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'There's more support for the Ram Temple today than ever before' (Interview of Pravin Togadia)

'There's more support for the Ram Temple today than ever before' (Interview of Pravin Togadia)

Author: Sukhmani Sangh
Publication: Indian Express
Date: November 18, 2001

Pravin Togadia tells Sukhmani Singh that September 11 has given Hindu assertion a shot in the arm

The Vishwa Hindu Parishad's office in Jaipur is abuzz with activity. Freshly printed posters and saffron bags lie stacked in a room where VHP's International General Secretary Praveen Togadia is engaged in hectic confabulations with an army of workers. Excerpts from the interview:

Q. The PM has set up a special Ayodhya cell to resolve the Ram temple issue. Do you have faith in him?
A. Everyone in Bharat should have faith in an elected PM. We have faith in him but we don't depend on him for construction of the Ram temple. That depends upon the people of Bharat. We have planned one of the biggest mass mobilisation movements, involving 50 million people, for the temple construction.

Q. Has the PM assured you of his support of the issue?
A. We have always got favourable responses from all the prime ministers, from Rajiv Gandhi to V P Singh, Chandrashekhar, Narasimha Rao and now, Vajpayee. (But) it all depends upon their action. If their action is favourable, it will be appreciated by Hindu society.

Q. You have claimed that many Congress leaders are supporting movement. Could you name them?
A. Many Congress MPs from different states have had meetings with us and declared their support but it is too early to reveal their names. The grassroots Congress worker, too, totally supports the Ram Temple movement and if the leadership does not support it, it will be isolated. Even in Rajasthan, whether in Asind, Bhilwara or Chittorgarh or Udaipur, the Congress workers are with the VHP.

Q.Why this special thrust on Rajasthan?
A. We are concentrating on all states, from Maharashtra to Bihar. We are getting equal support across Bharat, including Nagaland. But we are stronger in the states of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Rajasthan, where the Congress government is actively confronting the Hindu masses. They will lose miserably here.

Q. In UP, the BJP's position is very weak. Do you think the Ram temple issue will garner votes for them?
A. I do not have any clear assessment of their position, but I'm doubtful that they will gain from our campaign. When any political party is the ruling party, whether Congress or BJP, support of the masses depends upon their attitude and actions.

 Q. Is it just a coincidence that your agitation is overlapping with UP elections?
A. We had decided on this at the time of the January Mahakumbh. We had not calculated this. And we will not work in a way that a single political party can benefit.

Q.But isn't the temple a dead issue?
A. Not at all. We are getting more support now than we got in 1989 and 1992. Earlier, we had never imagined that 50 million people would participate in our stir.

Q. Post-September 11, Ashok Singhal exhorted Hindus and Christians to unite against their common enemy - the Muslim. Have you abandoned your anti-Christian drive?
 A. We were never anti-Christian, we were leading a campaign against conversion, which is unconstitutional. On conversion, our stand is the same, but it is true that we are trying to coordinate with Christian society. RSS leaders held two meetings with Christian leaders in this regard. We want to concentrate our energy against Islamic terrorism.

Q. You have warned that there will be a Hindu backlash in India - so are you masterminding it?
A. No backlash can be masterminded by any organisation - it is the product of natural consequences. It is emerging out of the Kashmir problem, out of victimisation of Hindus in Bangladesh, out of the actions of Osama Bin Laden.

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