Ayodhya is a good 1,300 kilometers from Gujarat, but the recent Supreme Court hearing about the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute, has provided much needed ammunition for the BJP.
In Gujarat, the issue of Ayodhya can be seen burning like hot coal. I met Nazeer Khan Pathan, principal of a school in Ahmedabad’s Naroda Patiya. The Muslim-dominated colony bore the maximum brunt of the 2002 riots.
The school started after the Gujarat riots is run by the Islamic Relief Committee. Around 120 students attend Classes I through VII.
BJP playing politics in the name of Ayodhya debate, feels minority community:
Pathan’s anger against BJP government can be clearly seen.
Speaking to Firstpost, he says, “Kapil Sibal’s statement in the apex court about the Ayodhya dispute has put Congress in the backfoot. BJP will up the ante against the party, holding it responsible for delaying the construction of Ram Temple”.
It’s been 25 years since the Babri Masjid (or the disputed site) was demolished, which Nazeer calls a black day in the history of independent India.
“We didn’t eat for two days after the mosque was demolished. Although, today we pray for peace and tranquility in this country”, Nazeer says.
“Our vote will be the ‘revenge’ against the extreme polarization due to this episode”, he adds.
Sibal’s statement has successfully turned the Ayodhya dispute, a largely religious issue into a political one.
As a counsel appearing in the Ayodhya title case, Sibal made a politically charged legal argument, and requested the court to adjourn the 25-year old case till 2019. He did this because he said he was convinced that the court’s verdict could influence the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
Jumping into the debate, BJP had sought explanation from the Congress asking it to clear its stand on building the Ram Temple.
But, Congress which is currently running on a soft Hindutva line in the polls, is perhaps finding it difficult to clear its stand on the national level.
Narendra Modi, who is repeatedly holding back-to-back rallies in the state Gujarat too is not leaving any stone unturned to play with the fire. Recently in the rally, he asked whether 2019 elections will be fought by Congress party or by Sunni Waft board.
Modi added, “He has the right to do it and we do not have any problem with it. But you dare say that the case should not be heard till 2019 elections. You want to stop the hearing of Ram temple (issue) in the name of elections”.
However, the Congress was quick to distance itself from Sibal’s statement, calling it his remarks in personal capacity as a lawyer, and not as a representative of the party.
Although just one week is left for the first phase of polling, but the current scenario has charged up the political campaigns.
Muslims understands Congress party’s political compulsion:
Najeeb Pathan, another resident of Naroda Patiya fears that BJP is taking undue advantage of the issue, by playing the Hindutva card, thus effectively disturbing Rahul Gandhi’s election strategy.
Party’s vice-president has visited over 20 temples in the poll bound state, but is yet to visit any Masjid, because of BJP, says Pathan.
“If he goes to any masjid, and wears the skull cap, BJP will create a hullabaloo around that. This fear stops him from visiting.
“Gandhi knows that the Muslim community will always remain with him”, says Pathan.
However, there are many who are not on the same tone, particularly Yasinbhai Patiya, a young entrepreneur. He feels Gandhi has the community is angered by the election strategy of the Congress party.
“It really feels bad when Gandhi doesn’t even mention our community issues. But, we don’t have much choice. In the absence of any third option, we are in support of Gandhi”.
The grand old party feels that “Janeudhari” Rahul Gandhi will help the party attract Hindu votes, disturbing BJP’s vote bank, while the Muslims will always remain with them, the party feels.
“However, the Ayodhya dispute has largely benefited BJP ”, says Patiya. He also feels that the killing of Gujarati pilgrims during the recent Amarnath Yatra in Jammu and Kashmir, is being wrongly used by BJP to further increase polaraisation in the state.
The same atmosphere is felt in Ahmedabad’s Dariyapur, another Muslim majority colony.
Abdul Latif, a businessman says that, “Although Rahul Gandhi is not speaking about us, we appreciate the fact that they don’t interfere in our religious matters”. He says, “BJP is fooling the people of Gujarat by raising the heat in the Ram Janmabhoomi movement”.
Often seemed as a party appeasing the minority community, the Congress is now doing its best to round up Hindu votes. Maintaining low profile of senior state leader Ahmed Patel, and Gandhi’s repeated visits to temples, the Janeudhari debate is inductive of party’s political campaign.
Till now the Congress hadn’t given BJP any topic, it can grab and take advantage, but the saffron party is now leaving no stone unturned to grab Sibal’s explosive statement in the Supreme Court.
Ayodhya might be pretty far from Gujarat, but the Muslims of Gujarat fear that the dispute has provided fresh oxygen for the saffron party.