The actions of Mulayam Singh Yadav that earned him the sobriquet of ‘Mullah Mulayam’ is known well enough as of now, what is not known however is that his son Akhilesh Yadav tried his best to prevent Hindus from practising their religious faith with regards to Shri Rama at Ayodhya during his tenure as the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh.
In 2013, a Chourasi-kosi parikrama was planned in Ayodhya. The 84-kosi parikrama covers around 135 km around Ram Janmabhoomi and passes through Faizabad, Sant Kabir Nagar, Basti, Bahraich and Shrawasti. There are two other versions of parikrama, the 14-kosi parikrama that extends about 25 km around the Janmabhoomi and the 5-kosi parikrama that covers about 8 km around the same.
On the 3rd of August 2013, VHP Stalwart Ashok Singhal stated, “This yatra is being undertaken for the cause of peace and dharma jagaran and the sant fraternity would lead it from the beginning to the end. The world knows that the sants are by nature peace-loving. We would therefore request the Uttar Pradesh government and the administration not to allow any obstruction to this yatra or obstruct it themselves.”
Leaders of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) met Samajwadi Party patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav and his son Akhilesh Yadav on 17th of August 2013 in order to secure a smooth passage for the occurrence of the parikrama. Ostensibly, no objections were raised then by the father-son duo. Two days later, however, then Home Minister Azam Khan came forward and issued a stern statement against his own party.
Azam Khan issued a statement in public following which Akhilesh Yadav immediately banned the parikrama. The leaders of the VHP were upset at the sudden turn of affairs. They accused the Samajwadi Party of bending to the will of hardline Muslims leaders like Azam Khan and engaging in minority appeasement.
VHP leader and former Union minister Swami Chinmayananda said, “The state government is being run and controlled by Azam Khan, under whose pressure the government is bound to take decisions against the Hindu sentiments.” “The ban imposed on us is only due to Azam Khan who has build pressure on the state government to ban the Parikrama,” he added. Praveen Togadia, too, said that they were assured by Akhilesh Yadav and his father that the parikrama will be permitted but later, they went back on their word.
“The government had no problem with the programme. But some Muslim leaders of the SP like Urban Development Minister Azam Khan are creating hurdles. The fact is that 84-kosi parikrama is done by the saints at regular intervals round the year. On an average, there are not more than 200 saints in parikrama. So there was no threat to law and order. It is 14-kosi and panch-kosi parikrama in which a large number of devotees participate and there is law and order problem,” said VHP leader Ram Vilas Vedanti.
In an interview with DNA, Ashok Singhal stated, “We had met him and told him about the 84 Kosi (old measure of distance) parikrama (circumambulation) programme. That it involves only 270 “sants” (mendicants) and that since the number of people participating wouldn’t be large, it would require about 15 to 18 policemen to oversee the programme.The day after our meeting, Azam Khan gave an angry statement protesting against Mulayam meeting us. Then the SP did an about-turn. They deployed 35 to 40 companies of security forces. Azam Khan is the virtual chief minister and home minister of Uttar Pradesh.”
He went on to add, “The 84 Kosi area covers about five to six districts and spreads over 350km. We want to make Ayodhya a “mokshapuri” (sacred space of salvation) and we are saying that we will not allow a replica of Babri Masjid to be built anywhere in this area. In Mecca, the sacred place of Islam, non-Muslims are not allowed. We want similar status for Ayodhya.”
During the same period, then Member of parliament from Gorakhpur Lok Sabha Constituency Yogi Adityanath was forced to de-board the Kushi-Nagar Express following a ban on his entry to Jhansi. The government was of the opinion that the saffron clad monk’s attendance at the Jal-Abhishek ceremony at the Mahakaleshwar Temple would lead to communal trouble.
Seven years have passed since the incident. Samajwadi Party has suffered catastrophic electoral defeats in the two General Elections held since then and the Assembly Elections in the state in 2017. The VHP’s dream of a Bhavya Ram Mandir at Ayodhya is soon to be realised while the Mahant of Gorakhnath Muth is the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh. For the lack of a better phrase, it is indeed the most beautiful form of poetic justice.