WHERE HAS THE MONEY COLLECTED TO BUILD RAM TEMPLE IN AYODHYA GONE?

WHERE HAS THE MONEY COLLECTED TO BUILD RAM TEMPLE IN AYODHYA GONE?

During my last visit in October 2005 to the US andCanada there was renewed propaganda against me by the right wingHindutva groups which have branded me as a terrorist or a naxalite.They even tried to unsuccessfully prevent my entry into the US byreporting to the airport authorities at San Francisco that I wasarriving on a particular day. On my second day at two meetings atStanford and in the Bay Area one or two people came to protest. Theywere shouting and distributing false information outside these events.They have even circulated an anonymous questionnaire for me overinternet asking me to clarify my stand on certain issues. In thisarticle I would like to examine the question as to what interest ofthe Hindutva groups am I hurting because of which they have to go after me in the US with a blatantly malicious campaign?

Who are these people who refuse to identify themselves?The person who was distributing fliers outside the Westin Hotel eventwould not reveal his name or that of his organization. He kept tellingme that I should dissociate myself completely from CPI(ML) because itwas a group that supported armed revolution. After having told himthat I did not support violence and only supported the pro-poor standsofthis party, when I asked this person to come and have a dialogue withme inside the Hotel he just kept repeating the accusations.

I invite my right wing friends to prove if I have everbeen involved in any violent action or have ever instigated a violentaction. Just because I attend some meetings of CPI(ML) doesn't meanthat I support violence. Guilt by association is not acceptable. Thereason I like to work with communist parties, even though I'm not amember of any party, is thatthey are among the very few parties in India which raise the issuesof poor and marginalized communities, a constituency that I share withthem because of my Gandhian orientation. I find that communist partiesare the only ones among the mainstream parties who are not just in thegame for acquiring political power by any means. They are less likelyto compromise on their ideological positions. They are the onesraising issues of land reforms and fighting to get land rights tolandless dalits. Sometimes these struggles get violent. I have onceseen activists of CPI(ML) at the receiving end of violence in BalliaDistrict of UP when they were taking out a procession of dalitlabourers against powerful landlord castes. Communist parties areprobably also the most honest ones when it comes to keeping accountsof their funds. And most importantly they are brave. In Siwan, Bihar,they are the only ones who can take on the powerful mafia don MPShahabuddin inspite of getting into quite violent situations at times.The activists of CPI(ML) are not cowards who prefer to remainanonymous, running slander campaign from the safe confines of USA. Ifour right wing friends think that they can scare people away in thename of communists they are mistaken. In India communist parties areplaying a very important role and ruling two very important states. CPM is in power in West Bengal for thelongest time any single party has held power anywhere in the countryand the left parties clearly have an important role in the running ofpresent UPA Government at the centre. CPM-CPI-RSP-Forward Bloc areexerting important influence on the Congress led Government to ensurethat it doesn't compromise on the interest ofcommon people of the country.

One allegation I face is that I support only Muslim organizations and don't work for Hindus. In Ayodhya I have beenworking mainly with Hindus, some of them like Acharya Satyendra Das,the chief priest of the Ram Lalla temple (the makeshift temple at thedisputed site), important Sadhus and Saints, to form a forum calledthe 'Ayodhya ki Awaz'. This forum has played an important role inproviding a platform to the common people of Ayodhya who had gottenfed up of the politics of temple construction. This forum wants allparties using the Ayodhya issue for their political gains to keep outof Ayodhya. They feel that the Hindus and Muslims of Ayodhya arecapable enough of solving the Babri Masjid-Ram Janam Bhumi dispute andoutsiders must respect their sentiments. The politics of usingreligion got exposed around 2003 when people of Ayodhya started askingthe question that why do Ram Sevaks/Ram Bhakts/Kar Sevaks from allover India come to Ayodhya not with contruction material or equipmentsbut with trishul in their hands? What has the instrument of Lord Shivagot to do with Ram temple construction? The politics of trishul meantto spread hatred was exposed and since then people of Ayodhya, UP andIndia have rejected this communal politics. I should also mention thatwhen Ashok Singhal was distributing trishul in Sultanpur, I, alongwith other friends, was distributing Gita from the platform ofLoktantrik Samajwadi Party and eight times more people came to ourprogramme clearly indicating their preference for what they thoughtwas a better symbol of Hindu religion!

This propaganda against me is there only in the US andover internet. Along with me groups like Asha and AID are also targeted. If we carefully look at the reason it is quite clear thatRSS is perturbed by the fact that it now has competitors. Since theright wing Hindutva groups have started losing credibility, becausethey have not been able to account for the money and bricks collectedfor constructing the Ram temple in Ayodhya, their donor base isshifting to more genuine organizations involved in communitydevelopment work in India. The funds raised from all over the worldfor temple construction in Ayodhya were never deposited in the VHPaccount. The temple never got built and nobody knows where all thatmoney went. This question is being asked by committed RSS supporters.The right wing Hindutva groups have cheated the unsuspecting middleclass Hindus who were innocent supporters of their temple movement.

These middle class Hindu families now find secular alternatives likeAsha and AID more reliable. Both Asha and AID have a policy oftransparency with the funds that they collect and anybody can visittheir websites to find how much they collect and where exactly itgoes. All funds and projects are up for all to see and if volunteersmake a mistake, they are willing to take criticism, and make changes.These are also groups that are based on values of equality, rights,and empowerment of all. Asha, a group which I help found, has a policyof zero overheads, functions in a decentralized fashion and iscompletely accountable to its donors. My last trip to the US and Canada wasfunded not from donations to Asha but by individual contributions fromvolunteers. Similarly my present trip is not paid for with Asha's money. People find the spirit of volunteerism in Asha and AIDquite refreshing and hence choose them over Hindutvagroups which are closed groups that have traditionally beenhierarchical, and non-transparent.

There was a time when in a disaster like the one atBhuj, RSS was the first one to enter to carry out relief operations,but now AID was able to mobilize $3 million and played a more activerole in Tsunami relief. This is something very difficult for RSS todigest. Hence their supporters are indulging in unreasonable mudslinging. It is a well known fact that the Hindutva movement in Indiawas funded in a major fashion by NRI money. With the Hindutva politicsin disarray at home in the aftermath of L.K. Advani's deviation fromthe communal ideology, Uma Bharati's exit from the Party and unfortunate happenings in the Mahajan family, the shifting donor base of these organizationsin the US has become a major source for concern for them. Thatexplains the reason why these Hindutva groups are active againstsomebody like me only in the US.

Dr Sandeep Pandey

(About the author: Dr Pandey was awarded Ramon Magsaysay Award for emergent leadership (2002), did his PhD in Mechanical Engineering, U.C., Berkeley, 1992 before heading back to India to become a social activist. Took out a 1500 km Global Peace March for nuclear disarmament from the Indian nuclear testing site Pokaran to Sarnath, a place where Gautam Buddha delivered his first sermon after attaining enlightenment, beginning 11th May and ending on 6th August, 1999. Presently with Program on Science & Global Security, Woodrow Wilson School, Princeton University for 5 weeks. He can be contacted at: ashaashram@yahoo.com)

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