Hindus ready for temple battle
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Critics counter that the mosque demolition was planned as a fait accompli, leaving the courts and the government no other choice but to award the mosque land to the Ramsevaks, or worshippers of Ram.Skip to next paragraph
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But now, Advani's own BJP party has found it difficult to stop a movement it created. Police deployed in Ayodhya have ordered an estimated 14,000 Ramsevaks to return home, but nearly 5,000 have refused to comply.
Railway authorities have been ordered to stop all group bookings to Lucknow and Ayodhya, and also to halt any Ramsevaks who don't buy tickets, but villagers say the Ramsevaks are simply trickling into Ayodhya on foot.
In Gujarat especially, the evidence of favoritism has been striking. Originally, state chief minister Narendra Modi, a BJP member, said that police would only investigate the Feb. 27 Muslim train attack in Godhra, and not Hindu revenge attacks in Ahmadabad and other Gujarati cities and villages.
Mr. Modi later changed this decision under heavy criticism. But his decision to compensate the families of each Hindu victim with 2 million rupees, compared with only 1 million rupees for Muslim victims, still stands.
While few of the Ramsevaks in Ayodhya are the violent type - most are middle class shopkeepers and some are teachers and professors - there is a core of activists who are prepared for violence, if necessary.
Among them is Anil Tawar, a fierce-eyed member of Bajrang Dal from Chattisgarh, in Maharashtra state. Bajrang Dal is a pro-Hindu revivalist party best known for violent demonstrations and, in some cases, attacks on Christian missionaries. At his hip, Mr. Tawar wears a sharp, three-pointed knife called a trishul.
"I will use it, if it's required," says Tawar, who wears a saffron scarf around his neck with the name of Lord Ram written in Hindi. "On March 15, at 2 p.m., the temple construction will start. We will kill the police if they try to stop us.
More typical - but no less committed - is Deepakbhai Naik, an affable shopkeeper from Vishnagar, in Gujarat state, who says the government can't stop the Ram temple from being built.
"This temple is my money, my life, my culture," says Mr. Naik. "I will stay until the decision comes to build the temple. We are bound to do it."
"We do not want violence," echoes Indraraj Sharan, a lecturer in Hindi from Ganganagar in the western state of Rajasthan. "Peacefully, we will build this temple, but if the Muslims oppose it, we will die for it."
Far from the bull-horn bravado of Hindu activists, Mohammad Hashim Ansari keeps his own plans for resisting the temple construction. Mr. Ansari is the original plaintiff in a suit filed in 1961, when the then-Congress-ruled government first acquired the land surrounding the Babri Mosque and allowed Hindus to place a small shrine to Lord Ram against the back wall.
His legal argument is deceptively simple: "It is our mosque, so return it to us," he says. "There is no compromise. Either it will be negotiated in court, or it will be resolved through power. I am ready for both."