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Thursday, 1 June 2017

Temple politics: Adityanath visit to disputed site in Ayodhya sends out communal signals (The Times of India - 01 June 2017)

Yesterday in a highly choreographed move full of political symbolism, Yogi Adityanath became the first Uttar Pradesh chief minister in 15 years to visit the disputed Ram janmabhoomi/ Babri mosque site in Ayodhya. This is just a day after a special CBI court in Lucknow framed charges of criminal conspiracy in the 1992 Babri demolition case against top BJP leaders including LK Advani, MM Joshi and Union minister Uma Bharti. Adityanath met these three senior leaders before they appeared in court and in Ayodhya he was accompanied by Dharam Das, against whom also conspiracy charges have been framed. This sends a disturbing signal, with UP’s ruling party appearing to take sides when it should be conveying neutrality.
Adityanath offered prayers at the banks of Saryu river in Ayodhya. He should have gone a step ahead and also met leaders of the Muslim community who are party to the dispute. This would have been in line with the top court’s assessment that it would be best to settle the dispute amicably. Extending the olive branch could go a long way in disentangling an issue that appears intractable to most outsiders. It would also put pressure on the warring parties to make a reasoned argument, if they resist efforts to bring them to terms.
The CM’s Ayodhya visit is part of a larger pattern. Since BJP came to power in March, four UP cabinet ministers have already visited the makeshift temple at the disputed site. Rather than upping the ante on such an emotive and explosive dispute, Adityanath must focus on bread and butter issues such as providing employment to local youth, reviving industrial and agricultural growth in the state or providing it 24×7 power supply as promised in the BJP election manifesto.

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