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VHP takes up Buddha's cause
Ambikanand Sahay

AYODHYA (March 9): What suddenly catches your attention as you wander through the jungle of carved sandstone pillars meant for the proposed Ram temple is a freshly made statue of ``enlightened Buddha sitting in padmasana posture'' at Karsewakpuram here. It's a wonderful piece of art. But that's not the only reason why you are awe-struck.

The moment you see this statue, your thoughts travel towards the Taliban's barbaric shelling of the standing Buddha at Bamiyan in Afghanistan. And it's only then that you grasp the meaning of the statue's presence at the Vishwa Hindu Parshad's war-camp in Ayodhya. What becomes clearer is that the leaders and followers of the Sangh parivar will now fight for the cause of Buddha in the wake of the Bamiyan developments.

May be it's a turning point in VHP's politics. Offshoots of the Sangh parivar, including the VHP and the Bajrang Dal, will be staging massive demonstrations in different district headquarters of UP in protest against the continued attacks on the Buddha statues.

``Bhagwan Buddha is one of the greatest saints of our motherland and his philosophy is absolutely illuminating,'' Sharad Sharma, media cell in- charge of Karsewakpuram says adding that those who are attacking Buddha and Buddhists will have to pay through their nose.

The statue, which has been brought here from the VHP's workshop in Rajasthan, will now be taken to Lumbini, a major Buddhist pilgrimage centre. It will be installed there with much fanfare.

Sharad Sharma isn't the only VHP activist who speaks like this. In fact, others sound even more aggressive. But the reaction among common Ayodhya citizens is somewhat different. They seem to be doing some soul-searching, their conscience having been stirred by the unsavoury developments at Bamiyan. Not that are they equating the destruction of the Babri mosque with the shelling of the Buddha statue at Bamiyan, but they do seem to think that nobody should be allowed to deface and defile statues, temples, mosques and churches.

Muslim leaders, however, are as aggressive in their reaction as the VHP activists. Mohammad Hashim Ansari, the only surviving plaintiff of the original Babari Mosque title suit, says: ``You demolished the mosque first. It's a lie to say that Babar had destroyed a temple to build this mosque. If you can prove that a temple was indeed destroyed, I am prepared to withdraw from the suit.''

Ironically, Ansari is otherwise a great friend of Mahant Paramhans Ramchandra Das, president of the Ram Janmabhoomi trust. They often travel in the same car to present themselves before the Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court in connection with the title suit.

Khaliq Ahmad Khan, convener of the Helal committee, is somewhat reserved in his comments. ``All responsible Islamic organisations, including the Muslim Personal Law Board, Milli Council and the All India Babri Masjid Action Committee, have made it clear that attacks on the statues of Buddha are against the spirit of the Shariat. But what was witnessed in Ayodhya in 1992 was equally wrong.''

Vimalasara, a Buddhist monk from Sri Lanka who is on a stopover here on way to Kushinagar, famous for its statue of the reclining Buddha, describes the Taliban's action as ``most unfortunate''. It's time leaders of all religions get together to see to it that peace prevails, he says.


Updated: 9-3-2001

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