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“Many have died without their dream of a grand temple turning into a reality.”

Former UP chief minister Mulayam Singh Yadav has seen the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute up close for decades. Speaking on the phone to Sunita Aron, the leader shared details of three secret meetings he had with representatives of the VHP and the Babri Masjid Action Committee (BMAC) to thrash out a resolution during his first stint as chief minister between 1989 and 1991.

Excerpts:

Do you think the issue has any solution?

As CM , I had three secret meetings with the representatives of both the sides here at Raj Bhawan, in which I had mooted a simple formula to resolve the temple tangle. Mahant Avaidyanath (then chief priest of the Gorakhnath Temple) was positive as he was keen to find a solution to the dispute. Ashok Singhal (then VHP chief ) was initially adamant, but after I spoke to him separately, he softened a bit. Former judge Deoki Nanadan Agarwal, however, was unyielding.

What was your formula?

I told the VHP leaders to start temple construction outside the disputed area and expand it or build another temple if the apex court’s judgment came in their favour. After all, the contentious issue was the 2.77 acres and not the entire complex. Even Mahant Nritya Gopal Das later appreciated the formula. What have they achieved so far? Many have died without their dream of a grand temple turning into a reality. Muslims agreed as their claim is on the site where the Babri Mosque once stood.

Would you like to play mediator today?

They abuse me today. Who is going to listen to me when they did not even consider the feasible formula I mooted then? Even Sharad Pawar and Bhairon Singh Shekhawat were involved. Some elements from both the sides scuttled the settlement.

Can PM Narendra Modi and CM Yogi Adityanath resolve the emotive issue?

Narendra Modi is intelligent. If he wants or attempts, he can find a solution. But all parties should wait for the SC judgment though there is no harm in attempting a negotiated settlement.

Do you regret the police firing on kar sevaks during your tenure as the CM?

My government was committed to protecting the Babri Mosque and preserving the country’s unity. I had to uphold the faith of Muslims in the Constitution. The CRPF lost their cool after some kar sevaks burnt their tent and a cop died. In all, 28 lost their lives, of which 16 died on the spot. The saffron propaganda machinery spread rumours about 56 deaths.

Read| Ayodhya Babri Masjid case: Will Yogi finish what Kalyan started?

Are you content you saved the mosque?

Yes, but I am also pained as some lives were lost. Then Iranian President Rafsanjani, who visited Lucknow in 1994, appreciated the steps taken by my government to save the mosque. I had gone to receive him at the airport. He asked me to sit in his car and this is when we discussed the issue.

Any feelings today — the 25th anniversary of Babri demoltion?

They ruined the communal fabric of the country. What did they achieve? Nothing. At least now the divisive elements should introspect and allow a settlement, legal or negotiated.

Courtesy: Hindustan Times

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