01 December, 2009

No votes for temple, we needed roti with Ram: man who cast the first Ayodhya stone

The Indian Express

Two days before the Lok Sabha discusses the report of the Liberhan Commission of Inquiry into the demolition of the Babri Masjid, Kameshwar Chaupal, who laid the foundation stone for a proposed Ram Mandir at the shilanyas site at Ayodhya in 1989, has said that the Ayodhya movement has lost its electoral appeal. And the BJP, which has to blame itself for it, should have included “roti (livelihood) with Ram.”

Chaupal, a Dalit (Paswan, by caste), has been a much-feted swayamsevak in the BJP/RSS, and the Sangh Parivar has always maintained that “his shilanyas act showed that the RSS-BJP’s Hindutva was an inclusive, all-encompassing idea.”

“You won’t be able to mobilise voters in the name of Ram or Ayodhya now. The politicisation of the Ram Temple movement proved to be its bane. It should have been left to the religious leaders of both communities. Ram, like Gandhi, Subhash (Chandra Bose) and Patel, is a revered symbol in the country. The symbol of Ram then should not have been reduced to the BJP when leaders from even the Congress, like Dau Dayal Khanna and Karan Singh, were also involved in it,” Chaupal told The Sunday Express today.

Chaupal, a BJP MLC in Bihar, was an RSS swayamsevak, involved with its Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram project, when his name was decided by a meeting of Hindu religious leaders in Allahabad to lay the foundation stone at the shilanyas site. “I was then busy countering the activities of missionaries in Jharkhand which had become a priority for the RSS after the Meenakshipuram conversions (when Hindu Dalits had converted to Islam at Meenakshipuram, in Tamil Nadu, in 1981). I laid the foundation stone at the site after the Uttar Pradesh Government’s go ahead, and it was only in 1991 that I joined the BJP,” he said.

The Liberhan Ayodhya Commission of Inquiry writes about Chaupal: “On 9th of November 1989, one Kameshwar Chopal (sic), a Harijan bandhu (sic), laid the first shila in presence of people.”

Chaupal today said that the very Palampur resolution that the BJP regards as a milestone in its evolution (when it included the Ram Temple in its charter, at its national executive meet at Palampur in Himachal Pradesh) was faulty. “I would have protested the inclusion of the Ram Temple in the BJP’s charter, if I was there,” said Chaupal.

The BJP MLC also said that the BJP ideally should have included roti (livelihood) along with Ram in its political campaign. Asked why Chaupal agreed to remain in the BJP, and contest Lok Sabha and Assembly elections, before being nominated as an MLC (he is serving his second term as MLC), he said: “If all of us in the BJP had a common opinion (on the Ram Temple issue, and other issues), its fate would have been somewhat different.”


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