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July 3, 2001
The Rediff Interview/L K Advani
After 18 months of playing second lead, Home Minister L K Advani returned to centre-stage in May after a reported détente with Prime Minister A B Vajpayee.
Compelled to tone down his ardour for Hindutva due to the demands of coalition politics, he has had to abandon some issues dear to his heart along the way.
In a freewheeling conversation with Senior Editor Sheela Bhatt, Advani discussed his deposition before the Liberhan Commission, Ayodhya and Hindutva.
Your desposition before the Liberhan Commission created waves...
What is controversial about it? They were perhaps thinking that since I am sorry about December 6, 1992, I would be sorry about the whole movement. I told the Liberhan Commission I can't understand the declaration made by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad that on such and such date we will start the construction of the temple. I asked, "But why?" Before 1992, there was this structure which may have been a provocation for them.
Today, what is there at that place which is believed to be the birthplace of Ram except the temple? And that temple has the sanction of the court. The court has said that status quo has to be maintained. The VHP should not think of going against the court order.
You have said it was the happiest day of your life when the kar sevaks defied Mulayam Singh Yadav's order on October 30, 1990 and December 6, 1992 was the saddest. How can you delink the two events? After all, the demolition was the culmination of the events of October 1990. How can you be happy about one and sad about another?
They promised the Supreme Court that they would do a symbolic kar seva. Those who pulled it down jeopardised the credibility of the whole movement. Not only me, even RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) leader Rajju Bhaiya (Professor Rajendra Singh) said that day, "I condemn this act. This act has done great damage to the movement and has harmed the credibility of the organisation."
I am not sad because "secularism has crumbled." Nothing of that sort happened. The country is still secular. In fact, we are maligning ourselves in the eyes of the world when we say Hindus pulled down a mosque in the country when what was pulled down was the super-structure of a de facto temple.
But Mr Vajpayee said something different the same day.
Look, the reasons which made me sad, also affected Vajpayee. We didn't plan to do what happened. If we had planned it our reaction would have been different. Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose planned the INA revolt, but Gandhiji reacted differently on the Chauri Chaura incident. Both of them aspired for freedom, but both adhered to their values. Netaji collected ex-armymen and attacked, while Gandhiji was upset over Chauri Chaura where a police station was burnt. It is always a question of values and beliefs.
Not many in the nation believe the events of December 6, 1992 jolted you.
Chandan Mitra and Swapan Dasgupta, two journalists, were constantly with me on the platform. Ask them, Meri halat kya thi (what my condition was like). I have never felt so downcast and dejected in my life.
Is the ill-will between Hindus and Muslims deep rooted?
I can tell you about the ill-will between France and Germany. See the feelings between East and West Germany. Things change.
Where will all the debates on Ayodhya lead to?
Abhi is me kuch nahin rakha hain (There is nothing left in this issue anymore). Ayodhya is an old story. Whatever report the Liberhan Commission would give... that is okay. At the present point of time, the settlement of the Ayodhya dispute will be possible only through negotiation.
You are seen as the face of Hindutva. How do you feel about that?
If I am asked to make a statement, as I was at the Liberhan Commission, I am not going to disown what I believe in. I told the Commission that December 6, 1992 was the saddest day of my life.
But as far as the Ayodhya movement and the Rath Yatra is concerned, I think it did a great service to the country. It sublimated all narrow feelings of caste and made the people think in terms of the larger cause, which I describe as the cause of cultural nationalism.
The stupendous response that my Rath Yatra evoked was a total surprise for me. It made me realise the truth about what Vivekananda said -- religion is the soul of India.
Why are your views difficult to digest by the majority?
My views are not difficult to digest. It is easier for my opponents to attack me on the basis of the unfair image they have created of me. The strength of a leader or a party in this vast democracy does depend very much on the image created. I didn't have this image till the Rath Yatra.
I would not say I am happy with this image. It is somewhat inaccurate, and unfair. Before you came to interview me, I read this quote on my desk calendar: 'Dare to be different. Dare to take a stand for what you know is right.'
Is your rigid ideology your weakness?
No. I don't call it a weakness. Woh ek image ban gayi hai, uska koi aasan hal thodi hota hain, agar koi mujhey samjhey na (It's the image. There is no easy solution for it, if someone does not understand me.)
How does power taste?
The kind of respect I received from the people throughout the Rath Yatra is something I don't think anything can surpass. Power is there… but becoming home minister of the country has cast a burden on me.
Meeting you is like an encounter with history...
There are very few old timers in politics now. I have had the privilege of seeing all the elections held in Independent India.
My entry into active politics began with the Jan Sangh in 1951. I am familiar with the history of the Jan Sangh from inside. I have had a ringside seat to watch the political developments. I have seen the ups and downs of politics and parties. I have seen how the Jan Sangh from its minuscule position in 1952 has reached its present position as the premier party in the country. I have also seen how the Congress, which only two decades back bestrode the political scene like a colossus, has dwindled, how it has gained and lost.
With your Westernised education, what attracted you to Hindutva?
When I was young and joined the (Rashtriya Swayamsevak) Sangh, I came in touch with senior RSS leaders who were working at the national level. One of them was Babasaheb Apte. He was extensively travelling through India. Once I recall having commented about someone that, "He knows Sanskrit well." Apteji asked, "Where did he study?" I said, "Mostly in some Sanskrit athshala." Apteji said, "Apne kaam ka nahin (He is of no use to us)."
He emphasised that one who knew both Sanskrit and English is of greater use to us. A person who only knew Sanskrit would probably have a limited perspective.
I have studied at a Catholic school. I completed matriculation at 14. I joined the RSS shakha only after that, just before I entered college. Since then I have been a recipient of the Sangh's sanskar (values) of patriotism, social service and discipline.
Were not Western influences enough to keep you away from Hindutva?
At that time, more than Hindutva, I was attracted to the idea of freedom. I joined the Sangh when one set of believers thought India would not earn Independence by nonviolence means. They believed something would have to be done. The Sangh believed in organisation and in training people.
The Sangh believed in giving sanskar (values) to select youth who could sacrifice their lives for the nation. The Sangh believed their efforts would create a well-organised nucleus group -- which would be 3 per cent of the population -- and that group would do something to bring Independence, not Gandhi's efforts. We believed so in the RSS.
L K Advani on the Indo-Pak summit. Pick up the July 6 copy of India Abroad today!
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