Sant Sammelan at Vigyan Bhavan in Delhi from April 7 to 8, 1984. Over 700 saints participated in that Sammelan where too Shri Dau Dayal Khanna raised the matter. The saints then resolved to fight for it.
Then Shri Ashok Singhal and Shri Dau Dayal Khanna went to Ayodhya. A meeting was held at Digambar Akhara of Paramhans Shri Ramchandra Das. It was attended by 60-70 local saints. Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Mukti Yajna Samiti was constituted there only. Mahant Avaidyanathji granted his permission to be the chairman of the Samiti on the telephone only. Shri Dau Dayal Khanna was made general secretary of the Samiti. After some time its name was changed to Dharmasthan Mukti Yajna Samiti. Shri Dinesh Tyagi was also part of the Samiti. The first decision that the Samiti took was to get the locks of the Temple opened. A Rathyatra was conducted for opening the doors. People took a pledge at the Sarayu banks on October 7, 1984 for getting the locks opened. Shri Devakinandan Agrawal had also come from Allahabad for it. Rath was brought from Sitamadhi, the birthplace of Mata Janaki. The Rath reached Lucknow on October 14. 1984. Unfortunately, Smt Indira Gandhi was assassinated on October 30. The VHP stopped the Rathyatra for one year. Then in October 1985, six Raths were moved in Uttar Pradesh. Following that awakening, the doors of the Temple were opened on February 1, 1986. Those Raths had been seized by the administration. One Rath was seized in Garhmukteshwar. I was Vibhag Pracharak of RSS there. But finally we got that Rath freed. We brought the Rath to Mawana. This is how I joined this movement. Later, in July 1986 I was formally deputed in VHP. The seed of Shri Ram Janmabhoomi liberation was shown on February 2, 1986.

What was your role in the movement initially?

In July 1986, I was given the responsibility of Western Uttar Pradesh joint organising secretary that included Uttarakhand also. Agra was my Kendra. Since programmes were held almost every day, I had the responsibility to manage them. When Shri Ramshila Pujan began, I was sent to Badrinath to make arrangements for first Shilapujan. It was my first visit to Badrinath. I reached there ten days ahead of the programme. I was accompanied by Swami Omkaranand Maharaj and Usha ji, the younger sister of Shri Ashok Singhal. Shri Dattopant Thengadi, Shri Bhanupratap Shukla and Shri Ashok Singhal also reached there. In 1991, I was sent to Ayodhya, which was my Kendra for five years. In January 1996, I came back to Delhi. I have been monitoring the legal battle, organisational matters, purchase of stones for the temple, stone carving, etc since 1991. Shri Omkar Bhave, Shri Mahesh Narayan Singh, Thakur Gurjan Singh, Ashokji and Acharyaji guided me perfectly in all the tasks.

What SC has decided today could have been decided through dialogue also. Why the talks always failed?

I tell you the history of the dialogue process. The intercommunity dialogue process that happened in March 2019 continued for four and a half months. It took place on the advice of the SC. Prior to it, in October-November 1992 letters were exchanged on the initiative of Prime Minister Shri PV Narasimha Rao. Shri Chandrasekhar as PM also made honest and transparent efforts for resolving the matter through dialogue. Shri Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, Shri Mulayam Singh Yadav and Shri Sharad Pawar, who all were CMs of their respective states, Shri Subodh Kant Sahay, who was Home Minister and IPS officer Kishore Kunal also joined the dialogue. It was a serious effort because minutes of the meeting were recorded and proper agenda was circulated. The records of that process are still available in Ayodhya cell of the Home Ministry. During the regime of Shri Rajiv Gandhi, Smt Sheila Dikshit and Shri Buta Singh also started a dialogue process. That was informal dialogue as no record was maintained. Swami Satyamitranand Giri Maharaj joined that dialogue. At that time, Syed Shahabuddin had said that if it is proved that there was a temple at the disputed site they would willingly hand over the site to Hindus. His statement finds a mention in the White Paper released during the regime of Shri PV Narasimha Rao. All those dialogue processes ended without reaching any conclusion. In the latest dialogue process I was also a part. We clearly explained our stand before that panel headed by Sri Sri Ravishankar. If the proposals of that panel are accepted, large scale violence may begin in this country at hundreds of places. I don’t know who gave those suggestions to the panel. It is more serious that the panel members asked us questions about those unmindful suggestions. No sensible person can offer the solution which opens the Pandora box of problems. But, that panel did it. It is a serious matter. That dialogue was bound to fail and that happened.

During Shri Ram Janmabhoomi movement it was argued that the mosque will not be allowed inside the boundary of Panchkoshi Parikrama. The VHP has now accepted five-acre land to Muslims. Is it to resolve the matter?

Hindus have no fight against any mosque. Still there are 36 mosques in old Ayodhya. The Hindus are
sentimental to that particular place, which is believed to be the birthplace of Shri Ram. There were proposals to shift that structure somewhere else by modern techniques. The SC has now delivered a balanced
decision by giving respect to all.

But still, some people like Zafaryab Jilani and Asaduddin Owaisi are trying to create hatred in the country on this issue. What do you say?

Nothing, a certain amount of disagreement is always there. Owaisi is a politician. He may be planning political gains out of it. It is up to the educated Muslims to
suitably answer such people.

After this verdict, now what will be the focus of VHP activities?

We are working since 1964 for some core issues.
We are doing that regularly. Shri Ram Jamabhoomi movement got publicity in the media and people started thinking that we are doing that only. We have some core issues since the beginning and we will continue to work on them. Now we will work with more speed.