Hindu leaders are hopeful that the Narendra Modi-led government at the Centre will ensure that construction work for a Ram temple at Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh begins by 2018.

These leaders say that they do not think that negotiations between Hindus and Muslims will see any positive outcome. They believe a new Parliamentary legislation on the temple is the best way to ensure that construction of the temple can start at the disputed site in Ayodhya. They add that even if the Supreme Court, which is hearing the Ayodhya case from December, rules in their favour, an Act passed by the erstwhile Narasimha Rao government on the matter may prove to be problematic. They want that Act to be repealed in Parliament and new legislation brought in to facilitate the construction.

According to sources, these leaders are confident that the NDA government will act in this regard and get the required legislation passed by Parliament so that construction work can start next year. These leaders say that efforts were made in the past to resolve the issue through consensus, but without success.

“I think government has the intention to do that (bring a new law). The BJP already has a majority in the Lok Sabha. By April next year, the NDA will have majority in the Rajya Sabha as well. In that case, the NDA government will have the required strength to pass the Bill for the construction of a Ram temple at Ayodhya,” said Surendra Jain, joint general secretary of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), which is spearheading the Ram temple movement.

Jain made it clear that the VHP was not trying to build any consensus or resolve the matter through bilateral talks. “VHP is not in contact with any person or group for any such talks,” he added.

Sources said that the BJP is committed to build the Ram temple. “It is part of its election manifesto. By April, it will be in a majority in both Houses of Parliament. It is in power in UP. The BJP government will have to take steps to fulfil its long-pending promise. If it fails to start work on the temple by 2018, it may have to pay a heavy price in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections,” said a source.

In 2010, the Allahabad High Court accepted that the disputed 2.77-acre site was the birthplace of Lord Ram. It said, two thirds of the land should be allotted to two Hindu organisations and the remainder to Muslims. After this, the matter went to the Supreme Court, which is likely to start the final hearings in the case from 5 December. In August, the judges asked the UP government to translate all relevant documents into English within the next three months.

Explains Jain: “In 1993, the then Narasimha Rao government acquired the land through a Special Act. As per one of the clauses of the Act, irrespective of which party wins the case, the other party would build the temple (or mosque) on the adjoining land.”

This, according to him, will not end the problem, rather it will complicate matters. Such a situation, wherein the temple and mosque co-exist, has the potential of causing conflict in the future. “Co-existence is not an ideal solution. There are instances where two religious places co-exist. But that leads to problems. We always come across reports about one group objecting to another group whenever the timing for prayers is the same. Therefore, whatever be the judgement, the Act must be repealed, for which Parliament legislation is need,” he said. According to him, once the judgment comes, the party losing the case may go for a review or curative petition, which will further prolong the issue. Therefore, he said, we are putting pressure on the government to pass an Act for the construction of Ram temple and at the same time, to repeal the Act passed during Narasimha Rao regime for acquiring the land.”

However, there are multiple locations where mosques and temples co-exist and this may be a hard line view.

BJP leader Subramanian Swamy has been saying that the minority community should forsake its claim on the disputed site and cooperate with the Ram devotees in constructing the temple, while the mosque could be set up elsewhere.

Despite failing to get a breakthrough, some organisations are still trying to build a consensus on the issue. The Muslim Rashtriya Manch (MRM), the Muslim wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), took out a rally between 11 and 16 September, during which they went from Lucknow to Ayodhya, a distance of 140 km, by foot. MRM has been holding regular meetings with the Muslim community to try and convince them to resolve the issue through consensus. The organisation had also launched a drive against cow slaughter.

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