March 4, 2002


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The Rediff Interview/Dr Pravin Togadia

'I know the Ayodhya temple cannot be built in a day' 'I know the Ayodhya temple cannot be built in a day'

A year ago, Dr Pravin Togadia figured nowhere in the Vishwa Hindu Parishad's higher hierarchy.

But early last year, as the VHP began its preparations for the Kumbh Mela in Prayag, it realised that senior leaders Ashok Singhal and Giriraj Kishore were both on the wrong side of 70 and not in a position to be energetically upfront.

Thus dawned Dr Togadia's day.

It was Singhal himself who pushed the doctor-turned-fundamentalist to the fore, describing him as a "truly devoted Hindu soldier". Mahant Ramchandra Paramhans, head of the Ram Janambhoomi Nyas, went one step further, calling Dr Togadia "the most promising champion of Hindutva".

A surgeon specialising in cancer with his own nursing home in Ayodhya, Dr Togadia spoke to Sharat Pradhan about the operation he has planned in the temple town on March 15. Excerpts:

What is your game plan for March 15?

On that date, we will carry the carved stone columns from our workshop to the undisputed part of the officially acquired 71 acres of land in Ayodhya.

Is that land undisputed? There seems to be a debate on that.

We have enough documentary evidence to prove that apart from the 80ft x 60ft of disputed land where the structure of the mosque stood until 1992, the rest of the area is absolutely undisputed. The remaining land, which was owned by the Ram Janambhoomi Temple Trust, was acquired by the central government in the aftermath of the demolition of the structure -- so there should be no legal hurdle in the way of handing over this chunk of land back to the trust.

Even if you are allowed to collect your 100,000 'Ram sevaks' in the temple town, what will you do on March 15? It may be easy to demolish a building in a day, but can you build the temple in a day?

I know the Ayodhya temple cannot be built in a day. The whole idea is to exert pressure on the government to issue a legislation for restoration of the Ram Janambhoomi to Hindus on the same lines as a legislation was brought to safeguard the Islamic law in the Shahbano case. It was done in the case of the Somnath temple in Gujarat.

You got the temple in Gujarat, but to what avail? You still have mayhem in your parent state.

We Hindus cannot be held responsible for it. The sole responsibility for the trouble lies with Islamic jihadis who brutally burnt people alive in Godhra.

Do you think a tooth for a tooth is any solution in a sane world?

Go and ask that to the Islamic fundamentalists who have been doing this not only in India, but also in Israel, China and several other European countries.

Do you see the hand of the ISI [Inter-Services Intelligence] in Gujarat, as is being suggested by some top BJP leaders?

I do not see much of an ISI hand. There could be one ISI agent somewhere, but the scale at which it has been done reflects the jihadi education that is being imparted in the mushrooming Islamic madrassas across the country.

The Godhra incident has further reinforced our faith and resolve in ensuring the construction of the temple. After all, we never gave anyone any provocation, which clearly shows that whatever happened in Godhra was well-planned. Whatever followed was part of a natural reaction.

Would you not be creating trouble for the central government, which happens to be a part of your own Sangh Parivar?

The BJP has asked for it. They started distancing themselves from the temple movement since 1993.

Maybe that was because they realised the futility of the issue.

Well, their political graph began going down only after they decided to distance themselves from what they rode to power. In fact, even the recently concluded election in Uttar Pradesh reflects the people's disillusionment with the BJP, simply because it has been shying away from the temple issue.

Do you mean to say the BJP would have returned to power in this state if it had taken a stand for temple construction?

I am confident that it would have done far better. The BJP lost because Hindus felt betrayed on the temple front. In fact, the BJP's fate was sealed when Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee refused to concede the demand of the Ayodhya saints, who called on him on January 27, to hand over the undisputed land to them for simply keeping the finished stone columns. If the BJP has lost 12 per cent of its vote, surely there was no reason other than Ayodhya?

So the current restrictions in Ayodhya are uncalled for?

Absolutely! After all, we are not taking out a rathyatra as L K Advani did before the demolition of the mosque. I wish to ask the home minister whether the arrival of Ram sevaks is more dangerous than his rathyatra.

Are you saying you see a Mulayam Singh Yadav in your own Advani or Vajpayee?

Well, we do not wish to compare Vajpayee or Advani with Mulayam. But I will not hesitate to say that Mr Vajpayee has not acted on this issue like the prime minister of India, but that of some other country. His act was no different from what Indian political parties have been doing over the years -- to kneel down before the politics of the Muslim vote. This is a dangerous trend and was solely responsible for bringing terrorism from the confines of Kashmir to the doors of the Indian parliament.

What led you to switch over from a cancer surgeon to a hard-core Hindu fundamentalist?

Well, I thought of devoting the rest of my life to the cause of Hindutva.

Don't you think you could have done better service to Hindus by providing free treatment to the poor?

That is being done at my nursing home.

As a surgeon, would you discriminate between a Hindu and a Muslim patient?

There is no question [of doing that]. And that is the greatness of the Hindu religion.

Then why do you tend to treat every Muslim as an Islamic jihadi?

Certainly not! I do not consider every Muslim a jihadi.

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