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Rajiv Gandhi did not want Ram Mandir dispute to be settled, withdrew support after Chandra Shekhar had resolved the age-old issue: Claims upcoming book

According to an upcoming book by Roderick Matthews, Muslims had agreed to give up the claim on Ram Janmabhoomi site in a negotiation arranged by then PM Chandra Shekhar, but Rajiv Gandhi didn't want others to resolve the issue, hence he withdrew support to the govt

The memoir of late Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar – ‘Chandra Shekhar And The Six Months That Saved India‘, written by Roderick Matthews has made some interesting revelations regarding the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute. The shocking disclosures made by the author could now stir up fresh controversies, exposing Congress party’s vile intentions and dishonesty in dealing with Ram Janmabhoomi dispute.

According to the yet-to-be-released book, the excerpts of which has been published in Jansatta, the then Prime Minister Chandrashekhar had almost resolved the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute and had even proposed a plan to settle the dispute between Hindu and Muslim groups, with Muslims giving up their claim over the site. However, the settlement did not come to fruition, thanks to Rajiv Gandhi, who withdrew Congress party’s support to the Chandrashekhar government leading to its collapse.

The book reveals that Rajiv Gandhi did not want the Ram Mandir-Babri Masjid dispute to be resolved as he did not want Chandra Shekhar to take credit for the same. The author writes that Rajiv Gandhi played ‘petty’ politics by denying Chandra Shekhar government to peacefully settle the Ram Mandir issue.

“He thought that if Chandra Shekhar settles the Babri Masjid, he’ll become so popular in the country. He didn’t want the credit to go to him. Very petty, if you ask me. Had that thing been settled, Hindu-Muslim relations today would have been much better,” Roderick Matthews writes in his book according to the Print report.

The settlement of the temple dispute by others, according to Matthews, would have threatened to damage Rajiv politically. The author writes that Rajiv Gandhi could not stand by and let others boost their prestige. Resolving the dispute was a card he still hoped, one day, to play for himself, the memoir recounts.

Chandra Shekhar had carried out confidential negotiations

The book states that PM Chandra Shekhar had, in fact, started a series of confidential negotiations with both the parties as a process to resolve the age-old dispute. The tough negotiations between the leaders of Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas (RJN), a trust formed by the VHP to supervise the construction of a temple at Ayodhya and the All India Babri Masjid Action Committee (AIBMAC) began, which was supervised by Sharad Pawar, who spoke to the Hindus, and Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, a personal friend of the PM, and considered a BJP moderate, who dealt with the Muslims. 

These confidential meetings were held in the PMO, with Prime Minister meeting leaders of both the community, in his attempt to find a solution to Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute.

“First, these VHP people came. So Chandra Shekhar starts off very casual—he’ll put you off guard, actually. He asked them: ‘Tell me, what is to be done about this Ayodhya?’ This question is so casual that the [VHP] fellow took it that he could bully him. He replied: ‘Ayodhya—what is the issue? It is a Ram mandir, everybody knows it. It’s already a Ram mandir’,” the book states.

Cover of the book

To which, Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar said, “OK. Now, let’s be serious. I am prime minister today, I don’t know how long I’ll be here, but while I am prime minister nobody will touch that structure…I am not VP Singh, who will depend on the state chief minister. I will give orders to shoot anybody who touches that mosque. India is a poor country. We are spending so much money on this—we can’t have it. And why should you bother? If 500 sadhus die, they are dying for God’s cause and going to heaven.”

Days later, the Muslim delegation met Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar. He said, “Listen, I have told them. Your structure is safe, till I’m sitting here. But, there are five lakh, six lakh villages in the country. There are Hindus and Muslims living side by side everywhere. If tomorrow there are nationwide riots, I don’t have enough police to control them. So, tell me what you think.”

Muslims wanted to hand over site to Hindus, claims author

Two days later, both Hindus and Muslims were prepared to settle. According to the memoir, Chandra Shekhar made some ground rules before starting the negotiations.

“Bhairon Singh and Sharad Pawar will sit with you. Whatever you two sides and they agree [on], my government will implement. This is my promise. But there are conditions. About the negotiations, nothing is to be told to the press, except that we are talking. No contents to be leaked to the press till the final agreement.”

The talks, however, went on for about fifteen-twenty days. According to the book, Chandra Shekhar had expressed hope, saying that both the sides were saying that the matter can be settled, but raised concerns regarding how supporters of both sides would react to such a huge development.  

“Both the sides are saying that the matter can be settled, but they are worried they have pumped up their supporters so much, now they don’t know how to bring them down!” Bhairon Singh Shekhawat said to Chandra Shekhar.

Days later, the two sides came up with a settlement. The broad agreement was this. The Muslims said, “We agree to hand over the structure to the Hindus, in keeping with their sentiments. But this structure we hand over on two conditions. First, you give us some other land, to make our masjid. Second, you pass a law, that after this no other issue will be reopened. As of 15 August 1947, what is a masjid is a masjid, what is a temple is a temple.”

It may be noted that in the historic verdict awarding the site to Hindus, the Supreme Court had granted 5 acres of land at an alternate site to the Muslims to build a mosque, and accordingly the UP govt has allotted land to the UP Sunni Waqf Board. And, the The Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991 was passed by the P.V. Narasimha Rao government in 1991, which seeks to maintain the “religious character” of religious places as it was at Independence. Therefore, both the conditions put forwarded by Muslims in 1990 have actually been fulfilled.

Sharad Pawar leaked confidential information to Rajiv Gandhi

The author claims that both sides had agreed to these conditions. However, once news of the discussions got leaked from the PMO, political pressures began to surface.

Sharad Pawar, one of the negotiators, had apparently leaked information to Rajiv Gandhi. Pawar had updated Rajiv Gandhi on the progress of the talks and told him that a deal was about to be done.

“Sharad Pawar told Rajiv, so Rajiv rang up Chandra Shekhar. I am very happy that you have done this. Give me two days. He wanted two days to read the deal and think about it. And then he brought down the government in two days. He thought that if Chandra Shekhar settles the Babri Masjid, he’ll become so popular in the country. He didn’t want the credit to go to him. Very petty, if you ask me. Had that thing been settled, Hindu-Muslim relations today would have been much better,” the author Roderick Matthews wrote in his book.

The book is scheduled to be released on 10th August on both printed and e-book formats. Roderick Matthews is a London based writer specializing in Indian history.

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